Sylvion is currently one of 5 titles in the Oniverse series by Z-man games. You are fighting the Ravage, and protecting a forest from its fiery Elementals. It’s a tower defense style card game, which comes with 2 expansions and a whole bunch of ways to play.
There are actually 3 modes or levels of difficulty and you can play it as a co-op game as well which is great.
I’ve got a lot of experience writing game instructions so they always interest me. I like to see how people tackle them. No matter how simple your game might be, writing the instructions for it is really really hard. So it feels mean to criticise, but on my first playthrough, I do distinctly remember thinking that the instructions were quite hard to follow.
For example; some things are referred to in different ways from one page to the next. Not being familiar with what these things were, it was pretty hard to keep up. Not only that, but information on the same topic seems to be spread throughout the booklet. So if you’re looking for something specific you might find yourself flicking back and forth a lot.
Having said all that, the instructions are beautifully illustrated. The pages which show each card and detail its use are really helpful. There are also great diagrams to help you set up and if all else fails, there are tons of youtube videos out there to help you figure it out.
For the Introductory game, remove all the Advanced and expansion cards (the ones with extra symbols in the bottom corner). Place your Blazing Elemental cards (these are the black and red fire cards) accessible to one side. Now shuffle your draw pile of Sylvion cards and play it to one side too.
Now create the outer edges of the play area (or battlefield) with portrait cards, 4 high and 4 wide (see above image). The Ravage cards form the right side of the battlefield. Shuffle them and place them in 4 equal piles of 12 cards each.
The forest you are protecting creates the other 3 sides of the play area, with 6 cards Bloom side up and 6 cards Desolation side up.
Draw the top 8 cards from the Sylvion deck to form your hand and you’re good to go.
The game works in stages, reveal Ravage cards, move Elementals, reinforcements and defence.
During the first two stages, the top four Ravage cards are revealed and Elementals begin to make their way across the battlefield. If they reach the opposite side, they burn the forest and you flip a bloom card over to its Desolation side. There are also some support cards that are shown in the above image (left). They make the Elementals stronger or move further, however, they can generally only move 1 space at a time, before it’s your turn in the final 2 stages.
To stop the Elementals you need to place water fountains in their path, plant trees to rebuild the forest, and call all the woodland creatures to your aid. In order to do all these things, pick up reinforcements from your draw pile and play cards from your hand during the defence stage. You can play as many cards as you like, but to play a card, you have to pay its cost. This is indicated in the raindrop in the top corner, pay it by discarding that number of cards from your hand.
Elemental My Dear Watson!
I’ve played the Introductory and Advanced games a handful of times each and another handful of times with the expansions. But I have only beaten the Ravage once. I think the key is variation with a mechanic like this. It’s easy to think that some cards are less useful than others and to always discard them. In actual fact, you need to utilise all the abilities and defences available to you in order to win.
This is a battle, and it’s unpredictable. Your strategy has to change from one phase to the next, and you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Look at it as a bigger picture and a longer play rather than the best outcome for each individual round.
A quick note on the use of symbols… it is really resourceful. This is something that is harder than it sounds. You need a balance between communication and something small and simple enough that it doesn’t overpower the main illustration.
Into the Omniverse
What I really like about Sylvion is that it utilises symbols for both actual gameplay and to explain what each card does. For example, card costs are indicated by a raindrop and a number, which tells you how many cards you have to discard to pay for it. The Support cards in the Ravage deck have letters on them, and you resolve them in alphabetical order. The Desolation side of forest cards has a number that is used in the drafting phase of an Advanced game.
This is in addition to the prompts of what each card does, and the symbols to indicate whether a card is from the advanced game or expansions. This is handy for separating the decks for the different game modes during set up. All of these symbols and it still doesn’t feel like too much.
Look and feel
The graphics on this game are really nice; and consistent across the series. They fit the dream-like theme of the Oniverse well; although if I’m honest it does make it a bit difficult to distinguish between the cards sometimes. Having said that, it’s not uncommon to be referring to the rules to check ‘what does this card do again?’ every so often with any new game.
The packaging is attractive and well thought out. As you lift up and remove the box lid you are presented with these beautifully die cut flaps. They layer themselves over the instruction booklet and look like flames gradually engulfing a forest, which is the front of the instruction booklet underneath. This is cleverly thematic; as the aim of the game is to defeat the fire, and to access the game, you have to remove the fire from across the top of the box.
As far as feel goes, there are no rolled textures anywhere, but in all honesty, there is so much else going on, I hadn’t even noticed until I checked to write this post. The detail in the packaging, the thickness of the cards, and the amount of detail and effort in the illustration more than makes up for it. The instruction booklet even has a thicker stock on the cover. The little plastic Ravage piece you get is also a nice bonus. It has some weight to it given its size and completes the premium quality feel this game has.
I really like this game, any negatives are fairly superficial and it’s a well designed and thought out offering. The levels of difficulty do seem pretty steep. It’s really hard, right from the introduction, and I’m yet to try the hardest setting or a co-op game. But if it was too easy it would be no fun, I do enjoy a challenge.
With almost 200 cards and multiple variations in play, Sylvion definitely gets the thumbs up from me. I can’t wait to get to a stage where I think I might be ready to tackle the Ravage pawn in the hardest difficulty.