The Reformation, a time of conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Europe in the sixteenth century regarding the doctrine of the Church, is definitely a different theme for a board game. The question is can a board game really capture the sense of struggle between the different factions whilst remaining historically accurate?
I have always had an interest in this period of history, so was somewhat open to a board game with this setting. Did the game do the setting justice? How does the game play? Read on below to find out.
The Game and Set Up
Sola Fide is a two player area control game, designed by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard. The main difference between this game and others in the area control genre is that the game is driven by playing cards to gain influence and ultimately win each one of the ten Roman imperial circles.
Each imperial circle is worth a certain number of points, and the player with the most points at the end wins. However, players can gain additional points by moving the Disputation Token to an imperial circle (by certain card actions) before claiming the circle.
The imperial circles each have two sides, the nobility and the commoners. On each side there are a number of spaces. Some filled by colours denoting one player or the other. Red for Protestant and black for Catholics. There's some neutral spaces. In order to claim an imperial circle the player needs to covert all squares on one side of an imperial circle to their specific colour. And to ensure that the circle is rule either by the nobility or the commoners. This depends on which side they have converted to their colour.
The game “board” is made up of ten cardboard squares. They're arranged in a pyramid in accordance with the number on the back of each tile. The first four tiles are turned face up to represent the imperial circles players can convert. With the other remaining face down until they are unlocked by players winning the tiles above them. Each of the imperial circles has a track down one side with a cube on one space. Take one of the yellow cubes and place them on the indicated square. This shows which side the imperial circle starts on.
The players then decide who will be playing as Protestant and who will play as Catholic and take the cards and wooden cubes in their colour. If playing the game for the first time there are recommended sets of cards to use. Otherwise, each player takes their decks, drafting one card from each set of three to create a starting deck.
Finally, players will need to separate the bonus cards into their coloured piles, orange, grey, blue and green. These will be used later in the game. There will also be a central reserve of green cubes which are used to denote bonus points.
How to Play
Once each player has drafted their starting deck, they draw a starting had of three cards. The turns of the game are fairly simple with players either choosing to play a card from their hand or to draw a card. Up to maximum hand size of five.
The cards influence various factors. This includes converting territories in an imperial circle or circles. In addition to moving the circle towards one side or the other and moving the disputation token to an imperial circle. This makes it worth an additional point. Additionally, there are some more specialised cards which can directly influence the other player. Or cards which have an ongoing effect. However, only one of these can be used at any one time.
Once a player has won an imperial circle by converting all territories on one side of the circle, they take that circle into their pile for final scoring. The player is then able to take an additional bonus card. From one of four piles which grants them additional action.
Play continues until all ten imperial circles have been won, at which point the players then complete final scoring.
I find this game very engaging and final scoring is often extremely close. This game is not so much about using asymmetrical player powers (a lot of the cards on each side have similar effects) but knowing when to play cards and sometimes knowing when to give up on an imperial circle to focus your play elsewhere.
You really get into the depth of the game when using the drafting mechanism to choose your starting deck. The recommended set is fine but can feel a little too sterile, even within the first game or two. Drafting your own deck adds a whole new dynamic to the game as it enables you to really access the strategic element of the game, whilst offering some “but I want all of those cards” moments.
The artwork of this game is very much a tale of two halves. The imperial circles look quite drab and uninteresting on the table as they are very beige! However, the artwork on the cards is very interesting and is linked to the historical context of this game. I particularly like the companion booklet offered within the box which explains a bit more about each of the cards giving the game some greater historical context.
In summary, I really enjoy the mechanics of this two player game. It might not look like much on the table. Give it a try and I think you will be surprised!