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Review: The Liberation of Rietburg

Length 30-45 minutes

Release Date 2020

Designer: Gerhard Hecht
Artist: Michael Menzel
Publisher: KOSMOS
Category: Cooperative play, Tower defense
Players: 2-4
Price: $30.00

The Liberation of Rietburg is a card-driven game set in the world of Legends of Andor. In this game, players work together to defend a castle from an onslaught of monsters, as they strive to accomplish a series of objectives to win the game. It is a tough co-op that requires thoughtful planning, teamwork, and the occasional dose of luck.

Review

Though tower defense video games are immensely popular, I struggle to think of more than a couple of board games in the genre. The only two that come to mind for me are Castle Panic and Ghost Stories.

The Liberation of Rietburg is a new tower defense game from KOSMOS, which has players fending off swaths of fantasy baddies trying to infiltrate Rietburg Castle. In this game, players spend cards to move about the 6 locations of the castle, to fight monsters, and to complete objectives. They win if they can accomplish 4 of the 6 objectives before the game’s timer runs out.

Rietburg is essentially a card game, but it includes a board which conveys the game’s geography. (It also beautifully illustrates the titular castle, which helps to establish the theme.) At the start of the game, a random objective card is dealt face-down to each location, and a number of encounter cards are placed on top of them, some face-up and some face-down. The setup is semi-random, and it scales in difficulty according to the number of players.

A game set up for 3 players.

The central system of Rietburg involves players spending cards to take actions. Each person plays as a different character with a unique hand of cards. The turn sequence is simple – on a player’s turn, she either plays a card and executes an action listed on it, or else she refreshes her hand by picking up all her played cards.

(One character’s special power is that he has 4 cards instead of 3.)

The most common actions are:

  • Move to a different space (or bring another player to your space)
  • Turn over a face-down card, so it can be encountered
  • Encounter a monster in your space

In addition to these, everyone has advantages/abilities that are unique to their character. When fighting a monster, the current player compares her attack strength with the monster’s; if her value is equal to or greater, she wins the fight and claims the card as a trophy.

This player chooses the attack action on the card, which has a strength of 6. Since this is equal to or greater than the monster’s strength of 6, the player defeats the monster and resolves its card text.

When a player has spent all of her cards (or if she simply does not wish to play any of her remaining ones), she can refresh her hand by taking all her cards back. Any time a player does this, however, she must draw and resolve a card from the narrator deck; this deck acts as the game’s timer. Narrator cards add new challenges to the board, and if players ever need to draw a narrator card and cannot, they lose the game.

Example narrator cards. The top and bottom of each card require players to place encounter cards on the board. Sections highlighted in red are used only in the advanced game.

If players are able to clear a location of all encounter cards, they can immediately reveal its face-down objective. The text on this card will instruct them what they need to do to complete it.

Rietburg comes with a variety of objectives, so the challenges players face will likely differ from game to game. If the players are able to complete 4 objectives in time, they win. Otherwise, if they need to draw a narrator card but none are available, they lose.


The Liberation of Rietburg is an interesting co-op game, one that requires lots of strategic coordination. It’s tough to win, but not so tough that it feels impossible; the first time I played it, my group fulfilled 3 objectives and we were on track to nabbing the 4th.

The game concepts are pretty simple to understand. Most anyone who has played modern board games will be familiar with mechanisms like comparing attack and defense values to resolve combat. The game plays in well under an hour, and the difficulty scales appropriately for different player counts.

One potential issue I found with Rietburg is that some of the objectives can be too dependent upon certain encounter cards coming out. As an example, in the introductory game, there are only 5 encounter cards that award “friends” (extra action cards players can add to their hands). As shown above, one of the objectives requires players to find 3 friends. As long as they are careful about not blindly discarding too many encounter cards, this shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. However, if by random chance, the necessary encounter cards wind up shuffled into the bottom of the deck, players will have a tough time trying to dig them out to complete this challenge. (Of course, the opposite situation, in which players find friends quickly, could be hugely beneficial!) To be fair, this issue is somewhat alleviated by the fact that only 4 of the 6 objectives must be fulfilled to win, but I can still see it being a source of frustration for some people.

This nuance aside, though, the overall game experience is thematic and challenging. Admittedly, the theme could have been anything, but thanks to the lovely graphic design, players will find themselves feeling like they are truly in the midst of a castle siege. (As an aside, I have never had the chance to try Legends of Andor, so I am unable to comment on Rietburg‘s connection to that series.)

All in all, I think fans of co-op and/or tower defense games will enjoy The Liberation of Rietburg. If this sounds like your jam, check it out!

A review copy was provided by KOSMOS.

The Bottom Line

The Liberation of Rietburg is an enjoyable game. Though it offers nothing new mechanically, it is still a fun experience. Recommended for fans of co-ops and/or tower defense games.

 

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