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Stworze Preview


Quick Look: Stworze


Designer: Grzegorz Arabczyk
Artist: Marcin Adamski
Publisher: Underworld Kingdom
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 90 - 180 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Stworze. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: Choose kindness or ruthlessness while accomplishing your personal objectives in an exploration of Slavic myth. 

Getting to the Game
Setup can be a little overwhelming, but once you get it, it's a matter of rote. Different locations on the board get differing sets of tokens and cards. Each player chooses a Stworze, and gets their specific mission deck, influence tokens, and Vitality based on their choice. Each player also receives a location deck of 8 cards, each representing one of the locations on the board. Choose one of these to be the lair of your Stworze and keep it secret from the other players. Place it face-down next to your character card and put your miniature on top. Your mission deck is going to be built differently every game, and I'll explain how that works below. Once everything is ready, it's time to meet your villagers.



The object of Stworze is to complete your 11 mission cards, in the order you've chosen. Missions can only be completed in order, so how you build your deck at game's beginning is the most important decision you're going to make. It's a race against time and the other demons- first one to inspire enough renown either through punishing deviance or rewarding admiration wins the game.

Playing the Game
Stworze was originally released in 2017 in Polish, according to boardgamegeek. There's a new release in English coming out, and that's the version I got for review. There are still some editing mistakes that need to be corrected (the board lists "Sillent Hills" as a location, and the rulebook calls it "Silent Hills"), but while these should have been caught already, there's still time to correct them.

Starting from the beginning, setup of the game includes a very cool deck building component. Each player has a unique deck of 11 mission cards. The Stworze themselves that you're playing as are individual deities and demons from Slavic myth. There's precious little backstory on any of them, which I would have loved. As a gamer that's also a huge fan of mythology, I would have loved something to educate myself on a topic I know almost nothing about while I played. From the deck of 11 cards, you're going to take one out and give it to each other player to add to their deck. You'll likewise receive one from them, and add it to your own. Now, you're going to arrange these missions in the order you think you're most likely to accomplish them, because you can only do them one at a time. Let's talk for a second about why I love and hate this mechanic.



The game and other Stworze are fighting you the entire time. Your villagers are off living their own lives, and you can choose how you respond to those events when you walk amongst them. All of these factors play into how easily you can accomplish your missions. The trouble is, for a first-time player, you don't know ANY of that. You don't know how anything interacts, you don't even really know what the text on your missions mean. Your first game of Stworze is going to easily take over 2 hours because you can't possibly efficiently plan your mission deck. I also understand that due to the inclusion of other missions from other players that a "recommended order" isn't totally feasible, some kind of helper would have been great. Having said that, for experienced players it's actually a really great bit of strategy. Knowing the other Stworze on the table and what they are going to try and do can help you build a really slick deck that works quickly and puts pressure on. You just have to know a LOT about the game to get there, and that's not gonna happen if you don't ever play a second game because your first was too frustrating.



Setting that aside, the actual gameplay here is dark and thematic. Every round you're going to evaluate the effects of the missions, and events on the table which are all slowly counting down based on the actions next to them. When you choose an action to perform in the round, you'll decrement the die on the event next to it (see above), and then move the chosen action card along with the card underneath it all the way to the right, sliding the existing pairs back to the left to fill in the gaps. You then take the chosen action card and swap it with the one underneath it, revealing a new one. It's this sea change of available actions that keeps everyone on their toes - actions you want to take will not necessarily be available to you, while conversely, your opponent is doing what they want may just open up exactly what you want. 



The end result of all this is that you and your fellow demons bop around the map, instilling fear or admiration based on how kind or cruel you choose to be. If the villagers live in fear of your fellow deities, then they'll be more susceptible to brutal tactics, making life easier for Stworze who prefer that. If you're all benevolent, forgiving creatures, then those Stworze who prefer cunning are more likely to succeed. Each game, then, is going to radically change based on not only the makeup of the pantheon (please forgive me for using gods and demons interchangeably throughout this review. Yes, I know the difference) chosen, but also how they choose to influence the world around them. Directly challenging each other is also in the works here, as you can duel over locations and decrease their attributes, making the game harder for them. 

Artwork and Components: 
While the artwork is very well done, the game on the table has a very blah monochromatic feel to it. I believe it's supposed to be stylized, sepia-toned intimidation, but ends up just feeling to me like it needs more contrast. The full color Stworze on the character cards are great, and the victory card in your mission deck has some great color as well. Apart from that complaint, the actual art across the game is phenomenal- it sets a great tone and the iconography is perfectly clear throughout.


  

The wooden tokens are perfect for this game, adding to the theme wonderfully. The acrylic minis would look amazing painted, though this is on you, the owner. The overall quality is excellent, and I think this is one of the better-made games I had never heard of until it got sent for review.

The Good
Thematic gameplay works well, the feeling of dread permeates everything you do. Component quality is outstanding.

The Bad
Hard to learn and your first game will be very frustrating. Can be a bit fiddly with all the different influences across the map.

Score
Stworze does a great job at pushing the overall feeling of a world where demons rule and people are their pawns. The fear and favor mechanic is a great way to put players at odds with each other, and adds a nifty layer of strategy. There might be one or two mechanics too many here for some gamers but those that love a richer experience are going to be right at home here. I'm giving Stworze a score of Deliciously Demonic.




Check out Stworze on:

           




Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Stworze Preview Stworze Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on April 29, 2019 Rating: 5

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