|Designer: Dasmond. L, Jodie Huang, Maycent.Y, J J. Tan, and Vincent Zhang
Artist: Jodie Huang
Publisher: Fivetails Studio
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 3-6
Playing Time: 30 – 60 Minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
WARNING: This is a preview of Demon Espionage. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
Now you did it. Someone has killed who? Satan? The underworld is in a frenzy. The spirits have broken into two factions, The Shadows, those loyal to Satan; and the Rebels, those that conspired to kill him. The battle for souls now begins!
At the start of the game players draw a secret card to determine what faction they will play for. If there are an odd number of players, one faction will be short a teammate, but there will be compensation for that at the end of the game. Each player receives five playing cards and the rest are placed in a draw pile in the middle. There is also a draw pile of soul cards placed in the middle of the table. These souls are the victory points and each card contains one to three souls with the three soul cards being rarer than the one soul cards. Each player also receives a health card with 5 health points showing to start. And, with that the game begins.
|Some of the faction characters.|
|Soul cards. Shown next to a combat card to compare size.|
The first player chooses another player to duel (remember that your teammates have not been revealed at this point). Each player lays a combat card face down in front of them. The defender can then play any number of limited-action cards to affect the battle. Some cards turn the attack into a healing event for the winner, or flip the attack over to make the lowest number battle cards win instead of the highest. There are also RPS cards which change the competition from a battle of points to a battle of rock, paper, scissor which symbols are on the cards as well. The attacker then has the option to play pre-action cards.
|Combat cards showing some of the basic cards. Each card has a combat value and a Rock Paper or Scissor mark.|
Once the limited-actions and pre-actions are complete and the players know what the battle is (high, low or rock, paper scissors) then each player flips the combat card and reveal it on the count of three. After combat cards are revealed, any number of enhanced action cards can be played by any of the players. These cards may negate the results, add value to the combat cards or other actions that can be used at any time. A winner is then determined base on all cards played and the winner draws a soul card and keeps it hidden while the loser reduces their health by 1. All used cards go into a face down discard pile and all players replenish their hands back to 5 cards. Play moves to the next player who starts again by choosing a player to battle. (Players have the option of exchanging all 5 of the cards in their hand in lieu of dueling another player).
|Action Cards in the combat deck. Cards that have a cone shape in the circle are enhanced action cards and can be played anytime. The ones with a star are limited action and affect a duel.|
Some actions through the game reveal what factions a player belongs to, and players try to use enhanced action cards to help their teammates.
If a player reduces another player’s health down to zero, the winner gets an extra souls card and the player with zero health is eliminated. The knocked-out player reveals their faction to all and waits for the others to complete the game. When only one player is left, the game is over. If there were an odd number of players, the faction that was short a player draws an additional predetermined number of soul cards to make up for the handicap. Each faction counts their souls and the faction with the most souls wins the game!
|Health card counter with your faction card keeping track of how much life a player has.|
Rules and Setup:
The rules are still a work in progress and were even changed after I had received the game. I am happy to see that the designer is still working on the rules as the game is pretty solid, with that being a weak point.
Setup was simple, draw a faction, deal five cards to each player and you are ready to go. I liked that the soul cards are half the size of the playing cards (which means they don’t get mixed in).
Theme and Mechanics:
I found the theme to be quite dark compared to the game play. After reading the background on the box, I expected this to be a deep heavy game, but it wasn’t at all. I would say that I’m not necessarily a fan of the vast difference in the theme and the game, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. The theme could have easily been something else based on the mechanics, but that is just my opinion.
The mechanics were simple, the action cards spelled out exactly what was going to happen. I found the rock, paper scissors component a little strange, but some people I played with really liked it.
We played several games and gave a point to those on the winning team to choose an ultimate winner. That wasn’t in the rules, but we felt a little unsatisfied in having multiple winners and wanted to test the game play experience a little further.
The games were relatively short (30-35 minutes) as the designer has listed, and the time definitely matches the depth of the game.
The designer listed the ages as 8+ which is appropriate for the mechanics. I probably wouldn’t get into the theme much with an 8 year old.
|Four player, mid game. Notice some factions revealed.|
Artwork and Components:
I liked the artwork although the pictures were dark. The Kickstarter backer box was excellent and looked awesome. The cards were also great quality. If the rules come out as nice as the rest of it, I think the presentation will be fantastic.
|Artwork on Display – Check out the Demon Espionage Gallery at https://www.instagram.com/d_espionage/y|
|What’s in the box?|
I liked the player against player aspect that could be changed quickly by so many different factors. Some cards were particularly better than others for fun gameplay. The quality was a definite win.
I’m not a huge fan of the theme as discussed throughout. I think some effort could also be given to the rules before it reaches it’s supporters.
I think this could be a fun addition to a game collection. It’s definitely a little different than other card games. It was fun, quick and re-playable. My only negatives can be fixed or changed. The game can be played without a full knowledge of the theme, I just told my kids it was a Halloween game.
Players Who Like:
I would suggest this to someone looking for a light game that can be played in teams. It has many different mechanics found in other games which when put together makes Demon Espionage unique.
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About the Author:
Dave Merrell is a Professional Structural Engineer who specializes in Zip Lines and Challenge Courses. When he’s not swinging in the trees (or sharpening his pencil) he’s playing games, most often with some or all of his 5 kids. Dave lives in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.