Designed by Jared Hungerford and published by Sovereign Entertainment, Obsidian Tower is a fully co-operative fantasy adventure game where players need to work together to collect and cash in the cards they need to claim the artefacts that, when delivered in the correct order, will ‘banish the Witchlord’.
Play takes place on a grid made up of mostly randomly placed hexagonal tiles. These are each double-sided, with a red shaded side symbolising that the territory has been ‘invaded’ by the Witchlord’s minions. At the end of each player’s turn, invasion cards are revealed indicating which further hexes must be flipped to their invaded side, and periodically the invasion cards that have been played are shuffled back into the deck. This means than an already invaded hex can come up a second time – in which case the hex is removed from the game.
If you’ve played Matt Leacock’s Forbidden Island, the mechanics for Obsidian Tower will certainly seem familiar. It’s fair to think of this game as one of the increasing number of Pandemic variants where players have to use their characters’ asymmetric powers to pass around and collect in one place the treasure cards they need to fulfil the game’s objectives while fire fighting against an existential threat. Among the actions players can take, aside from moving, is ‘reinforcing’ an invaded tile (ie: flipping it over to its uninvaded side). As the game progresses, players will find themselves forced to spend much of their time dashing around the grid reducing the risk of tiles being disappeared by double invasion. If the tiles at which the game-winning artefacts can be claimed are destroyed before the players collect those artefacts, then the game is lost.
Obsidian Tower makes for an enjoyable romp that can be played through in under 30 minutes. It takes up to six players, though it comes with eight different character abilities (with two more in each of the mini-expansions that will come as part of the game’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign). The characters’ special abilities are quite widely different and can be almost impossible to read across the table, so we’re hoping the finished version of the game will include reference cards listing each of the powers. Players all play with open hands of treasure cards but because invasion cards are revealed at the end of each player’s turn, the game actually increases in difficulty with the number of players. According to the designer, you have 60% chance of winning against the Witchlord playing with two but that falls to 40% with six players. The mini-expansions each shake things up a bit and both further ramp up the difficulty.
Obsidian Tower will especially appeal to those who love Forbidden Island and the various incarnations of Pandemic, but it’s accessible enough to work too as an introduction to this type of game. The game benefits from attractive art, even if the Scout does look a little underdressed for inclement weather. The version shown here on Board’s Eye View is a preview prototype, so expect some changes between it and the finished version. Sovereign Entertainment are bringing the game to Kickstarter in the next few days and we’ll add a link to the KS campaign when that goes live.