Before I begin I was sent a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would rather watch a video of this review you can check it out below. Get your own copy here.
This is a true story. A couple of years ago I was unable to sleep, so I got up and went and turned on Netflix and was flipping through stuff when I saw something. My immediate response was “Why is that Pilgrim killing people?” Thus I was introduced to the world of Solomon Kane. Little did I know that there is a rather robust oeuvre of work from R.E. Howard about Solomon Kane, the Puritan Warrior. Within a year of that Mythic Games launched this on Kickstarter, and I ALMOST backed it. Why didn’t I? I just didn’t have the money at the time, but luckily for me it all worked out in the end!
In Solomon Kane you will select one of 9 different stories/scenarios to play. Each story has its own deck of “discovery cards”, book, and set of miniatures and map tiles you will need to use. Then each player takes control of one, or more, virtues. This is where things get a bit different than your average adventure/dungeon crawler. You see, NO ONE controls Solomon Kane directly.
Each player controls a virtue, and utilizes a dice placement mechanic to select from a variety of actions. These actions may place “light” on the board somewhere (which can do a variety of things, but in the end is a good thing in some way); they may cause Solomon to move, fight, or talk, or explore; or they may put the virtue out on the board which results in an aura of buff for Solomon, and offers some defense against the shadows that patrol about the board.
When it comes to the aforementioned talking, or fighting, or exploring you check out basic bonuses from your stats, then you flip an event card and check out the numbers on the bottom of the card. You then compare your total to the info in the story book and Bob’s your uncle, you get told what discovery card to refer to. This card will give you some story, and the result.
At the end of each player activation a player will discard used action cards, refill their hands, and then save or give unused dice to other players. Then a Darkness card will flip and control all the other minis on the map, or in the story chapters, will immediately hit you with some game effect. Work your way through the entire scenario book, and learn if you win or lose.
So what do I think?
The amount of narrative goodness in this game is impressive. This game does as good a job as just about any other out there at making you feel like you are in the story, even though you do not actually control Kane. It is well done enough that I want to get a hold of the stories and read them. That is an awesome thing.
The production on this game is pretty top notch. The minis look wonderful, with lots of detail, all the other components are lovely, and the game looks awesome on the table.
The dice placement mechanics of the game are just a delightful puzzle every time you play, I truly think this is an inspired bit of design, all the virtues have significantly different abilities which makes playing each one feel different.
Lastly, I LOVE the story chapters, those are so fast and filled with hard choices, that I look forward to those every single time they come up.
There is very little actual combat in this game, which is very out of character for a dungeon crawler. In fact in some of the scenarios I played through I only had a single combat. This is both awesome, and might be a downer. Sometimes you just wanna smash some evil doers in the face, but you do not do that much here. Though when you do, through the use of the Fight cards, you get to have a very cinematic style combat.
The core puzzle of the game is how you control the things that influence Kane, and this just might not be your thing. There are times where the puzzle of moving him around the board, and getting him to talk or fight is just awesome, and other times you just can’t do what you wanna do…those stubborn Puritan Warriors.
This game takes up a lot of space. The stories and cards and dice and tokens are a large box, then you have a second quite large box for all the minis. Along with that, though it looks great on the table, there are times where you are putting out minis, minis, and more minis, and several of said minis are literally just scenery. So while it looks great it is quite a bit of set up for a quick scene sometimes.
Also it bears repeating that you do very little combat in this adventure/dungeon crawler. Really make sure that you understand this, as this might not be your jam.
Bringing it all together
Solomon Kane is one of the quintessential narrative first games. If you are a fan of this IP then this game is pretty much a must own. It is unique in that you do less combat than I have ever seen in a dungeon crawl game, and the core dice placement mechanics often play out with the titular hero almost not involved at all. The game looks fantastic, and takes up a ton of shelf space with its many, sometimes superflous but gorgeous minis. This is a game that is not going to be for everyone, but for those that buy into it, it is well worth the money and time.
Brevity should be a virtue
* Awesome production
* Incredible narrative experience
* Core dice placement is fun, and satisfying
* Unlike most dungeon crawlers because there is very little actual combat
* Takes up a lot of space, and many of the minis only serve as scenery, which might not be what you are looking for
* Makes me want to go read the stories!