Gameplay Review: Spell Saga, A Tabletop Novel Game

Hello, loyal readers! Today, we would like to share our experience in playing Spell Saga, a game by SUBHEATHEN Publishing. It is our hope that it might give you the personal initiative to take the steps to get ahold of it yourselves.

The order in which the Spell Saga quickstart guide instructs that players should stack the deck for an introduction game.
The order in which the Spell Saga quickstart guide instructs that players should stack the deck for an introduction game.

Spell Saga, a solitaire-style, self-proclaimed "tabletop novel", is a game that begins its own journey as an exercise in frustration, but soon thereafter becomes a truly beautiful journey for the player involved. We were a bit wrong about the use of the playmat from yesterday's unboxing review – it's beautiful and may be helpful for more experienced players, but it's busy. Our tabletop games writer Josh Nelson had to flip it over to use it unfettered, and the mousepad material gripped the cards a bit. This proved difficult especially when trying to fish out the cards to stack together for the start of the introduction game.

But that's honestly where the difficulties ended. The Quick-Start guide revealed a lot about the gameplay. One, at first a player only has to make somewhere between two and three decisions per turn – the rest of the turn is pretty much autonomous otherwise, scripted by the board state. A player only has to determine where they go with their Hero (or Heroes), what to do with the cards drawn (as far as whether or not they're to be resources or drawn cards), what to do with cards in hand (if applicable), and what Item cards to use to combat Enemy cards that pop up. Beyond that, the game's flow is dictated by the Place card and the general rules of timing.

Grump-Stone, the Enemy card that did us in at the conclusion of our introduction to Spell Saga.
Grump-Stone, the Enemy card that did us in at the conclusion of our introduction to Spell Saga.

Now, we decided that for introductory and review purposes we would use the Quick-Start guide, and that proved very helpful for a beginning game. It only goes as far as Turn Six, and interestingly, the creator of the game, Todd Michael Rogers, made a point early on to tell us to play until Turn Ten to make sure the rules were properly ingrained. That's what we did, and in playing beyond the first six turns of the Quick-Start layout, the intuitive nature of Spell Saga was revealed at last, and with it, the core of that emotional reaction that Rogers so adamantly pitched to us.

At the base of Spell Saga's lore, the game tells a solemn story of a character on their own. Wandering the ruins of a new world that's simultaneously old, making allies on their own terms, and facing adversity to their best of their ability, The Last Minstrel is a sobering character in a harsh world. Having not played the game in its full form yet, we can't say whether this holds true at all times, but Spell Saga is poignant and evokes the feeling of serenity in the face of true solitude.

The Last Minstrel, the starting Hero card from Spell Saga.
The Last Minstrel, the starting Hero card from Spell Saga.

What do you think of this game? It's free to print by clicking here. We recommend you give it a whirl. Feel free to try it out and let us know your opinions in the comments below!

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.

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