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Bryan Gerding
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I feel a bit sorry for the fact that this is my first review of a Stronghold title. They’ve made quite a few games that I really enjoy. Sola Fide is not one of them. In fact, Sola Fide now sits in the very small group of games that I simply couldn’t finish playing. My friend had come back from Essen so eager to try it out, but after three attempts warned me that I shouldn’t play. Yet I tried anyway, and I wish I had listened.

BEGIN RULES SUMMARY

In Sola Fide your goal is to conquer as many regions of the map as you can by manipulating the population to gain imperial circles. The circles have two powers, the nobility and the peasantry, and each side has two tracks consisting of five territories. Players win a circle if they ever control all territories of the dominant side, gaining victory points at the end of the game.

At the beginning of the game players will draft 15 cards from a stack of 45 by drawing three cards at a time and keeping one of them. The stack of 15 cards will be the player’s deck for the game and will be shuffled and reused if it is ever empty.

On a players turn the player will either draw a card or play a card. Cards played will let the player take over territories or adjust the dominant power of the circle. Players must always convert enemy player territories first before converting neutral territories. The game ends once all circles have been claimed and the player with the most points wins.

END RULES SUMMARY

There are a lot of problems I have with this game, and unfortunately nothing I consider praise worthy. All in all the game feels stale, like a design created long ago before all the new innovations and ideas that modern gaming has brought. My decisions were uninteresting and many of my turns were simply boring. But also the theme and graphic design of the game did nothing to draw me into the experience.

MECHANISMS

Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards. The overall problem of the game is this, if you aren’t using your turn to take over a territory then you are wasting your turn. The entire game is tug of war, each side going back and forth placing down cubes on territories and trying to win the circle (possibly moving the dominance cube to make it easier). So if your opponent is playing lots of cards that take over territories, you better be doing that as well. It’s this problem that makes bad cards and single action turns so horrid.

On your turn you have only one action. So if you spend your whole turn to draw a card, that card better do at least two turns worth of manipulation. Anything less is a disappointment for the player. What we found when playing was that we spent a lot of turns doing nothing important. We would use our action to draw a card, get a card that isn’t helpful at that moment, and then do it all over again the next turn. This happened a lot, and it isn’t fun. It also made those cards that truly are powerful seem extremely one-sided.

You might think that every card can be useful, just situational, but the problem is that the situations may never arrive. For example, a card that adjusts the power track may never be useful to you, making it a dead card. Cards that only take over a single territory (or also allow a move on the power track) are in every way worse than a card that takes a territory and draws a card. When you draw these bad cards you get frustrated because you know it was all based on bad luck and now you’ve lost momentum.

Drafting is only a minor fix to the problem because you might still end up forced to draft bad cards. And when you draft the whole deck you’ll know exactly what cards are in there, making you even more frustrated when you can’t seem to draw that one perfect card out of a stack of 15.

What this game needed was the ability to combo cards or do more than one thing on a turn. The back and forth is boring, the wasted turns are agonizing and the random luck from certain card effects is frustrating beyond all belief. Even the interaction between players is dry, but that’s probably because your turns are uninteresting.

THEME

The reason Twilight Struggle’s tie to theme works so well is because most people know enough about the Cold War to recognize some of the names and events depicted. I wasn’t alive for most of the Cold War, but I know the names of the players and the events that took place. I cannot say the same for Sola Fide. I imagine most people have limited information about the Reformation, summarizing it as “Martin Luther nailed some complaints to a door”. And while I’m sure it could create a great Netflix series full of intrigue and fascinating characters, it doesn’t make for an interesting theme here.

Of course, it probably doesn’t matter. The theme of this game is so pasted on that you can still smell the glue.

Perhaps the theme would be more interesting if the graphic design wasn’t so muted. Blacks, browns and reds are almost the entire pallet. I get more color in triple-A video games!

CONCLUSION

Sola Fide is a fantastically uninteresting game. The gameplay feels old and dry, something we shouldn’t be seeing these days. The theme and graphic design of the game are both brown and uninteresting. It’s a hard pass from me, a boring game full of boring decisions.


----

See more of my reviews: HERE
Follow me on Twitter @HeirToPendragon
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Bryan Gerding
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One of my shorter reviews, but there isn't much more I could say about the game. Perhaps I should call this a First Impression because I honestly had to stop playing during our only game because we were both so uninterested.

Sorry for the lack of pictures! I meant to take some but the friend that owned it sold it off almost immediately after our session and I forgot to take them during the game.
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Michael
Canada
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This is what it looks like to me. Glad I got it confirmed. Really want to like a Reformation game, though, and Luther: Das Spiel is German only!
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Andrew Kluck
United States
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HeirToPendragon wrote:

Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion and I have no experience with the game to compare with yours, however the above quote seems to be the crux of your dislike for it. There are many popular card games that force players to play bad or at least unhelpful cards (Twilight Struggle, Arctic Scavengers, 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis just to name a few) and the overwhelming opinion is those games are the sharper for it so I'm not sure 'cardinal sin' is the term you're looking for.
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Bryan Gerding
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Sitnam wrote:
HeirToPendragon wrote:

Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion and I have no experience with the game to compare with yours, however the above quote seems to be the crux of your dislike for it. There are many popular card games that force players to play bad or at least unhelpful cards (Twilight Struggle, Arctic Scavengers, 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis just to name a few) and the overwhelming opinion is those games are the sharper for it so I'm not sure 'cardinal sin' is the term you're looking for.


I probably could have worded that differently. What I meant is that I feel in most card games you should always have something to do beyond drawing cards. It may not be the best move, but if it comes to your turn and the only action for you is "draw a card and hope its useful" then that is a sign of poor design. Many cards in this game have zero effect on your current game state, forcing you to waste your action on a boring draw.
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I have not played this particular game but the card drafting and playing mechanics sound like Campaign Manager 2008.

In my plays of Campaign Manager, I initially felt the same way. As I played the game though I started to see cards that were very niche but extremely useful at the right time.

I found that sometimes you were fighting to keep your head above water only to strike at the right time with the right cards. I can appreciate that, but maybe it fits more with the theme of a presidential campaign than the Reformation.

We have also played Campaign Manager with a double pass through the cards during drafting. First we drafted the 15 card decks, then shuffled the undrafted cards and drafted another 10 cards to end up with a 25 card deck. This seemed to help build a better deck, allowing you to pick up some things that the initial draft may have left you lacking in your deck.

My suggestion would be to not give up on it so easily, but play with it a few more time. If it is anything like Campaign Manager, I think it would be worth exploring a little more.
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Kai Mölleken
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educatedgravy wrote:
I have not played this particular game but the card drafting and playing mechanics sound like Campaign Manager 2008.

[...]

If it is anything like Campaign Manager, I think it would be worth exploring a little more.


The game is basically a reimplementation of Csmpaign Manager with some rule tweaks.
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Nicola Bocchetta
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I agree with the review.
The cards also do all almost the same thing. It's not like Twilight Struggle where each card is almost unique; it's just add a cube,move a cube and so on, for 45 minutes.
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Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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VolleyGame wrote:
This is what it looks like to me. Glad I got it confirmed. Really want to like a Reformation game, though, and Luther: Das Spiel is German only!


How about Here I Stand?
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Carsten Bohne
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HeirToPendragon wrote:
I probably could have worded that differently. What I meant is that I feel in most card games you should always have something to do beyond drawing cards. It may not be the best move, but if it comes to your turn and the only action for you is "draw a card and hope its useful" then that is a sign of poor design. Many cards in this game have zero effect on your current game state, forcing you to waste your action on a boring draw.

To me this sounds like the description of most collectible card games. There are times where you're sitting there and all you can do is hope that you don't draw another land card. It's the fate of a Card game. IMHO it adds tension...
From what I'd heard, some CCGs were quite successful even though they were designed so poorly.

Keep in mind that we're talking about a game with a playing time of approx. 45 minutes, on par with CCGs and the like. If the deck you drafted is so bad, it will usually be over more quickly.
I'll admit that more variety in card functions was probably nice, this is a tug of war game after all. At least it will offer you choices in deck composition unlike Battleline and its ilk.
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Michael
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mi_de wrote:
VolleyGame wrote:
This is what it looks like to me. Glad I got it confirmed. Really want to like a Reformation game, though, and Luther: Das Spiel is German only!


How about Here I Stand?


Yeah, good suggestion, but that's a wargame and I'm a Euro guy.
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Bryan Gerding
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dasher47051 wrote:
HeirToPendragon wrote:
I probably could have worded that differently. What I meant is that I feel in most card games you should always have something to do beyond drawing cards. It may not be the best move, but if it comes to your turn and the only action for you is "draw a card and hope its useful" then that is a sign of poor design. Many cards in this game have zero effect on your current game state, forcing you to waste your action on a boring draw.

To me this sounds like the description of most collectible card games. There are times where you're sitting there and all you can do is hope that you don't draw another land card. It's the fate of a Card game. IMHO it adds tension...


But there is a huge difference between drawing poorly but still progressing your board, versus drawing poorly and ending your turn. In a CCG, if you draw a land you at least advance your pool of resources, maybe play a different card, an activated ability, something. And sure, it will happen that you draw a card on your turn and really have nothing to do (mana screw/flood being one of the worst aspects of MTG), but it is far from the norm.

In Sola Fide if you draw a card on your turn, that's your whole action. It's a tremendous loss of momentum and you must really hope that the card you draw was useful or you'll need to do it all again.

I agree that they sound similar, but in play the effects are incredibly different. Drawing a land when you don't need it really sucks, but if you have a good enough deck there is probably still something you can do on your turn. Not so much on Sola Fide.
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Carsten Bohne
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HeirToPendragon wrote:
dasher47051 wrote:
HeirToPendragon wrote:
I probably could have worded that differently. What I meant is that I feel in most card games you should always have something to do beyond drawing cards. It may not be the best move, but if it comes to your turn and the only action for you is "draw a card and hope its useful" then that is a sign of poor design. Many cards in this game have zero effect on your current game state, forcing you to waste your action on a boring draw.

To me this sounds like the description of most collectible card games. There are times where you're sitting there and all you can do is hope that you don't draw another land card. It's the fate of a Card game. IMHO it adds tension...


But there is a huge difference between drawing poorly but still progressing your board, versus drawing poorly and ending your turn. In a CCG, if you draw a land you at least advance your pool of resources, maybe play a different card, an activated ability, something. And sure, it will happen that you draw a card on your turn and really have nothing to do (mana screw/flood being one of the worst aspects of MTG), but it is far from the norm.

In Sola Fide if you draw a card on your turn, that's your whole action. It's a tremendous loss of momentum and you must really hope that the card you draw was useful or you'll need to do it all again.

I agree that they sound similar, but in play the effects are incredibly different. Drawing a land when you don't need it really sucks, but if you have a good enough deck there is probably still something you can do on your turn. Not so much on Sola Fide.

Well, you drafted your deck so the most appropriate comparison is probably with MTG limited formats.
Especially in sealed, if you're in a stalemate, there's not much you can do to advance your board position. Sure, there's no activated abilities in Sola Fide, but nothing will keep you from playing a different card.
And sometimes in Sola Fide, your opponent's actions will suddenly make a previously useless card very useful indeed. And totally useless cards such as the umpteenth land card (which will not really advance your pool of resources in MTG...) do not exist in Sola Fide.
Drawing a dead card such as the two Protestant cards desling with specific circles after you've already won them is fair in my opinion because the cards usually have done enough good for you at that point.
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Tim Royal
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Thanks for the review! I'm convinced this will be a great game for me, even if it's not for everyone.

Quote:
Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.


Interesting. I guess Cribbage sucks, too? Kidding, I get what you're saying, I just didn't realize there were moral guidelines around it.

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Derek Thompson
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Auzette wrote:
Thanks for the review! I'm convinced this will be a great game for me, even if it's not for everyone.

Quote:
Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.


Interesting. I guess Cribbage sucks, too? Kidding, I get what you're saying, I just didn't realize there were moral guidelines around it.



Yeah, that quote sounds like he has not played any other games by Jason Matthews - they all have this in common.
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Bryan Gerding
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aldaryn wrote:
Auzette wrote:
Thanks for the review! I'm convinced this will be a great game for me, even if it's not for everyone.

Quote:
Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.


Interesting. I guess Cribbage sucks, too? Kidding, I get what you're saying, I just didn't realize there were moral guidelines around it.



Yeah, that quote sounds like he has not played any other games by Jason Matthews - they all have this in common.


I actually have not. I'll know now to steer clear.
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Anders Isaksen
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HeirToPendragon wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
Auzette wrote:
Thanks for the review! I'm convinced this will be a great game for me, even if it's not for everyone.

Quote:
Sola Fide commits the cardinal sin of a card game: Never force the player to play bad cards.


Interesting. I guess Cribbage sucks, too? Kidding, I get what you're saying, I just didn't realize there were moral guidelines around it.



Yeah, that quote sounds like he has not played any other games by Jason Matthews - they all have this in common.


I actually have not. I'll know now to steer clear.


Didnt you play Twilight Struggle?

Same designer.
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Bryan Gerding
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Sephakay wrote:

Didnt you play Twilight Struggle?

Same designer.


Never found the strength to make it through the tax document they call a rulebook.
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Jonathan
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Thank you for the negative review. I know that new games from popular designers tend to create a lot of hype, but I'm glad to get another opinion on Sola Fide. I'm definitely taking a second look instead of immediately buying. If you're ever in Orlando, Florida let me know. I'd be happy to teach Twilight Struggle, it's excellent.
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Anders Isaksen
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HeirToPendragon wrote:
Sephakay wrote:

Didnt you play Twilight Struggle?

Same designer.


Never found the strength to make it through the tax document they call a rulebook.


If you find GMT's rulebooks to be bad, I simply need to know if you would give an example of a game with a good rulebook.
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Bryan Gerding
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Sephakay wrote:
HeirToPendragon wrote:
Sephakay wrote:

Didnt you play Twilight Struggle?

Same designer.


Never found the strength to make it through the tax document they call a rulebook.


If you find GMT's rulebooks to be bad, I simply need to know if you would give an example of a game with a good rulebook.


Almost anything by CGE. Hard to remember the ones I'd call "good", so much easier to call out the bad. But the CGE rulebooks, specifically for games like Dungeon Lord/Petz and Alchemists, are a joy to read and easy to follow.
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Jason Foss
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HeirToPendragon wrote:
Sephakay wrote:
HeirToPendragon wrote:
Sephakay wrote:

Didnt you play Twilight Struggle?

Same designer.


Never found the strength to make it through the tax document they call a rulebook.


If you find GMT's rulebooks to be bad, I simply need to know if you would give an example of a game with a good rulebook.


Almost anything by CGE. Hard to remember the ones I'd call "good", so much easier to call out the bad. But the CGE rulebooks, specifically for games like Dungeon Lord/Petz and Alchemists, are a joy to read and easy to follow.


As somebody who dislikes reading a GMT rulebook for the 'tax document'-like aspects, I would have to disagree they're generally bad rulebooks. They are written with cross-references and rules clarifications with specific exemptions called out in a very clear fashion. It's horrible reading to learn the game, but once you know how to play, it's a fantastic reference! I don't know of any publisher whose rulebooks are so useful once play has begun... In my humble opinion, of course.
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