Title: Spell Saga
Created By: Todd Michael Rogers
Art By: Lauren Rogers
Published By: SUBHEATHEN
Released: the base set (The Highlands) was released in 2014,an expansion (The Forest) was released in 2017, and a new expansion (The Caves) will be released in April 2021
Player Count: 1
Time to Play: 60 Minutes
Spell Saga is a unique, story-driven, solo game where in an post-apocalyptic world you are the last minstrel. As such, your goal is to harness the power of magic spell-songs to bring hope to the remaining people of your land. However, you can't do this alone. Throughout your journey you will meet and partner with other heroes. You must work together to obtain powerful items and songs, to defeat the monsters threatening your realm.
Spell Saga is described as a "Tabletop Novel", the first of it's kind. What makes Spell Saga unique is that unlike other games that are driven by a story, such as legacy games, Spell Saga is not a one shot campaign. It is designed to be played over and over again. While the main plot to the story will not change, the journeys your character goes on and the experiences they encounter will change from game to game. There are currently two full sized expansions for Spell Saga, The Forrest and The Caves, but there are several other optional Interludes, including a prequel to the game. These Interludes offer players ways to increase the complexity of the game and learn more of the story.
As Spell Saga is a solo game, you win if you figure out how to solve the deck, however if at any point your Minstrel ends a turn without any armor, you lose. Spell Saga's Website includes a super helpful tutorial on getting started with your first game . It will have you set up a specific deck to start an then walk you through the first several rounds of game play, until you get familiar with the actions and cards. For those that prefer to learn by doing, rather than reading the rulebook, I highly recommend checking this option out.
For those that don't want to read a rule book or jump in to a tutorial, but want to learn more, here is a brief overview of game play. To get started you will need to find a token to use as your character's piece on the "board". Each hero will require their own marker so here is a chance to get creative and find something that means something to you or your character on their journey. Once you have your token(s), pull out the six cards with a gold star on the top left corner and shuffle the remaining cards. Rather than using a board or character sheet, Spell Saga relies on piles of cards to make up the play area. Cards will be laid out to create a story pile, place pile, item pile, hero pile, action pile, armor pile and source pile. We recently learned that there is a Spell Saga play mat! I would highly recommend looking into this add-on to help organize your game. Who doesn't love a good play mat?
Spell Saga is played over rounds, with each round consisting of 8 mandatory actions and three optional ones. The base game comes with a handy reference card so you can make sure you don't miss anything during the round.
Mandatory actions include the following:
Move to an adjacent place card - this will be how your heroes explore. Some places may have multiple rooms to explore. Others will only be a single place.
Flip any face-down item cards face-up
Read and follow the rules of the place card you are on - some places many grant bonuses for entering or when leaving
Draw one card for each hero - this means if you have multiple heroes in play, you will get to draw more cards. But make sure you don't look at any cards you draw just yet.
Move drawn cards into either your hand or the source pile. The source pile is your currency in the game, but you are limited by how much currency you can have based on how far along you are in your story. Currency can be used to play cards from your hand later. There is no limit the number of cards allowed in your hand at a time.
Draw one action card for each hero in play
Acknowledge or ignore cards in the action pile - depending on how far along you are in your story you will either acknowledge or ignore the action cards you revealed. Each action card has a number on it, if your story pile is equal to or higher than that number the card is acknowledged, if it is lower than it is ignored.
Battle acknowledged enemy cards - if any enemy card was acknowledged, the player now battles that enemy. Should a player run out of armor at the end of their turn, they lose.
Free (Optional) Actions include the following:
Use item cards
Move cards from your hand into the play area
Move cards from the action pile into the play area
During Spell Saga, the player will spend their adventure exploring until either one of two things happen:
The player completes solves the deck
The player ends their turn with no armor in their armor pile - if this happens, you lose the game.
As players can choose what places to adventure to, this game reminds me a little bit of a choose your own adventure book, whereby the choices you make at one point in the story, impact things that happen later on. Depending on where you choose to send your character, the outcome of your story will change, different enemies, items, heroes etc. will be revealed and your game play will vary.
We really enjoyed the creativity with components in Spell Saga. There is only one deck of cards that is used for everything in the game. We found it impressive that this includes using the same deck for items, currency, armor, story bits, enemies and more. It is also really original how the story seems level up, as you advance along in the game. Items or enemies that you initially encounter and ignore, may show up again later to battle with or against as your grow stronger. As Spell Saga does not require any additional components (besides a token of your choice to use as your hero marker), it's small sized box makes it a very portable game. Spell Saga is great for those looking for a more strategic, lengthier game that is still travel friendly.
Spell Saga is also filled with beautiful art. We have tried to include some of our favorite cards along with this review (without giving away too much of the story). The option to add the holographic cards was an awesome addition that adds even more beauty to this game. The holographic cards look even better in real life than in the photos!
Spell Saga is designed to evoke an emotional response from the player. It is a story of loss, exploration and growth. Spell Saga focuses on encouraging players to enjoy the journey and not to focus on just winning the game. Just like in life, when playing Spell Saga, "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it," - Greg Anderson
A free Print and Play version of Spell Saga can be found on their website, as well as links to purchase physical copies of the game!