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Subject: My Review of Ravingspire rss

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Vincent Darlage
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Ravingspire is a game I Kickstarted earlier this year. It arrived. I played it solo a few times to learn the rules. I've played it as a two player game, a four player game, and a five player game.



Presentation
The Kickstarter edition arrives in a beautiful wooden box that looks like a giant spell-book. Inside, the components are tucked away nicely and safely, with the cards in little boxes, the die securely held, and the board disassembled and held well. The rule-book seemed well put together with nice thick pages that I liked. The art on the boards were nice. The art on the character cards was inconsistent, especially when the expansion characters were thrown in (they came in a small foil pack in the box). The cards seemed to be of good stock, and all-in-all I was impressed when I saw it.



The Good Stuff
I thought the game played well as a solo game, and as a two-player game. I liked the mechanics overall, and found that if I got too far ahead of any other players, they'd shift the board on me so I couldn't race ahead of them too far. This interplay made aligning the stairs with the doors difficult at times.

I enjoyed the humor of the game. One of the foes is called "Manos Fatehand," which of course called to mind the wonderfully bad "Manos, the Hand of Fate" movie. Another card was named after a member of the A-Team. There was quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor like that throughout the game which I appreciated (I won't go into them all).

The components are high quality. I appreciated that. The box adds a lot to the overall atmosphere.

I liked the sealed conclusions to the game. That adds a lot of mystery to the game, too. I figure after I've gone through them all, I can just shuffle them unseen, but for now I like the mystery.

Gameplay itself is fantastic. I am really enjoying this game. It doesn't take that long to set up or put away, despite all the components. It tells an interesting story as you play through it. There are plenty of characters to choose from, of varying skill levels, so as you get better at the game, you can play harder characters.

Although technically a co-op, it felt more like a race to me. There was really not a lot of cooperating in most of the games we played, but I kind of liked that.

Solo play is important to me, and this game was a lot of fun solo. It set up quickly and tears down quickly. It ranks fairly high in my estimation of solo games (see Vincent's Solo Game Rankings).



The Bad Stuff
Despite the quality of the rule-book in terms of material, the intangible substance of the rule-book left much to be desired. I couldn't make heads nor tails of how to set up the game correctly nor how exactly to play it. I went to the game company's website (http://vorpalchainswordgames.com/tome-of-ravingspire.html), and they explain the game via video MUCH better there. Once you have a grip on the rules, the rule-book becomes a decent reference guide. I am not sure why they didn't just have someone transcribe the videos and use the transcription, as well as accompanying pictures/diagrams, as the rules.

The cards are tiny. They are wee. They are difficult to see across the board, so there is a lot of leaning over the table, moving of the cards, and so on. The diminutive cards are cute, though, so I guess you could say the mignonne cards are hard to read at times. Some of the cards use a hard-to-read yellow color - which makes assigning starting decks difficult as well.

I mentioned in the preceding section (The Good Stuff) that the characters come in a variety of skill levels. This is NOT evident from the rulebook, but can only be learned from the website. This oversight is unfortunate. On their site, you learn the Crimson Reaver (Reaver), Quinn ApBlanc (Rogue) and Aurora the All-Knowing (Runelord) are the easy characters. Florence Haymaker (Reaver), Darius the Blade (Rogue), and Marcus of the White Tower (Runelord) are Hard level characters. Garsom Cinderheart (Reaver), Shayla Nimblenook (Rogue), and Dawn the Righteous (Runelord) are expert level characters. While I like this for solo play or for three or less players, this is a problem with large groups of players who are about equal in regards to deck-building skill. Someone is going to have an easier game than someone else just from character choice. While this can be good if you have a deck-building expert among you, for many gaming groups this will be a problem for larger player counts. I don't know what level the expansion characters are.



The Ugly Stuff
This is my section for stuff about a game that isn't really good or bad, but is notable for one reason or another.

First, the game promised to deliver in November 2016. It arrived on my doorstep November 1, 2016. That is the most timely delivery I think I've ever seen. I've had a few games come in from Kickstarter early. I've had lots that come in late. But I've never had one show up on the first day of its promised delivery date. That event really amused me.

Second, the tiers are basically the same. The game doesn't necessarily get harder as you go up the spire because every level draws from the same pile. I'm not sure if that is good or bad (so I place it here), but I think it is notable.

Third, it felt like Charm was the most important skill. We played one game where a player had a character that had virtually no charm - he was stalled from the start and never really got his game going. This seemed strange to me. Maybe it was just the cards I drew (I don't think I've gone through all the cards) or maybe it's just my perception, but it really seems like Charm is the thing to emphasize. Characters strong in Charm seem to have an easier time.

Fourth, the game can get disagreeably long with more than two or three players. The five player game I played seemed interminable for some players (who are not the strongest at deck-building to begin with). Even the four player game seemed to stretch uncomfortably long. The solo game and two-player game had a great length to it. Not saying this is good or bad (some long games I like, some I don't), but just be warned - if you play this with a lot of people, it will take a long time.

Fifth, I thought the game was a bargain at the $60 Kickstarter price. Even the $75 (IIRC) retail price is good - you get a lot of game for that price. It's quite replayable.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, I recommend this game if you enjoy deck-builders and if you don't mind learning the game from online videos instead of the rule-book. If you are looking for a great solo game or two-player game, I give this game a high rating. I do feel it bogs down with more than three players, though, so be careful here. It may be that if the players have more experience with the game (solo or as two-player), then a larger game wouldn't be that much of a time-sink, but otherwise, expect a lot of downtime. I'm happy with my purchase, and pleased to have this game in my collection. I have nothing else like it, and I expect it to come out a lot as a solo/two-player game.
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