…..exiled as a criminal, I have to seek forgiveness from the king by singlehandedly keeping native hordes at bay with nowt but a pointy stick whilst laying bricks to fortify my settlement ready to repel the filthy beasts!
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Oh my lavender scented trousers! …and they are of the hessian, loose weaved variety. Build a wall, he said. Build a workshop, he said. Build a barracks and train your men in it, he said! Doesn’t expect a lot does he, this blinking king? He sends me off to some Gods forsaken, barbaric land in an effort to conquer some grotty peninsular. Fortify it. Repel the locals …and only then will he pop over, take all the glory and perhaps consider my pardon. Curse the day I decided to pick a pocket or two…little did I realise at the time it was the pocket of the Lord High Commissioner of Cheeses…a close personal friend of the king as it turns out…well his brother actually.
What is all the fuss about?
I am a little surprised that there isn’t really all that much fuss about this game outside of my own personal gaming area, which is an absolute travesty! This asymmetrical-ish 1vs1 or 1vs several title has included within its splendidly illustrated box, a clever little package for we solitary gamers and shall make reference to such in due course. I guess being a Polish game producer is not as easy to reach such a broad market…so maybe I can interest a few of you solo gamers in this little number…curses…spoiled the suspense now!
In its most simple terms this is a game…but I fear that, that is not sufficient detail to inspire so…this is title is something quite different to any game I’ve come across. It has faction battles but it is not a war game. It has settlement development but isn’t a civ game. It has abilities on cards that form a draw pile and a hand but it is not really a hand management game or a deck-builder. So what is it?
The budding soloist takes the role of an exiled character who has been charged to lead a team of untrained troops to conquer foreign lands in order to gain a pardon from the King. In doing so defences have to be built, structures within the settlement have to be built to enable the training of troops, the development of defence weapons and a host of other little abilities.
In the meantime local forces are massing out there somewhere, readying themselves to take siege of our stronghold. The game lasts a variety of round length (dependant upon scenario specifications) within which rounds are divided into a development/training stage and a Siege stage. Survive the onslaught and you might just live to fight another day…and even earn that sought after King’s Pardon.
Immersion or Subversion?
I confess I knew little of the Exiled world (as I believe there was an earlier title set in the same world called simply The Convicted… link here https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/152846/convicted) and so this, Exiled: the Siege is a sort of sequel but really performs as a stand alone semi-fantasy game in my eyes. There is a backstory to why we (the shamed, criminal, solitaire boardgamer) are trying to colonise a brutal new continent and equally detailed backstories for each of the potential protagonists
(of which there are many to choose from, all bringing some additional special ability to the table) The game is most definitely a throw-you-in-at-the-deep-end immersion with an early Medieval feel. The illustrations, backstory, superb gameboard illustration and gameplay make me feel like I’m in some Viking-esque fantasy world, as I am pretty confident giant spiders and ogres never featured in their marauding history. The whole game mechanic draws upon the premise that we, the ‘bad-guy’ invaders have washed ashore and have started taking land from the native barbaric hoards without so much as a bribe or “how d’you do?”. Understandably they are a touch miffed and it is no surprise they want to rid their land of us. It is a novel, refreshing twist to see us taking on the role of the invading interlopers and, even though we would automatically assume giant spiders, great eagles and ogres (as well as vast numbers of marauding barbarians) would be evil…they are in fact the wronged party in this affair.
There is an awful lot of tidy little mechanics within the overall game and I really don’t want to get into too many micro-specifics here so I shall attempt to ‘merely gloss over’ the general gameplay as best I can without the aid of a safety net.
The settlement that we, the exiled, have to establish is located on a headland or peninsula of virgin soil (with light outlines where structures can be built) In the solo game there is an action tree for the AI attackers.
These action trees not only indicate how many offensive troops are deployed, and not only which region they will be deployed to but also how many development cards the defender draws. “What the’ecky thump am I on about?” you blurt out at the digital device in front of you. Well hold on to your rough weaved underwear because the defender has a large deck of cards, each of which allow a certain element of development to the settlement. (be it building a section of wall, building a workshop-allowing additional abilities during the siege stage, building chapels, upgrading structures and training troops etc.)
Now this is where it becomes a cleaver little mechanic. A card drawn from the attacker’s development deck (not used in solo play to develop the attackers forces-the action tree does this for us) will have a number from 1-3 located near the bottom of the card. This equates to a number on the AI’s action tree and dictates how many development cards can be used before the oncoming siege….so we plan how we want to improve our settlement, devoting great thought into a spectacular strategy by making a stack of development cards, all in readiness to make our town a better, safer place to drag our offspring up in…then, and I must point out at this particular juncture, only ‘then’ do we check on the AI action tree how many we can use (drawing from the top of this deck)… soooooo tricky planning efficiently, and so entertaining not knowing how prepared we will be for the ensuing battle…the battle segment is relatively straight forward although it works via an interesting card driven procedure. Attackers play an order card-defenders gets an opportunity to play a reaction card if available, then defender plays an order card and so on and so on. There is a large selection of cards to choose from and certain structures so kindly give us additional cards to add to the selection pool…
BUT there is a finite number of Order, Action and Special cards that can be held in the grubby little hand so once again planning is of the utmost importance (although there are a couple of slightly ambiguous details/instructions within the rule book, there is nothing that really ruins play).
I fear I have rambled on a little too much here like Rambling Willie Ramblebottom so I vote I move rapidly on.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
The game its self is very well made with a selection of good sturdy gameboard and equally sturdy card building upgrades shapes (there really is a large number of these as each structure space on the gameboard has three levels of
replaceable/interchangeable upgrade, each represented by an improved illustration…from wooden wall to stone etc)
…all with fantastic illustrations capturing a dark, dramatic environment… but there is a slight issue for me with some of the other components. Now not to be misconstrued here, I have to point out that everything that comes with the game has been made to a high standard and functions perfectly but, if like me, you are unable to reach deep into your pockets and fork out for the lavish version with the miniatures, then all factions are merely represented by varying sizes of coloured cube. These are perfectly serviceable and I have played many games using them but with the slight regret of not having minis, I resorted to…
…manufacturing some of my own standees. Not Dead of Winter or Legends of Andor quality, but they suit my purposes…this is really my pettiness and by no means a negative outlook on the basic game. What did frustrate me a little, however, was the use of very small tokens (not unlike some of the tiny FFG Elder Sign tokens) and this made it not so easy to spot them on the dark board.
For this reason I made the war machine tokens much bigger to allow me to see them more clearly. The originals work perfectly well but could really have done with being made larger. That said, all the other tokens, such as the activation markers, are fine as is.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Mateusz Albricht
- Artist: Tomas Jędruszeki, Mateusz Albricht, Marak Sanecki.
- Game Publisher: Catarzyna Albricht Officina Monstrorum
- Playtime : 120 mins
- Gangs of one: 1-5
- Age of Consent: 13+
- DOB: 2016?
I have never played the multiplayer head to head so can only assume it works well judging by runthrough videos I have watched. I backed this on Kickstarter purely for the solo hame….and very glad I did too. (It was a shame I couldn’t’t afford the minis at the time but the blocks in the base game do not make for a less enjoyable experience)
Interestingly the AI attack action trees mean that a player can play solo but the way the game has been constructed, it allows for multiple players to play as the defender against the AI. This is yet another variant I am still to tryout. It is nice to see a game purposely including solitaire game play within the main rule-set rather than a common disappointing habit of sticking a glossy tack-on at the end. I was impressed with how the AI action tree worked but they didn’t stop there at Catarzyna Albricht Officina Monstrorum. No…no….no! They included several scenarios where the roles cane be reversed and we get opportunity to lay siege to an intruding AI Bot! All of this add to the replay-ability. I suspect it may not be for everyone…not Ameritrash enough, perhaps, but if you are looking for a nicely thematic, challenging solo semi-fantasy war-game with a difference, then this is the chap for you!
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: The numerous scenarios included in the game have a wide range of win objectives but, in general, work in increasing levels of difficulty from the opening scenario. Within each scenario the game itself can have varying levels of challenge, dependant upon the random number drawn which make for a better level of replayability and, if we so choose, could play successive levels as a house ruled campaign. Whichever way we address this, it challenges us greatly. It is incredibly difficult to win first time round…but learning from mistakes makes subsequent attempts an interesting personal development. It is not beyond the realms of feasibility to win, but it is by mo means a gentile stroll in the park.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: For the most part the rules explain gameplay well and there are numerous examples of play, but there were a couple of occasions where ambiguity made understanding a little less clear. Some time dedicated to lengthier study of the book and ‘trial & error’ duruing play found solutions but clarification or exemplification would have saved time on this matter. In the great scheme of things it doesn’t break the game and is far less confusing than some but I thought I would point this out.
- Lucky Buggers: Each round of the game can bring three different potential game criterion depending on the card drawn, from the number of lurking baddies to the available actions we have to the number of development cards we get opportunity to play before the first wave hits our defensive walls. This same randomised number card drawing also affects attacking and defending totals but only in a +1/-1 range and most circumstances can either be negated with good planning or accepted as tactical error. It is not a game of pure chance and any variability reflects the ebb and flow of war.
- Highs and Lows: Unusually, and interestingly, we are actually the bad guys in this series of events. We are like the Dirty Dozen, hardened criminals given an opportunity to redeem ourselves…but even this does not make us the good guys. We are invading a foreign land and trying to make a stronghold for our leader. So despite the ogres and giant spiders we face, it is, in fact, their land and were are the invaders. This is not a light, bright, fun game. It is engaging, entertaining and dark, but still gives an enormous sence of satisfaction when a scenario has been successfully completed. Admittedly a defeat can feel like a crushing blow but only because we invest so much effort into building, fortifying and training troops. Not a ‘happy feel good’ game but also not a ‘dismal doom and gloom’…ultimately this is war, albeit fictional, and we take away from it what we put into it.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: This game comes with a fairly large gameboard (64cm x 48cm) and when we consider the various decks of cards need table space, managing our troops and easy access to the various building upgrade tiles and scenario cards (A4-ish in size). It is a push to fit within a 100cmx 90cm area…more if you like an orderly layout
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: packing away and storing the components in ziplock bags makes setup much quicker. If decks are stored together, troop types etc then other than laying everything out on the table, little needs to be done before we jump right in. Selecting building tiles, troops and enemies is dependant on the scenario chosen and is an integral part of the game so realistically five or ten minutes set up is all that is needed before we get into the thick of the action.
Me, Myself and I:
I have been working my way through the series of 10 scenarios, each very different, each with unique setup, each with different flavoured biscuits…but that is mainly for my own personal use. There is so much to consider here in order to ride out the storm of continual onslaught. I think that what has been done with the scenarios captures the essence of the multiplayer game, but in giving win conditions, gives us, the soloist, perhaps a more thematic gaming experience than that achieved by multiplayers. Further more, during the kickstarter several scenarios were unlocked to allow us to play the aggressor as well, which really opens up the game experience. There is a lot of play in this game and I have yet to complete all scenarios included. This, certainly for me, means this title really offers a great gaming experience/variety for our pounds, dollars or euro.
Yay or Nay?
So does this solo venture into colonisation, city development and all-out warfare succeed, (like a toothless budgie)?…yes, and I would go as far as to say this solo “Bot” really does make for quite an incredible campaign style of solo experience (even though each scenario can be played completely independently of the next) It provides us with a sneaky, and at times, very unpredictable opponent, and considering the limited game time when in solo mode, it is a monster of a challenge to win….so…this, for me is a resounding Yay for adapting a multi-player game for the soloist. Not as complex as the COIN series Bots, but the fit the bill excellently for Exiled: The Siege.
This title’s fortified wall earns itself a respectable BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (6). I don’t always feel a compulsion to constantly break this game out, but when I do, I realise it really is a splendid brain puzzling game.
…well back to building my wall…bloody giant spiders wi’ nowt but a sharpened stick….leaving their sticky threads all over the shop! Unbelievable! Can’t even use the cauldrons of boiling pig doddings until I’ve upgraded this rampart to a level 2 structure. Level 2 I tell you! D’you realise how many wooden posts need taking down to be replaced with stone?….oh, and me only in my Tuesday dressing gown!
Something For The Weekend?
- The Undead Viking review
- Playthrough (not of the solo version) by Epitrapaizoume.gr
- Unboxing video by Boardgame Knights