Brother Ming Games
Play Time: 45-60 Minutes
Anna’s Roundtable, the Fire Emblem fan board game from Brother Ming Games, has been available to play on digital platforms for years. Since the digital release, Anna’s Roundtable has developed a small following, with constant feedback and tweaks to the gameplay. There have been tournaments streamed over Twitch, seasonal promo cards, and even an upcoming expansion that will feature many new artists. Anna’s Roundtable has gone from a small Fire Emblem print and play board game to a full-on experience that shows no signs of slowing down.
Now in 2022, the physical version is available for fans who want to add the hefty box and its gorgeous cards to their collection. After years of tweaks since our last review of the digital version, it’s time to review the final product.
A Brief How To Play
Setup involves shuffling the deck of unit cards and dealing each player 6 unit cards. Players get a mulligan and can discard as many cards as they like to draw more. Victory point tokens and cards, other various tokens and markers, and the shop deck are all set up in reach of players. A 6×6 grid map is placed between players, with player boards attached to the top and bottom edges of the board to create deployment zones.
On a player’s turn, they gain an Anna Coin and ready their exhausted units. They can then perform a variety of actions, including deploying a unit, activating a ready unit, buying shop cards, and using their dragon vein crystals. Activating units exhaust them, allowing them to move and perform an action, which can include attacking an enemy unit, capturing a castle, or assisting a unit. The available actions and abilities vary from unit to unit.
Units will frequently be in combat, which typically includes three steps. The attacking unit deals damage based on the attacker’s ATK and the defender’s DEF. Then the defending unit counters if the attacker is in range, then the unit with the higher SPD stat gets to follow up. There is a weapon triangle system in place in which certain units gain stat advantages over others and many keywords and abilities that tweak the combat process as well.
Defeating units in combat or capturing a castle grants the player victory points, while the opponent gets dragon vein tokens to use later to swing the game back in their favor. The game ends when all victory tokens or victory point cards are claimed, and the player with the most victory points wins.
Pacing and Interactivity
As a tactical dueling game, Anna’s Roundtable comes with plenty of depth, but it never feels overwhelming. Units each come with a variety of keywords and one ability. While a unit can have plenty of keywords, most are easy to understand, ensuring that Anna’s Roundtable moves at a fine pace. Early on, players will likely spend tons of time reading up on effects, descriptions, and such, but it doesn’t take long to settle into the game. Games of Anna’s Roundtable can vary significantly in length depending on the skill discrepancy between players, but it rarely drags on since turns tend to be short for experienced players.
When players settle in, they will discover that the skill ceiling of Anna’s Roundtable is quite high. Players can only deploy three units at a time, and only one of each color (Or substitute a color with a colorless unit). These limitations mean that players need to build their team based on both their own unit’s synergy and their opponent’s weaknesses. Since only one unit is typically deployed at a time, players have the opportunity to counter each other’s deployments to field the best team. When units are defeated, players have the opportunity to play a more favorable unit while getting a valuable dragon vein token.
These tokens can completely change a game around. Depending on how many are used, players can block off parts of a stage, including castles, bump units around, or even deploy and activate a unit on the same turn. Sometimes it’s even a tactical move to sacrifice a unit. Sure you give your opponent victory points, but you’ll get a dragon vein. It feels like there is a limitless amount of strategy and depth in Anna’s Roundtable, and that becomes especially evident when watching competitive play in a tournament.
Everything in Anna’s Roundtable is built around interacting with each other, making this a fantastic choice for those who don’t like games of solitaire. Aside from the luck that is inherently in the game due to drawing cards and even a few dice rolls, players have complete control over their strategies and will want to foil their opponents. It’s highly interactive and feels like a constant back-and-forth chess match when at its best.
With over 200 units, tons of shop items, and four total boards to play on, there is no issue when it comes to replay value. No two games of Anna’s Roundtable feel the same, and players will play many games before they get to use every unit card on the roster.
Fans of the franchise will obviously get more mileage out of Anna’s Roundtable since they will feel an emotional connection with the units. Still, those who only have a passing knowledge of Fire Emblem will still find themselves able to enjoy countless games of Anna’s Roundtable. The varied gameplay, multiple objectives, and clean mechanics make it easy to just play and enjoy.
In addition to the main PVP, there is also a cooperative boss mode that can be played with up to four players. In this mode, players get to team up to defeat iconic bosses from the series, represented by oversized boss cards. While this mode certainly isn’t the game’s main draw, it’s still enjoyable and offers a break from the traditional mode. Each boss has different goals and gameplay styles, ensuring that there are many hours of gameplay for this mode alone. When everything is put together, Anna’s Roundtable has more value than the price indicates, especially for fans of the series.
Theme and Components
As solid as the gameplay is, we all know the main draw of Anna’s Roundtable. This game is catered specifically for Fire Emblem fans, and it’s immediately obvious upon opening the box that this game was made with love for the franchise. The game’s rules fit right in with the franchise’s gameplay trademarks, leading to a seamless transition from the screen to the table. The main combat mechanics, the characters’ abilities, and even their stats fit right in with what fans would expect from this game. Few rulebooks fit the theme as well as Anna’s Roundtable does and still stay fun, but this one nails it.
Anna’s Roundtable features 201 unit cards with over 100 contributing artists. As a result, players are treated to many gorgeous takes on their favorite characters. Art isn’t recycled in the way players typically see in board games, making Anna’s Roundtable valuable as both a fanzine and a board game. Its involvement by the community makes it just as much a collectible item as it is a game. Some of the cards even come together to form a larger panorama picture between characters with special bonds, which is lovely. The card art is full of personality and the variety of styles ensures that there are many cards that players will fall in love with.
To reinforce that love for this project, every component in Anna’s Roundtable is of the highest quality. The rulebook reads like a tactician’s notebook, with scribbles and art filling the pages. At the same time, all of this never distracts, it only enhances the aesthetic and even makes the game easier to understand. Rather than simple reference cards, this package includes brochures that fit the theme well, giving players all the information they might need without overwhelming readers.
The cards are all slick, the tokens shine, and the wooden pieces feel well-made. There isn’t a single component that feels underdeveloped, and it makes it much easier to justify the game’s price tag when you actually see everything that is inside.
The only downside the game has aesthetic-wise is some cards don’t look quite as great as they could. Some of the art is just dark, and it didn’t print fantastically on the cards. They still look nice, but they don’t quite match the quality of almost every other card. Identifying unit colors can also be difficult when just looking at the banner at the bottom of some cards, but the top-right color is always clear, alleviating this issue instantly.
Anna’s Roundtable Is Great For Fans Of…
Obviously, Anna’s Roundtable is for the fans, first and foremost. As a Fire Emblem game, this is the closest that players will ever get to experiencing Fire Emblem without a console. As a collector’s piece, it is the perfect conversation starter between fans.
Still, this game has appeal to anyone who likes 1v1 dueling games. Players will always want at least one participant to be a fan, but it isn’t far-fetched to say that someone who doesn’t care for Fire Emblem but loves strategy games will still enjoy Anna’s Roundtable. Sure, most of the value is lost, especially when it comes to the units and their personality, but plenty of games are beloved already without licensed or popular themes. Why wouldn’t Anna’s Roundtable work in a similar way?
With stellar art, high production values, and deep strategy, Anna's Roundtable is the ultimate fan experience for Fire Emblem devotees.