Veilwraith Review


04 January 2021
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It’s all there, in black and white

The universe has ended. After the battle to defeat the evil Overlord is lost, reality itself has shattered. The Veil between life and afterlife is in tatters, with lost souls flitting around a realm built from fragments of memory. It’s all a bit bleak, a mood reflected in this solitaire card game’s monochrome style, with every Tarot-sized card rendered in striking black and white. But don’t let that put you off. What Veilwraith lacks in cheery disposition it more than makes up for with compelling, almost addictive gameplay. 

Having mindfully built in one-player modes to all his games so far, from Gloom of Kilforth to 1565: St. Elmo’s Pay, designer Tristan Hall has here committed fully to the solo experience. Veilwraith casts you as a lonely spectral remnant of the shattered material plane. You must journey, fight and negotiate your way through a deck-based series of campaign-forming Vignettes to discover memory Keys and unlock portals back to salvation. You complete a Vignette if you manage to collect all five Keys, reveal and defeat all the Foes (basically boss monsters) and pass through the Portal. You lose if your Spirit (aka health) drops from 20 to zero, or you meet the Archfiend, an unbeatable boss shuffled into the Threat deck once it’s depleted.

Each turn, a new Threat is played, joining any others you were unable to contend with the previous turn. Similar to the Legendary Encounters co-op deckbuilders, you do not want them stacking up, because each undefeated card inflicts a Spirit cost. So you’re constantly firefighting with whatever you have in your hand. But Veilwraith isn’t a deckbuilder. If you survive a Vignette, you get to upgrade a Memory card – the means by which you contend with enemies and encounters – but it’s more a levelling-up mechanism, with your deck never expanding. 

It is in how you deal with those Threats that Veilwraith proves truly innovative. Some require you to explore, some to fight and some to influence. Each of these actions is represented by a card positioned below a “1”, “2” or “3” token. This number represents that action’s base strength for the turn, which can be boosted by Memories in your hand, or by having tilted the card in a previous turn to add a +1 power token. But when you use it at strength 2 or 3, the card shifts down to the 1 position, nudging the other two actions up the power track. 

Your strengths and weaknesses are therefore constantly in flux, creating a fantastically engaging, action-managing puzzle with each encounter. Combined with the fact that your hand is not easy to fill (you only draw one Memory per turn), Veilwraith evokes Mage Knight in the way it forces crystal-clear focus on how every single card is played, moved or manipulated.  

Be warned: it is not easy, and even the introductory Vignette will take a few attempts to complete. But this is one of those games that challenges without punishing, and evokes a greater sense of reward for your successes than frustration with your failures. Not that you’ll mind resetting and restarting, as Hall has ensured a quick, snappy setup time that will further encourage you to play again and again, ever keen to crack his brilliant and atmospheric puzzle. 

DAN JOLIN

PLAY IT? MUST-PLAY

A masterfully calibrated solitaire card game – which can also, by the way, be played as a group co-op if everyone has their own copy. 

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: DARK SOULS THE CARD GAME…

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Similarly gloomy, similarly deadly, and requires you to survive a similarly challenging world of undeath. 

Time: 20 minutes

Players: 1

Age: 14+

Price: £35

Designer: Tristan Hall

Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions

What's in the Box?

  • 3 Action cards
  • 5 Vignette cards
  • 5 Key cards
  • 12 Foe cards
  • 40 Threat cards
  • 20 Basic Memory cards
  • 34 Memory Upgrade cards
  • 1 Portal card
  • 1 Archfiend card
  • 5 Silver Ribbon tokens
  • 1 Spirit Dial
  • 20 Power tokens
  • 3 Action Power tokens

This review originally appeared in Issue 50 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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