First Play – Sylvion

Game: Sylvion
Publisher: Z-Man Games

When browsing BoardGameBliss I occasionally find myself judging games wholly by their cover. I know that boardgames are made in their mechanics and playability, but sometimes I just want to buy only with my eyes. Sylvion was a game that suckered me in with only its cover art. Digging deeper, the mechanics sounded interesting. Sylvion quickly jumped high on my wishlist and, lo and behold, was on my next purchase.

Sylvion plays as a solo game or a two player co-op game. You act as one of the protecters of the forests defending it from the burning wrath of the Ravage. You set up the game with a number of ‘life points’ equal to how difficult you want the game to be. Then the players build a deck of fountains, trees and forest allies to help defend the forest. After that the fire starts burning and it doesn’t stop until the forest is ash or– well, I don’t know yet, the game is incredibly challenge and I haven’t even gotten close to a win.

The gameplay follows a neat little tower defense style. There are four decks of Ravage cards that enemy cards spawn from. Each turn they move left-wise across the play area until they reach the forest edge. When they hit the forest edge they deal damage equal to their power. The power ranges from 0 to 3, but abilities from the Ravage decks can power them all the way to 4. Especially punishing is the fact that the innocent looking 0 power elementals can instantly be powered up to 4 power. Yikes. As players you can play cards to move these elementals around, extinguish them immediately or set up defensive fountains to put them out in their trek across the forest. You pay for cards by requesting the other player to discard cards from their hand equal to the cost. The game quickly becomes a tug of war between attempting to make good progress without completely neutralizing your hands in the process.

As I said, the game is incredibly challenging. I think co-op games should be challenging. I would be disappointed if I won this game the first time I played it. Now it becomes a goal of mine to come out on top. I want to beat the Ravage and not have the entire forest burnt down. You lose two ways and only win one. You lose if your life points hit zero, simple enough. You also lose if you survive the attack by the Ravage and there is any damage to your forest. Not only do you need to survive the attack but you need to completely heal the forest in the process. It sounds impossible and that excites me. I see the immense difficulty ahead of me and I welcome it with open arms because when I win it’ll feel so, so sweet.

An amazing little gem in this game is the process in which you build your own deck to defend against the Ravage. It’s a form of drafting that requires you to prioritize your decisions on the strategy you want and accept that choosing certain cards could possibly remove other great cards from the decision completely. You draft your deck by shuffling all of the player cards and dealing out four. You choose one of the piles to keep, place a new card on each of the four piles (one will be empty), you then flip the top card of a specific deck and remove a pile, 1 to 4, depending on which number was listed on the flipped card. You then place another card on each pile and choose again. You repeat this process until either your deck of player cards runs out or the flipped cards runs out, whichever comes first. This was an amazing little design that really felt unique and fun while we were doing it. It cannot hold itself as its own game, but it provides a better method of deck building then shuffling X number of cards together and drawing from there.

The game also comes with two expansions built in as well as an additional mode of play to make the game more difficult. I suppose that is a good sign because if there comes a time where the base game becomes too easy, I’d enjoy the new playability that would come from a harder play mode.

Overall I am very happy with my purchase of Sylvion. The presentation and art style of the game continued from the box art. Opening up the game box itself carried over that style in an elegant (and surprising) way that really made this game feel more than just components in a box. If this game will hold up after many plays remains to be seen, but the first few plays of this game was met with excitement. I can see the strategic potential of this game and I am looking forward to winning, whenever it may be. I recommend this as a good game for couples, but, for the love of god, if you smell something burning when you’re playing this game it has nothing to do with the immersion of it.

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