I went to Mythic Day last month. Mythic Games is the company behind the very successful Solomon Kane Kickstarter. They are based in France, but they decided to host an event day at Warboar Games (a boardgame café) in London where they were demoing their games.
Mythic Games came to fame with another very successful Kickstarter: Mythic Battles. It was co-published with Monolith, but rather strangely Mythic Games parted ways with Monolith and sold the rights to their eponymous Mythic Battles. Monolith now owns the game, despite the fact that the designer (Benoit Vogt) runs Mythic Games.
Anyway, politics aside, Mythic Games currently has two games in the pipeline: Solomon Kane and Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, which had another very successful Kickstarter last year. These games were being demoed at Mythic Day and I was very impressed with both of them. We’re going to focus on Solomon Kane today though…
It might seem a bit strange to have a Kickstarter Spotlight for a game that is no longer on Kickstarter, but actually this might be an advantage. The pledge manager opens in the next few weeks and you will have the opportunity to late pledge if you didn’t get in on the Kickstarter.
The fact that the Kickstarter has finished though means that you can see everything: all the stretch goals that were unlocked and all the add-ons that are available for purchase. There are also quite a few video reviews on BGG now from people who have had a chance to play the game.
Solomon Kane is a co-operative adventure game, with some storytelling, some tactical miniatures play and an innovative action-selection mechanism. Thematically, Solomon Kane was a character created by Robert E. Howard. A 17th-Century Puritan, Solomon Kane wandered Europe and Africa attempting to vanquish evil wherever he found it.
The game is scenario-based and is driven by a series of storytelling cards that provide goals and setup instructions. Unusually, you aren’t controlling the hero (or the villains), you are actually controlling virtues: spiritual beings that can influence the physical plane.
Solomon Kane has to fight his fair share of bad guys, but there are also spiritual forces of evil that he has to combat: Shadows. You play angel-like characters, such as Justice and Temperance, that can fight the Shadows, provide buffs to Solomon Kane and enable him to complete tasks. The layer of spiritual warfare on top of the physical scenario is something I’ve never seen before and works really well.
On your turn you roll three dice and use them to trigger actions on cards. These cards allow Solomon Kane to take certain actions (such as exploring or fighting) and provide bonuses. The tricky thing is that you’re deciding at the start of each round which cards to have available to you. You have to anticipate the kind of actions you think Solomon Kane will need to take as you are quite restricted once the cards are out.
There are ways to mitigate bad dice rolls and one particularly nice mechanism is that you can donate dice to other players for them to use on their turn. Your virtue might specialise in talking (helping Solomon Kane persuade or intimidate people), but if you’re in the middle of a fight, you can donate one of your dice to the player who is really good at fighting. It makes the game feel very co-operative. If everyone plays for themselves, you will lose quite quickly.
One thing that strikes you as soon as you play more than one scenario, is just how varied they are. You might be talking with patrons in a bar trying to find information in one scenario (before the inevitable bar fight breaks out) and then fighting ghosts on the moors in another.
There is also a campaign system that evolves according to your performance in each of the scenarios. If you do well in one scenario, the next scenario is easier (you might have more resources or fewer bad guys to fight). This might be slightly demoralising if you end up in a downward spiral, but it makes you really care about maximising your performance. You don’t just want to win; you want to win big wherever possible.
The designers have paid attention to lots of little things that enhance the gameplay. The flavour text is well-written and evocative. The decisions involving the dice are interesting: there is a wild symbol on one side of the dice, which is great, but you can’t use more than one wild on an action, so you don’t want too many of them. Even moving around on the board is interesting because of the irregular zone boundaries: you have to think carefully about the best route to take from one area to another.
My only criticism is that it was quite slow with four players, although we were all new players so I imagine it would speed up with practice. I expect a two-player game would be great though.
With a great theme, involving stories and a game system chock full of interesting decisions, I was thoroughly smitten with Solomon Kane. The only problem is deciding how much of it to get. The base-game is over $100 and there are a ton of addons and expansions available. You might need to remortgage the house to go all-in on this one.
Have you managed to see it at any of the conventions this year? What do you think? Will all the extras be worth it?