The Stonebound Saga: A Kickstarter Preview
“But what of the others?” Jairus asked. Silas sighed and replied, “It’s unknown. We can only hope they remain alive. Glenn and his party are 3 days ahead. Perhaps he will know where Lux can be found.” Jairus stared into the distance. He was skeptical. The Speaking Stones seemed to be the only ones with answers nowadays. The stones, continually whispering, weaving tales of a long, bygone era, beckon them onward. The ancient city awaits, but their quest will not be easy. Silas broke the silence, “Jairus. Let us continue. We have more Speaking Stones to find before we speak to Glenn.” Jairus grunted in agreement and together they carried on.
Thousands of years have passed since the heart of Telios, the city of Lux ascended to the heavens. Silas and Jairus are but 2 of the Stonebounds who search for Speaking Stones. The land is broken, the world ruled by hatred and war. Tenebris, the great darkness which consumed the earth, is gathering its’ forces for the final battle. Do you have what it takes to stop it? Can you withstand the darkness? Will you heed the message of the Stones?
Publisher: SkyKingdom Games
Designer: Eric Bittermann
Time: 45 - 90 minutes
Introduction to The Stonebound Saga
Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, and Chrono Trigger. I caught myself flashing back to my childhood as I played The Stonebound Saga. With every turn, I was reminded of my hours spent playing Real Time Strategy (RTS) RPGs. The tactical and strategic depth that lie beneath the incredibly gorgeous setting of The Stonebound Saga is unparalleled. The simplicity of its design is deceiving; every game holds new strategy based on your character choices.
The Stonebound Saga utilizes hand and resource management, dice rolling, card positioning and skirmish style, tactical gameplay. The game is played with 2-6 players on a large, grid based board. A match will last 45 to 90 minutes.
The Stonebound Saga includes 3 different game modes. Constructed, Draft and Free Play. For this review, I played under the Constructed rules and 1 v 1. I played games at 2, 3 and 4 player counts.
In constructed play, each player creates a party of 3 characters with a total star value of 5. Each player takes the 2 matching ability cards for each character and adds them to their player boards. The stats of each character are determined by its class. There are 35 characters to choose from across 7 different classes and 150 unique abilities between the characters! This allows players to craft a team that suits their play-style and strategy. The possibilities are nearly endless!
At the beginning of your turn, draw up to 7 (unless altered by an ability) cards. Each turn, players will use Speaking Stones (the resource cards) to activate abilities of their characters. Each character can make 2 activations each turn, whether movement or attack/activating abilities. During this phase, the tactical brilliance shines. Players will be forced to manage their hands and resources not only strategically but creatively. Players can spend Speaking Stones to fuse the card to their character or discard Speaking Stones to activate abilities.
When you fuse a card to a character, it “upgrades” that character with a passive ability. You place a peg into your character board to denote which ability has been fused.
The catch is, fused cards, count towards your hand limit. A player may wish to fully upgrade a character’s fuse abilities, but they may only draw 0-2 cards per turn, because they have 5-7 fused cards in play. Alternatively, another player may only utilize 1-3 fused abilities and instead draw Speaking Stones to activate their abilities and attacks. It’s a brilliant yin and yang balance. After a player finishes their activations and combat, he/she may discard cards from their hand. This will allow them to draw up to their max hand size next turn.
It’s important that a player choose characters wisely. In order to maximize their hands of resources, each player should attempt to cover as many of the 7 Speaking Stone types as possible.
How to Win
When all characters of a team are incapacitated, that player loses the game. When a characters HP is reduced to 0 (unless altered by an ability) that player is incapacitated. The character is flipped over on its location. All fuses and status effects are removed from the character.
What did I love?
It isn’t often that a game grabs hold of me as quickly as The Stonebound Saga did. I’m instantly reminded of Millennium Blades, with its abundance of options, effects, synergies and strategies. I’m reminded of my childhood memories playing Fire Emblem on my Game Boy or Chrono Trigger on my SNES. The components are top notch.
The board is sturdy (there is a playmat add-on!), the cards fit into 2 deck boxes and are linen finished, the tokens are thick punchboard, and the character boards are icing on the cake. The art is breathtaking; truly a sight to behold. As someone who loves art, I can honestly say this game will challenge Scythe as my favorite art of any game. The simplicity of the core mechanics are exceptional and the synergies and strategies will leave every player wanting to return. Creating a party of characters is satisfying and finding the synergy to match is fun. While the choices you have available are directly related to the Speaking Stones in hand, your decisions are still impactful.
In my games, the 45-90 min. playtime is about right. Our 2 player games finished just under 60 min. and the games move a lot faster as players become comfortable with the abilities of characters and various status effects. I love how easily this game scales to 6. Instead of adding more characters, it simply divides the characters in the party to everyone on a team, 2v2 or 3v3. This is a wonderful way of keeping the game to its 45-90 min. skirmish while scaling to accommodate up to 6 players.
What would I like to see?
My one suggestion is that player aide references should be given to players. While the rulebook is easy to read, it would be far quicker to glance at a reference sheet to read effects, especially for new players. I think an FAQ about character abilities would be a nice touch, though all of the characters I played with were very straightforward. I would obviously LOVE to have new characters unlocked as stretch goals.
With the numerous abilities and effects, Analysis Paralysis prone players may turn the affair into a 90+ min. game. That was not an issue for me, but I can see it happening. The Stonebound Saga will reward returning players because the high variance of abilities can be overwhelming at first. I would suggest new players read the characters that are being played, both your party and your opponents, so you can build a strategy. The game has a large footprint so be prepared!
As mentioned above, if you are a fan of Real Time Strategy, skirmish and hand management, you will be hard pressed to find a better game. I’m astounded at how tight the game mechanics are considering the variety of abilities and characters. You can tell The Stonebound Saga is a labor of love for Eric and his team and I believe it deserves a space on your shelf; it will certainly be on mine.
The Stonebound Saga journeys onto Kickstarter, June 27th! On your quest, as you follow the directions of the Speaking Stones, do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.