Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
Back in 2018, I previewed the Kickstarter for Volfyirion. It had an incredibly successful campaign, generating more than $200,000 between almost 9,000 backers. And today our favorite city-destroying dragon is back at it, with a standalone expansion, Volfyirion: Guilds.
We will jump in, see what is different and talk about how the game plays so you can decide if backing it is right for you.
The setup and structure of turns are essentially identical to the original Volfyirion. If you’d like the long version, you can check out the original preview here. The short version is that you will use standard deck building rules to generate three different types of resources and each player starts with three cities. Command points can generally be used to buy new cards. Battle points allow you to destroy the cities of other players, steal wonders from the Volfyirion’s lair, or defeat the namesake dragon. Knowledge points allow you to cycle new cards into the row to be purchased and move Volfyirion to an opponent’s city to destroy it at the end of their next turn.
There are also troop and building cards that can be played to your cities to give ongoing static abilities. Your goal is to destroy all three of your opponent’s cities to win the game.
So what does guilds add? First of all, all players now start with a Vault card. At the beginning of the game, the vault can provide space to store a command card face up so that you can use it on a future turn. As your cities get destroyed, it provides additional powers. When you only have two cities remaining the vault card will let you trade command points for knowledge or battle points. If you are down to your final city it will also generate a knowledge and battle point for free every turn.
There is also a new card type: agents. Agents can be played to the asset row on top of one of the available cards to purchase. At the start of your next turn, you can acquire the card under the asset for free, as long as the agent’s defense value is equal to or higher than the card’s cost. And when the agent gets you the card, it goes directly into your hand. However, your agent will have to stay through your opponent’s turn. They cannot acquire the card under the agent, but they can spend battle points to defeat the agent, removing it from the card and putting it in your discard pile.
There are also a lot of cards in Guilds that have an ability that triggers when the card is acquired. While this concept isn’t entirely new—the wonders have always had an ability when required—it is certainly more prevalent on the cards in the Guilds expansion.
Sometimes expansions come out for games you like and it’s just more of the same. Which is fine—everyone loves variety. Other expansions add a ton of new rules, mechanisms, modules, and so forth and make it hard to get to the table unless everyone is intimately familiar with the base game. Guilds threads this needle making the game feel fresh with about 30 seconds more of rules if you are familiar with the base game. And if you have never played Volfyirion it can still all be taught in about five minutes.
A lot of complaints about deckbuilding games come in the form of how random drawing cards can be. Especially quick-playing games like Volfyirion where a game takes only 20-30 minutes and you may only cycle through your deck a handful of times. If you draw synergistic cards and your opponent doesn’t… well, you are likely to win. I really love how simply Guilds adds more agency here with the Vault card. If you have two cards that work well together you can store one of them and wait to play it until you draw the other one.
Agents provide a similar variance reducing effect. If there is a card you want but can’t afford through command points, your agent can secure it for you. But with the added risk of having to wait a turn and hope your opponent can’t destroy them. You can even choose to leave the card in the asset row for additional turns if you wish so that you get the card when it works best with the rest of your hand. There are cards that can interact with agents and your vault though, so leaving cards there forever isn’t risk free.
Another common complaint in deckbuilding is that the leader tends to run away and it’s hard to catch them. In some deck builders, like Dominion, this is dealt with by making the cards that score big points go into your deck and not really do anything useful, watering down your future draws. Volfyirion didn’t have any similar mechanism in the original game, but the Vault card provides a bit of a catch-up mechanism, unlocking new powers when your cities start to crumble.
All of these things integrate seamlessly into a base game I already enjoyed. You can mix Guilds in with the original cards or play it standalone. And the Kickstarter is offering a deluxe edition of all things that already exist in the game if you want to catch up on all the content.
Expansions that improve on the original are rare, and Volfyirion: Guilds definitely does that. It certainly helps that it is also a standalone product so if you aren’t necessarily a mega-fan of the game already there is a pledge level to just get the new content and get your feet wet without making too much of an investment.
If you like head-to-head games Volfyirion is one of the best deckbuilding ones I’ve played. It’s certainly worth checking out their Kickstarter when it launches on June 23rd and seeing if there is a pledge level that is right for you.