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Ravingspire» Forums » Reviews

Subject: MeepleCraft on Ravingspire: Thoughts After 3 Plays rss

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Wolfram
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So first things first: I am reviewing the Kickstarter copy of this game and some of these points may not be applicable for future prints or even the retail version. There are plenty of videos on the mechanics of Ravingspire, so I'll be focusing mainly on how I felt during the playthrough.


Important Terms to Clarify

Vorpal - any of the "stats" you get in game (Fight, Skill, or Charm) that's required to buy items or fight enemies
Slots - the bottom half of the playerboard, which consists of 4 Card types + 1 Gate symbol
Adversaries & Foe- basic enemies & mini-bosses
Tier - the tower consists of three floors you need to climb; I just collectively call them tiers or Tier 1, Tier 2, cause (see Some Negatives: No Separation of Tiers) it doesn't matter.


Plays Breakdown

1. 4 players, I played as Garsim Cinderheart the Master Weaponsmith — Garsim has no Charm to start with, but I bought a ton of Charm items to compensate which, combined with his abilities to lower item costs and generate free Fight/Skill, worked out well.

2. 3 players, Shayla Nimblenook the Jewel Thief — got absolutely destroyed here. Shayla's over-reliance on Object cards, being literally ALL of her Slots really limits what she should do and buy. At the end of the day, I felt she's really only useful for the utility of her special ability which quickly becomes useless once all three Spire tiers are aligned. Everyone also just kinda chilled on their own level so there wasn't any competition between each other to buy items.

3. 5 players, Aurora the All-Knowing Chronomaster — possibly the strongest Hero in the game. She's well balanced and has enough starting charm early-game to buy what she needs to snowball late-game. Plus, her abilities pretty much allow her to focus hugely on Charm, which (see Some Negatives: Prince Charming) is intrinsically a very rewarding Vorpal by default, and absolutely ignore Skill.


Some Positives

Decent Replayability: the inclusion of multiple end bosses guarantees at least one different element on each playthrough.

Interesting Enemies: being a co-op game that's largely influenced by the AI Environment (the Spire), it was nice too see a decent variety of adversaries with interesting battle results instead of just "Baddie #1", "Baddie #2", etc.

No Gamebreaking Die Rolls: dice rolls play an integral part of this game and can make a Foe fight harder or easier, but at no point did a dice roll make an enemy or situation nearly impossible. A die roll can cause you to lose and die, but it's never egregious enough that it feels unfair.

6 Players: the fact the game supports up to 6 people makes it pretty accommodating for group meetups if everyone wanted to play (a very long game) of Ravingspire.

No Steamrolling: unlike some other Co-op games where 1 bad turn can essentially screw everyone over and rush the game to an untimely end, any individual's bad turn doesn't crush everyone else's progress.

Good Production Quality: this might just be because I'm playing the Kickstarter edition, so I can't say for sure how good the Production will be on retail copies, but the components were all great. Double-thick cardboard and a beautifully thematic book-shaped box.


Some Negatives

No Separation of Tiers: this is probably my biggest issue with this game, and the cause of many of the other negatives. The "plot" device in this game that drives the game forward are the encounter cards. However, there is only 1 encounter deck, while there are 3 tiers of the Spire. This makes each Spire tier feel exactly the same since [Super Awesome Item] is just as likely to appear on Tier 1 as does Tier 3.

Death Shmeth: Because the tower tiers are exactly the same, dying to a Foe is really just an inconvenience. That [Super Awesome Item] you really wanted can still appear on any tier, including Tier 1, and you just have to stroll back up to where you last were.

Prince Charming: out of the 3 Vorpals, there is a huge reliance on Charm as compared to everything else. Almost all of the "good" items are Charm heavy, with Fight and Skill getting a backseat. More often than not, items will require Vorpal ratios like 1 Fight, 2 Skill, and 8 Charm, or even more egregiously, a straight up 10 Charm with no Fight or Skill cost at all. This also makes items that give Charm intrinsically worth more than similar items that should otherwise be on level footing. Sure you can brute force an item, but that just means you're getting less bang-for-your-buck on your Vorpal and shouldn't be the default way some characters need to be played.

Unbalanced Characters: the biggest issue facing a game with multiple characters is making each of them compelling to play, and that is just not the case here. Certain characters, like Aurora, were much stronger than others, like Shayla. This is largely in part due to the item cost unbalance I mentioned above, where characters with high starting charm can purchase better items earlier on and snowball their less charming companions.

Downtime: I wouldn't recommend this game ever being played above 4 players, especially if it's someone's first one or two games of Ravingspire, because there is so much downtime in between turns. With all the buying of items, and the fighting of Adversaries and Foes, and all the reading you have to do, each turn can take quite a while. On the 5 player game I had, it wasn't unreasonable to have to wait 4 to 6 minutes in between turns.

God-Awful Rulebook: I hate to be as critical as I am now, but this is honestly one of the worst rulebooks I've seen. First, you have bright yellow text on yellowed parchment-color paper, which makes some words a struggle to read. Furthermore, there are a TON of rules either not covered in the Rulebook, or covered in some strange and unfindable location. The amount of nuances we had to make house-rules for is ridiculous for a game such as this where the interpretation of cards can drastically affect your success at fighting an enemy.


Parting Thoughts

After playing this game a few times, I think the base game definitely needs some balance reworking. Now, I haven't played the expansion pack that came with the Kickstarter box since each of my three games had at least 1 new player, but I looked them over and don't think the included cards mitigate most of the Negatives. But most importantly, and probably the easiest for Vorpal Chainsword to do, there needs to be an expanded .pdf Rulebook we can print to cover the things missing in the included one. Everyone I played with were really excited to try the game the first time, but was much less enthused about playing it again a second time.

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Joel Carr
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what are your thoughts for solo play based on your observations? would home brewed variant for "seeding" tiers "fix" anything? or would "prince charming" issue be overarching.
 
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Charles Darlage
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B Wumpus wrote:
what are your thoughts for solo play based on your observations? would home brewed variant for "seeding" tiers "fix" anything? or would "prince charming" issue be overarching.
I think the game is wonderful solo. I have not had the chance to play it with other people yet, but my brother has.

The best place to learn the game is from their own website, http://vorpalchainswordgames.com/tome-of-ravingspire.html.


As far as the unbalanced characters, there is a reason for that but it is not found in the rule book which is terrible. This is the description of the heroes from their website:

Quote:
The primary three Heroes are the Crimson Reaver (Reaver), Quinn ApBlanc (Rogue) and Aurora the All-Knowing (Runelord). These heroes have easy-to-utilize powers. They allow the player to draw extra cards or swap card power types during play. Playing with these straightforward Heroes may be roughly categorized as "Normal" or Dungeon mode, and are recommended for starting or solo players.

The second set of three Heroes are a bit more difficult to get a grasp on, but their abilities introduce some more flexibility and fun to the game. These are Florence Haymaker (Reaver), Darius the Blade (Rogue), and Marcus of the White Tower (Runelord). Escaping the Tower with one of these Heroes is generally more difficult, and may be considered "Hard" or Temple mode.

Finally, there are three Heroes who have an even more difficult time escaping through normal means unless the player focuses their play style on these Heroes' particular strengths. These Heroes may start the game without any slottable item cards making the first turns more dangerous, or their powers may be difficult to use against most adversaries without finesse. They are Garsom Cinderheart (Reaver), Shayla Nimblenook (Rogue), and Dawn the Righteous (Runelord). These are the "Expert" or Spire level player Heroes. Escaping the Tower with them awards the greatest bragging rights!

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Wolfram
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B Wumpus wrote:
what are your thoughts for solo play based on your observations? would home brewed variant for "seeding" tiers "fix" anything? or would "prince charming" issue be overarching.



I haven't really played a solo game, so I can't tell you. However, I can tell you that the Over-reliance on charm can be slightly mitigated if you did tier the items.

S = Skill, C = Charm, F = Fight, V = Vorpal

Theoretically, you can split the items into three stacks with (technically arbitrary) divisions into 1-4V, 5-9V, and 10+V. However, the issue is that you'll encounter cards with costs of 1S + 7C which still makes that card hard to buy without the Charm focus.

The other issue is that most of the items are trash after a certain point with focus usually being shifted to Loot as getting pure Vorpal is generally better, which I didn't even really touch in my review as the Loot is a whole mini-topic by itself.
 
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Wolfram
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cdarlage wrote:
As far as the unbalanced characters, there is a reason for that but it is not found in the rule book which is terrible.


I actually did read that, but I feel like the classification of characters isn't the most reflective of a character's actual difficulty. For instance, Cinderheart I found to be quite powerful, since he generates 1 free Vorpal a turn and can reduce armor/weapon by 1 Charm, which is great. Furthermore, starting with 4 cards that give 2 Fight, makes him quite powerful against some early adversaries that give good prizes on defeat.

On that same note, Quinn ApBlanc in my opinion is harder to play than he looks. The fact that he starts so heavily in Skill is kind of a crutch as there aren't many heavily focused skill items or enemies. Also, the fact that he can't slot Armor or Relics further hurts his ability to upkeep a good Charm number.

Of course, I say this knowing that there's quite a large amount of randomness in the game and my experiences definitely may not reflect yours.
 
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Joel Carr
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Thanks for the insight. I will be picking this up almost entirely for solo play. One last query, are foes/adversaries charm heavy or is there a good variety? or is "everything" charm heavy?

 
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Wolfram
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The Foes are pretty well balanced in variety.
 
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