Journey: Wrath of Demons and the Idea of Generic Mechanics
Find the balance between good and bad karma with a group of unique Pilgrims in Journey: Wrath of Demons.
On the surface, Journey: Wrath of Demons offers a rather unique setting and other mechanics. It’s another game my husband picked up… I should do an analysis of my ratings for the games he buys vs. what I buy! Our tastes are rather different, yet I can’t complain. This was still intriguing, and at the very least, it finally experienced a proper unboxing!
This might be the oddest warning I’ve written. The content itself is rather tame, with only a few hints at things like lust. All seemed fine. Then, I dropped a miniature and picked it up upside down. Whoa! The enemies apparently don’t wear underwear… And I’ll just leave it at that. Completely unnecessary, though not obvious from most gameplay angles.
An interesting cast of characters, known as Pilgrims, form a group that sets out to fight against the Bull Demon King. The setting is very unique, though gameplay boils down to a miniatures-based dungeon crawler with dice. Still, the connected quests provide the basis for a continued story that brings the Pilgrims closer and closer to their goals.
The most intriguing aspect that grabbed me was the karma system. Good karma comes from performing positive deeds, like rescuing villagers or saving spirits.
Bad karma typically builds up from simply killing enemies. Each type of karma offers ways for a character to develop, either with skill cards or weapon upgrades.
Naturally, bad karma comes with a price. Corruption cards provide short-term or even permanent negative traits.
What a neat idea! This meant that going around killing everything was probably going to have consequences.
The Trouble with Inserts for Miniatures
I struggled to get the health trackers in position, owing to the very slight imperfections in the cardboard slots. More importantly, however, was the trouble I faced with getting the miniatures to the table! I was convinced each was about to break as I fought to free it from its form-fitting position. The insert was very disappointing and difficult to wrangle.
To skip ahead a little bit, when I repacked the game, I placed the miniatures closer to the top so they could stick out of their designated places. At least they can be released with no effort next time! And that was quite a frustrating effort…
Breaking Down Doors
As I played through the first scenario, otherwise known as the beginning tutorial, I got comfortable with the basics.
The miniatures were pretty impressive, though hardly in my style. Thankfully, Cho Hakkai here prefers clothes. Ha!
I wasn’t quite sold on the mechanics, though. Combat mostly boiled down to dice rolls with a very small pool. Maybe I wasn’t strategizing correctly. Or it was bad luck.
Still, Monk Sha helped clear out the house beside his new companion. Success! I still fell far short of the heroic victory conditions, though I was still happy.
A Muddled Setup
Despite my early success and appreciation for parts of the system, I noticed issues. None of the double-sided tiles were labeled, so scenario setup involved lots of flipping.
The setup diagrams were far from easy to follow, at least for me. At a glance, can you see the placement of the enemies? Maybe… But everything blended too much.
Not pictured is a closeup of the characters. I wasted action points turning them, not seeing the tiny arrow indicators.
With a connected storyline, though, I still wanted to give the next scenario a chance. There were some positives!
Cho Hakkai Down
Uh-oh! I don’t consider this starting position for Cho Hakkai to be a spoiler, since the second scenario is still part of the tutorial. Onward the group went.
This set of map tiles might have been my least favorite. There were dead farm animals for no apparent reason…
With unconscious Pilgrims slowly approaching death each successive round, it was important to get Tripitaka into position to revive Cho Hakkai. That seemed easy enough.
Unfortunately, the bull warriors and archers started to spawn right away! There was little to do but hunker down.
Time for another bit of a stretch with these StoryWorld cards. I actually love this pair with the innumerable little details. And candy, of course! Delicious and fun.
This reminded me of the balance between good and bad karma presented with this system. I wanted to like it all!
But I think it’s clear where this session report is headed. I was quite impressed with the miniature quality, yet this felt like I ended up with stale candy on Halloween night.
I was just proud of myself for this not-so-impressive link between trick-or-treating and the karma mechanic. Ha!
Custom dice can convey a lot and add to a game experience. Yet they can also be confusing. Sadly, that’s what happened to me with the red attack dice.
Everything else mostly made sense, aside from the fact that the “X” face indicated movement to me.
But I just couldn’t wrap my head around the “1” value here. The other faces showed 2 and 3 with this same design, only they were easy to read. This was so strange!
Each time I rolled, I had to pause to figure out what I was looking at. It was quite distracting, but probably just me.
Play Number: 1 and 2
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Play Details: Scenarios 1 and 2
Required Play Space: 48″ x 48″
Setup Time: 5 Minutes
Play Time: 20-40 Minutes per Play
Outcome: 1 Win and 1 Loss
Poor Tripitaka. I got into the mode of endless spawning, where the goal was to defeat all the demons. The brave monk finally fell, courtesy of the luck of the dice. And that was that… I felt no desire to try again, unfortunately.
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- The karma system is unique in that a balance must be found, and attack resolution takes on a strategic element.
- All of the miniatures feature amazing detail and seem to be constructed in a surprisingly excellent way.
- Although the rulebook is quite lengthy at 40 pages, it lays out most of the rules well with great examples.
- Each character plays very differently with unique stats, skill cards, and upgradeable weapon cards.
- Scenarios contain conditions for normal and heroic victories, thereby adding challenging objectives to achieve.
- Only a few terrain elements are included with cardboard tokens, yet these add many possibilities to map tiles.
– Cons (Negatives)
- All of the player board trackers are difficult to move, feel unnecessarily fiddly, and don’t feature clear indicators.
- Despite the quality of the miniatures, almost all of them are wider than their bases so they get tangled up.
- For the price, the base game offers little content and makes many mentions about expansions that don’t exist.
- The dice are difficult to read, yet they form a central element where good or bad luck determines most outcomes.
Continue the Conversation
Do you enjoy playing Journey: Wrath of Demons? Maybe it simply doesn’t align with my personal tastes, or I may not have given it a fair chance. How do you know when a new game doesn’t work for you? Usually, I give a solo board game at least 5-10 plays. But I’ll likely break that rule here because this didn’t feel enjoyable at all. Onto something else!