Direwild - A Kickstarter Preview
PUBLISHER: Ironhorde Games
DESIGNER: Vas Obeyesekere
PLAYERS: 1 - 4
TIME: 30 – 300+ Min
Introduction to Direwild
From the Publisher: Direwild is a fully co-operative, tactical, dungeon-crawling deck-builder. There is no dungeon master; it is purely the players vs. the game. Players assume the role of animists, heroes that can summon creatures both great and small (represented in the cards you build your deck with), then combine those creatures in unique ways. With the creatures' help, the animists strive to work as a team to defeat the evil forces of Karn. Karn was once a great animist himself, but was corrupted by his lust for greater power. Throughout the game, Karn tries to hunt the heroes and defeat them before they can grow strong enough to face him in the final showdown. The game is split into three chapters, with a "game save" mechanism to allow for the packing and saving of the game between game nights!
I received a prototype version of Direwild. Components and Art may be subject to change.
I want to start this preview by saying that Direwild has one of the best rulebooks I’ve read from a Kickstarter prototype. It’s clear and concise yet detailed and intuitive enough to guide players along as they explore the immersive world. However, there are a lot of rules. The game includes two different rule-books, one for set-up and one for gameplay. So, I will only cover the minimum rules to get you and your adventuring party of animists ready to battle Karn and his evil minions.
The best part of the rulebook is that players will play the game as they learn the rules. It’s not only intuitive but feels like a tutorial mission out of a video game.
There are 4 phases in each round: Game, Summon, Charm and Adventure.
Other than the Game Phase, each player finishes the entire phase in turn order before the next phase begins.
Begin this phase by moving all hero and enemy stamina counters 1 space toward 0.
Reveal Enemy AI card
The 1st player flips the top card in the Enemy AI deck and does all the actions listed in the card, in order from top to bottom. There are 3 actions every AI card activates: Move Karn, Enemy Movement and Karn’s Presence. There are 2 possible actions AI cards may activate: Rage and Minion Activation.
Move Karn on his track!
If Karn is still on his track and hunting the heroes, move Karn 1 square to the right on his Hunting Track. If he was already on the last square on his track (the altar), he jumps to his altar on the land board.
Activate the earliest idle (face down) minion
If the AI card has the eyeball icon, you will turn the leftmost face down enemy, face up. That enemy is now considered active.
Enemy turn order
Minions take their actions one at a time in order from left to right on the Minion Track, with Karn always moving last. Thus, the “earliest” minion will be the left most minion. Enemy turn is: Red Minion, Blue Minion, Green Minion, Black Minion, Karn.
Enemies gain Rage
All active enemies (enemies who’s cards are face up) gain 1 rage, meaning their stamina tracks moves up 1. If there are no active enemies, ignore this effect.
Idle (face down) minion movement
Idle minions are unaware of the heroes’ presence and are patrolling the land, following foot paths on the land board by the amount listed on the AI card.
Active enemy movement - Standard
If an active enemy is already adjacent to a hero, they do not move. If an active enemy is not adjacent to a hero, the enemy moves towards the closest hero, ignoring foot trails. There are a few rules that govern enemy movement:
- Enemies cannot target heroes in the staging area. If all heroes are in staging area, active enemies do not move.
- Enemies cannot move through walls or heroes.
- Enemies can move over AND end their turn over any other map feature (treasure, spawns etc.)
- Enemies may move through another enemy, but cannot end their move on the same square.
Active enemy movement - Priority
If the AI card movement icon has a number, either 1 or 2 on the pawprint, this indicates a movement priority.
All active enemies move towards the hero who currently owns the player turn token matching the priority number. Standard movement rules apply.
Karn’s very presence endangers the heroes. If Karn is on the land board with the heroes, return a fatal wound back to the wound pile.
Turn Order and Draw
Select new turn order
Players will now freely choose turn order. Give each player a token representing their chosen turn.
All players draw 5 cards. If a player does not have 5 cards in their deck left, they draw as many as possible and then shuffle their discard to create a new deck and draw the remainder to their hand.
In turn order, each player completes their entire Summon Phase.
Play cards in hand
On a player’s turn they must play all of their cards, one at a time. If a creature has a creature ability (shown in a red banner), they immediately perform that action once the card is played.
Once all players have completed this phase, they will move to the Charm Phase.
In turn order, each player completes their entire Charm Phase, as outlined below. This is the phase where players purchase creatures from the Wilds to make their decks stronger.
Count your Charm
Once all the player’s cards have been played, count all the charm generated by their creatures.
Spend your Charm
A player has 4 ways they may spend their charm:
- Charm a creature: Pay the cost in charm equal to the creature's cost and put it in your discard pile.
- Swift charm a creature: Pay the cost in charm equal to the creature's cost + 1 and put in on the top of your deck.
- Destroy a creature in the Wilds: If a player doesn’t want any creatures in the Wilds, they may destroy a creature in The Wilds by spending 1 charm and fills the empty slot with a face up card from a creature deck.
- Destroy lock cards: A player may destroy multiple lock cards, provided they have enough charm.
Once all the locks in a stack have been destroyed, the creatures or ability below becomes accessible for all players
Note: Unspent charm is lost; use it or lose it!
When players charm a creature from The Wilds, immediately replace that creature with the face up creature from a creature deck. The new creature can be from either the Common Creature deck or the Advanced Creature deck, as long as the Advanced Creature deck is unlocked. Then flip the next card from that deck face up.
Build a creature
Pick a single creature to be the core creature. Then flip any other played creatures upside down and tuck them behind the core creature. These cards form the core creature’s augments. These creatures will be used to battle minions in the Adventure Phase!
Once all players have completed this phase, move to the Adventure Phase.
In turn order, each player completes this phase by moving their hero about the land board, picking up treasure and battling enemies.
Heroes have a base move of 3 and their creature augments can add to this total. Additionally, heroes can spend a stamina to move 1 extra space.
Picking a fight and Eligible targets for battle
Pick the enemy you are going to battle.
If you don’t have flight, you must battle an enemy that is adjacent to you. If you do have flight, you may choose to battle a minion that is within your flight range. (Flight range is dictated by the amount of spaces between the hero and the enemy.)
Determine attack values
Add up the hero’s attack value. This is the attack of the hero (the d3 or d6 roll) and the strength of their creature, plus any attack modifiers on their stamina track.
Whoever has the highest number attack wins battle. If there is a tie, the enemy wins.
Enemy gets distracted
Regardless of who won the battle, the enemy is distracted, which means you lower the enemy stamina down 1 space, but never below -1 attack.
Battle Result: Win!
If a hero wins, the following things happen in order:
- The hero performs any hit effects (see next page)
- The enemy takes 1 damage (in the form of an inactive magic gem) of the victorious hero’s color.
- The enemy performs any “when damaged” counterattacks
- If a minion has as much damage (magic gems) as it has hit points (Health), it is destroyed.
Battle Result: Lose.
If the hero loses and is not attacking with flight or if the minion can attack heroes with flight, the following things happen in order:
- The enemy deals its hit effects to the hero. Effects activate when the owner wins battle.
- The enemy deals 1 fatal wound into the hero’s discard. Remember, if the players ever run out of fatal wounds, they lose!
At the end of the Adventure Phase, all players discard their played cards. If the heroes haven’t won or lost, continue with a new round.
Chapter 1 is a beginner level that functions as both tutorial and progressing each player’s deck strength.
Chapter 2 allows players to further sculpt their decks in preparation of fighting Karn in the Final Dungeon.
The Final Dungeon is the grand finale and is tough. Players will need strong decks previously built in chapters 1 & 2 in order to defeat Karn.
Chapter 1 & 2 End Game Triggers.
- Heroes win the chapter if all minions are defeated.
- Heroes lose if the fatal wound stack is empty.
Final Dungeon Trigger:
- Heroes win if Karn is defeated.
- Heroes lose if fatal wound stack is empty.
Other Important Items
Defeating Karn is the heroes’ final goal, and the only way to free the Direwild. When the heroes are fighting his minions, Karn is actively hunting the heroes, looking to destroy them before they can pose a threat. The heroes’ journey eventually ends at Karn’s dungeon where they desperately attempt to defeat the all-powerful dark animist.
There are relatively weak minions in Karn’s dungeon that have no foot trails and thus do not move when idle. Be aware however, that Karn’s counterattacks can get stronger with the amount of minions (active or idle) still on the board, so keeping these acolytes alive can fuel Karn’s powers!
Magic is what heroes use to boost attacks, optimize their draw, and lower enemy stamina. Every hero has a passive ability that is always on, and is not considered their magic ability.
Treasure is immediately gained when a hero ENDS their turn over a treasure token. The token is removed from the land board and that hero draws a treasure card. Treasures are a one time only effect and it is destroyed when used.
During the Charm Phase, a player may spend charm to destroy locks in the LEFTMOST lock stack. This means players must destroy all the locks to the Advanced Creatures before moving to the next lock stack. When all the locks are destroyed in a stack, that ability is opened to all players immediately. The 4 powers are:
- Advanced Creatures
- The Channeling ability allows a player that chose not to battle this turn the benefit of returning one of the creatures they played this turn to the top of their deck.
- The Heightened Reflexes ability allows a player to reroll any “1” rolled if they take a wound! This applies to dice rolls outside of combat as well.
- The Veteran ability represents the hero’s experience and mastery in combat. It allows all heroes to now use a d6 instead of their standard d3 in battle.
Wound cards in a player’s deck are effectively dead cards. They normally have no effect when drawn, and are discarded after the Charm Phase is over. Wounds are considered cards and thus may be destroyed by abilities that destroy cards.
WHAT MIGHT YOU LIKE?
There’s a ton to love about Direwild! I'd like to go on record (again) and say this is one of the few co-operative games that I've enjoyed. (It's no secret I'm not a fan of co-operative games.) It’s mechanically solid, incorporating a beautiful blend of deck-building, dungeon-crawling and co-operating.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that it actually creates an odd sense of suspense centered around the draw phase. The way turn order functions, choosing the order before drawing your hand of 5 creatures, adds a small portion of press your luck to your decision.
The creature, hero and minion artwork is fantastic. The game board and dungeon levels further immerse players in the realm of Direwild. The iconography and design is easily read and intuitive.
The deckbuilding mechanic is superb! The creatures in Direwild incorporate a ton of variety and unique effects. One of the main concerns with any deckbuilder is the ability to cull (remove cards) from your deck. Thankfully, various creatures offer opportunities for players to remove not only creatures from their decks but also wounds. This is key to powering an efficient and deadly combination of creatures and Direwild does not disappoint.
One of the most unique additions in the game is the save feature. I know this isn’t ground breaking but it is for a deck-builder. Between chapters, players can save their decks instead of dismantling them, allowing players to build a unique deck each and every time they start a new journey into Direwild. There is a lot of replayibility based on randomly placing Minions in each level and which creatures are available for purchase in the Wild. Each and every game feels fresh and will keep players returning for more.
Additionally, if you want to skip a chapter and go straight to either chapter 2 or 3, you can! Players are given a system to quickly build their decks as if they already adventured through earlier chapters. For 5 rounds before chapter 2 and 10 rounds before chapter 3, players will roll a D6 and gain an amount of charm based on the roll. Players can use the charm they collect to buy creatures and/or destroy locks. I’ve never been able to sculpt a better deck in any other deck-builder like this before.
Drafting creatures before beginning chapters 2 and 3 may sound too powerful, but after you repeatedly lose to Karn in Chapter 3, you will understand just how important this feature becomes. The game becomes increasingly more difficult, as a traditional dungeon crawl should. Direwild isn't a stroll in park.
Each hero/heroine offers unique magic abilities and depending on which characters you choose, the outcome of your game will vastly differ. The powers are wildly asymmetric and are a lot of fun to use!
WHAT MIGHT YOU DISLIKE?
Direwild includes a lot of cards. A LOT. Though you can save your progress between chapters, eventually you will need to sort and separate and the tear-down can be lengthy.
There is a fair amount of bookkeeping (this is a dungeon-crawl after all) and between the two rule-books, there may arise a lot of specific questions about interactions and effects.
The creatures in Direwild are not only diverse and unique but also full of rules and effects. All effect rules are laid out well in the rule-book, but I would love to see an FAQ printed alongside them. With time, you will learn the symbology and intricacies but your first few games could be bumpy.
Direwild is a thought-provoking, puzzly co-operative, dungeon crawling deck builder. It takes the best parts of a deckbuilder and fuses it into a fun dungeon crawl experience. Direwild is easily one of the best deck builders I’ve played and is certainly one of my favorite dungeon crawls.
Overall, Direwild is an exciting evolution of a deck builder and a dynamic addition in an already crowded genre. Direwild delivers one of the most unique game experiences I’ve ever encountered and if you're a fan of deck builders, you absolutely need to check this game out.
You will like this game if: you enjoy co-operative games, deck-builders, dungeon crawls and ferociously adorable animals!
Direwild enters the Kickstarter wilderness on November 7!
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