Review: Troll Lands

In Short…

Troll Lands is Guy Shalev’s game of generational myth-making, rising from the linkage of the characters to the Troll that is both the creator of, and literally is, the land on which they live. While the game contains a number of interesting mechanical pieces and themes, I found the text difficult to parse, and the most interesting bits of the game (to me) had relatively little “screen time.”

Incorporation of Images

I think that the images of trolls were well-placed in relation to the troll=land concepts, and they really gave me an image of how to conceptualize the Trolls in play. I appreciated the use of the maps to illustrate the abstract nature of Trolls literally fighting over territory, but I had a hard time seeing the information in the images that the captions pointed too. That is, I didn’t see how the red and blue lines made trolls, but that is quite possibly just me not getting it – I often have difficulty seeing those kinds of things in images (like, I’m really bad at 3D pictures where you have to focus beyond the paper, and such).


This is one of those games that, if I were to play it, I would definitely need to sit down with the text for a little while and spend some dedicated time parsing it. The text isn’t particularly dense, but it is organized poorly (I would see rules references and be all “huh?” until a couple of pages later, stuff like that), and I think some more dedicated explication of how play should look at the table would go a long way towards filling in the gaps I saw between different sections of play. Also, I had to read the main resolution mechanic (based on Liars Dice) a couple of times, and I still don’t think I really understand how it works. I also have absolutely zero experience with Liars Dice as a thing, so perhaps I just need to do it a couple of times.

I loved how Troll/Land creation works, but I have one big question – how do the minus dice work (like, in the options that say +3 red dice, – 1 Blue dice, and so on)? Does that mean that you have to already have Blue dice and you subtract one? Or, if you were to take Blue Dice, you would get one less than usual? Or, what? This is a significant stumbling block to play, and would need to get answered before I could sit down with the game.

The generational aspect of the game really appeals to me, but I wish I had a better sense of what kind of scope actual play should be taking. Like, should each Season have one scene per player? Per character? More?

Finally, I really appreciate how the GMs role in the game is sharply defined and given currency, and I think that the situation creation rules are rockin’. Especially the Goals thing. Thats great.


Some parts of this game I really want to play (Troll/Land creation, Myth-changing throughout the ages), but my overall difficulty with parsing the text, and the fact that there’s a couple of rules questions that I would need to get answers for before playing, kills that buzz to a degree. There are some really cool bits in this game, and I think it really needs some playtesting to see exactley what should stay and what needs to go. I also wish that I could play a Troll, maybe not all the time, but under some circumstances. Maybe the first Generation of play could be with Troll characters, which set the ur-myths that your human characters respond to in later ages?

Further Thoughts

Hrm. Most of my thoughts are in the Overall for this one.

Guy, if you haven’t, I think you should check out Bill White’s Ganakagok. It has a similar season-based play arc that works really smoothly in play, and I get a similar mythic vibe from your game that I get when I play it.

Also, if I could play more Troll, I would be all over this game. More Troll!


Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Troll Lands by Guy Shalev evaluation

 Troll Lands by Guy Shalev

RPG Challenge Score Sheet

Review Scoring by Tad K

Best Incorporation of Images

A total of 6 images were used. The first ones had no explanation, being the actual images to represent the trolls. A small note would have been nice, I knew that is what they were based on conversations with the author. In knowing that they really add to the idea of the trolls as elements of the land.The other images used were a couple of maps, with colorations and lines added to them. They are used to illustrate game concepts, without illustrating actual game play, as maps are not overtly used in the game. This did lend a nice flavor to their use.Not sure where the other images are from the original set, I do not locate them in the game document. 

Most Playable

 The setup part is a touch confusing. The reason for the Troll Dice are not made explicit, do I use the Troll Dice combination to make the People dice, or they a separate stack of the same quantities in color. That could be clarified a bit more.How we get the People dice (normal dice) is not clear.Traits and Deeds, while I get that you get a total of 5 (basic setup of 5 Troll Dice) I would like to know more why I want this right at that part of the rules.Why do I use the Liars Dice game, when does it come into play?The Creating Situation has a nice example, I could use more. The strength, even with the guidelines, seems a bit arbitrary, especially in the duration. Perhaps a little more explanation of that section would be nice.A bit more explanation of the Deeds and Rituals, why we write them down, how to follow them for following seasons would be nice as well.  

Best Overall

This is the most subjective portion of the evaluation. The images used in the game are excellent; they do tell what the game is about. Sure a cover of some kind would be nice. But this is not the production model of the game, and so it is not needed to grab my attention to pick it up, read the back blurb and buy it. My overall opinion is very favorable; it is a great idea for a neat board game. A sample board layout would have cinched it for me. I do not find it to be a role playing game in the traditional sense, it is a narrative story game styled game, and as such lends its self to a more board game, competitive feel. This is not really what I want in a RPG (Role Playing Game) since the players are more the Tribes vice actual individual characters. But that is more personal bias. On the basis of the game, it is playable in its current format. Some table discussion how and when the deeds and rituals come into play might need to occur. As well as when the guise of Story Teller shifts and to who, but those are pretty minor quibbles. I ranked it a 6 in incorporation since it does not fit into any single niche, but it does take elements from board games, dice games, and round robin style storytelling. The overall opinion shows how much I like the entire concept, and it would be easy to port this idea of Trolls and Lands to a stock Traditional RPG as a theme or history and be able to explore it more.

Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 6:24 pm  Comments (2)