Tabletop Review – Spyrium

Spyrium 1

Welcome to another tabletop game review!  It’s been way too long since my last post.  Anyone still following me, a huge thanks to you!

For this review, we’ll look at the board game Spyrium.  It will work with 2-5 players.  It’s supposed to be set in a steampunk realm, as implied by the box art.  Spyrium is a resource that’s being produced or refined through factories, or it’s a (expensive) purchased commodity.  The idea is that throughout the game, players will produce, collect, and accumulate Spyrium to help them generate victory points (VP) in the later stages of the game.

Let’s take a look at the box contents:
Spyrium 5 - Box Contents

Above, you’ll see a number of components.  I’ll go clockwise.  On top in the center is the game board.  It tracks VP totals, which phase each player is in during a round, the housing track, and event cards.  (Don’t worry, I’ll discuss these more in detail later on.)  To the upper-right is the rule book. Then the bag of meeples, bonus tokens, and round markers for each color.  The three similar piles of cards represent the game card for the A, B, and C stages of the game.  Below them is the pile of event cards.  Lower-left is the pile of starting cards for each player.  The bag of green gems represents the resource Spyrium.  Coming to the bag of gray and gold tokens, these represent money.  And lastly, the blue tokens are numbered for use with any cards that show a token symbol on them.  Whew!  That’s more than it looks in the photo!

Alright, so how does the game work?  Before I begin, let me be clear, this is not a tutorial.  So, I may miss a step or leave out a detail here or there to save a lot of typing.  But, hopefully I’ll get all of the concepts across. Now… onward!

The setup for Spyrium is as follows:  Each player gets a start card for their color.  On it shows the starting resources for each player (8£, 3 meeples, and 2 Spyrium crystals).  Place a round token for each player on the 0-point spot around the game board.  Place another token for each player on the 2 spot of the housing track. Put the two bonus tokens for each player next to the 8-VP location on the game board.  Then, shuffle each pile of A, B, and C stage cards.  Start with the A pile and set the top 9 cards in a 3×3 configuration, leaving gaps between cards.  Lastly, shuffle the event cards and set them face down on the left side of the board.  Flip one event over and place it in the right location.  Flip a second event and place it back on top of the event card pile.  You’ll see some of this setup in the image below, though scoring has already happened.  All of this is clearly explained in the rulebook, so no worries if it sounds a little complicated.  It’s not that bad, I swear!

Spyrium 4

The playing area.  Game board on top, and card area below.  Note the meeple placement between the cards.

One player begins with the 1st player card.  All players begin the round in Phase 1 and place a round marker on the Phase 1 spot of the board. (Note the two card-sized spots on the top of the board, showing a I or a II to indicate the phase a player is playing in.)  During Phase 1, players may place meeples on the board between cards (see above), use the current event card (which is on the right side of the board), or move into Phase 2.  Players take turns taking a single action.

Once a player decides they cannot or do not want to take more actions during Phase 1, they spend their action to move their marker onto Phase 2 on the game board.  They must then wait their turn again before taking more actions.

During Phase 2, players may remove a meeple from the board to either obtain money, use an inventor card adjacent to the meeple, or purchase a card that is adjacent to the meeple. Players may also use the current event card.  (They cannot if they’ve already used the current event during Phase 1.) Or a player may use a building they’ve already purchased previously and placed next to their starting card.

Removing a meeple for money lets players earn money for other meeples crowded around a card adjacent to the meeple being removed.  Players get 1£ for each other meeple around a single card adjacent to their meeple, including their own meeples.  Example: If Red removes a meeple around the center card, they would receive 5£ because there are 5 other meeples around that card, aside from the one they are removing.

Players may buy blue or teal cards.  These represent buildings or patents.  Buildings are then placed to the right of their start card, and patents to the left.  When purchasing a card, players pay the cost shown in the upper-right corner of the card, plus 1£ for each other meeple around the card, not including the meeple being removed.  This can become a strategy to prevent others from purchasing a certain card on the board, or to make them spend more money to get it.  Also, players must pay for a lot to place buildings on.  The first lot is free, the second lot costs 1£, the third lot costs 2£, and so on.  So, purchasing a lot of buildings can quickly become expensive, especially if combined with paying the cost for other adjacent meeples to the card being purchased.  Patents do not require much physical space, and therefore do not incur a lot fee like buildings.

Players can also use inventor cards, like the one in the lower-right of the game area shown above.  Inventors can be used by more than one player.  Simply pay the cost shown on the card, add money for each other adjacent meeple, and you get the bonus on the card.  For that particular example, players would pay one Spyrium crystal to gain 3 points.

So, during Phase 1, players must plan to place their meeples around cards of interest.  Whether that is to buy/use the cards, gain more money because other players placed meeples around a card, or to make it expensive for other players to buy/use cards.  PLAYERS DO NOT NEED TO PLACE ALL OF THEIR MEEPLES TO MOVE TO PHASE 2!  This is key to make use of the buildings you’ve purchased.

Spyrium 3 - Player Area

Note the teal patent to the left of the player’s start card, and the blue buildings to the right.  The right-most two buildings have actions that players may pay to activate, using meeples and Spyrium crystals.

During Phase 2, players can remove meeples to gain money, or use/buy cards.  Players may also use purchased buildings.  A building may have an action on it that has a cost and a reward.  If you saved extra meeples in Phase 1 and did not place them anywhere yet, you can now use them to activate buildings.  Place the meeples on the building to meet the cost (some do not require any meeples), spend any Spyrium crystals noted in the cost, and you get the reward on the building.  Turn the building sideways to indicate it was used this round.  Buildings may normally only be used once per round, and they reset between rounds to be used again.  Certain cards may modify this once-per-round mechanic.

In the end, the idea is to obtain as many Victory Points as possible.  Use of certain buildings or inventors can yield points.  Many buildings also have a point value to add to your total at the end of the game (upper-left corner of the building cards).  Spend your money, meeples, and Spyrium wisely to gain as many points as you can in order to win the game.  Any leftover meeples, money, or crystals are worth zip, zilch, squat…  so don’t hold back in the final round.

At the start of each round, players gain money equal to their spot on the housing track of the board (in the center of the board).  Each round ends when all players cannot or will not take any more actions.  Players gather their meeples, any leftover cards not purchased are discarded from the game area, and nine new cards are placed from the A pile.  Once there are no longer 9 cards available in the A pile, players move on the the B pile, and eventually the C pile, where cards become more expensive but have better rewards.

The theme doesn’t really do much for the game, but the artwork is excellent.  The rulebook is well-written. Materials are of high quality. (Fabric cards, I believe.)  And things are well noted on the board and cards.

Overall, this game is very unique.  It utilizes simple mechanics, but injects complexity by forcing players to plan ahead how to spend actions in Phases 1 and 2 of each round.  And interaction with other players can really throw someone’s strategy out the window.  You have to play smart to win, but the game doesn’t always go according to plan.  Have multiple options, just in case.  If you’re looking for something unlike other games in your library, give this one a try.

Verdict: Highly-recommended!


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