Volfyirion - Review

by Tobias Heinzen , , ,

Volfyirion is a simple deck building game, set in the universe of Mysthea. Fighting a dragon is always good. And a deck builder that can be played solo did pique my curiosity. But is it any good?

Components

The game has a very small footprint and everything you needs comes in a small box. It does fit all cards sleeved and has some room to spare (I used some quite thick sleeves, I think they're 80 microns). This is good, since then I manage to get the cards out again. The token fits perfectly on top of the cards. The cardstock isn't anything special. They have no linen finish or similar. Since this is a deckbuilder it really begs for sleeves. The game comes fairly cheap (the kickstarter price was around 10$), so if at some point you want to replace the game, it doesn't cost you much, so the lesser cardstock may be forgiven.

The artwork is really great. Most of the cards are borderless which I love, even more so when the art is beautiful. What I can't comprehend, why Tabula had the feeling they have to give the command cards are border. There's no purpose to it at all and just destroys the art. Some might argue, that they did this, so you can see what color they have. But the troop and building cards do not have them, but they have the color instead at the bottom. Additionaly the color of a card is given in a banner in the top-left (pro: color-blind friendly in different shapes). So that's not really an argument.

The inconsistency does not stop there (more on that later more), the box for the secondary ability has a different shape and illustration on all cards too. Again: Why?

If you backed during the kickstarter campaign, you had the chance on grabbing the collectors box. As many on the internet already mentioned: The box is kind of "meh". Two games and the Volfyirion mini just barely have space in it (you have to throw away the little spacer between the two decks, or else it won't fit at all. After some tinkering I found a configuration of the boxes, where I was able to close the lid afterwards.

There's also the dragon mini you could buy. It really looks good, but you probably don't want to play with it (or at least not this game). The mini takes more space than one card box. I think it looks better on a shelf, given the games small footprint it is ideal to take it with you. Draging along the dragon mini too is just insane. I guess you can play with it in other games in the same universe (Mysthea) or you can use it as a dragon mini for your favorite RPG (the base is around 48mm).

Gameplay

The game plays like a typical deck builder. You buy cards for your deck to perform better in subsequent turns. What differs from other deck builders are two things: instead of having to manage two resources, there are three and you have cards that stay in play and provide continuous benefits (but are somewhat limited).

Permanent cards are troops or buildings that can be stationed in one of your cities and provide an ongoing benefit. Most often they provide one or more of the resources but also secondary abilities that let you draw more cards for example. You are limited on how many permanent cards you can have - only one troop and one building is allowed per city - so you have to manage them. There are also wonder cards, that also stay in play, and of which you can have an unlimited amount, but they are a bit harder to come by.

Your opponent is Volfyirion the dragon itself. Every turn, and when you play a permanent card, a card is added to his Rage Pile. When you have to reshuffle your deck, Volfyirion will attack. The actions he takes during his attack are dictated by the rage pile’s content. He might just destroy buildings or troops in your cities (and thus hindering you in getting a functioning engine) or he might destroy one of your cities. If the last city is destroyed you loose the game.

Again to illustrate, here is a solo playthrough.

Final Thoughts

First things first: The rulebook is bad. The one for solo: double so. Crucial information is gathered in various places. Take the Wonder cards for example: The rule, that you can remove a card from the game whenever you play one is described in the cards overview section, how to play a wonder card in another and how to seal and unseal a wonder card in a third section, each several pages apart. This makes looking up rules for a specific type of card hard. This is aided by the fact, that there is a list of available actions (good), but right next to it, there should be the page numbers on where to find the rules to said action (bad).

This continues on, in the solo rulebook. They even straight out missed an available action ("unseal wonders"). I did have to ask Tabula Support, and they replied quickly and confirmed, that they missed the rule (according to them "it could be a layout problem"). In the solo rulebook especially, the missing page numbers next to the available actions is really hurting, since you have to juggle two rulebooks. And speaking of: The solo rulebook is not shipped with the game. You have to print it separately. I'm okay with printing extra rules in this case, as I don't think they would have fit in the box. What is bad about this though: a) the rules come in full color (same as the normal rulebook) with no low-ink/no-color option and b) it has the same format as the normal rulebook. I feel the rules could have fitted on one sheet of paper that could be folded to fit in the box.

I've already talked about the card art. Here I'm mostly disapointed that they opted to print the command cards with border. I hope in future printings, they go borderless. And for consistencies sake I would use the same box for the secondary ability for all cards.

Coming now to the good things about this game. The setup and teardown time is really fast. Looking at other deckbuilders where you first have to assemble specific decks (Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game or Dominion) this is basically just unpack and play. It is also easy to teach and plays quickly. There aren't too complicated rules and the hardest thing to comprehend is the synergies. The iconography is clear and simple. This makes it ideal to introduce someone into deck builders in general. I personally would have only two resources as I feel it is enough, but that is debateable.

The theming is a bit missing (or I didn't understand it much, I'm not that deep into the lore of the Mysthea universe). There are three minor houses (effectively different colors you need to assemble for synergies - think Hero Types from Legendary), but I couldn't figure out if there's something special about each house or not. You can get almost any resource from all houses. I wished for more "specialities" of each house. Only the red house is unique, as far as I saw, it is the only house that can destroy buildings or troops (which in the solo game mode is useless anyway). Here you can feel some of the inconsistencies again: The rules tell you to remove all the "move Volfyirion" cards but lets you keep all "destroy Troop/Bulding" cards, which are equally useless.

The rules for Volfyirion (the AI) are quite simple. They feel a bit intrusive in the game flow though, as you have to add cards to the rage pile during your play whenever you play a permanent card. Other than that the rules are simple enough, so that the bookkeeping isn't too much. There are cases where Volfyirion is totally obliterating you in the first attack (since there's no way to prevent or reduce it). Since the game plays fairly quick and the setup doesn't take that long, you can just start over again. But it might be frustrating when you loose the game before you even started playing it.

The solo game is more about getting a deck that can dish out one very good turn, instead of consistantly producing good results. Card Draw and Card Destruction become even more important in this game mode. So it differs from the 2-player game and if you want to use this mode to train for 2-player mode, I would discourage you to do so.

If you are looking for a solo-only deck builder, I would advise against Volfyirion. As pretty as it looks and as simple as its rule are, there are better alternatives (Friday for example - still very high in the singleplayer list). Volfyirion plays best with 2 players. I feel the solo mode could use some improvements and it looks that it is just there to tick a box. But it offers some quick respite between a longer game or while you wait for other players to arive.

Edit - 07.10.2019: Added a bit more explanation in the Gameplay section