The last official League of Legends board game was a pretty lavish affair, a tower defence experiment with nice miniatures and some cool ideas. The second, Tellstones, is...less ambitious.
Tellstones: King’s Gambit is a simple game of memorisation and bluff, for 2 or 4 players, that only takes around 10 minutes to play (and sometimes a lot less).
The game takes place on a small piece of cloth, upon which players take turns ordering the other player to take actions. Most of those actions revolve around placing, moving, hiding and revealing tokens, with the basic gist of Tellstones being that it’s a cup/shell game.
While individual points are awarded for achieving small feats, you can win (or lose) the whole game at once if you’re able to boast, then correctly identify all of the upside-down tokens. Boast and get it wrong, though, and you instantly lose.
It’s fine? It can be funny when you get it wrong, and it’s pretty satisfying when you get it right, because it’s quite a juggle trying to keep track of a number of hidden tokens at once.
One question I kept coming back to in my limited time with the game, though, was why? Who is this for? Why does this have, or need, the League of Legends license, when it does absolutely nothing with it? There’s nothing here I disliked, but there was nothing compelling me to stick with it once I’d played a few rounds and learned the basics either. Nor was there anything here that made me feel like recommending it to board gaming friends (or even League of Legends fans).
It just feels fast and disposable, like a playground game or a round of poker.
It’s a bit rough then that it comes in at $30. This is a side of fries, not a main meal, and that’s a lot of money for such a fleeting tabletop experience. If you do get it though, you can at least tell where that money went, because the production values are luxurious. Indeed it’s one of the nicest small-box experiences I’ve ever seen in the flesh.
Tellstones comes in this exquisite metal box that pops open like a sci-fi medal case, and the game’s pieces are big, glossy and heavy. It may be a light experience, but at least it’s a premium one.
If you want to see how it’s played in action, Riot made this quick little rules video that covers pretty much everything in under five minutes.