Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Games where you attack your fellow players are fairly common on our tabletops. From decades old war games to the eternal king that is Magic: The Gathering, gamers seem to love slinging spells and bullets at their fellow players.
Today, we are going to take a look at Life Siphon, a new game from publisher Lay Waste Games (Dragoon). In Life Siphon, players are powerful warlocks battling for control of a magical ley line. With bits that look just as good as Dragoon’s, Life Siphon is hoping that the game play will also entice you with your Kickstarter dollars. So, let’s dive in and see what this game is all about.
The goal in Life Siphon is to reduce life of the opponent on your left to zero. Each player starts with 20 health, control of a quadrant of the board, and a handful of cards. The board itself is divided into four area (each quadrant is identical):
• The Summoning area: Where your troops come in
• Movement Row: Just an area for movement, nothing special
• The River: You regenerate life for each familiar in the river at the start of your turn
• The Battleground: Familiars here can attack your opponent and block damage for you
There are three types of familiars for a player to summon:
• Dread Knights: Cheap and have a high attack, however you must pay 1 life every time you move one (it takes 3 moves to get to the battleground)
• Imps: Somewhat weak, but when it dies, you gain a life
• Liches: normally you just attack your opponent and they block with the familiars. The lich can decide who it specifically attacks and can only be blocked by another lich.
Each turn is divided into three phases:
- Regenerate Phase: Heal 1 life. Life is the currency for everything in the game
- The Attack Phase: Attack with your familiars in the battleground. You can only attack the opponent to your left. Unblocked attackers damage your opponent directly, otherwise, familiars damage each other simultaneously.
- Main Phase: You can summon new familiars or play cards. Both usually cost life points to do. Cards will do things like damage your opponents or make your familiars stronger this round. You can also move each of your familiars forward one space, with the goal to usually be to get them to the battle ground, although sometimes you might want to park them in the river if you are low on life.
As soon as a player kills the opponent to their left, they win.
Life Siphon is an interesting take on the dueling genre. While it’s a multiplayer game, it really is more of a dueling game as you are mainly concerned about just killing one of your opponents. Granted, there are times when you might want to help the player to your right, if for nothing else then to keep them alive so you can have enough time to defeat your targeted opponent. But when it comes to attacking with your familiars, you only have one target.
This helps alleviate a problem in multiplayer skirmish games of dog piling on weaker opponents. In games like GKR Heavy Hitters, for example, a 3 player game is less than ideal because inevitably one player sits idle while two others slug it out, leaving that third player to pick off the scraps. Life Siphon solves that by giving each player one main target and having the game end when they die to avoid the player elimination trap.
I also found it interesting that life is your currency for everything. While it can be tempting to summon a pile of critters to fling at your enemy, and then boost them with card play, you’ll notice that your life will quickly drain down, leaving you very exposed. Managing your hit points is a careful balancing act that’s really the heart of Life Siphon.
The one main issue we ran into with the prototype copy was that we had a hard time remembering which familiar was which. The minis are a throwback to the pieces in Dragoon, but they are also fairly abstract. Many times, we’d have to double check which was the lich, dread knight or imp. A player aid in the final version of the game would probably go a long way towards helping this issue.
If you are looking for a unique take on the dueling genre than Life Siphon is worth checking out. The hit points as a currency was a fresh mechanics that was a lot of fun to try and keep balanced. And with Lay Waste Games history of great components, I have no doubts that the final copy of Life Siphon will be excellent.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.