…d’you know. We get a right rough deal, we daemons. I mean, all we want to do is possess a few weak souls to do our bidding…and let’s face it not all humans are innocent. Far from it. I can name a goodly number that should be top of my list for possession…not including politicians, premier league football players and youtube bloggers!!!!!
(Press play for a daemonic ambience to accompany your read!)
“Once upon a time, the First Awoken created life. Jealous of his creation, the Second Awoken did the same. But in the darkness of her underworld, life took the form of daemons and monsters. War broke out and lasted longer than time can be remembered or measured.
Then the Third Awoken, the One True God, came back from hid travels amongst the stars.he bought us back on wooden arks. He toppled the Lesser gods and bade us carve a kingdom for ourselves, and we fought the daemons…and we still do..”
What’s All The Fuss About?
One may view architecture as something to be symmetrical, sturdy, low and secure but soloists lending to this school of thought are highly misguided. The only true building is a Tower, and a Crooked on at that!
Crooked tower bring us a small scale card game of Daemonic possession in and around the Civitas of Ninebridges.
In the first instance this is a fantasy card game for two to four players challenging each other as daemonic entities vying for control of the inhabitants of Ninebridges, cheating death, outsmarting and out-evelling each other, defeating powerful heroes and claiming great treasures…in the first instance.
There is, however, a variation to this game that pits a sole daemon (as in the singular as I doubt daemons have a soul), that will be us, against the entire Ninebridge populous; heroes, peasant, nemeses and more..some rather unsavoury characters for sure…and that’s coming from a daemonic entity’s perspective, too. This is our focus for today but can a solitary daemon have as much fun terrorising the inhabitants as those competing for the very same against rivals?
We shall see!
Immersion or Subversion?
What can I say? Daemonic possession of human victims. Controlling the free will of the populace to do our sinister bidding. Sounds like an immersive concept? Well, with the illustrative prowess of Giovanni and graphic construction of Valentina, the game looks like a snippet of life ripped right out of the dark ages. There is a distinct feel of ancient malevolence without an overly graphic visual. By that I mean that it hints at the evil intent but does not rely on overly disturbing realistic gore or horror and in dealing with the subject matter in this way, for me, actually adds to the dark nature of the game. What IS hinted at, paints a far more detailed image in our imagination and as such, makes it all the more sinister.
It does not rely on its pretty pictures to carry off the immersive quality, however. The nature of the game, especially in the solo variant, lends its self to the true trials and tribulations of trying to control the populace…especially as many fight back in the form of nemeses. We are thrust into the thick of dastardly daemonic decision making, often on the back foot, which really goes to show that it is no summer stroll in the park when it comes to possession!
The basics of the game see us using a hand of cards that represent items and possession to try to take control of potential victims living in Ninebridges,
fend off nemeses who wish to do away with our possessed souls, whilst we are constantly moving from location to location (each of which, I have to add, also conspire against us)
I wont cover the mechanics in too much detail here, although I will make mention of several later in the preview (I will include the Crooked tower how to play video at the end)
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I have in my possession… had to get a pun in somewhere down the line… a preview copy which, although very well finished, will be seeing a couple of changes before going to print. The Art, colour pallet and graphic design are all rather excellent with a particularly dark-ages/medieval feel to them. The cards and rule book look to have a lavish finish and I suspect wont change in quality. The packaging will be experiencing a change from its current form. Although perfectly practical, we will be seeing a box upgrade…
I believe, although this may develop as the game campaign progresses, to be a more sturdy two piece box. Similarly the current life counters are going to see improvements to the size of print, making them more legible and the dice used for tracking Influence and Will power will be replaced by a central tracking board.
Edit 6/10/18: There are some rather lovely laser cut standees for the Expansion Corridors & Screams (discussed at the end of this article)
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design:Alberto Federighi-Lucifero
- Rules: Alberto Federighi-Lucifero & Antoine Vernet
- Artist: Giovanni Bianchi & Lou Faithlines
- Game Publisher: Crooked Tower
- Playtime: (recess for those of the US persuasion): 60-80 minutes
- Gangs of One: 1-4 players
- Age of Consent: 14+
- DOB: 2018
Crooked Tower have tinkered ever so slightly with the game rules to make a solo variant that uses all the game’s mechanics but without the player verses player element. This by no means results in a watered down version. I’d go as far as to say it actually makes for a more challenging and involved game.
The nemeses normally used to thwart our opponents find their way into their own draw deck. They constantly assault any soul under our possession and as they are more often than not exhibiting greater strength than those under our control, we have a job on to equip them, keep them from perishing and thwart the nemeses advances…it is a tall order. Multiplayer game sees various locations forcing players to pass on the unused cards in their hand to other players. In solo play this results in discarding and redrawing. This can be good to recycle poor cards but can be yet another way the game… forces of nature… or what ever to scupper our hand management and our forward strategy planning. Similarly, when locations don’t instruct the passing on of said cards, we have to keep our remaining hand, which can be useful but could be devastating if the cards are poor. I like this element as it allows for some forward planning but, with the unnatural turbulent nature of evil presence in the natural world, means that we can never rest on our laurels. …if indeed laurels are what relaxing, resting daemons rest upon. Although not a definitive rule (as it is still in practice) many event cards in the hand were designed to be used against the opponents in multiplayer games. They serve no point in solo as they only harm us. Now, adding the rule that at least one event must be played if in hand, means that the world once more conspires against us once more. We can select which event to play but may be forced to play one that will be detrimental to our cause. note some are beneficial so it is not all bad eggs. Little touches like this mean that nothing physical need be changed or omitted from the game to facilitate solo play.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As a solo game, the entire force of nemesisses… nemisii… nemeses (what ever the plural of these cunning chaps and chappesses is) push against us…there is a perpetual wave of strength flowing against our possessed souls which makes for a particularly challenging game. It is not completely unachievable, this victory we seek, as I have won 2/15 games so far but there is a definite uphill challenge set before us.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rule book is presented in a thirty five lavishly produced A5 page booklet with numerous game component illustrations and a considerable amount of backstory to help set the scene for us. The various elements/components and game mechanics are detailed in their own sections of the booklet, indicating how they are used and how this affects the gameplay. I did find a few phrases worded in ways that didn’t always lend themselves to clarity and several typos that required addressing…there was a lack of clarity referencing the game turn structure (there was a turn summary card but I felt this required additional information for clarification at the start of the book) Now I must point out that this is only a prototype and many, if not all, of these points have been acknowledged and are being addressed as you read this preview, so I am confident that when the game launches later this month, there will be a much tighter rulebook .
- Lucky Buggers:Other than how cards are drawn from their respective decks for potential victims, items and nemesis, the only luck element is…well there isn’t any. It is down to how e play the cards we have available, how we optimise the hand we have been dealt. After all, we are daemons and must use our cunning, our wilds to ensnare and defeat the human inhabitants.
- Highs and Lows:A theme of daemonic possession does not suit everyone but as the game is less about Daemon theology and more about a slightly more abstracted strategy/hand-management, the theme becomes less about horror and more about challenge. For pure gore horror fans this will no doubt be a disappointment if they desire a bloodfest, as it does not rely on visual aids to creat the horror setting. Much is inferred in the gameplay and as such creates a much more sinister feel, for me. The game is fun and ultimately lighter in heart than its theme suggests, but at the same time is not a comical or whimsical venture into the subject matter. It nestles somewhere in betwixt all… lurking, waiting, biding its time. Ultimately, and I feel this word crops up too often *reaches for thesaurus… I think there is an overall feeling of ‘high’ for the game offers a challenging, entertaining affair which is not overshadowed by its darker theme.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table:The solo game requires the Nemeses to be separated into a draw deck which means we have four decks (Victims, Items, Nemeses, locations). We have our personal Daemon and a place to locate the Possession cards as well as space for our victims and opposing nemeses. I do not know at this stage the intended size of score tracking board but currently I have managed to play quite comfortably on my 60cm x 43cm portable gaming table…so quite a compact game.
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again:As mentioned above, the nemeses have to be separated from the main draw deck but this is the only time-consuming act. Laying out draw decks, choosing a daemon and preparing the pool of counters shouldn’t see players taking more than ten minutes…much less if the nemesis deck is kept separate between plays. All in all, this should be a very quick setup and tear down sort of game.
Me, Myself and I:
I am not particularly drawn to horror games so do not feel compelled to seek them out but I noticed…was drawn to by some unnatural force… some images of the game components being shared on social media and passed comment. The information shared and images displayed suggested that this was, in fact, a multiplayer affair which made my heart sink a little… but to my surprise, Crooked Tower got in touch and told me that there was actually a solo specific variant included within the game rules. Joy!
I was even more shocked when I was asked if I would like to try the game…would I? What a superfluous question.
I received said preview copy in the post and set too almost immediately. I was not sure what to expect from the game as it has not received a vast quantity of media coverage..and I often wonder, even having been sent a preview copy to try whether I would enjoy the game.
My fears we unfounded as it proved to be an engaging challenge…. nay, a delight to play. (I had to clarify a number of minor timing issues with the designers but once sorted…everythingbfell in to place) Quick to play… probably shorter as a solo game than the recommend play time on the box and wondrous to look upon, for sure.
After some back and forward with Crooked Tower regarding clarifications and suggestions of improving certain aspects of solo play, I was extremely excited to discover the plans for the game expansions…which, if I am not mistaken, should be featuring in the up coming Kickstarter campaign. The game will also offer a way to map out interior locations in one expansion that will facilitate movement between locations…these prospects on the back of the base game strength suggest this could be a pretty special solo game package.
A note from Crooked Tower on said plans;
The game is a third (or fourth, depending on how you count) iteration prototype. This is the version that we are planning to take to Kickstarter in October (if we manage to get everything aligned on time). Two main changes between this prototype and the final game will happen (in addition to minor changes, such as clarification on cards which we have started implementing). First, the box will be replaced by a two-piece box that is sturdier than the current one. Second, the dice will be replaced by a central scoreboard, so it is obvious to every player who is ahead at any point in the game (to favour unholy alliances to take down the leader).
In terms of the expansion, the first one, Corridors and Screams, will be available from the start of the campaign. It contains 81 cards (new locations, new victims and new equipments, nemeses and events). This expansion allows players to create the layout of a castle as the game progresses and add rules for moving through rooms (and being chased by nemeses that have not been killed).
The second expansion add spells to the game and also contains 81 cards. This will be one of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign.
Both expansions are fully designed and have been through playtesting.
Yay or Nay?
What can I say? This game is rubbish…well I am a daemon, after all…
No, not at all. Don’t believe him! Both me and myself found this to be a particularly good transition from competitive multiplayer to solo variant. I might even say that with the few small changes to play, it actually offers a more thematic and engaging challenge than multiplayer variant… although I do see the draw/pull towards competitive daemon possession. As such, with no respect for the human soul of BSoMT’’s 1d8 die, Possession takes full control of the die and forces it to roll a (7)…and this is based on the base game. As a light card game, it will not satisfy those seeking a heavy Euro experience but for the rest of us, especially with the prospect of all that the expansions have to offer, I think (if I ever get chance to try them out) we could be looking at some unnatural daemonic possession above an 8?
…hey, ho! ‘Tis off to the orphanage I go…let’s see what meagre offerings there are there to behold. Mind you there is always the bloody city guard to contend with…popping up in their multitude. But it’s not just them. It’s the damned Heroes too. Bloody do-gooders always with their special rules and ridiculous strength…my poor possessed don’t stand a cat in…well you know. You’d think they would want the city to be over run with ungrateful, selfish, spiteful humans, wouldn’t you?
I’m actually tempted to leave ‘em all to it and have a break in the Bahamas or, perhaps Mediterranean Europe.
A little extra ambience for the expansion
Expansions & Extensions:
Since playing the base game and not being able to access the scenario/campaign mode, Crooked Tower very kindly sent over a tiny package that, when the tape was feverishly cut open did spew forth not only the necessary cards to make campaign play possible, but also contained fistfuls of daemonic card goodness to play the expansion Corridors & Screams (which I believe will become available during the up-coming kickstarter campaign…link below)
Campaign mode is fundamentally the base game but with specific goals and objectives. The location deck is refined to suit the scenario and there are new cards bearing equipment, events and Nemisessseseses..nemesii…oh, we’ve been here before!
There is a twist that in each scene an End Location Card has to be reached by us not only ding so within the allotted five rounds but also having possessed a certain number of victims toboot! Easy you say. Not so say I. There are more locations in the location deck than there are turns , so specific cards/abilities need finding to enable more than one location to be visited (and their dastardly effect take place)
The campaign format gives each separate game a focus (exploring the wilderness around Ninebridges in an attempt to get into the city, exploring the city and even visiting the odd internal castle location vis te effects of other cards) As of yet there is no official solo rulings for the campaign mode as it is primarily more of a semi-cooperative affair, but as it is principally the base game, most solo rules from that can be simply applied. I have been experimenting with several small tweaks to deck construction to facilitate a smooth solo game and it feels to be successful so far.
Corridors & Screams: This is the official expansion which offers a rather more unique way of possessing those witless souls. A whole new location deck sets the scene within a castle (obviously the centre of Ninebridges) and sees us daemons ushering our gathered souls through the halls, rooms and corridors of the castle. The locations are laid on the table (using some simple aligning rules) to forma footprint of the castle. We move from location to location as the base game but unlike the base game, the Nemesis don’t get automatically discarded (unless killed during combat) These dastardly do-Goode’s hang about in the castle and wander annoyingly ever closer to our location…which can make life very messy indeed.
I have to admit I have only played a couple of games in the castle but for multiplayer games I imagine this to be yet another great way to enjoy possessing souls. As for the soloists amongst us, as of yet there are no official solo rules but I imagine that as the fundamentals of the game remain the same, it should be no mean feat to adjust to our soloist needs.
In all, the expansion offers a vast array of variation both in the content it adds to the base game but also to the manner in which we play. Possession was good before…now it is thoroughly engaging. I am lead to believe the rules to facilitate solo play for elements beyond the base game, which already has rules in the rule book, will be made available on the Crooked Tower website as a PDF…most Daemonic exciting times ahead.
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
- Possession Kickstarter (link)
- How to play Possession
- Crooked Tower Website
- Crooked Tower on Twitter