Covil: The Dark Overlords Review

Covil: The Dark Overlords is a game by Luís Brüeh, published by Vesuvius Media. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of dark overlord of their own living breathing fortress, known as the Covil. Players will be fighting to control different regions surrounding an isolated town. They will have to acquire powerful minions as well as summon new troops to battle their enemies. In the end, the player that can gain the most powerful warriors to their side, while protecting their fortress and padding their treasury with gold and powerful relics, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the game board is placed in the middle of the play area. The specific game board used is based on the number of players. Each player chooses a color and is given the Champions Hall player board, 5 Troop meeples, 5 Henchmen cards and Fortress in their chosen color. They also receive a HP token and a Gold token. The HP token is placed on the Fortress Health track on the 5 space, while the Gold token is placed on the 5 space of the Treasury track. The Henchmen are placed on the empty minion slots of the player’s Champions Hall. A Rebel meeple is placed on the town space of the board. The remaining Rebel meeples are placed in a pile near the board. The Dark Overlord cards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 1 card. Players will now place their Dark Overlord on the Evil Throne space of their Champions Hall. The remaining Dark Overlord cards are returned to the box. The Exhaustion tokens are placed in a pile near the board. Each player takes one and places it on their Dark Overlord with the Exhausted side face up. The Mercenary cards are shuffled together. 24 Mercenary cards are set aside from the deck, while the remaining Mercenary cards are returned to the box. The top 6 cards are placed in a row near the board, while the deck is placed beside the row. If there are any Mercenaries with a cost of 10 gold or more, these are shuffled back into the deck and a new card is drawn to replace it with. The Power Relic cards are shuffled together. Each player is then dealt 2 cards from the deck. These cards are placed in the player’s hand. The remaining deck is placed in a stack near the board. Each player is given a Quick Rules reference card. The first player is chosen and is given the Evil Scepter/First Player token. Players choose their starting zones, placing their fortress along with 2 of their Troop meeples onto one of the colored spirals spaces on the board. This is done in turn order. Once all of this has been taken care of, play now begins.

The game is played over a series of 4 days. Each day is divided into 3 phases; Morning, Afternoon and Night. The first phase is the Morning phase. In the Morning phase each player will stand up all of their Troop meeples, starting with the first player. Once that’s done, players will then check to see if they need to summon one or more new troops to their fortress. The number of troops that a player should have is determined by the day. A reference chart in the rulebook also provides the number of troops to use. These troops are placed standing up in the territory of the player’s fortress. Once each player has the required number of troops, play moves to the next phase.

The second phase is the Afternoon phase. In this phase, each player in turn order will take a turn. On a player’s turn, they may take each of the following actions once, in any order. They may acquire a minion, perform any number of free actions and they may lie down 1 troop to perform a troop action. One thing that can be done is to acquire a minion. Minions are purchased from the Mercenary pool by paying it’s cost with any combination of gold from the player’s treasury, by discarding Power Relics from the player’s hand and by returning a ready minion from their player mat back to the pool. The amount of gold that each Power Relic or Minion provides is equal to their cost in gold. That means that 2 Minions or Power Relics that cost 2 gold each would provide 4 gold together to be able to acquire a new minion. It should be noted that a player may never have more than 6 minions in their Champions Hall at a time. Each minion has a class, base stat and ability. These determine what abilities can affect it, what combat attribute that it’s best at and what special actions that it may perform. Abilities can be either passive or instant. Passive abilities are always active and can either give a bonus to certain troops or it can provide a non combat advantage such as allowing a player to purchase a new minion for less gold. Instant abilities can either aid in combat or can provide a free action. Another thing that the player can do is to perform any number of free actions. As just noted, some minions provide free actions this is done through the Command ability. Actions such as activating a Power Relic of exhausting a minion to use it’s Command ability are all considered free actions. It should be noted that Power Relics are gained in one of 3 different ways. They can be bought at any time by spending 3 gold to purchase one from the deck or by dealing the last hit point to an enemies fortress. They can also be gained during the night phase, more on this in a moment. Finally the last action that may be performed is to lie down one troop to perform one troop action. If a player has any troops still standing on the board, then they must lie one down and perform it’s troop action. Troop actions include moving the troop, resting a minion, repairing the fortress, gaining a gold or attacking. To move a troop, the troop is moved into and adjacent zone and laid down. Some passive abilities allow a player to move 2 spaces instead of just one. To rest a minion, the player must lay down a troop. This allows the exhaustion token on a minion to be flipped to it’s tired side. If the token is on the tired side already, then it may be removed from the minion. To repair the player’s fortress, the player must lay down one of their troops which then allows them to gain 1 health point on the fortress health track. To gain 1 gold, the player must lay down a troop which then allows them to gain 1 gold on their treasury track. To attack, the player must lay down a troop and exhaust one of their minions. Attacks may be either melee or ranged. When an attack is declared, the player must also declare which enemy troop that they are attacking. Melee attacks may only be performed with troops that are in the same zone as the troop they are attacking. Every troop has a base melee attack of 1. Ranged attacks may only be performed by troops that are in an adjacent zone to the troop they are attacking. The outcome of the attack is determined by comparing the strength of the attacking troop with the defender’s defense score. The attack strength is equal to the base strength, if performing a melee attack, along with the base stat of the minion exhausted to perform the attack, as well as any reinforcement abilities that the player’s minions have plus any bonuses provided by active power relics. All defending troops begin with a base defense of 1. A player’s defense score is equal to the base defense score plus any reinforcement ability bonuses provided by their minions. The defending player may also exhaust any of their ready minions with a defense base stat or activate any power relics with defense abilities to add to their defense score. It should be noted that the attacking player may activate one or more of their power relics in response to the defending player’s defense. This can continue back and forth until both players pass. Once the attack strength and defense score are determined, the scores are compared to see who won. If the defender wins, nothing happens. If the defender loses and their troop was standing up, the attacker gains 2 gold and the defender must lie down their troop and move it into an adjacent zone. If the defender loses and their troop was lying down, the attacker gains 2 gold and the defender must remove their troop from the board. If the defending troop was in the same zone as their fortress and they lost the combat, the difference in damage between the attacker’s strength and the defender’s score is dealt to the fortress. If there are no troops present in the zone with a fortress, then the fortress takes all the damage. If damage is dealt to an enemy’s fortress, the attacking player gains 1 gold. If the player deals the last HP of damage to an enemy’s fortress then they will also draw a power relic. Once a fortress is destroyed, the fortress token is flipped over to the explosion side. Destroyed fortress can no longer be repaired and will not grant any victory points at the end of the game.

The final phase is the Night phase. In this phase, 5 actions are performed in order. First, all players must discard any of their active power relics. Next, all the cards in the Mercenary pool are discarded and 6 new cards are drawn. If there are no more mercenaries left to be drawn, then the game ends at the end of this Night phase. Next, players collect protection fees for having dominance over a terrain type. That is to say that the player controls the majority of the zones of that terrain type by having more troops in it then their opponents. Players that have dominance collect 2 gold for that particular terrain type. Next, players will draw 1 power relic from the deck for each troop that they have in the town zone. For every power relic card that is drawn, a rebel meeple is placed in the town zone. If there are 5 rebels in the town, they will retaliate. What this means is that each troop in the town zone will receive an attack with a strength of 3 proceeding clockwise around the table. Players are able to defend themselves just like normal, one troop at a time. All non destroyed fortresses are also attacked with a strength of 3. Once again, players can defend as long as they have at least 1 troop in their fortress. Once the rebels attacks have been resolved, all rebel meeples are removed from the town zone. Finally, players are able to rest each of their minions once for free. Exhausted minions become tired and tired minions become ready, removing the token from the minion entirely. Once this has been done, play starts back over with phase 1.

The game continues until the end of the fourth night phase that the mercenary deck is empty. When this happens, final scoring begins. Players score victory points from Influence abilities, minions cost, gold in the player’s treasury, for having a living fortress and for the gold on power relics still in the player’s hand. The victory points are added up and the player with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has some really cute and fun looking pieces to it. First there are the 2 double sided game boards and the 4 Champions Halls player boards. These are quite thick and have your standard fantasy style artwork to them. The game boards look a bit like those in Small World while the player boards have an evil throne on them along with some cute minion characters in the corner. Each player board is color coded and match the colors of the fortress tokens and henchmen cards. Speaking of tokens, the game comes with a small punchboard of tokens of various types. There are HP tokens that look like hearts for the Fortress Health track. There are gold tokens that sort of look like a smurf with a gold hat on that are used for the Treasury track. There are several exhaustion tokens that have a sleepy minion on one side and a hour glass on the other. The sleepy side is for exhausted minions while the hour glass is for tired ones. The fortress tokens are a bit larger and come in 4 different varieties. Each one has a unique look and color, for instance, the green fortress looks like Castle Grayskull. Then there is the evil scepter which looks just like one. This is used as the first player marker. The game also comes with a bunch of wooden troop meeples in 4 different colors and rebel meeples in brown. The troops look like little dwarves with viking helmets on, while the rebels sort of look like some kind of military meeple. Finally there’s a stack of regular sized cards and a stack of smaller euro sized cards that all have a linen finish to them. The regular cards consist of the Dark Overlords, Henchmen and Mercenaries, while the euro sized cards consist of Power Relics. The Henchmen cards come in 4 different colors and contain identical sets of 5 henchmen for each player. The Mercenaries and Dark Overlords have cartoon like characters on them that are a mixture of cartoon characters from the 80’s and 90’s. Each of these are super cute and fun and remind me of some of my favorite cartoons growing up. The Power Relics also have some references to those same cartoons. The game also includes some regular sized quick rules cards. These are a nice reference to help you remember the different phases and steps in the game. Needless to say, for a game that doesn’t contain any miniatures, I absolutely LOVE the way it looks. The quality of the pieces is absolutely amazing. I especially love the character and power relic cards. They’re super fun and silly. The iconography is really simple to learn and easy to remember. It didn’t take long to learn either. Overall, I’m absolutely thrilled with this game. No doubt this has to be one of the best looking games that I’ve seen all year.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very well written and designed. Everything is explained in great detail and in a step by step process. Each step and phase is easy to understand. The book has lots of great pictures and examples. There’s a great picture that shows how everything should be set up, as well as explaining each of the different card types in thorough detail. There are also lots of great flavor pictures that help to make the book even more fun to look through. The book also includes rules for solo play that use an AI controlled dummy player to fight against. On the back page of the book there’s a very helpful and convenient gameplay summary that includes a summary of the different phases. There’s also a section of basics for scoring. This is a great addition that makes things a lot easier to play. The fact that the book can be passed around or put where everyone can see it makes this a great resource. I really think that this is an extremely good rulebook. I didn’t see anything that was difficult to understand or read through. The rules themself are quite simple to learn. Needless to say, I’m very happy with the overall look and feel of the rulebook. It’s one of the best that I’ve seen this year.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is an amazing game that plays as good as it looks. I’ve already mentioned the quality of the components and the excellence of the rulebook. The game itself is quite a lot of fun as both a multiplayer game and a solo one. With the both the multiplayer game and the solo one it’s all about scoring the most points. This is done in a kind of worker placement style way while also dealing with a bit of area control as well. You’ll need to be hiring on new and more powerful mercenaries while letting go of the weaker ones. You’ll also be moving your troops around the board in an attempt to dominate as many different terrains as possible. Each time you do this, you’ll be gaining more gold in which to hire even stronger mercenaries or to purchase some power relics to help you out with. Of course your opponent will also be trying to do the same thing which means that you’ll be butting heads on a constant basis causing random bouts of combat. Planning out when and where to attack is crucial as one wrong move can lead to your base being overrun and destroyed, costing you a good chunk of victory points. With this game you can be aggressive and try to do as much attacking as possible to wear down your opponents, or you can play more defensively and try to bolster your army against incoming attacks. Either way you play it’s all up to you. The solo game pits the player against a predetermined set of moves via an AI. The rulebook lays out each of the AI’s moves and which one that the dummy player will go for first versus the last choice it would make. Of course players that want a real challenge can always play against 2 dummy players, making things really hard. I have to say that I quite like the challenge that the solo game provides. It has just the right amount of tension and really feels like you’re playing against a real opponent. I have to say that I’m not usually a fan of most area control games. However I think the inclusion of the worker placement portions of the game along with the solo rules and the great looking artwork push this one over the top for me. Fans of area control games like Small World should really enjoy this one. I also think those of us that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s will enjoy finding the different cartoon references as you play the game. This is a game that I highly recommend. It’s lots of fun.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Covil: The Dark Overlords is a game that mixes 80’s and 90’s cartoons together into a silly and fun area control style game with a bit of worker placement thrown in for luck. The game doesn’t take too long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The components are absolutely amazing. The cards are fun and full of cartoon goodness with a mish mash of characters from the 80’s and 90’s. Everything is brightly colored and fun to look at. The rulebook is well designed and easy to read through. It even includes rules for solo play. The game itself is a lot of fun. It mixes area control with worker placement to make a truly enjoyable game to play as well as look at. This is one that I think can be played by the entire family without a lot of trouble. The artwork is all cute and fun with nothing over the top or graphic. Fans of games like Small World should find a lot to enjoy with this game. The solo game is especially fun, in my opinion and the AI actually feels like you’re playing a real person. I enjoy the strategy and puzzle like nature of the game in both modes of play. This is definitely one of my most favorite games of this year. I highly recommend this game. It’ll bring back a lot of fond childhood memories.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Vesuvius Media at their site.

http://www.vesuviusmedia.com/

 

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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