Before I begin, I was sent a prototype of the game and may receive a production copy if it funds. This is not a paid preview. You can get your own copy here.
Oh look a narrative heavy, soloable, fantasy themed game. Anyone surprised I am doing a preview? Anyone? No one? That’s fair. Yup, another one that I almost fell over myself to get a preview copy of it.
In Soul Raiders you are one of the eponymous Soul Raiders, or at least an apprentice Raider. You are a warrior mage, and you will seek out adventure, treasure, mystery, and most importantly send spirits back “beyond the veil”.
As far as the game play itself, each adventure sets the stage with a large story card, which will also let you know the victory conditions. the conditions vary based on the number of players, and require you to discover a certain number of stars which are found on the various story cards. Each turn you will have a hand of cards that will allow you to fight, move, or cast spells.
Along with that you will find a a stack of location cards which will be the map that you move through, each with a variety of directions you can move, requiring different amounts of movement. For example, you might have to play 6 movement points worth of cards to climb a wall, or only 3 movement points to go down the steps.
Additionally, each location will introduce a variety of enemies that you may have to face, which you will have to deal with using your cards in your hand. Combat is abstracted and simple, using your cards to meet certain defense numbers on the enemy cards. After you have passed your turn, or used all your cards the enemies remaining will hit you back.
As you get hit you take damage from the group score Vitae. As this drops you are able to draw fewer cards, and if it drops all the way down, you will lose. You will also lose if the alert score climbs high enough. Additionally, as the alert rises you will face more enemies, so the longer a mission continues the harder it becomes.
So what do I think?
The story is engaging, as is the added element of having to actually move from location to location. You have to decide if you are prepared to face a possible ambush at a new location, or if you want to stay where you are and deal with the result of staying on a location through a second turn. Along with that the way you get weaker as you get hurt keeps the tension high the entire game. The narrative is engaging, and the slow reveal of new narrative cards, and surprises is delightful.
I like the core cardplay. The cards have solid variety, and the way the bonuses work really make for some creative ways to accomplish a hard task. On the other hand, in the prototype at least, both of the characters had decks that are almost exactly the same, if not exactly. Yes, they had some different core stats, but I would love to see some variety in the characters, make one better at magic, and one better at combat. Make them have some spells in common but others that are unique to them.
The game also currently, to my knowledge, has gender parity, and the women are not sexualized. My hope is that as more content is revealed there will be more diversity as well.
Replay value. I do not know that there is much of it. Again, I have to say this with the caveat that I only had a small demo scenario, but the replay here will be completely determined on whether or not there are branching paths you can go down. Or perhaps if the game comes with a large amount of stories and adventures. So without knowing that, I have to say it seems like there is little to no replay here.
The game also SPREADS across the table like crazy. There are ways to stack the locations you have visited to save space, but it is just much more fun to see everything, but if you are going to see everything you are going to fill your table very quickly. This one is not for a human sized table.
Bringing it all together
Soul Raiders is a deep narrative experience, with clever card play and discovery mechanics. The story promises to be engaging, and character growth has great potential. I would love to see more diversity to go along with the gender balance, and would love to see more variety in the character decks, there is a huge opportunity here. The game does not seem to have a large replay value, but expansions, or branching narrative may be in the works. In some ways it gives me vibes of 7th citadel, without the building of the map with location cards.
I get to chose where I go right? I choose the direction I don’t have to read all that.
* Good world building, strong art great gender parity
* Card play for tests and combat is delightful, but could use asymmetric decks
* The game spreads across the table very quickly
* The amount of replay in this game is uncertain from the demo
* Very clever usage of party life, and ongoing consequences to keep the tension high