We did our play testing last night, so here are our comments. Now, I've read through most of the comments in the thread but not all, so if I'm duplicating or mentioning something that's already been changed, please ignore it. We play tested with all the files available on Talisman Island yesterday morning, so I swapped out the Red Cap and updated the cards for typos/errata. And, as I'm an editor by trade, I'd also like to do a copyedit if I have time (and if you're interested), so let me know if that's something you'd like to discuss.
Only two of us made it to the Lost Realm. My friend went immediately as the game started because he wanted to try it out, and I went in mid-to-late game as I wanted to play it as I normally would. He entered from the Woodland side, and I entered from the Highland side each time.
My friend wanted to go to the Forge, and it took him 8-10 tries to even draw a Trail card, and he almost died.
I went in later mainly to try out the realm, and I went back several more times to grind. The big Craft/Strength stats on many of the enemies were awesome to bump up my C/S stats before I made my run to the Crown.
Neither of us went to the Elder Village. We both wanted items from the Forgotten Forge instead. There were better/other ways to gain the abilities from the EV, so something to keep in mind. We wanted stuff, not Destinies, spells, or stat increases.
Some random thoughts on objects, abilities, and mechanics both during play and then afterward with hubby when we were discussing the play testing:
There should be more Trail cards or some way to increase your chances of drawing one. It was really hard to get them at times, especially with the constant reshuffling of the Border deck.
The rules need to clarify the press on mechanic after you successfully navigate a Trail card. Do you move to another space immediately on that same turn, or do you press on your next turn? That wasn't clear to us at all, and we re-read the rules for that section several times.
It would be nice to have an ability to draw more Border deck cards to add to your stack like some of the Tunnel cards do in the Deep Realms. This can increase that chance of getting a Trail card.
The Iron Key wasn't as useful to us due to the way we play the game.No one really even tries the Portal until they have a good chance to succeed in the Mines/Crypt, so we almost always have a minimum of 11-12 craft/strength by the time we try the Portal.
It could be useful in a few specific situations (you have a Warlock quest, someone has the Talisman of Censure, you have a Gnome or Shovel/Map), but my friend drew it randomly from the Forge and it was pretty useless to him early game since he wasn't strong enough to navigate the Inner Region yet, and by the time he was ready to make his run, he was already high enough in stats that it didn't matter.
Giving the Key an additional ability or two would make it much more useful, IMO.Maybe you can use it on a space in the Highland or Woodland.
Maybe it can be used to sneak in the back door of the Eyrie or Queen Mab's Lair and give you a rolling bonus when confronting them.
Maybe it will allow you to subtract from your die rolls on spaces in the Inner Region (not combat). You could subtract from your roll on the Crypt/Mines, subtract from your rolls to determine how many lives you lose, and subtract from determining NPC creature craft/strength or number of creatures before you battle.
The Ring of Denial was awesome because my friend was the Gypsy and I was able to deny him reusing one of my spells on me and then he couldn't take the Ring because even though it's basically a Counterspell, it wasn't a spell itself.
I think the Forgotten Forge needs some additional items because only six cards seems a bit small and could get stale. In Deep Realms, because you draw random cards from the Shop and Treasure decks, you don't always have the same objects in the Tunnel spaces every time you play. Maybe make it an eight card deck to make it a bit more random? Some card ideas:Pickaxe: Use as an axe (+1 Strength in battle) and it can also allow you to roll one fewer die in the Crypt. It's like a combo Axe and Shovel.
Karak's Map: You don't have to roll in the Crags, you can ignore the Chasm space (roll on Original board or don't have to discard an object/follower on the Cataclysm board) and roll one fewer die in the Mines. It's like a combo Map and some of the Dwarf character abilities. Plus an homage to the Karak Doom space maybe?
Runesword: Fits thematically and there's already the card in the regular Adventure Deck to use.
It would be nice to add a few additional cards to the Border deck.At least two more Trails and a couple more objects would make a 40-card deck, with a 1:5 chance of drawing a Trail instead of a 1:6 chance.
Beef up the objects available without having to visit the Forge. Maybe add something like the Lucky Charm and Luckstone, which are from the Highland deck but use fate? Very border in flavor, IMO.
The Ruby and Emerald seem almost too low key for this deck, plus with Cataclysm, it's harder to turn in gems.
The Lodestone would be a cranky addition, but good for making people have to drop objects in the Border spaces so then they'd be shuffled in the Border deck. That mechanic is missing, or at least we didn't see much of that ability in our play testing.
I know you don't want to dilute the deck, but there weren't many followers at all. Maybe add some in or allow some of the enemies to be taken as followers if defeated (see Border Reivers comments below).
Maybe add some cards to match the Dryad and Forge Master for the corresponding side?The Dryad drops you at the Forest, but there's no corresponding card for the Crags.
The Forge Master is a follower that helps you in the Forgotten Forge, but there's no corresponding card for the Elder Village.
Border Reivers: At first I thought the "i before e" typo came into play here, but then I looked up Wikipedia and I got educated. But, just a heads up that there might be some comments about a typo there from other people. Also, since they were the best light calvary in Europe at the time, maybe they can become a follower if you defeat them to give you a Riding Horse or Warhorse type ability? The Realm doesn't really have a mechanic to get some horse action, does it?
Outlaws and Fae: I think there should be more of them, personally. There are only three of each, so their additional C/S bonuses in the regions gets diluted a bit. Maybe adding one of each would increase the chances of drawing one.
Forgotten Forge: For the die roll of 2-4, why do they have to draw a card randomly? Why can't they just draw the top card? The cards are shuffled and face down, so they should be random anyway.
I'm not sold on the Elder Village mechanic using the Destinies. I mentioned previously that my friend and I wanted stuff, not abilities, so it might be worth it to rethink this one some more. Totally just my opinion on the Destinies, because I know some people really like them, but I might tinker with a homebrew for the Elder Village space anyway. This might be a way to get some Woodland objects spread around, so adding an object deck with cards like the following might work as a homebrew or expansion booster down the road:Nuadu's Torc
Book of Binding
New object that lets you do something with Destinies (allow characters to draw/force to discard based on fate alignment like Forge Destiny or lets you swap out a Destiny for some type of payment)
Something like the Scales of Balance (but not dependent on alignment) that lets players draw/cycle spells
Path cards vs the Dwarven Highway and Elven Labrynth: I get the reason for the region "bubble" for the Dwarven Highway and Elven Labrynth, but that exception for the regions for Path cards feels really convoluted. Also, I know it's a way for people to not constantly be able to cycle through Path cards on the Woodland side by popping into the Elven Labrynth and then back into the Thicket, but actually, I kind of like the option to do that. Sometimes you get really crappy Path card options, so it's actually nice to have another way to cycle through some of the Path options. Plus, would you then draw a Path card when you enter the Elven Labrynth from the Dwarven Highway space? That seems weird to me, because then if you go to the Elder Village, you'd drop the Destiny anyway.
Anyway, just some thoughts, suggestions, and ideas for expanding the realms. We really enjoyed playing last night, and I can't wait to see the final form!