With over twenty-six thousand views on Instagram, my unboxing reel of Chronicles of Avel is by far my most watched to date. The answer as to why it accumulated so many views is simple: no one knows. Well, other than the Instagram algorithm gods who were obviously delighted by the sacrificial digital goat, I unknowingly offered them to shine down on me and my humble reel.
Anyway, enough about me and the martyrdom of virtual goats. Let’s move on to slaying some fantastic beasts on the tabletop in the Kingdom of Avel… prepare to get your dice rolling funk on!
Okay, so setup isn’t going to be as quick the first time you play. That’s because Chronicles of Avel comes with a pad of outlined characters for you to colour-in. You can also create your coat-of-arms too. Obviously you don’t have to, but, why wouldn’t you? Don’t be that person that doesn’t colour in your character!
It then has a really unique way of offering inspiration for naming your character. You roll two dice onto a thin double-sided piece of card which fits neatly into the box lid, you can use the symbols to decide your name!
That can all be done in advance! I would certainly recommend creating characters before you sit down for your first game. With the fun part of setup completed you can move on to setting up the actual board game, which isn’t quite as fun as colouring-in but by no means is a chore.
Work out which tiles are required for the player count and arrange them to one of the patterns in the rulebook, being aware that different layouts create changes to the game’s difficulty too. Add monsters to the board as required.
Give each player a player mat in their colour. Their character slots neatly into the dual layer board then fill up the hearts with the matching wooden tokens, this will be your health in the game.
Add a meeple of each player colour to the tile with the castle on it and decide on a first player. Put all dice and tokens in easy reach You’re now ready to defend Avel!
Chronicles of Avel is a family weight co-operative game that sees one to four players try and defend the castle from a throng of attacking monsters. The game has two phases, the first phase sees players exploring the map of tiles, battling the occasional critter and trying to prepare for the onslaught of the second phase. Armour and potions as well as wall sections and traps will be required to prepare for the moment the fiends descend on the city. But you can only carry so much spare equipment and coins – more about that in a bit.
After a predetermined amount of turns a meteor crashes to the ground. From it, rises the aptly named (but slightly unoriginal) ‘Beast’, and a few other monsters. This is the second phase of the game. All monsters on the map then proceed plodding towards the castle and in simple terms you have to eradicate every single one of them until there are no more blots on the landscape. Wipe out the Beast and the Monsters and win the game. However, if one monster or the Beast advance onto the castle tile, all players lose.
On your turn, you get two actions, these are move, activate the tile’s ability you are on, rest and heal hearts, or battle a monster. You can do the same action twice should you wish.
Battling monsters involves rolling dice. How many and which dice you roll depends on if you have upgraded your character, as armour and potions buff your rolls. The monsters all have a predetermined collection of dice to roll printed on their disc.
Beating monsters often allows you to delve blindly into a bag to pull out equipment to upgrade your character. The rulebook suggests a chant ‘Let the monsters live in fear, of the magic I draw near!’ to stop player’s rummaging in the bag to long. This is hidden on page 7 of the rulebook and I think it would’ve been nice to have it printed on a quick reference card so that it could be displayed during the game.
What it’s like
The character creation is a fun way to dwindle some time on a rainy afternoon, even if you aren’t going to play the game just yet. Colouring-in is soothing and a lovely way to while away some quality time with others. I think it is a brilliant addition and injects some fun, family creativity into the game. The naming mechanic is also pretty cool, some of the names and attributes are more continental, but it doesn’t really matter.
When you’re actually playing it is a mad dash for resources and equipment and there isn’t enough time to gather it all. Reading the tile layout and optimising what to go for is key. Sharing equipment is also an important part of the game and quite often you will need to give away something super cool for the greater good. This is a great lesson to teach the younger players at the table.
One thing to note, is that monsters are passive in the first part of the game, you can saunter past them quite calmly. You will want to attack them from time to time as they offer up much needed bonuses, but doing so when they are just lazing in their den does feel a bit aggressive. Almost as soon as you do kill them off, a new monster spawns in their place, unless you can block the tile with a special action which is useful nearer the castle. Rolling dice to battle monsters is always great fun and the whole family loves that part.
As with many co-operative board games, that ticking time bomb of the Beast appearing adds fantastic pressure to get as much done as you can. Inevitably you won’t achieve half the things you want to. Playing with kids, who may rather risk their gold coins than spend them on something useful, adds extra challenges, not least trying to avoid becoming that alpha player that bosses everyone else around to get the job done.
All the games I have played have been close. A couple of them have created a win or lose situation on the last roll of the dice, which has been super exciting, especially as the dice were in our favour on both occasions. For me, that tense balance on the final turn is what makes a co-op board game brilliant. You don’t want to win too early and easily, nor do you want to feel like you will never win. Chronicles of Avel has succeeded with the balance of the game. As a seasoned family of co-operative board gamers we have managed to scrape a win in every game so far, but it’s been close often. I don’t think a high win ratio is a bad thing with a co-op aimed at families anyway. I also like how with different tile layouts, meteors and starting health of the Beast you can vary the difficulty for most abilities.
As a family of five, it would’ve been nice to have that extra player. It would add some time on to the game, but I think Chronicles of Avel could accommodate it and it wouldn’t have required much more in the box to do so. I’m therefore holding out hope for a fifth player expansion at some point in the future! With four players, it takes about an hour. In the immortal words of my wife: ‘for a game that length, all you need is snacks!’
I can’t believe I’ve had to wait this long to discuss one of my favourite and most innovative parts of Chronicles of Avel – the backpack! That’s right I’ve gone full on Dora the Explorer and I am getting excited about a rucksack! But hear me out… on your dual-layer player board, beside your customised character is a recessed area that represents your backpack. You can only carry coins and equipment that you can physically fit, laying flat, in this area. If you can’t arrange it so that something fits, you have to discard it. How frickin’ cool is that?
The dual-layer player boards with the chunky heart tokens and the customisable character sheets are an absolute winner. It can be tricky to spot that they are co-ordinated to player colours, but if you don’t notice that they differ, it ultimately doesn’t matter!
The fronts of the tiles are very good looking indeed. Once explored, the modular game board is pulchritudinous. My only qualm about the tiles is that they start face down for you to explore, and the design on the back isn’t a continuous pattern. In the words of my 11 year old son: ‘they don’t match up, that’s illegal!’.
I must say that the health dial and Beast were a bit tricky to put together. They were a bit tighter than I would like and didn’t pop together smoothly. In fact, the paper on my Beast got scuffed as the standee slots were so tight.
The custom dice are plentiful, easy to differentiate between and a joy to roll in their different colours. The meeples come with stickers for both sexes and are a cool shape. I’m not a fan of stickers, but there was only a dew to stick on and it bothered me less than normal as a result! Monster tokens are good-looking and the rule book was good.
The rules covered everything you need, there was a bit to digest, but I’d read through them before sitting down with the kids, so it was easier. There is also a cool appendix, that offers a backstory to the game and more information on all the different monsters. My son, George, really enjoyed learning about the monsters.
Overall, Chronicles of Avel visually excites me when it’s on the table!
What the kids thought
Max (7): I really like the art and the monsters are cool. I really enjoy creating my own characters! Oh and the mini boss looks like Galactus (from Marvel and Fortnite).
George (11): The artwork is beautiful. I really like working out how to beat the monsters. It was fun reading and finding out more about them in the rules. I also like creating my own character.
Harrison (14): I really enjoyed this game. I like the different things to focus on to try and get a victory, such as focussing on the traps or upgrading weapons.
Final thoughts Chronicles of Avel
Dice chucking to kill off monsters would seem repetitive in Chronicles of Avel without the first phase, but the necessity of preparation sees less combats early on and therefore gives the game more depth. There is a lot more to this game than rolling dice, but let’s be honest, rolling dice is never a chore!
Downtime is minimal as player interaction is high. Planning and discussing your moves in any co-op is important. We let another player roll the monster dice when another player is attacking, to keep everyone involved a bit more too.
Despite its advertised family-weight, I do think that there are better entry-level co-operative games, like Forbidden Island. However, Chronicles of Avel is an absolutely fantastic co-op for families who already play board games as that next level up. My family and I have certainly enjoyed our time battling beasts and exploring the kingdom of Avel.
Number of players: 1 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 7+
Playing Time: 75 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 4 minutes
Designers: Przemek Wojtkowiak
Publisher: Rebel Studios
This is a brilliant option for families that have tried some of the entry-level co-operative games and want to try another slightly trickier option. With awesome components and plenty of options, Chronicles of Avel will see you return to the kingdom time and time again to attempt to defeat the Beast on varying difficulties.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Plenty of dice rolling duelling
- Player boards with backpacks
- Fun creating characters
- Tiles are beautiful
- Difficulty can be varied
- Lack of fifth player option
- Beast and health dial tricky to put together
- Backs of the tiles are not a continuous pattern!
Need more games?
If you already own Chronicles of Avel and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Forbidden Island
- Heroes of Tenefyr
Buy Chronicles of Avel
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