Encounters by Mayfair

Brief Remarks; House Rules; Starting Forces

This article copyright 1985, 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 7, 1998

Brief Remarks

We recently pulled out this old Mayfair game, and had a blast with it. We used to play it a lot, actually, but for some reason it's been neglected for a while. I thought I'd briefly describe it, if you don't know it, and give our house rules if you do. It's getting hard to find, to be honest - been out of print a long time. But worth pulling out, if you own it, as a light filler game while waiting for your fifth and sixth players to show up, or late at night when you can't think too clearly. Yes, it's that kind of game.

The game was, er, "borrowed" by Lion Rampant, who published their more complicated version as The Challenge - without giving Mayfair any credit for inspiration, by the way. I have both games, and preferred Lion Rampant's for a few years, but I've come back to Encounters lately - with some house rules to make it a better game, of course.

The game consists of two dice and two decks of cards. One deck contains 28 heroes, the other 56 cards including 33 monsters and 23 items, weapons, and spells. The game plays with two to four players.

It's a simple game: deal out seven heroes to each player (placed face up on the table in two rows), and seven of the monster/treasure deck as a secret hand. Each turn you can draw two cards and play two cards, which include sending monsters against other players, banking treasure, and awarding items and weapons to your heroes.

The heroes range from the weak Clerics, Wizards, and Elves to the strong Knights and Paladins. The monsters range from the wussy Goblins and Wraiths to the awesome Dragon and Death itself. Clerics have bless and curse spells and can attempt to turn Undead; Wizards have more complex spells they can cast.

Combat resolution is simplicity itself: add a d6 to the value on the monster, add a d6 to the value of the defending hero, high total wins. Heroes can have bonuses for weapons or magic items; wizards and clerics can cast spells, elves can shoot bows, dragons breathe fire, etc.

The round is over when only one force of heroes is left standing. At that point, count up all banked treasure - last one alive gets a bonus of 1,500 Gold. Play a set number of rounds, keeping a running total of Gold, and the one with the highest Gold value wins. There are a few more details, but that's the gist of it.

Sounds simple, and it is, but it's also lots of fun if you're in the right mood. However, the luck factor can be a bit much. If you're dealt lousy heroes, you'll lose the round pretty quickly. If you're dealt lots of treasure, bank them and you'll win no matter what happens on the battlefield. And so on - luck is very strong in the game as written.

So we have some house rules to try to balance out the luck. Try them at your own risk, of course, and I'd love to hear of any other house rules anyone else has - send 'em to me, and let me know if I can post them.


House Rules

Weakening Monsters: After each victory, monsters are at -1 for the next round. [Warning: makes for a longer game. But I've seen a Dragon wipe out a player's seven heroes before she even got to play one card, so we use this rule.]

Variant on this rule: if the monster's die roll is at least twice the defender's die roll, it doesn't weaken that round. [This means the monster will not weaken 25% of the time. Note that this does not take the monster's or defender's strength into consideration - just die roll.]
Banking Treasure: Only Gold may be banked directly from the hand. Weapons and items must first be played to a character, and on the following turn may be banked. Likewise, captured weapons must be assigned to a character, and only on subsequent turns may they be banked. Exception: If you have an item but no character capable of using it (such as a Bow but no Elf), you may show the card to your opponents and bank it directly from your hand. [This rule is designed to even out the luck when one player has all the treasure cards. It forces them to risk treasure being captured for a turn before they can bank it to safety.]

Distracting Dragons: Because of their greed, Dragons can be distracted by discarding treasure from your hand (only). The value in Gold discarded, divided by 100, is subtracted from a Dragon's strength. A Dragon's initial attack must be against a character possessing a weapon or item, if possible.

Suggested Starting Forces

(Each 7 Heroes and 16 points)

One of the failings of the game is that it's possible to get a very unbalanced starting situation. I've played games where a 2-point Dwarf was my highest warrior, facing an opponent with a front line of Knight, Paladin, Paladin, Knight. These are short and unfair games.

An easy way to get around this is to build armies instead of dealing them out randomly. Since there are 28 hero cards totalling 64 points, and since each player starts with seven heroes, it's easy to calculate that a fair game gives each player 16 points among those seven heroes.

So I came up with some set armies. Do not deal out heroes randomly - instead, roll for first, second, and third choice of force. Highest roll chooses which force they start with, next highest chooses from among the remaining forces, and so on.

The forces, labelled A through H, are:

              Box 1                                Box 2
o--------------------------------o  o---------------------------------o
|              A    B    C    D  |  |               E    F    G    H  |
|--------------------------------|  |---------------------------------|
| Paladins     1    1    -    -  |  |  Paladins     1    1    -    -  |
| Knights      1    -    2    2  |  |  Knights      1    1    2    1  |
| Men at Arms  1    2    1    1  |  |  Men at Arms  1    1    1    2  |
| Dwarves      -    1    1    1  |  |  Dwarves      -    -    1    2  |
| Elves        1    -    1    1  |  |  Elves        1    2    -    -  |
| Wizards      1    2    1    1  |  |  Wizards      1    1    2    1  |
| Clerics      2    1    1    1  |  |  Clerics      2    1    1    1  |
|--------------------------------|  |---------------------------------|
| Cards *:     2    2    2    2  |  |  Cards *:     2    2    2    3  |
o--------------------------------o  o---------------------------------o

* Note: Cards refers to the number of monster/treasure cards you draw and play each turn. Because Force H is weak compared to the others, the player choosing this force may draw and play an extra card each turn. And, in case you're wondering if I made an error, Forces C & D are indeed identical, as are Forces A & E. (Note that other force compositions totalling 7 heroes and 16 points are possible - feel free to try them.)

  • With Four Players: The first player chooses a force, and other players may only choose from the remaining forces in the same box. [Each box contains all the heroes in the hero deck.] Example: if the first player chooses Force F, the others may only choose from E, G, and H.

  • With Two or Three Players: the second player may choose any unselected force, from either box. The third player may choose any remaining force, except that some will no longer be available. Example: If the first player chooses Force A, and the second Force B, Forces E & F are no longer available because there aren't enough Paladin cards.

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