I Got 95 Theses--A Single-Take Review of Sola Fide: The Reformation

pic3134077_md.jpg

2017 is the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation--when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints' Church. These Theses outlined Luther's fundamental problems with the Catholic church, and sparked a Reformation that led to Protestantism. In Sola Fide, a 2-player, card-driven, area-control game from publisher Stronghold Games and designers Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard, you'll either be working to bring about the Reformation, or working to stop it. So does Sola Fide nail it, or should it be excommunicated? Let's find out!

 

The Components

  • 10 cardboard squares that represent the 10 Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • 1 deck of 45 Catholic cards
  • 1 deck of 45 Protestant cards
  • 16 Foreign Influence cards
  •  A pile of wooden cubes representing Influence, Rewards, and Power
  • 1 Military die
  • 1 Disputation token

 

IMG_3850.JPG

The Setup

Place the Imperial Circles facedown in a pyramid setup: 4-3-2-1, and turn the top three Circles faceup. Then place a Power token on the starting position of the Power track of each faceup Circle. Sort the Foreign Influence cards by their four colors, shuffle each pile, and set them to the side. 

Decide which player will play which faction, and take the corresponding deck. 

IMG_3851.JPG

You'll only use 15 of these 45 cards in a game, and it's recommended that you play with the preset 15 starting cards for your first game, as you're learning the mechanisms and flow. After your first game, you'll draft cards by drawing three, keeping one and discarding the other two, and repeating this until you each have 15 cards. 

While I think it's fine to play your first game with the Starting cards, I can't stress enough how much better this game is once you start drafting cards. Exponentially better. 

 

 

 

The Gameplay

Players take turns either playing a card from their hands, or drawing a card. The cards have you Convert Territories, Shift Power, Move the Disputation token, or discard cards to trigger an effect. There are also persistent Event cards, powerful Protestant cards that convert all neutral territories, and Catholic Military cards that can affect powerful change but with a chance for things to backfire on them

If at any time all of the territories on the dominant side of an Imperial Circle are controlled by the same player, that player claims that Circle. If the Dispensation token was on that Circle, the player also gets a Reward token. 

The player also draws and resolves one Foreign Influence card from one of the four colored decks. 

FullSizeRender (22).jpg

Blue cards shift power. 

Red cards convert territories.

Orange cards let you draw and discard cards. 

Green cards let you neutralize territories. 

When someone claims a Circle, the two Circles directly below that claimed one are turned faceup if they aren't already. 

Once all 10 Circles have been claimed, you add up the VPs on the Circles (and one VP for each Reward token you earned) and declare a winner. 

 

FullSizeRender (24).jpg

The Verdict

The draft is so important here. As I said, that's where the game opens up, and you should play the draft version as SOON as you can. You'll craft your hand to play a certain way, and because there are only 15 cards, you'll cycle through them and know just what your deck is capable of, and can tailor your game play accordingly. 

It'll take you a few games to learn the different cards. And playing with the same opponent creates interesting dynamics, as your opponent might expect you to draft the same cards you've played the last couple of times, so you switch things up and come from a different direction.

I really appreciated the theme, as there are few games that deal with Christianity in a thoughtful and not-bashing way, and even fewer that are good.  And since this is a reimplementation of Campaign Manager 2008, the designers could have made this a political game with some religious undertones. But the religious aspect is at the forefront, and the titles convey that the designers at least did their homework. (I have no idea if either designer is in any way religious themselves.) Having said that, this isn't a history lesson in a game. You won't learn much from actually playing the game, but it does come with a booklet that goes into more detail about each card, and its significance, and I did appreciate that. 

FullSizeRender (23).jpg

It's a tug-of-war, where you're moving here, and then there, to grab influence. You'll abandon areas, shift, sacrifice, and jockey. And this is, of course, dependent on the cards you end up getting. The biggest problem is that the end game can bog down as you're each jockeying for that last Circle--because there's nowhere else to go with your influence. It doesn't always happen, but it does happen, and it's not fun. 

Firestone's Final Verdict--Played as an abstract, tug-of-war filler, Sola Fide works. It's a good game, but not a great game--though it has a great theme. 

Theology of Games would like to thank Stronghold Games for providing a review copy of Sola Fide. This in no way affected my opinion of the game. 

 Thanks for reading! Have you played Sola Fide? What were your thoughts?