This Set a Watch review was made after playing the game five times. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Set a Watch?
Set a Watch is a fantasy card and dice game in which you work together to clear out hordes of enemies from nine locations around your kingdom. You have to protect your camp every round, giving the game a tower defense feel.
Set a Watch Gameplay
Regardless of the number of players, you’ll always play with four adventurers in Set a Watch. Each adventurer gets their own set of three dice and five ability cards. Three ability cards start on each adventurer’s board and two are put off to the side.
You’ll choose your difficulty level by adding a certain number of Summon cards to the creature deck. The Summon cards are what bring in the most powerful creatures in the game, the Unhallowed.
Every round one adventurer will be at the camp while the other three are out on watch. At the beginning of each round you’ll find out which location you’re going to, everyone will roll their dice, and then you have to decide who is going to rest at camp. Each adventurer can only rest at camp twice per game.
The adventurer at camp will first heal by refreshing an action card and then they’ll use their three dice to take actions. Chopping wood is one of the most important actions you can take as it raises the firewood level, allowing the other adventurers to see more of the creatures that are approaching. You can also swap abilities, scout ahead to manipulate the creature deck, manipulate the location deck, and heal another adventurer. If you rolled doubles or triples, you can activate runes, allowing you take two or three special camp actions. Also, every adventurer has a unique camp action that they can take.
The three adventurers who are out on watch use their dice and abilities to try to clear out all of the enemies. There are no turns in Set a Watch; you can take actions in any order. The location card tells you how many creatures are going to show up and the firewood level tells you how many creatures can be revealed at a time. You can use your dice values to attack creatures or you can place dice on your cards to activate your adventurer’s abilities. You can also exhaust ability cards to activate them.
Most of the creatures have their own special abilities. Some of them have abilities that activate when they’re revealed, some activate when they make it to the front of the line, and some have ongoing abilities.
When creatures are defeated, they go to the graveyard and could show up again later in the game. Any creatures that you don’t clear out by the end of the round attack you, forcing you to exhaust ability cards, and then they’re added to the Horde deck.
In the final round, all of the adventurers go on watch (no one stays at the camp). Any creatures that are in the Horde deck get added to the final creature line, possibly making it very difficult to win.
You’ll win the game if you make it through all nine locations. You’ll lose if all four adventurers have all of their ability cards exhausted at any point during the game.
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- I like that you get a unique puzzle to try to solve every round. You never know which creatures are going to show up and you have to find a way to use the dice and abilities you have to take them out. It makes every round (and game) slightly different.
- Set a Watch is a very smooth-playing game, even with newer gamers at the table. You just roll your dice every round and then figure out how to deal with the creatures that pop up. I think it could work well as a gateway game.
- Deciding who is going to stay at camp each round is a very interesting part of the game. You usually want to send the adventurer who had the worst dice rolls, but you have to keep in mind that each adventurer can only rest at camp twice. Also, someone who rolled doubles or better can take those cool Rune actions, so you have to factor that into the decision, too. This often creates some good discussions where players will talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their characters.
- I thought that being the adventurer at camp would be pretty boring since you’re not as involved in the main action, but that’s definitely not the case. Not only do you have to make important decisions at camp, you’re also still very much involved in helping the team figure out how to deal with all of the creatures.
- The ability cards and the unique camp actions make each adventurer feel different than the rest. A huge part of the fun in this game is knowing that the group is going to need your adventurer to step up and be the hero multiple times per game. My favorite is easily the Beast Master, who tames forest creatures and uses them to defeat other creatures.
- I also like that there are multiple ways to adjust the difficulty. You can add in more of those Summon cards and/or start the game with less firewood to make the game more difficult.
- The rulebook is great. Each rule is clearly defined, there’s a three-page round example, and the FAQ answered the few interaction questions that my group had.
- Quarterbacking could be an issue for some groups. Every bit of information is out there for everyone to see, including the dice rolls, so it could be tempting for some people to try to take over if they think they see the best moves to make.
- I’ll probably never play the three-player version of this game again. Everyone has their own characters and then you have to collectively control the fourth character. I just don’t like that.
I think people who enjoy co-op puzzle games will get a kick out of Set a Watch. It plays smoothly and quickly, all of the adventurers feel unique, and it requires good teamwork to beat. I think it’s best as a four-player game, but you might like it just as much at other player counts if you don’t mind controlling multiple characters.