Game Buzz: One with the Oniverse

At GenCon 2012, I picked up a copy of Onirim, Shadi Torbey’s 2010 solo/2-player cooperative card game set in a dream world.  I had heard good things about it, and I had been looking for a good game to play solo.  It’s now become one of my favorite solo games (to find out more, see my solo session report from 2013).  Z-Man has been really supporting the so-called Oniverse lately, releasing a second edition of Onirim in 2014 and two new games in the line this year.  I’m going to take a look at those two today, starting with the one that was released first:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Sylvion was released back in May.  As with Onirim, it’s a 1-2 player game set in the dream world.  The plot this time is that the mad Fire Elemental Lord (the Ravage) is out to destroy the dream forest.  So, tower-defense style, you must protect it.  There is an introductory game, an advanced game, and a couple of included expansions to make life even more difficult for you.

The game comes with 64 Sylvan cards (16 Fountain cards, 16 Tree cards, and 32 Animal cards); 64 Ravage cards (32 Elemental cards and 32 Support cards); 16 Blazing Elemental cards; 12 Edge cards; and 32 Expansion cards.  For the Introductory Game, you’ll be using 24 Sylvan cards and 48 Ravage cards.  The Ravage cards are divided into four decks of 12, and these stacks will form one edge of the battlefield.  The 12 edge cards are placed (half Bloom side up, half Devastation side up) so they complete a frame around a 4×4 battlefield area.  Draw 8 cards from your defender deck of Sylvan cards, and you’re ready to play.

image by BGG user EchoOperative
image by BGG user EchoOperative

In each round of the game, you follow four steps:

  1. REVEAL RAVAGE CARDS: Reveal the top Ravage card of each stack.  There are Elemental cards of strength 0-3; and there are Support cards.  These include Blaze cards, which turn regular Elementals into strength 2-4; and Simoon cards that moves Elementals one space to the left immediately.
  2. MOVE ELEMENTALS: Move each Elemental one space to the left.  If it reaches the fifth space (the forest frame), it flips Edge cards equal to its strength to their desolated side.  If an Elemental hits a Fountain, it is extinguished if the Fountain is stronger than it or destroys the Fountain if the Elemental is stronger.  If they tie, both are destroyed.  The same thing happens if it reaches a Tree.
  3. REINFORCEMENTS: Draw the top three cards of your deck, shuffling if you need to.  You could draw a Fountain, needed for defense against the Elementals; a Tree, needed to repair Desolation at the end of the game; or Animals, which have special effects when played.
  4. DEFENSE: You can play as many cards as you want to, paying their cost by discarding additional cards from your hand.

Once you’re done with defense, start a new Ravage phase.  Once you’ve revealed the final Ravage cards, you reach the final Assault – play out the entire round, then any remaining Elementals keep moving until they are destroyed or until they reach the Edge.  If all trees on the Edge ever get flipped to Desolation, you lose.  If not, you flip one Desolated tree per Tree point you have on the battlefield.  If you can get all trees to be in Bloom, you win.  If not, you lose.

The advanced version is the same, but it adds two different kinds of Ravage cards (Demobilization, which removes cards from the game; and Desiccation, which makes you discard cards from your hand).  There are also four new Animal types.  You begin the advanced game with all trees on the edge in Bloom.  In addition, you begin the game with a draft to build your defender deck.  It’s kind of cool how it plays out – you deal out four cards, then choose one.  You then add cards to the existing stacks, creating piles, and then draw one of the edge cards.  This will indicate which stack gets removed from the draft.  You repeat this process until every card has been drawn from the deck and has been either taken by you or deserted.  Didn’t know you could draft with just one person?  Here it is.  One more rule for the advanced game – if you need to reshuffle, you must demobilize.  This means you have to choose two cards to remove from the deck.  As if things weren’t hard enough.

The expansions add even more challenges.  #1, Extraordinary Feats and Betrayal, adds 8 Betrayal cards and 8 Extraordinary Feats.  Betrayal cards, when drawn from your deck, are either discarded immediately, wasting a draw, or you can discard another card to remove it from the game.  Extraordinary feats, on the other hand, don’t get added to your deck or anything, they are essentially one-time actions you can use at any point in the game.  Both new types are drafted in the Mobilization phase.  Expansion #2, The Elements, adds 16 Element cards to the Ravage deck.  Stone Rain destroys a Tree or Fountain in a row, or an Edge card.  Temporal Tornado returns Trees and Fountains to your hand.  Acid Lake takes up a space in the row and does not count as a movement space for Elementals.  Geyser destroys Elemental cards that touch it (the Geyser is destroyed as well).

This is certainly a very different game than Onirim, which is more of a hunt instead of tower defense.  It also seems to have more of a plot – Onirim is kind of an abstract, really dreamy game whereas this is has a story, characters, and less shuffling.  The advanced draft version seems really cool, and I look forward to giving that a go.  Sylvion does look like a fun and challenging game, and a worthy successor to Onirim.  Here’s a good runthrough of the basic game, and one of the advanced by the same guy (Fundamental Games).

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Castellion was just released at Spiel back in October.  It’s another 1-2 player defense game, though this one uses tiles instead of cards.  And like Sylvion, you can increase the difficulty as you go to provide more of a challenge.  In this one, an enemy called The Menace is threatening your shape-shifting fortress.

Castellion comes with 84 Dream tiles (72 defender and 12 Traitor); 24 Ordeal cards; one Champion of the Oniverse card; and a Menace pawn.  For the Introductory level, Exam card I and II start on the table, with a third Exam card chosen at random.  Safe Dream tiles and regular Dream tiles are shuffled into separate stacks.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

On your turn, draw a Dream tile.  You can draw from the Safe pile or the regular pile.  Once the Safe pile is empty, you must draw from the regular pile.  The tile you draw will either be a Defender or a Traitor (no Traitors in the Safe pile, obviously).  If it’s a Defender, you may place it in the castle or discard it.  If it’s a Traitor, you MUST place it.  Defender placement works like this: you must place orthogonally adjacent to another tile; the bottom row (foundation) must be made up of six tiles with no other tiles hanging over empty space; and only foundation tiles are allowed to be adjacent to a tile that shows the same shape.  Your entire castle can be no larger than 6×6.

As you place, you want to be focusing on defensive formations: different arrangements that consist of four different tiles from the same faction.  There’s the bastion (a square), the line of defense (a horizontal line), and the tower (a vertical line).

If you draw a Traitor tile, it must be placed next to the lowest numbered Ordeal card.  Once there are as many Traitors next to that Ordeal card as the Traitor number, you encounter the Ordeal.  There are three types of Ordeals.  Here are the ones for the Introductory game.

  1. EXAM I: At five Traitor tiles, you need to have already built a complete foundation, plus one bastion, one line of defense, and one tower.  If you have not, you lose.  If you have, you discard the Traitor tiles and the Ordeal card from the game.
  2. EXAM II: Once two Traitor tiles have been placed next to this Ordeal, you must destroy your castle’s foundation.  If this leaves you with an incomplete new foundation (i.e. the second row didn’t have six tiles in it), you lose.  If it is complete, you pass and it’s on to the next one.
  3. EXAM III: Once five Traitors are next to this Ordeal, you must verify that you have a complete foundation and the required defensive formations (it will be different from game to game).  If not, you lose.  If so, you win.

In the base game, Defender tiles have special powers that activate when you choose to discard them rather than place them.  You can also choose to discard a Traitor instead of placing it next to the Ordeal cards, but you must destroy four castle tiles to do this.  The Ordeals in this version are called Simulations, and work much like the Exams.

In the expert version, defensive formations have special powers attached to them.  Ordeal cards (Menace) are encountered after two Traitor tiles, and you only need a completed foundation to continue.  And if you don’t have a completed foundation, you lose.  But there are other building requirements, and if those aren’t met, you must destroy some tiles from your castle.

In addition to these rules, there’s an Appendix for each version that provides an easier and a more difficult way to play.  This means there are nine levels of play in the box.  Which is pretty cool.

Castellion is different than the other games in the Oniverse primarily because it’s a tile game.  It seems a lot more like a puzzle than the others, trying to build your castle in order to meet the pattern requirements of the upcoming Ordeal.  It looks like a very interesting game, one that I’d really like to try.  Here’s the BGG demo from Spiel 2015 to see more about the game.

That’s it for today – thanks for reading!

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