Generally, game concepts are worthless. Pitch an idea to a publisher, maybe they’ll be interested, but more than likely, it’s not the idea alone that will gain traction. Rather it’s the publisher’s vision of being able to see the completed product and marketability that gets a game made.
When a game integrates an app in a new, interesting way, publishers are likely to take notice. Such is promised in Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa. It’s a resource management, action selection game with some take-that elements built in. The core of the experience is a drafting card game with a steampunkish theme. The app that accompanies the game allows for digitally-enhanced play. For 2 to 5 players at a 30-45 minute playtime, on paper, that’s not a bad product.
Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa (Subrosa) consists of a Crew deck (5 colored types of cards) and a Contracts deck. Each round of play in Subrosa has players selecting 2 crew cards from their hand, placing them face down on the table. Afterwards, players can either activate one of their characters (from this round or a previous one) or acquire a new contract.
Activating a character’s ability usually results in additional card draws, crew to be wounded, or forced trades of cards. Gaining contracts helps players have more variety or new contracts to complete for points at game’s end. Contracts require certain combinations of colors of characters to be spent/discarded.
After characters activate, players announce any contract completions. The game continues until one player has no cards left in hand.
If players choose to use the app, it allows for players to scan their played card into the app’s memory. Cards are then announced in which order they resolve. This is the same as if it was done physically.
Players who are looking for a game with app-enhanced play should skip Subrosa. The app integration offers nothing additional to play options, nor does it facilitate play in a more interesting way. It simply takes additional time for the app to record every player’s card. This scanning is also a hit or miss affair. Many times it was hard to get the app to recognize the card. In addition, there are bugs in the app that can cause a freeze, stopping the game entirely and making the user interface unresponsive.
All of the above could be forgiven if the game were interesting. It isn’t. Card play and take-that actions seem arbitrary. The abilities of characters feels like a randomized mix instead of a calculated whole. Any tension in the game is absent and for the most part, as players go through the motions on their way to completing contracts.
The completion of contracts, being the goal, should make the game feel like a race, but in reality, since contracts are hidden, players cannot tell how close an opponent is to completing one. This results, as mentioned previously, in the feeling of perfunctory play rather than anything close to strategy or intrigue, the intended themes of the game.
The only saving grace of the whole package is the quality of the physical components. These are actually quite good and it’s annoying to see such a bland game lavished with this level of production quality. The art and design of the cards is very well done, matched with well-made cards with nice linen finish. Also included is an app stand and a wooden first player marker.
With every game offering, gameplay is the key, and Subrosa barely has any. The play is boring and unchallenging with many random or non-informed moves. Subrosa could be saved by a good app-enhancement experience but unfortunately the app has issues as well. With the only saving grace being the physical quality of the game, that’s still not enough for any kind of recommendation.
Final Score: 1.5 Stars – A broken app doesn’t enhance a beautifully designed yet ultimately boring game.
• App has bugs and is incomplete
• Gameplay is lackluster
• App only takes time and doesn’t add to gameplay