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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Artwork is otherworldly.
  • Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Thematically powerful.
  • Solo only.

Might Not Like

  • Worth reading rules carefully – especially if you are getting beaten heavily.
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Veilwraith Review

veilwraith header

I have many games on my shelves. Sometimes I find myself browsing the box artwork to see which game best suits my mood. Perhaps it’s spring, and the scent of fresh grass might lead me to a relaxing game of Photosynthesis. Or, if I’m feeling a little adventurous, I might delve into the Lost Ruins of Arnak.  For my mood to match the artwork of Veilwraith, I would need to be in a very dark place indeed.  The fact that I am currently reaching for this game more than any other - despite the skeletal figure that stalks me from the box - is one of several compliments I can give this stunning game from designer Tristan Hall. More on the artwork later; first, what is this game about, and is it for you?

First Impressions

The first thing to note is that this is a solo game. Whilst the rulebook does tease at multiplayer, each player would need their own copy. Quite frankly, I believe you’d be doing a disservice to yourself to share this experience. All you should need is some subdued lighting, a haunting soundtrack, and deep breaths.  A game designed for solo play is a brave thing in my opinion, after all. What is board gaming if not a celebration of friendship and sharing of experiences? Not this one – this one is for you and the dark corners of your mind. The places where you don’t like to shine a light.

The Void

The setting for the game is as grim as it comes: the end of the world. Although the game is not lore heavy, there is some well-worked background to the game that is worth reading but paraphrases thus:  The Overlord cometh and he is not a nice chap – think Sauron on a bad day.  Not only does he kill everyone but in a fit of pique, decides to, quite literally, rip the Earth up into great chunks – known as the rending ­– leaving a barren void known as the Veil.

That’s where you come in as a Veilwraith. Your job is to traverse this void, seeking out five keys to a portal that will let you escape.

Ah, were it that simple.

Alas, you are not alone in this void. You must also face off against a series of threats. These threats will try to thwart you and sap your spirit until you collapse in a depressed heap; like it's March 2020 and you're trying to buy toilet roll. Some threats are not malevolent, rather they are lost spirits or Deja who wander the land aimlessly. It’s your job to help them and in return, they may boost your spirit. Fail to help them though, and they will drain your spirit more than IKEA on a bank holiday. Other threats, such as the Vana, are malevolent – unless you dispatch them to whence they came, they’ll drag you down. And then, of course, there are the foes. These threats are tougher and must be defeated before you can attempt to escape the portal.

Like all brilliant games, the secret sauce that Tristan Hall has added here is to make the gameplay alchemically simple; yet offering levels of strategy that will have you clawing at the table in despair. You will find it hard. You will lose. Then you will reset and try again because you know there is a way through.

Gameplay

You will create a threat deck, specific to one of five vignettes that comes with the base game (an expansion, Absolution is available).  Each threat deck is unique to each vignette but will always contain the five keys you need, as well as a whole bunch of threat topped up with some nasty foes. On your turn, you will have access to three core actions: Explore, Fight and Influence. Each threat will have a value that needs to be matched to defeat it (and some have multiple values). If you don’t find all the keys and escape before the threat deck is empty, then it is reshuffled with one addition: the Archfiend is added. If you draw him, well... let’s just say he’s not the negotiating type.

Luckily, you have a deck of your own consisting of memories that you can play to help defeat the threats.  On your turn, you will be limited to one or all of five actions that allow you to defeat an enemy,  or perhaps draw more memory cards to give you more options next time. Alternatively, you could tilt one of the core actions and strengthen your attack for the next round, or combine two cards to strengthen one of your core actions... but then you might need that card next time, and you know there is a foe in the deck somewhere so maybe you should save it and… herein lies the absolute majesty of Veilwraith. Its ability to undermine your decision making and drag you to the precipice of paralysis, dangle you over the edge and sneer into your indecisive bones. “But if you do nothing, I’ll win.”

The game plays out in a campaign, with each vignette designed to lead you into ever-tougher situations. You start with five ribbons lose a vignette and a ribbon is lost. There is an element of deckbuilding in the game, in that after a vignette is successfully completed you can upgrade memories to give you more of a fighting chance.  Fear not that there are only five vignettes in the base game – the replayability of this game is high given the randomness of the threat and memory decks. But, eventually, you will want to add the expansion which brings another 15 vignettes. Defeating a vignette is a challenge. Defeating all five in a campaign will require the perfect blend of skill - wrangling every bit of juice from the perfectly cogged mechanics - a pact with the devil, and just a dash of luck.

Final Words

And so back to the box, and a note on the artwork. It’s simply the most striking artwork I’ve seen in any game. Don’t be put off by its monochrome nature – it emphasises the bleak nature of the grey Veil you now live in. Much of your time playing will be spent poring over the beautiful drawings. In no other game could a Goblin King and someone who looks like he walked off the set of Pride and Prejudice work so well, but it does.

There aren’t huge swathes of components in this game but the cards are excellent stock, the spirit dial is solid and the other tokens are all of good quality as is the storage solution.  The instructions are clear and the designer is on the ball with responding to rules questions.

There is devilry in this design – a setup and reset time of less than 5 minutes, artwork that will enthral you, and a game that whispers to you from your shelf, no matter your mood. Do yourself a favour and reach for it. Enter the Veil.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Artwork is otherworldly.
  • Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Thematically powerful.
  • Solo only.

Might not like

  • Worth reading rules carefully especially if you are getting beaten heavily.

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