Sellswords was recently recommended to me in a comment on this blog (click here to visit the article). The recommendation was based heavily on my love of Triple Triad, the card game from Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy VIII. I took the recommendation and picked up the game but, as it is very different to Triple Triad, is this the game for me? It also strikes me as funny tat although we’ve been going for over a year on this blog, this will actually be our first proper review. I’m therefore not entirely sure of where I am going in terms of format, but I know I’m not too keen on using numerical scores – I will keep them for my BGG collection page.
Being such a simple, streamlined game, the (tiny) game box contains only a deck of square cards or tiles and an instructions poster. These cards are very clearly designed, with a good layout. They are very readable and are pretty much all your could as for for this sort of game. The only slight drawback is the card stock used. It’s just a bit thin. I’m not expecting Carcassonne-esque tiles (though this would be great), but the cards were already curling slightly and unable to lie flat when I first opened the box. This is a relatively minor complaint and an understandable one, given the budget-friendly price point of this game.
The visual presentation of this game is also great, with beautiful chibi artwork on each card. The style is striking, pleasant and, most importantly, consistent.
The core rules are really simple. One player plays as the red side, the other as blue. Each card has 4 numbers assigned to it, one for each card edge. If one player’s card edge touches the edge of the other player’s card the numeric values are compared. If the attacking player’s card has a higher numbers, the other player’s card flips to the first player’s colour. The goal is to get as many of the cards as possible showing your player colour. You are then scored, both at the halfway point and the game’s conclusion, on how many cards of your colour are in each row or column of the 5×5 grid in which the game is played.
Although the rules themselves are straightforward, each card then has a unique ability that changes these rules in some way. One might raise the numbers of nearby cards by one whilst another may attack a card two spaces away, whilst yet another might nullify the abilities of other cards. These adaptations to the rules add a layer of depth and complexity to an otherwise simple game. It also makes the first phase of the game, the card draft, into a much more meaningful phase of play.
Sellswords is the simple, cheap little filler game that could. It draws on games that came before it, such as the aforementioned Triple Triad, but makes more than enough changes to set itself apart as very much it’s own game. I like the look of the game, and the speed and simplicity. I like the feel of playing it, which is important and often overlooked. I like the drafting phase, which I didn’t fully appreciate in my first couple of playthroughs. My only real niggles are the previously mentioned concerns regarding component quality (specifically card thickness) and some of the rules for individual cards not being as clearly explained as they could have been.
All in all, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this game, and It’s my first experience of Level 99 Games. They have a few other games that look really interesting to me, so I’m taking my enjoyment of this smaller title as a good omen going forward.
Go and treat yourself to a copy of Sellswords – It’s a joyful little game that is well worth the minimal investment.