Designers: Jesse Bergman and John Kimmel
Publisher: Punch-It Entertainment
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 2+
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
It has been 400 years since "the Fracture" turned the once-vibrant planet of Sularia into a poisonous wasteland. Outside of a few remnants of humanity, the Jotune Corp stands alone as the last bastion of civilization. Their bio-domes and the creation of their robotic workforce, the Synthien, has left them unrivaled and prosperous. However, their stockpiles of the precious mineral sularium is dwindling, and they have been unable to develop a viable substitute. What's worse, the Synthien have rebelled and disappeared into the wastes. Now, if the Jotune wish to survive, they must leave their bio-domes and journey into the unknown to retake the world!
Battle for Sularia is a competitive card game where two players or teams attempt to strategically destroy their opponent. You must build and defend sites, assemble combatants, stockpile sularium and influence, and destroy your competition. The Battle Begins introduces the Jotune, a colony of humans that have been bred to near-superhuman perfection; the Synthien, robotic drones created as slaves for the Jotune that have refined themselves into ruthless machines; and Mercenaries, wanderers willing to do any needed dirty work for cash. Blood, Profit, and Glory expands the Mercenary faction, bringing in several powerful and unique combatants that either side can recruit.
The core box and expansion - lots of game packed into two small boxes.
Rules and Setup:
Each round of gameplay consists of nine phases:
Reset: Any cards activated in the previous round are reset to their original positions.
Draw: Draw two cards. (Be careful; if you are ever unable to draw, you lose!)
Influence: Play a card face down in the influence row. These are usually Tactic or Condition cards, which provide passive or one-time bonuses when activated.
Site: Play any number of Site cards with a combined influence cost that does not exceed the number of cards in your influence row. After placing your first Site, all others must share an edge with it.
Sularium: Calculate how much sularium is generated from your cards in play and add this amount to your sularium pool.
Combatant: Play any number of Combatant cards with a combined sularium cost that does not exceed the amount of sularium in your pool. All Combatants are deployed activated (rotated 90 degrees).
Attack: Declare attacks and targets, and rotate attackers 45 degrees. Any declared defenders are also rotated 45 degrees. After resolving damage, all attackers and defenders are rotated to 90 degrees.
Discard: If you have more than seven cards in your hand, discard extra cards into your damage pile.
End: Any "until end of turn" effects or modifiers end.
After a majority of phases (Influence phase all the way up to the Discard phase), players will have the opportunity to activate abilities, reveal face-down cards, or play Tactic cards to disrupt their opponent. Each player also has an opportunity to take a turn before the round ends, meaning that each player will get as many opportunities to act and attack. If one or both players goes down to or below zero health at the end of a round, the player with the most health (or closest to zero if both are in the negatives) wins the game.
The core box comes with a nifty divider to keep the two factions separate. The expansion? It's just pure anarchy in there.
Setup goes fairly quick, starting with each player selecting a faction (Jotune or Synthien). It's highly recommended that players bring dice or tokens to the table as well, as they are very useful in helping to track health and modifiers. Players can choose to play with the pre-constructed 60 card play decks, or they can build and customize their own deck using the rules provided on the publisher's website. They then shuffle their deck and draw seven cards for their initial hand (they may redraw once if their hand isn't to their liking). The first player is randomly chosen and is considered the "initiative player" for the purposes of determining when a round starts and ends. Each player's health is set to 25, and the initiative player takes their first turn, skipping the Reset and Draw phases for the first round.
Can Animus Vox and the city of Centropolis withstand the military might of Lords Fenris and Oathki?
Theme and Mechanics:
Battle for Sularia is ingrained pretty deeply in its post-apocalyptic, science-fiction setting. The rulebook contains a page outlining the history of the world and the reason for the conflict between the two factions.The artwork further showcases the theme, with the Jotune appearing as futuristic Viking warriors and the Synthien as terrifying, Terminator-esque machinations. The game even takes things a step further and includes flavor text on the cards, reinforcing the history of the world and making the "why" of the game all the more important.
Battle for Sularia's first expansion, Blood, Profit, & Glory, further expands upon the theme. The Mercenary faction, while introduced in the core game, is initially just a few different Tactic cards. Blood, Profit, & Glory takes the mercenaries to a whole new level by introducing five unique Mercenary combatants and one new Site card (as well as four more unique cards for the other factions). Each of these cards has a type value of one, meaning only one of them can be on the field at a time, but their unique and powerful abilities make this a good balancing mechanic. Each one also takes its cues from other sub-genres of sci-fi, including a Wild-West-style gunslinger, a time traveler, and a mutated experiment.
Examples of the Jotune, Synthien, and Mercenary combatants.
Mechanically, the game borrows elements from Magic: The Gathering and the Vs. System, as well as a point cost system seen in many tabletop war games. Players must pay close attention to their sularium (generated by many cards and spent on Combatant cards), influence (generated by cards in your influence row and spent on Site cards), and threshold (determined by how many cards you have in your influence row and determines what Tactic and Condition cards you can play), as well as attack and defense values on combatants and sites. Combatant and Site cards have type values ranging from one to four, which dictate how many copies of that card can be on the field at once. Many combatants (and some sites) also have keywords on their cards, such as Flight, Hidden, and Focus, that give them unique abilities or modify their ability to attack and defend.
Looking over the cards included, it seems that the Jotune combatants' focus is primarily on Flight (allowing them to hit sites that are protected by other sites in front of them) and Focus (giving them a bonus to attacking or defending), while the Synthiens' main focus is on Specialist (allowing them to hit combatants with Flight) and Hidden (keeping them safely out of the fight unless they try to attack or defend). Additionally, the Synthien faction also has many more unique Tactic cards, while the Jotune has more options for combatants, sites, and conditions. These differences mean that each faction plays differently and requires a unique strategy from players.
Note the symbols in each corner, detailing (from top left, clockwise) sularium cost, sularium generation, defense, and attack.
Blood, Profit, and Glory also adds some additional keywords: Bounty, Quick, and Berserker. A character with Bounty can specifically target an opponent's combatant, as opposed to a site. Quick allows a combatant to act on the same turn it is played, while Berserker gives a +1 bonus to attack and defense whenever said combatant attacks. The expansion also introduces "characteristics," which are essentially keywords that allow cards to interact with one another in unique ways. The characteristic Warrior appears on the new Jotune cards, allowing combatants with the characteristic to gain bonuses if their leader is on the battlefield with them.
These Jotune warrior women are a force to reckoned with.
The folks over at Punch-It Entertainment certainly seem to have done their jobs. Our games were surprisingly well balanced, despite it seeming at one point or another that one faction might have a significant advantage over the other. That's not to say that one side didn't occasionally get trampled due to lack of strategy or the occasional bad hand, but our games were by and large evenly matched until a player would reveal their strategy in the final moments and eliminate the competition in a terrifying show of force. And, as it turns out, the estimated 20-30 minute time frame is pretty spot on once you've gotten a feel for the rules.
Adding the expansion into our games added an extra level of crazy, one that was not disliked. While they may not have come into play often, the powerful abilities (especially Dr. Lehner's ability to give you an additional turn) certainly changed the tide of battle. We also tried playing a game with four players using the drafting rules. Using only the core game made it seem like we didn't get enough cards to really do what we wanted, but adding in the extra cards from the expansion gave us what felt like just enough variety.
Make sure you've got plenty of table space; you'll fill it up quickly.
Artwork and Components:
The designers of Battle for Sularia went a unique route for the artwork, having several different artists design different cards, and I believe it worked very well. While each artist certainly has their own unique flair, the artwork is by and large cohesive, not to mention gorgeous. The combatants come to life on the cards, and the sites really do bring you into the world of Sularia.
How they got that much detail on such a small space is beyond me. The artist's name is a good touch.
The core game includes 180 cards and a rulebook. Each unique card has four total copies, meaning that while there are 21 unique Jotune cards, there are actually 84 Jotune cards in total. This duplication of cards allows for deck construction that fits your personal play style, and thankfully, there's still enough variety in 21 cards that you won't feel like you have the exact same deck each time. The rulebook is both concise and thorough, and it includes both a reference chart for turn order and a visual example of the play area (physical play mats are available on the publisher's website).
Blood, Profit, and Glory adds new Jotune and Synthien cards, bringing the total to 25 unique cards for both factions, as well as six Mercenary cards to bring the faction's total to nine unique cards. It also includes a nifty fold-out rulebook that details the new content, as well as some handy rules clarifications and updates.
My only dislike is the lack of any sort of tokens. For the amount of different information that must be tracked (health, attack/defense modifiers, sularium, influence, and more), tokens to help keep track of everything would have been greatly beneficial. While dice or coins can certainly do the trick, adding in branded tokens would have made this game near perfect.
Breathtaking artwork, solid mechanics, and plenty of strategy to keep us full for a while. The variety of ways to play (pre-made deck, draft system, multiple players) and variety of cards means that you'll never play the same game twice. The Battle Begins got us hooked on the setting and the system, and Blood, Profit, and Glory solidified this as a must-have for our table.
It would have been nice to have physical tokens included with the game, but it plays fine without them. More consistency with the card wording would have also been nice; some cards outline information already given in the rulebook, while others only have their keyword and flavor text. Personally, I prefer the flavor text and keyword; unless it's new or unique to the card, leave it in the rulebook.
It's odd when a game makes you want the robots to wipe out humanity...
Players Who Like:
Fans of Magic: The Gathering, Vs. System, tabletop war games, or those itching for a card game teeming with strategy, art, and a story will want to add Battle for Sularia to their collection.
See more reviews from David and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html