I am up for adventure as much as the next man, but when we start introducing living fortresses into the mix, something unnatural this way comes… and no good will come of it, mark my words. O.K! so I am supposed to be a dark overlord, donned to the nines in darkened leather knee protectors, blackened shins and a dirty old pillow case to act as a swooshing cape (which makes me look rather windswept and interesting, I’ll have you know.
Where does all this lead us, you may well ask… and I do believe you asked it well, on this occasion. I am prepped with tinfoil coated cardboard sword and matching Tupperware shield, poised for revenge, where once chaotic hordes were enslaved, now I know where the gate to the dark-lands lie… I shall… well, I shall wait until it gets a bit lighter, for starters, because its right dark in this dungeon and there could be spiders and all sorts lurking in the shadows…
Press play for a land conquering, overlordy ambience to accompany your read
We are the Dark overlord! The ritual is complete. At our command, the Covil rises. A living and breathing fortress now profaned by the greed crystals. Inside its dungeons lies the gate to the dark lands where countless hordes of chaotic beings were enslaved for so long. This time we will have our revenge. Mwaaaahahhhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhaaahahhhhhh!!!!!
So What’s All Th Fuss About?
Before I jump into a gazillion words of meaningless combination, I will point out that having really enjoyed Vesuvius Media’s Dwar7s Winter immensely, and having reviewed said title, I was Kindly asked if I would like to look at another offering from the same design house… and so a delightful package arrived on both sides of my table.
This is, in the first instance, a competitive world domination sort of affair, with hordes of ‘chaotic evil types’ beening* their way about the landscape, in a vain attempt to gain dominance, superiority and, perhaps stop for a nice picnic in the woodlands.
So this multiplayer, competitive game has an AI built in… a bot, of sorts, that makes life a little awkward for us soloist megalomaniacs wishing to experience life in the Covil fast lane. This is in essence a 4x style of game in that we explore, exploit, expand and exfoliate… or whatever they all are. But all this is on a small, concise scale and executed in such a way that all levels of gamer can access the game. So what is it really all about?
*speeding about at an alarming rate, without coordination, consideration or logic.
Immersion or Subversion?
There is a distinct ‘in-house’ feel to this and several other Vesuvius games which, although very cartoonesque, with, what might at first glance appear to be ‘child friendly’ characters knocking about all over the shop, on closer inspection it is obvious these are not so cute and cuddly… imagine, if you will, Stripe wearing a Gizmo costume armed with a flick-knife and knuckle dusters… my Gremlins analogy might then give a certain perspective on proceedings.
The game looks great, to be fair, and the custom meeples look a treat when stickered up (although some of my stickers could do with slight trimming) But pretty pictures maketh not a game, as I often find my self saying.
This is definitely on the light side of strategy, with a simplistic gameplay, turn sequence and easy to use AI turn. We should, however, not worry ourselves unduly about a lack of submersion just because the game does not possess a rule set as complex as a NASA mainframe schematic. The ease of play means that we, the budding soloist megalomaniac, can set to ordering our minions to go forth and multiply throughout the land, to do our bidding, plan cunning and devious strategic manoeuvres, focus on strategy and not get bogged down with amendments, modifiers, special conditions and specific boiling points of various liquids…
As such, I feel that we soloists can fully immerse our selves into our own little world and enjoy a light, but fully entertaining world conquering affair!
There are many a thing that one could say here, but I shall, rather than blunder my way through every aspect of gameplay, select a couple or so choice morsels to taste, savour and ponder upon.
The strangest for me is the use of generic chaotic meeples, legging it about the landscape at an alarming rate of knots (if a nautical manner of speed measurement can actually be applied to land)… now, it is not the use of said meeples that is strange and unfamiliar to me, but the use of character/mercenary abilities in conjunction with said meeples. Any little wooden chappie can find itself in a sticky situation, however, we can attribute any one of our un-exhausted mercenaries to this meeple. It does throw up some very interesting game strategies as we are not limited to what a single meeple has an ability to accomplish. It means we do need to keep tabs on what our crew of unruly characters are up to, whilst being equally mindful of meeple positioning… then, at the optimum moment, we step up and draw the two together to deal lethal blows to that disgusting AI.
I have to say. I do like the fact that player boards are limited to five gold as a maximum revenue to be spent on relic cards, hiring mercenaries, buying bags full of sticky hard boiled sweets and such like. Many of the more classy, tough and nasty mercenaries, flexing their muscles in the background, are eight, ten or even more to hire…s o how the ‘ecky thump do we afford such luxuries on such a modest income? This is the nice element of purchasing within the game, for me. We have to make some seriously difficult decisions here. We can use the gold value of our power relic cards, add this to our income to build a substantial sum. The drawback is that relic cards used in this fashion are casually tossed aside and cannot be used for endgame scoring, or for their powerful game effects. Is such a powerful mercenary worth such a financial sacrifice?This is something we must ask ourselves, or do we simply plan a strategy that revolves around the hording of such relic cards?
Combat has been handled in a simplistic but effective fashion, too. All potential protagonists, and I refer here principally to the little wooden chaps here, contribute a single point towards combat. To this we must think about allocating the base statistic of a mercenary or Overlord of which appropriate combat stats are required. (ranged or melee) Doing this will exhaust a mercenary, making it unavailable until it has had a bloody good kip and fully rested itself (battle, after all, is a rather physically exerting activity)… all other mercenary cards have passive abilities available to us which can significantly boost our point score. Once a grand total has been achieved, our AI opponent does a similar set of stat gathering but for defensive measures. Comparisons of scores are made and outcomes are determined. All pretty smooth and not bogged down with huge quantities of modifiers and battle specific circumstances. Combat features quite heavily but is really only a portion of the strategy within.
Touching briefly on the exhausting system, we find none of this card turning shenanigans. No!. A double sided token is placed on an exhausted mercenary which will be flipped at the end of a turn and removed on a subsequent turn, effectively placing a valuable resource out of play for two turns. Luckily we can actively remove these as actions and some rewards/relic cards allow a similar case of action.
I foolishly neglected the sinister plot cards, until now. Their little additions totally change the game from a simple move, attack, conquer game to one that has a story. A reason for us to move from A to B… for us to occupy land mass C and so on. They have simple requirements that, if we fulfil their needs, can be cashed in and interesting rewards may be reaped by us. We now have to think even harder about positioning, movement and conflict as each action must be optimised to the full, not just for our endgame strategy but to fulfil the plot cards. These can be replenished every time one has been cashed in, thus we enjoy a fresh set of choices through out each and every game… just don’t ask me about the statistics relating to frequency of repetition form session to session… this is beyond the realms of my comprehension!
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I found everything in this game to be of an equally good standard as other titles from Vesuvius. The cards are a decent thickness with a linen finish, all sporting the almost iconic Vesuvius characters from the creative mind of Luis Brueh.
The boards (gameboard , tokens and player dashboards) all sport lush illustrations in-keeping with the game’s characters and find themselves mounted on some seriously thick board, all with a pleasant matt finish. The printing continuity is carried across the product range, as I was unable to spot differences from the base game and the two expansions sets, when mixed together.
The box, also in the matt finish, is adorned with some very shiny, shiny logos/titles, and again, is of a sturdy construction, not unlike the gameboards. I have to say that i was particularly taken with the custom meeples. The general meeples, some form of goblin-like shape, are all exceptionally well cut out and the Destroyers… the dragon-like meeples… drageeples, if you prefer, are super cool. Now to each of these is applied (by the owner from a sticker sheet) a front and back for all wooden components, be they towers, drageeples or goblinesque chappies. I am not usually fussed either way by meeples as they are somewhat utilitarian in nature, but I did find my self bonding with these little chaps and chapesses… (not in an unhealthy fashion, I feel I must add)
A nice touch for versatility is the addition of two double sided map boards, which can accommodate one to four player games, each one illustrating a different landscape. There is only one map that is dedicated to us soloists, meaning we don’t get opportunity to try the other boards, but if we do ever entertain more than one player (I shudder at the though), then we have means to vary the game accordingly
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Designer: Luis Brueh
- Artwork: Luis Brueh
- Game Developers: Constantine Kevorque, Antastasios Gregoriadis
- Publisher: Vesuvius Media
- Play Time (or recess for those of the US persuasion):45 minutes
- Gangs of One: 1-4 players
- Age of Consent: 12+
- DOB: 2017
In its native form, Covil is a multiplayer competitive world domination style of affair but there has been proper thought applied to the solitaire variant which is wonderful to see that it is not a typical ‘beat your own score variant of multiplay’. This pleases me greatly.
We have a set of rules that govern solo play which are not overly taxing or complex. They provide us with an AI opponent who, if it can be viewed as a living entity, makes life pretty tricky for us. We play as we would in multiplayer mode, with the AI opponent replicating, albeit some what simplifies, the moves and actions of a live opponent. So to all intents and purposes we are experiencing something akin to a real multiplayer game, which is always nice to experience.
Now, the expansions offer a broader game experience from which we, as the solo player, can reap the benefits. Sadly the game does not come with official rules to slot them into the base game for the AI. All is not lost, though, so don’t run away and seek consolation for your grief. There are official solo rules over on BGG that allow the AI to also benefit from the expansions, which means it can build outposts in the central city and bring into play the Destroyers (these, however do not go wandering about the landscape reaping havoc… they stay and guard the AI fortress… this is a serious pain for us as it makes destroying the fortress a bloody tricky job, that’s for sure) The Rules for use of the expansion change the game slightly, increasing the number of mercenaries available each round, but also reducing game length to only four rounds. This really puts pressure on us to optimise moves as little can be achieved in such a short period of time… I suspect utilisation of the Destroyer meeple, able to move at double normal speed, will become paramount in many strategies
Bots and Wotnots:
The AI is not exactly a Bot, as such, nor is it a set of circumstances thrown at by the game itself, us to thwart our plans of domination. There is an actual opponent operated by a nice, simple set of actions which list actions in a hierarchy of importance. We work through the checklist for each AI meeple present and carry out the actions accordingly. We do not need to make any decisions on its behalf so we are free to dedicate all of our brain function to our own ill thought out strategy.
As simple as the AI is, and it will never problem solve for itself, it does pose itself as a canny opponent, especially when it employs the Destroyer meeple to occupy its fortress, making it almost impregnable. As Bots go it will not challenge the supremacy of, let’s say, GMT COIN games, but it is definitely not necessary in this situation. This bot accumulates relic cards at a particularly alarming rate, hires the epic mercenaries from the Chaotic Evil expansion, gains land supremacy thus collecting extortion money, so we really are faced with quite a formidable opponent. In normal circumstances we set up in the opposite corner to the AI but if this is not a challenge for us, we can set up in adjacent corners, giving the cunning AI easy access to our fortress with in a move or two… and if this wasn’t hard enough, a second AI can be added. Now if this doesn’t pacify even the hardcore strategists, I am unsure what will.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: I have to admit I have not dared up my game to the adjacent AI opponent variant… I am too scared!… I struggle to beat the basic mode. It is beatable and as we know what moves the AI will make (as much is based on the proximity of our meeples compared to it’s), we are able to utilise this information push this to our advantage. The same can be said for the higher difficulty but as it will instantly attack our fortress, we will have no time to faff about… Tricky, challenging but beatable enough to make you want to come back for subsequent challenges.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The fourteen page rulebook, the size of an ipad, has the rules simply laid out with vast quantities of illustrative examples of play. The game is quite simple and the rule book doesn’t make a meal out of putting the key concepts out to us efficiently and quickly. The language used is simple and succinct. I cant remember any moments of ambiguity, but all illustrations must be studied, accompanying notes read in conjunction with the rule outline to ensure key facts are not missed.
- Lucky Buggers: No dice, no luck other than the luck of the draw when delving into the power relic deck and the mercenary offer. The AI actions are fairly predictable and we are only at the mercy of our own poor judgement/decision making
- Lows and Highs: All in all this is a fun and entertaining game. Even in defeat, I never felt deflated, always wanting to come back for a revenge match.Certain visual elements have a dark undertone but everything is dual layered here, Younger player will probably see the imagery at face value with only the cynical and twisted (such as myself) seeing the more sinister side of the game/illustrations.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The map board and the necessary two player boards each measure under 26cm, so, when laid out on the table, with the deck of power relics and the offer of mercenaries, we should comfortably accommodate this game within a table space of 50cm x 70cm
- Set It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: Two teams of meeples, a relic deck, two player board, sinister plot deck, and a map pretty much cover set up…what, a minute? We do have to prepare the mercenary deck, ensuring there are the requisite regular and epic mercenaries for the game, but even this should not take more than a few minutes. I cant see this taking more than five or ten minutes to set up and get cracking… equally, clearing away should be a matter of moment, so we have a title that can be played and cleared away within an hour.
- Pay Per Play: If memory serves, and |I am a touch to lazy to go and substantiate fact here, I believe the game was in the $35 region when initially on kickstarter, with an additional $15 for Chaotic Evil. I don’t know if this is widely available on the open market, having only seen it at conventions but all that said, it is a fairly high price when all is combined. However it id play value to cost that I am looking at, not component value. There is a very decent game in the box for soloists when combined with the expansions. I am not sure there is such value for just the base game, but if we can afford the job lot, there is huge repayable, competitive gameplay…and one that has plenty of variation for the soloists amongst us that have friends. So I think, yes a fair amount of outlay, but equally an engaging game, nonetheless.
Me, Myself and I:
I like this game a lot. It is not pretentious, assuming something its not, nor does it melt my brain with complexity. It is light but definitely offers a plethora of choice and challenge. Me and myself found the overall look of the game certainly add to this quirky world. The extra depth those sinister plot cards added to a game, provide a much richer game experience in my view. Something so simple adds so much. As a result, there was more to each action, looking to maximise each move, not only for end game strategy but for the bonuses awarded for fulfilment of each plot. This, either intentionally or inadvertently, adds a narrative quality to the game. we can start to tell a story, albeit in our minds, but something that enriches any gaming session.
It is a little deceiving as the cartoonesque visual element on first view suggests a rudimentary ‘child-like’ game, but please do not be fooled by this. Closer inspection of many images will reveal an incite into the deeper disturbing and adult nature of the game… I make reference to a card illustrated above for a case in question. ‘My Little Pony’ has always disturbed me and scared the doddings out of me… now the card above is so aptly named and a delightful homage/fun poke at a huge franchise. In fact, throughout the game, there are numerous humerus nods to many popular animated cultural entities.
I guess I must conclude that I actually enjoyed playing this. It is not my normal genre of game but appreciate that Vesuvius have ‘soloised’ a an entry in a genre of games that has few successful solo ruleset examples. They have managed to keep a distinct style with this and Dwar7s Winter that is highly recognisable as a brand style.
Yay or Nay?
I suspect this section has been made somewhat superfluous but I shall try to build a modicum of tension and suspense, regardless.
Covil’s hordes of tiny wooden meeples come flooding over the BSoMT 1d8 die, hacking and slashing their way to a n admirable (6)… for the base game, but when they draw upon their Destroyer meeples, and all the associated expansion material from Chaotic Evil and Outpost, we find a firm, substantial (7)
If you are looking for a 4x-ish game that is light, challenging and can offer high replayability, I would definitely suggest checking out Covil
Right, as you were, men…. I assume you were men. So difficult to tell when dealing with chaotic hordes of evil beings of undesirable gender and race… disgusting rabble!.. yes, disgusting rabble… I like that..
O.K you disgusting rabble, forward and onward..we have a fortress to destroy…
Oh arsing arses! No one made mention of dragon like Destroyer meeples… As much as I like doing the evil, Dark Overlord routine, I don’t get paid enough for this king of lark. Right! Leg it!…every man, woman, creature for themselves….
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
- Vesuvius Media:
- Covil on BGG
- Covil expansion solo rules:
- How to ply:
- Vesuvius Media on Twitter: