Players: Solo only
Game time: 1 - 2.5 hours
Devoured - Fallen Colossus is a solo only, stripped back, narrative-driven adventure experience by John Forth and Craig Price in which you will step into the shoes of a traveller who wakes up in the belly of a beast. With nothing to your name except the clothes on your back and a journal, you explore your dark, spine-chilling and sinister surroundings to try and find answers, an escape route, and meaning to your situation.
This is the very first game of this type I have ever played - I am drawing similar feelings from the choose your own adventure style books like Forbidden Lands but also One Deck Dungeon for the exploration and management elements. Devoured is a simple but atmospheric game, which encapsulates a fair bit of push your luck, resource cube management and a dab of bag building.
Devoured has six different chapters, which are designed to be played back-to-back in an attempt to (without giving any story spoilers) find a conclusion to your adventure. This is a challenging game in which you will probably be spending a fair bit of time repeating the first few chapters until you have that right mix of good luck and strategy to allow you to reach those later chapters and one of the multiple endings. To progress to the next chapter, you will need to work through stacks of face down quest cards to find both an exit item, and the exit. Your health and resources do not reset between chapters so it is essential you carefully manage these as you work through the story cards.
In front of you, you will have your journal (which is where you can track your health), your evade cubes, your spirits flames (which represent your awareness, and can help you survive in your adventure), your knowledge and a slot for the exit item when found. In addition, you will have what they call a valour board, which is essentially your health pool of mind, body and spirit cubes, which are used to battle monsters and avoid traps throughout your adventure by using the cubes to cover up boxes on the enemy cards. There is also another board, which acts as a store for other cubes and gems that you will encounter in your adventure, such as armour cubes, knowledge cubes and weapon cubes. A small tray is provided to keep the pool of cubes not in use altogether. Finally, you have a fate bag which starts with four yellow (miss) cubes and four black (hit) cubes. By building up this bag with various pieces or armour you find and additional hit cubes, you alter your odds of dealing with each and every enemy. Simple, but so good at creating that tension!
Each chapter has unique decks of narrative cards and enemies. When you set up a chapter, you deal the narrative cards in a cross type arrangement around the central initial narrative card. Each card may be simply enhancing the story, involve some resource alterations, be spell cards (which can be used for powerful effects in game), or result in a dangerous encounter. Once resolved, a card is placed in the centre on top of the last card and you choose your next card in the cross arrangement to resolve according to the direction arrows available on the central card. I really like how the arrows in this game dictate which cards you can next resolve, as you can quite quickly become 'lost' if you don't end up with a card with the appropriate direction arrows to continue your adventure!
This game focuses very heavily on the careful management of your resource cubes, which act similarly to a separate health pool. When you encounter an enemy or a narrative card that you do not like, you are able to evade the card by placing an evade cube on this and setting it aside. These evade cubes are extremely precious in your adventure to bypass particularly difficult enemies or cards that do not have the right direction arrows that you need. The clever thing here is that, once you have opened the exit and are ready to end the chapter, you have the opportunity to challenge these enemies again to take back that evade cube. Any evade cube that you do not win back before progressing to the next chapter will end up in your fate bag acting as a hit cube, decreasing your chances of evading enemy attacks.
So how exactly do you resolve enemy encounters? When you draw a narrative card, sometimes it will indicate a numbered enemy card to face. These enemies may be carrying a weapon (that you can win off of them) and this is also indicated on the card. To defeat these enemies, you need to cover a particular number of mind, body, spirit and weapon spaces, using the corresponding cubes in your supply. At any point, you may decide to leave a space down to fate and draw a cube from the fate bag - if this is a yellow miss cube or an armour cube, you successfully cover the space, however if you draw a black hit cube, you still cover the space but need to take a point of damage. Careful consideration of when you draw from the fate bag or use your own personal resources is key and a difficult balance to get right!
If you manage to fully cover all the indicated spaces, you defeat the enemy and sometimes get a reward for doing so, which may be a weapon or some additional resource cubes. Some enemies do not provide any reward at all.
Weapons are extremely useful in this game as they supply you with weapon cubes, which you can use to cover weapon spaces on enemy cards. In addition, if you find knowledge cubes throughout your adventure, you are able to unlock additional benefits on your weapons, which will grant you one-time-use mind, body or spirit cubes. Use these wisely!
You do have the ability to restart each level once (if for example you deplete your health) by spending a spirit flame. You then restart the level by giving yourself five health, five each of body, mind and spirit cubes and returning any weapon cards or gems collected during that level. This definitely helped with the difficulty of the game, but I did find that this made the final level perhaps a bit too easy. I was able to restart the final level with those additional cubes and quickly come to a conclusion in my adventure using these resources and I felt that it was a little bit of a cheat as I had to struggle with my resources up until that point. Luck definitely still comes into play here too though and it's definitely not a definitive win each time using this strategy.
Once you have battled through the level and found the exit item and the exit, at any point you can progress to the next level. Sometimes it may benefit you to loiter around but mostly I've found you 'gotta get outta there' ASAP! If you finish chapter six and are victorious you count up how many spirit flames you have remaining and read the corresponding ending card to see your final fate.
Other modes of play
This can definitely be a challenging game. To ease this, there are vision cards that can be shuffled into the quest cards before they are dealt out. When a vision card is revealed, you keep this card until you're ready to play it - this allows you to reveal the top card of each of the four stacks of quest cards. I've found this quite a fun way to play as you really need to wait for the opportune moment to reveal those cards and that's a puzzle in itself.
Beast mode creates an even more challenging adventure where a beast card is shuffled into the quest cards. You start the game with less health, less evade cubes and reduced ability to retain knowledge. If you encounter the beast, you get the choice to either evade the creature with an evade cube, or face it and leave your life down to fate.
Finally, there is a scoring mode for those that love a bit of point counting. For each level completed, health point, evade cubes, knowledge cubes and other cubes you finish with you score points. You can also try and obtain a high score by trying to complete goals such as defeating every enemy or finding all the spells. A bit of something for everyone and definitely increases the replayability in a game of this type!
This game definitely does have a great table presence - in fact, the first thing my husband asked me when he saw this set up was how the séance was going! The harsh black and white cards and art contrasts distinctly with the colourful resource cubes to create a very impactful appearance. I played this game a couple of times with some dim lighting, candles and some Cthulhu style music in the background to create a perfect grim atmosphere *chef's kiss*. A really great game to just get lost in for an hour or two and is light enough to allow for a little drink alongside!
The card quality here is pretty good and the cubes are the standard small plastic cubes you can find in a lot of other games. The artwork on the enemy cards is simple but effective in that it encapsulates the horror you are living through but is not overly graphic. In the edition I have unfortunately there was small mistake with the rulebook (page 15 is missing, but you can find this on Board Game Geek!) and a strange additional gear component was included, but other than that the quality is very good. There are some slight font inconsistencies throughout the rulebook and on some of the cards but not enough to be of much significance.
I love the organisation of this game - there are a set of card dividers that fit neatly in the box to separate each individual chapter, the ending cards and weapon cards so set up is a breeze. I've found this to really help with set up time between each chapter - just grab the next deck and off you go. This aspect is really appreciated and helps to keep the story flowing as you move from chapter to chapter.
There were a few queries I had surrounding some of the rules but there are a couple of very helpful videos on YouTube which cleared up my questions.
Devoured Fallen Colossus is soon expecting a brand new release with an updated rulebook, box and a few extras through Exalted Funeral, so definitely keep an eye out for that release if you are interested in a dark and mystical themed adventure without too much heavy lifting!
Main likes, and is there too much luck?
One of the best things about this game in my opinion is the difficult choice you need to make throughout each chapter in regards to the use of your evade cubes and juggling when and when not to leave the box covering down to fate. You may be tempted to keep evading those difficult enemies to quickly run through the chapters, but remember each evade cube then ends up in your fate bag, which increases your chances of hits being drawn! I love how this creates a lot of tension and difficult decisions in the game without being particularly complex in ruleset.
I also really like the concept of the lost cards. In one of my games, I'd completely depleted one of the decks of quest cards and needed to use an evade cube to bypass the middle quest card as the only direction available for me to explore was at the depleted stack. After another turn, I'd ended up with no ability to evade or continue the level and so I became lost and read the relevant lost card from the chapter. This means you need to be very aware of what directions are available to you and how many cards are in each stack as you progress through. Oh so clever!
I do wonder if there is too much luck in this game for some. My very first game I played I came extremely close to finishing the whole adventure, purely I think down to luck. If the exit item and exit cards are shuffled into the top part of the deck in each chapter you can certainly zip through the story very quickly without much challenge. This can be quite anticlimactic if you're settling down to the next chapter but immediately find the exit meaning you can just end up setting up the next chapter right away if you wanted. I did think, however, this could be easily solved by shuffling at least one of either the exit or exit item card into the bottom half of your deck if you did want to for some of the chapters.
Being a narrative based game with not a massive amount of depth, there will definitely be a limit to its replayability. The first few chapters especially could get repetitive reasonably quickly, as you will ultimately be seeing those every playthrough. You don't get to see all the narrative cards on each play however. The addition of the different modes of play helps to offset this.
The aesthetic alone is a big win in this category for Devoured. The artwork works really well, the colour contrast is perfect and a great atmosphere is built. The components and storage of the game are very good as well.
A really good amount of tension is built in this game with the macabre narrative and the resource juggling. You can feel yourself feeling quite desperate at some stages waiting for that exit item card to reveal itself from the decks. I like the theme a lot here and it translates well in the gameplay.
I was quite surprised by the games simplicity but this definitely doesn't do it a disservice. I would describe this as a lighter narrative adventure. None of the rules are complex and there is a good amount of luck here but some skill is required to make it through all of those chapters. Enemy encounters are also fast and very easy to resolve - perhaps a little too easy for some veteran board gamers or adventurers.
Make sure you check if you have page 15! I didn't realise until much later in my game and was quite confused with some of the rules around enemy encounters. The rulebook certainly could do with a little tidying up and clarifying but hopefully this will be addressed in the new edition. None of the rules are overly complex to understand.
Honestly I have not played many similar games so I am a bit unsure of how unique this is in the world of adventure gaming. This certainly feels like a good introduction to this type of game however and weaves an interesting story with good strategy.
Overall therefore, I feel this is a thematic and fun introduction to the world of narrative driven adventure gaming and would give this a 4 out of 6! I personally would want a little more depth of play and perhaps even more quest cards to keep subsequent plays fresher but for a smaller game of this type it does a pretty good job.
Rhiannon - Solo Gaming Specialist