1 Player (or up to 4 with extra copies)
“Then came the Rending.
As the circular red light continued to grow, and the thrashing, shuddering tone amplified, the earth shook and suddenly snapped hurling upwards huge, city-sized chunks of rock and debris. A depthless chasm ripped the ground asunder as though giant hands had torn the earth apart. Buildings and entire streets buckled and fell into the abyss along with screaming hordes of bodies. The plates of the earth shrieked and shifted, and as the giant mountains of land that had been thrown into the sky descended a fathomless ash cloud filled the air.
And so, the world ended.”
A world powerless to the Overlord and His minions. You find yourself, a lonely spectral remnant, in a twilight, shadowy post-apocalyptic realm, void of colour. Something tells you that there must be a way out, some glimmer of hope. Exploring this dreary, hopeless landscape, can you use your fighting skills, influence and fragments of memories from the world that was to escape the veil back to a place of vivid colour before your spirit is drained to non-existence?
I discovered Veilwraith at this year's UK Games Expo. The game kept calling to me every single time I walked past the stand of Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd (https://hallornothingproductions.co.uk) because the gorgeous, detailed, monochrome artwork, by José Salvador del Nido, Mikhail Greuli and Hachimon, is absolutely stunning.
Buy me....! Buy me.... ! You know you want to...
I was sold when I found out that it was a solo game, as whilst a lot of games in my home collection have a solo option, I only own one that is exclusively solo (A Gentle Rain). Technically, you can play Veilwraith multiplayer (up to four), but it requires each player to have their own copy.
Veilwraith is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Kilforth. Designed by Tristan Hall (you may know him from Gloom of Kilforth or the medieval battle card game 1066), the fantasy card game is played over a series of 'Vignettes' (five in all) that together make up a campaign. To beat a Vignette you have to collect all five Keys, defeat all its Foes and escape via the Portal to go back beyond the Veil. If you complete a Vignette successfully, you move to the next in the campaign, but if you are defeated you lose a ribbon. You start the campaign with five ribbons and lose the whole campaign if you lose all five.
The game consists of two decks - the Memory deck representing special abilities you can use to overcome Threats and Foes, and the Threat deck. Each Vignette card tells you how to set up the Threat deck, which contains the five Keys you must find and collect, as well as the Foes and Threats to defeat. Threats are general enemies and Foes are the stronger adversaries you have to beat to be victorious at the Vignette (such as the Goblin King, or as I like to call him, David Bowie...).
There are three standard Actions - Explore, Fight and Influence. They start out alphabetically beneath the numbers one to three. The base power of that Action is equal to the number it is beneath.
During your turn you reveal a new card from the Threat deck and draw a card from the Memory deck (usually a Memory but some Threats do get added in to your discard pile after you defeat them). On your turn you may do any, none or all five of the below activities:
PLAY: Play any number of Memories from hand
COBMINE: Combine two memories to add Power to an Action
TILT one action (once per turn): Rotate the Action by 45 degrees and add one Power Token to it (limit of five tokens per action)
USE one action (once per turn): Rotate the Action 90 degrees, use that Action and then move it beneath the number 1 action slot, pushing the other two Actions up one space as necessary
KEY abilities: Turn or flip a Key in the Play Area to activate one of its special abilities.
Completing these activities helps you to get the Keys, and defeat the Threats and Foes, and to ultimately escape via the Portal before the Archfiend gets you.
You start off with 20 Spirit, which you keep track of using he Spirit Dial. At the end of your turn, every threat that has not been defeated saps your lifeforce away, lowering your total Spirit. You lose the current game game should you reach zero.
If you successfully beat a Vignette you get to upgrade a card in your Memory deck to a more powerful card, which brings in a deckbuilding element. The deckbuilding does feel a little slow, as you only get to upgrade a Memory if you beat a Vignette, and the upgrade must be either the same Combine value or one higher than the memory you remove (e.g. a Combine One Memory can be upgraded to a Combine Two Memory). There is the option of a permanent upgrade if you win a campaign. It will perhaps feel more significant playing the Absolution expansion.
If you don't fancy playing a whole campaign, there is also the option of playing a stand-alone game of a Vignette, making sure to upgrade your Memory deck a number of times equal to the number of previous Vignettes and activating any defeat benefits/penalties from the previous Vignettes.
I found that, after reading the rulebook through a couple of times, I quickly understood the game's mechanics and was able to get stuck right in. The set-up of the Threat deck for each Vignette is a little consuming, but it is what it is.
I found the game both fun and challenging. I lost the first three play-throughs of Vignette One, and then lost twice on Vignette Two, meaning my campaign was up. Pleasantly, I found that this spurred determination to beat the Vignettes, rather than feeling like it was too difficult and wanting to give up. When showing the hubby how to play I realised I had made the first Vignette little hard for myself as I didn't notice the special rule of gaining a Spirit back when you flip a Key. Readers will not be surprised that the hubby, the Rules Lawyer himself, smashed it through Vignettes One and Two on his first attempt... I have so far played up to Vignette Three, which took three attempts. I loved how simple the game mechanics are whilst at the same time having to think very strategically, and be forward thinking. As with most games that involve shuffling, there will always be times when the deck thwacks you a little, but I feel that it wouldn't really be a game/challenge if you were always guaranteed to succeed.
When starting a new campaign I realised that my neurodiverse brain had done a whoopsie, as on a vignette that stated "Defeat: upgrade one additional Memory" I accidentally understood it as if you are defeated by the game you get to upgrade a Memory, thinking it was a way of helping you out if you kept losing. This also meant I thought that Vignette Five could be played an infinite amount of times as long as you got to it. When I was taking photographs for the review and say the word 'defeat' on the Portal I realised that 'defeat' actually meant defeating the Vignette. Consideration could maybe have been given to more carefully chosen vocabulary to avoid this confusion, but might just be a me thing...
In my opinion, the base game could maybe have done with a little more body to it given that there are only five Vignettes in total, compared to the Absolution expansion which has 15 additional Vignettes. This means to a certain extent the base game is a little limited in terms of replayability.
The monochrome artwork is absolutely stunning and consistent throughout. I enjoyed mindfully looking through each of the cards and admiring the beautiful designs. The art really creates a great atmosphere, and the other game components reflect the art scheme by being black and white. I like that there is the option to swap in cards with slightly less risqué artwork with the alternative art deck you can purchase (although apparently the topless men from the Absolution expansion are perfectly family friendly...).
Unlike Mr Chris, I'm not normally one for card sleeves but for Veilwraith I purchased some oversized tarot card sleeves, as it's important not to be able to identify what card is coming and the cards whilst good quality do scuff on the edges fairly easily.
The little gems you get to cover over defeated elements on foes, whilst nice are a little fiddly to use and are easily nudged; they perhaps cold have done with being smaller or a different design altogether.
The box design leaves a little bit to be desired if you only have the base game, as it's one that just has big slots and therefore the rulebook can end up bending slightly. This is less of an issue if you add the Absolution expansion material. What's great is that even with the expansion there is plenty of room to sleeve. My box below contains the alternative art cards as well, and there is even space for the Absolution box itself. It's quite a sturdy box, so should withstand the test of time.
I've really enjoyed working my way through the Vignettes of Veilwraith (I have two more to go!). It is a great little game for a solo player and has great table presence with the gorgeous artwork. It is easy to learn how to play, whilst having a decent level of complexity. The concept of using different stats to beat foes is not unique, but I think it's the atmosphere created by the beautiful artwork and monochrome theme create that really make the game feel immersive.
I would have preferred a little more content in the base game for greater replayability, but look forward to testing out the expansion. I feel that players will enjoy not only feeling jubilant at passing a Vigentte, especially when it's super close, but also finding rugged determination to beat one that was lost. Then there's always the fun of trying out different Memory card combinations, or challenging yourself to make it through with more ribbons than last time. A solid solo game. 4/6
Your resident Word-nerd, Sueyzanne