Spreading Like Wildfire - Sylvion Review

And it's finally done! Three Omniverse games for December and this is the final one on the list, Sylvion. Again the plot is similar to before. Big nasty thing threatens the dream world and you need to stop it. OK, maybe that's not quite the same as Onirim as you're technically facing multiple nightmares, but it's pretty much identical to Castellion.

The style of this game though is similar to those "lane defence" games that you see on cheap PC Steam sales where you basically just defend multiple lanes from enemies with what resources you have. I usually call these "lame defence" games because for me they generally suck like crazy. People have pasted all kinds of themes on these games to essentially cash in on the licenses. Now I feel that this genre can be better represented in a card game and so Sylvion is my hope for this to be true.

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options, two of which have already had reviews in the last month, check those out!



Designer: Shadi Torbey (2015)
Publisher: Z-Man Games
# of Players: 1-2
Age: 14+
Time: 30 Minutes
Rank/Rating: 1075 / 7.46


Colours Of The Wind


The Ravage (a giant fire elemental) is threatening the Dream Forest with destruction. You have to mobilise the creatures and powers of the forest to survive his waves of attacks and keep the landscape verdant at the end. You will utilise the powers of whales, squirrels, hedgehogs, doves and many more while planting trees and fountains to stave the wake of the attacks by the fire elemental spawns which vary in intensity and may unexpectedly speed up or blaze up without warning.

Before the attack begins you will draft your deck of defenders, trees and fountains because unfortunately not everybody in the forest is willing to step up to the plate and put their lives on the line. Some will desert and be removed from the game before you even start. Once your force is assembled, the attacks start in traditional lane defence style. Creatures will destroy or move elementals, help your hand size or manipulate the enemy decks. Fountains will remain in place quenching fire elementals and Trees will repair the forest. This is especially important as once the attack stops, the entire forest must be blooming (i.e. not burnt) otherwise you lose as where there is any hint of fire, the Ravage can return.

As with before, the artwork is the storybook hand drawn style we expect from the Omniverse games so it's a love or hate affair as to whether you will like it or not. However I think this is the best of the series in terms of how it looks and how much sense it makes. In Onirim the rooms were pretty random in how they looked and in Castellion, what on earth were some of those denizen tiles meant to be? Here however you can tell what animal is being represented even without the name being printed on the card.

On top of that the contrast of lush greens and blues from your cards against the striking yellows and reds of the Elemental decks make for a really nice visual spectacle when it's all laid out and in motion. It really brings out that whole "good vs evil" aspect of the game's plot.


Who Will Stand With Me?


The Introductory version of Sylvion is very much a tutorial mode. Once you've grasped the basics of the game and beaten it you can move on from there as the Advanced Mode is where it's at with the inclusion of the Mobilisation phase. This is where you draft your deck of creatures, fountains and trees and in every game your deck will be completely different. Everything is gradually laid out in columns and you have to pick which one suits your needs best. However every now and again one of the columns at random will desert and be removed from the game forcing you to take risks or prioritise the cards you want. And I have to give Sylvion for being the first game ever to make me cry out "get back here you cowardly squirrels" and actually have some context to it!

This phase may seem like an elongated setup, but it's one of the best things about Sylvion. You might aim for a mass army of creatures one game, a river of fountains in another, or specialise in certain areas, etc. And depending what you go for, the game will play out drastically different. It also gives you an element of control over what resources you have rather than trusting to luck.

This same feeling of control carries over into the main game also. A Lvl 4 blazing elemental might spring out from the deck, but do you deal with it now, or let it march forward a bit while you set up your game plan or acquire the means to take it out? Do you just let it burn down half your forest because you know you can grow it back with some trees? There's a surprising amount of choice that you have in how you defend the forest and this couples with having to discard cards in order to play others, much like the multi-use mechanic you see in San Juan. You want to use every card in your hand, but you can't and you only get so many back in a turn so hand management is crucial.


Expanding The Forest


Onirim was a master example of showing how many ways you can expand a small solo card game, but here we don't get quite as many as that. Sylvion provides two ways to add new cards to the mix and as such change the difficulty and game play mechanics slightly.

Feats & Betrayal: - Betrayal cards hide themselves within the columns when drafting your deck in the Mobilisation phase. Essentially they are dead draws during the game and can't be used to play other cards. The artwork reminds me of the Christmas Critters from South Park, which is certainly one way to bring a seriously dark tone to Sylvion. The Feats are the best part though allowing for one-use powerful abilities or even alternate winning conditions from flooding the landscape with fountains or amassing a giant hand size and calling an armistice (which sounds crazy, but I managed it). Adding more choices and strategies, this is now an auto-include in every game and it seems to keep the challenge at the same kind of level.

Elements: - This is Sylvion's version of the masochist expansion. 4 different types of cards are added to the Elemental decks which mostly cause horrendous things to happen to the landscape or your hand. The only positive part are the Geysers which can act as ways to take out multiple elementals at once, but only if you can line them up right. Compared to what the other Element cards do, this is a relatively small bonus and as such this definitely spikes the difficulty up, making it a little too punishing at times.



Verdict


During December you have seen me review three classic games from the Omniverse series. All have been enjoyable to play, although one of them is no longer in my collection. Sylvion is the clear favourite for me. It may not have all the expansions that Onirim has, but I feel that there is a greater element of control over how the game plays out in Sylvion and less of that random beatdown. Now the introductory game is literally a tutorial, but once you add in that Mobilisation phase it really comes into its own giving you lots of choices about how to customise your Defender deck before you even start playing and even allows you to try different things.

Cards with special powers, a variety in decks, repeatable options and having cards double as currency as well as powers - all of these are aspects of a game that I like and they're all here in Sylvion. The setup time takes a while, but most of this is the Mobilisation phase and it's enjoyable in itself. It would be nice to see more expansions for this, but it doesn't have to go as mad as Onirim. I'll rarely use the Elements, but the Feats & Betrayal cards are an auto-include for the additional win conditions.

Sylvion is a great solo treat for those who want a portable game that keeps to less than 30 minutes including setup and I don't know many in that category.



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want a cheap game suitable for travel.


You want a card game version of the "lane defence" games that allows for a good amount of options.


You want some quick games in the collection that allow for solo play, but could be adapted for two should the need arise.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want the biggest challenge - with Elements it's a tough game, but Onirim definitely has the biggest difficulty spikes.


You want to play this mainly with 2 players - it's focus is on solo play and there are lots of better 2 player games out there.


You think the setup time is a bit too long with the extra drafting phase.

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