Too Many Bones is a kickstarter game from 2015 that has grown and improved its content during development and has now become a very popular product. It is not a cheap game, but I can re-assure you that in terms of its content and quality, you will not feel short changed. The core box is big and beautifully designed, and opening will be joyful experience. Huge numbers of amazingly coloured and detailed dice await, you will probably not have seen its like before. The game also uses coloured playmats for the characters and battles, and they are also fabulous to use with neat spaces to slot in your dice as you roll them. Finally you get round chips, red health ones are plastic and nice enough, but there are weightier premier chips that i can recommend as an upgrade as they feel much nicer in play. Tyrants, monsters and character chips are all weighty, with excellent printwork and a shine to them, they are simply lovely to use.
There are 4 gearloc characters in the main box (and initially 3 more expansions available separately), but looking at the core box ones alone, when you start to dig into their variety, it is actually an amazing amount of gameplay. Each gearloc has its own dice sets, with unique abilities to unlock which sets them apart, you will never get close to using them all in one game so the replay options are huge, just for one character. You will be upgrading your gearloc as you play the adventure, deciding each time whether you need health, attack, defence, more dice to roll or work through its skill trees. I am quite amazed at how varied this is and how much it makes you think about your options. Your gearlocs will undertake an adventure with the goal to defeat one of the six tyrants. On the way you have encounters via some lovely textured cards, which form a mix of enemy battles and other varied adventure decision choices to make. Battles are at the heart of the game, and generally are tough to win, but immensely fun, and the small battle mat is great, making movement, targets and positioning important and visual, but still not becoming overly complex its general execution. The game is very tactile, rolling the dice and moving chips around is lovely.
There initially seems a lot to learn in this game, but don’t panic, there is a turn walkthrough in the rulebook and watching youtube tutorials will really help, the developers have many available, and once you get to grips with the basics there are excellent reference cards for enemies and gearlocs which makes the general usage easy to cope with, just look up what you need when you need to. Set up is also relatively quick for an adventure game. I would suggest starting with the helpful tutorial play through in the back of the rule book and continuing this onto its conclusion, and then play some solo games with one gearloc to get to know its abilities quite well, which will help your confidence. There are a lot of options available, but it all becomes very straightforward as you get to know your gearloc. Everything makes thematic sense when playing, and whilst beating a tyrant will be tough, and may require knowing some of your characters best strategies, there are easier game level options provided in the rules to play first.
Overall this is a superb game. It is an adventure, it is also a tactical battle game, and it also feels like role playing, where you are gradually developing your character. It works amazingly as a two player game, and has a wonderful solo experience, either playing as one or using two gearlocs. As a solo game, this is one of the very best solitaire alongside 7th Continent and Lord of the Rings LCG, and the fact that it is dice based is excellent news. Kickstarters have changed board gaming forever, I have played a lot of the Gloomhaven campaign with my group and its depth of gameplay and longevity is quite astonishing, and I put Too Many Bones into this same category, as the depth of the alternative skills, combinations between the gearlocs and quality of components is beyond what we usually see when buying board games. I see this as a game that lasts, even after many hours of playing. You may initially pay more for it, but when it delivers high quality components, more gaming hours, choices and enjoyment then I am all for the new trend, and you will need less games in the long run.
If you would like to see an example of a gearlock in more detail, here is one of my favourites from the core set > Picket
Gearlocks have been added as expansions to the core game, and these provide new characters to play the game with and include – Ghillie the scoutmaster who has animal companions and uses traps, Nugget the treasure hunter who uses treasure items and has both melee and ranged abilities, Tink the bot builder who builds mechanical devices to use in combat and is one of the most complex, Gasket the hydromech and a steam powered machine, Dart who rides a cool pigadillo and the Lab Rats who are apprentices that combine and work together with different individual mats. Which ones you want to add probably depend on your play style preferences and i have purchased them all except Gasket and Lab Rats so far.
Undertow was a new bigger box expansion but it also stands alone as a smaller full game in itself as a new entry point. Two new gearlocks emerged, Duster the shadow assassin with is wolf companion and Stanza the minstrel who plays music to generate abilities, and with a riverbound storyline that is an exciting prospect and has a host of new enemies. This can be used as a cheaper starting point to get to play the game, but then it may simply lead you to wanting to get more gearlocks or the main core set anyway. If you only have the core set and want something more, then this is probably the next best place to invest as it comes with new adventures and great gearlocks.
40 Days in Daelore adds in a host of new enemy chips and encounters. This is a pretty straightforward chip and card content addition and a great expansion, which i would recommend to vary up your adventure pool.
Age of Tyranny is a box that creates a campaign letting you carry over characters from one game to the next, and adds in some new starter encounters. Although i do have this, it is a less essential purchase overall as most adventures already last long enough and i am always more than happy with my one shot games, and tying the tyrants together into a longer campaign is quite loose rather than full story driven in this case. However the extra sets of start of day cards are very useful to vary up your early game.
Component Upgrades are available such as neoprene adventure maps, weighty premium chips, dice and chips trays. All of these i do have and would recommend if you have the budget to upgrade your game outside of new adventure content. If i was to pick one it would be the premium chips. Everything here is so tempting and such nice quality and there is even a trove box to hold all your game in one place if you really want to splash out.
Splice & Dice is a new add on side game where you build your own tyrant to fight against. If you are looking for even more variety then this may add it, but personally i have not yet purchased this as the amount of game i already have is so extensive and this is more about building a new enemy. However the extra tyrants that are included in this box may cause me to reconsider.
As for the future, i have little doubt there will be more or a side project built off Too Many Bones. If they were ever to turn this into a dungeon crawler, well that would potentially be the best game ever in my book.