Editorial | 1/27/2015 at 3:00 PM

Tabletop Co-Op: Defenders of the Realm Expansion Round-Up

New heroes, new minions, new generals

For Tabletop Co-Op this month, we are taking another look at a game we have covered previously. Defenders of the Realm, originally released in late 2010, is one of the most successful cooperative board games available. A full sized expansion, based on new Dragon generals, added plenty of options and replayability to the base game experience. Today, we will consider the other, smaller expansions that have been released, each one bringing something new and exciting to Defenders of the Realm.

For those who are unfamiliar, Defenders of the Realm combines the “virus spreads” mechanic from Pandemic with dice based combat, similar to Heroquest or Talisman. Each player takes on the role of a unique hero, and travels over the Realm, defeating minions and preventing them from spreading too quickly. Four generals constantly advance on the capital, and require players to team up to defeat them. As the game progresses, the generals move more and more quickly. If you can stop all four before one gets to Monarch City, you win the game.

Defenders of the Realm is a highly replayable game even if you are using just the base set. There are plenty of heroes included, and each one plays quite differently from the others. With the addition of the Dragon expansion, you can swap out the traditional orc, undead, and demon generals for dragons. This makes the game much harder, and requires totally different strategies. You can play dozens of games with this set up, and no game ever plays out just the same.

The more recent expansions all add new options to Defenders of the Realm. The game was already a virtual toolbox, where players could fiddle with additional rules and settings to make the game a bit easier, or a little tougher, to their liking. Three Hero expansions, four Minion expansions, and the new Alternate Generals expansion provide a virtual buffet of choices for players who are eager to customize their play.

The three Hero expansions have been available for some time. Each set adds a handful of new heroes to defend the realm with. The miniatures for the hero expansions are generally more detailed than those of the base game, and the powers and abilities they bring are incredibly thematic and often powerful. Among the best of these new heroes is the Assassin. Her ability to make a desperate final attack if the heroes fail to defeat a general is incredibly useful, and makes for an epic game that you will never forget.

The Minion expansions take a game that was already visually impressive and make it a masterpiece of epic plastic joy. Each Minion set replaces the base game minions, which share the same mold and differ only by color, with detailed new pieces. The new minions come in two varieties, normal and elite. Normal orcs fight on foot, while elites ride on the back of wolves to attack the heroes. These elite minions are much tougher to defeat in combat. The best looking sculpts include the Glutton demons and the winged Dragonkin. The alternate rules for the minions add another level of difficulty to the game.

Lastly, the Alternate Generals expansion provides three new miniatures and matching cards. These generals replace the base game orc, undead, and demon leaders, similar to the Dragon expansion generals. These new boss characters are quite imposing, towering over the heroes, much more impressive than the base game versions. But players should consider the much tougher challenge these new generals provide before they add them for aesthetic value alone.

Defenders of the Realm is one of the more robust cooperative board game offerings. Often, co-op board games lack the variety needed to maintain interest over time. With the addition of the new Heroes, Minions, and Alternate Generals to the mix, there are more than enough options available for dozens and dozens of plays. I have played the game more than thirty times myself, and feel as if I have just scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. Fans of fantasy, co-op, and board games show give Defenders of the Realm a try,