Rules and generic rules components (preview)

What is the goal of the game ?

⭐ Reaching for the stars ⭐

As the main characters of a high fantasy saga, your party of heroic and powerful warrior-mages will travel from chapter to chapter to carry out an epic quest.
Each chapter takes place in a different setting, that the heroes will explore to find the objectives hidden within; obtaining the cards featuring these objectives will be the key to victory !

You will use a different “story deck” for each chapter, from which you will draw in various circumstances : performing special actions, entering specific locations, vanquishing unique enemies… Some of these cards display a « star » icon.

no captionA red star provides insight into the main objective followed by your heroes.

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black star is a side objective, a valuable progress about another aspect of the story.

Whenever you draw one of these, it means that your party accomplished the corresponding objective. Depending on the chapter and the player count, you will have to achieve a certain amount of objective.

For instance, in the prologue to our saga (played in conventions to avoid spoiling the main game), this chart is revealed at the start of the adventure:

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Depending on the number of players, you will have to collect from one to four stars. One red and a variable amount of black ones.
I.e. A 3-player team will have to find one red star and two black stars hidden in the ruined fort.

These stars have to be found before the threat level is too high or the party is too exhausted to keep going… We’ll reveal more on that in a future post, but you are basically on a timer: heroes do not have time to lose!

As soon as you find all the required stars for your party, it’s a win! At the end of the round you stop the game (even if you were still low on the threat level scale and/or had enough vitality left), as your heroes leave the setting with all the required information to progress confidently towards the perils of the next chapter. No need to keep looking around, it’s time to move on!

However, if time runs out before this happens, you can find yourself in two different situations:

  • if you haven’t collected the red star(s), unfortunately, it is a complete defeat. You didn’t find what you were looking for, and have to start the chapter over.
  • if you didn’t get all the required black stars but STILL managed to complete the main objective by collecting the needed red star(s), you did achieve your goal… With a bittersweet taste. The chapter will let you know what happens in that case, and what dire consequences you will have to face in the next chapter. You don’t have to start over, but some changes will affect the story ahead, potentially making your life a little bit harder.

As the stars are hidden in the various locations of the setting, there is no specific order to collect them. You can accomplish your main objective before looking around for extra information, or gather all the sides bits of knowledge before jumping on the main story plot!

A chapter is usually played in one single game session. There are more hidden side objectives than the number required by the chapter, and the fact that you have a limited amount of actions to explore the labyrinthine setting means that it will be very hard to reveal everything in one attempt. Whether you win the chapter, barely make it or have to start it over, you will always discover new things when you will delve into this setting once more!

Exhaustion and Threat Level

In soul Raiders, we use a game board to keep track of these two parameters. You can see a WIP (but very advanced) version below.

Soul Raiders game board - Work in Progress

Vitality Track and exhaustion

The first thing that can puts and end to the chapter is the vitality of your party of adventurers.
The Soul Raiders are exceptional warrior-mages with a special connection between them, and a strong sense of the group: no one is left behind. Therefore, life is treated as a common pool: whenever one player takes damage, the whole group loses vitality points. These vitality points are displayed on a circular track (surrounding the main board, see picture above) ; each time you lose some, you will move a token along the track, until you reach zero.

Soul Raiders Vitality track - WIP

Whenever the group reaches zero vitality points, the whole party begins to feel the strain of their mutual effort in front of many dire obstacles. Starting next round and moving forward, all players will have one less action card in hand at the start of the turn (more on these action cards in a future post — they are key to explore the chapter).

Once the vitality token reaches zero, however, it keeps moving on the circular track! It then goes from zero to thirty (the maximum amount of vitality for a group), and will progress along the track until it reaches zero again, where the group will lose one more card, and so on and so forth.

The adventurers start the game with four action cards in hand ; if they lose all their vitality while they have only 2 cards in hand, they are too exhausted to keep going, and have to retreat with the information they gathered ; the game session is over at the end of the current round.

Soul Raiders Exhaustion track - WIP

Running around and chasing quests is hard work ; at the end of each round, the characters also suffer automatic “stress” damage, depending on the current threat level (see below). Better find these stars quick !

Threat Level

The second menace looming over the characters is the threat level. It symbolises the awareness of the enemies during this chapter and their aggressivity, as a band of powerful heroes is actively trying to ruin their plans!

The threat level is a track divided into three sections: low threat, medium threat and high threat. Each time the threat level increases by X, the threat marker is moved up by that many spaces. The potency of the consequences that the players will suffer correspond to the section where the marker is.

Soul Raiders Threat Level - WIP

When the threat is low, you automatically lose 2 vitality points at the end of each round due to stress, each relevant creature icon will spawn 2 generic creatures, and each relevant damage icon will inflict two vitality points. As you can see on the picture above, this goes up to 3 and 4, making it harder to progress as more and more enemies gather to block your path !

The threat level increases either when a threat level card is drawn from the generic creatures deck (the more creatures you have to draw and the more likely they are to ring the alarm!), but also in some specific (and dangerous) locations, and on scripted story cards.

Soul Raiders Threat Level and Exhaustion tracks -WIP

When the threat level reaches the last space of the track, the chapter is over ; again, the soul raiders cannot move forward and must fall back with the informations they collected.
As you can see in the picture above, the end of the threat level track and the exhaustion track are at a crossroads, because any of these conditions will stop the game — no matter where you stand on the other track. As we saw last week, stopping the game is not synonymous with defeat: if you collected all the red stars, you will still proceed to the next chapter of this epic story!

Being mindful of the threat level and its implications while staying in good health requires you to make tough choices, gauge the tempo of the game and take the right risks to achieve your quest as a skilled Soul Raider !

Action phase

A game session of soul raiders (or “Chapter”) is a succession of rounds, each round being divided in two phases: the action phase and the reaction phase.

The number of rounds is not definite, it will go on until the end game conditions are met — either by a glorious win, a narrow victory with a bittersweet taste, or a crushing defeat. Whenever these conditions are met, the session stops after a last reaction phase, and heroes proceed to the next chapter of the Quest, according to their result.

Action phase

This is the phase where the players act, as they evolve in the chapter to accomplish their objectives.

One of the most important things to note is that there is no turn order here, every group of players can evolve at its own pace. Player A can wait to see how player B actions unfold before playing, while Player C is doing her own thing in another part of the setting, rushing for information (and action! )… As a purely cooperative experience, the group will figure out how they want to play the game, and optimize their actions to progress and/or wait for each other as they see fit.

The Action phase goes on until all players have played or reserved their action cards in hand, then we proceed to the Reaction phase.

One of many dangerous encounters - Soul Raiders unique enemy illustration

One of many dangerous encounters – Soul Raiders unique enemy illustration

Type of Actions

Now that this is clarified, lets run you through those famous actions that you can undertake. They can be of four kinds:

  • Movement allows you to move from one location to another.
  • Combat allows you to get rid of enemies engaged with you and other players
  • Aptitude actions are special actions that you will be able to take, depending on the location and/or the story cards. They fall in four categories : Strength, Observation, Precision and Persuasion.
  • Spellcasting is… the casting of a spell (!) These have various effects in the game, from a straightforward Fireball to a cunning sneak peek into the future with Foresight, or a charming Enthrall that will numb the mind of your enemies…

The location is the heart of the gameplay, and will show the possibilities currently open to your hero. Let’s have a look at this card, from the prologue :

Soul raiders Prologue card

Here, you can :

  • Move to Location 7 for 6 action points
  • Move to Location 1 for 8 action points.
  • Take a Precision action to pick a lock and flip the location on its B side, for 5 action points.
  • Fight any enemy in this location
  • Cast any spell in your hand of cards

Action cards

If you’ve read our earlier posts, you might remember a rule called Exhaustion: the level of Exhaustion dictates how many Action cards you will draw at the beginning of Action phase, from your personal hero deck.

Soul Raiders Threat Level and Exhaustion tracks -WIP

This deck is made of 24 cards and is unique to your character (each hero has its own specificities).

Every player draws those cards at the same time, and — as we mentioned it earlier – can accomplish their action independently from each other.

Eneko action cards - Soul Raiders

The value of an action card is displayed at its top: here, 4 and 3 respectively.

To accomplish one action, a player can play any number of cards from their hand, as long as its sum matches the target number. When they don’t have any more cards in hand, they cannot play until the next round.

This is where the subtleties of clever hand management comes into play…. Any action card can be played to achieve a Movement, Combat or Aptitude action, BUT these cards come with different bonuses, displayed at the bottom of the card. A player using a card with a Movement bonus (green) or a Combat bonus (red) will only benefit from it if it is played for the corresponding action. Otherwise, simply use the value at the top of the card.

Bonuses from Eneko action cards - Soul Raiders

Exemple: if we look at the two action cards above, Eneko could use both to total 7 action points for an Aptitude action (4+3), but for a Movement action it would be worth 10 points (4+3+3 bonus) and for a Combat action, 8 points (4+3+1 per combat card played within the action, here it is only one combat card).

In the location 9A above, he would need both cards to pick the lock (without counting a potential hero bonus), he could move to location 7 by playing only his Movement card, or to location 8 by playing both cards – the Combat card on its own isn’t enough for any action displayed here.

A Spell has no bonuses : you can either use the card for its value displayed at its top to accomplish any kind of action, or for its spell effect. It’s up to you to decide whether you shall sacrifice this rare effect to accomplish a more mundane — but maybe vital — feat, or save the spell for later ! You cannot cast a spell with another action card.

Magic Portal - spell from the Soul Raider Zia deck

Any card action played is then discarded in the player’s discard pile, and will come back to their hand only when the draw pile is empty. To spice things up, you have the possibility to reserve up to 3 cards for a later turn: you will then discard the cards that you don’t want, trading them for the ones you saved earlier.

As you can see, choices abound. It might seem to be only a few cards, but the many ways that you can use it to move around in the setting, considering that you can play them in any player order and for any actions, will make for very interesting dilemmas.

Also note that there is no such thing as “trying” to do something in Soul Raiders ; either you succeed in the action (by having and playing the cards), or you can’t attempt it. Those heroes know what they are doing!

Reaction phase

As the game reacts, the heroes find themselve facing stress, injuries, ferocious monsters and many other events that will threaten their progression in the chapter. It is divided into several subphases.

1. Stress

The group loses as many health points as indicated by the current Threat level.
Threat level and Stress - Soul Raiders

It symbolizes the stress and exhaustion that the heroes accumulate as they run, fight and perform heroic feats to complete their quest. This loss cannot be prevented by any means, and as we mentioned in our previous posts, it forces your heroes to be always on the move to complete their quest before it is too late — hiding in safe places won’t help you for long!

2. Status

Poison status token - Soul Raiders

The group also loses one health point per poison, fracture and feartoken that they have on their hero boards . Statuses can affect heroes in a variety of ways, and can also be acquired by many different means!

3. Enemies reaction

We’ll delve into combat rules in a future post, but this is when the enemies attack the group ! Some effects might have triggered an early attack from their part during the Action phase (like the Ambush icon), but usually the heroes had a chance to dispatch their foes before they get attacked — if they played their hand well.

Unique enemy for Soul Raiders

This rule is pretty straightforward: for each apparent shield on the card of each enemy engaging a hero, the group loses one health point. Some monsters display several shields, others have abilities linked to their attack… Better get rid of these enemies before they get angry !

Exemple: if they were facing the single enemy displayed above, the party would lose two Health points. If the spectre is wounded and one shield is covered by a token, they would lose only one health point. The numbers inside the shields do not matter here.

4. Location reactions

Prologue location - Soul Raiders

Finally, the setting itself reacts to the heroes’ presence. For each location where you have at least one hero, apply the effects triggered by the reaction icons (orange) at the bottom of the location. Players choose the resolution order of the locations, and must apply all the effects (left to right) before choosing another location.

These effects are really varied. You can expect reinforcements as more enemies jump on your party, an alarm that raises the threat level, Story cards to draw, etc. The severity of some these effects are linked to the Threat level. We’ll get back to this when we describe the anatomy of a location.

Reaction icons - Soul Raiders

Exemple : Let’s look the two orange icons at the bottom of location 6B : the first one is Alert, which moves the threat marker by one on the threat track. The second is Reinforcements, that adds a number of random enemies corresponding to the current threat threshold (2, 3 or 4) — they are drawn from the random enemies draw pile and split between the heroes on the location.

Effects will be resolved from left to right, so if the threat level reachs a new threshold after resolving the Alert icon, one extra enemy will show up with the Reinforcements !

Considering we only take into account the current locations of the player, choosing wisely where to end your hero’s turn is of utmost importance…

Once this last step is completed, the round is over. If the end game conditions are not met, players start a new round, with another action and reaction phase, and so on and so forth.

Locations

We mentioned several times that Locations are at the heart of our game. They are big sheets, 142x200mm, to provide enough space to hold all the informations, the heroes’ miniatures and tokens.

Anatomy of a Location

  1. The Location number. There are around 40 locations per chapter.
  2. Sometimes there is a padlock displayed. This means that the Location can be flipped to its B side only if specific conditions are met. Reminder : by default, a Location is automatically flipped when you enter for a second time.
  3. The side of the Location, A or B.
  4. The header with number and name of the chapter currently played.
  5. The icons showing the effects triggered by the heroes when they enter the Location. There can be any number of icons, and you resolve them from left to right.
    – By default, only the first player to enter apply these effects, but sometimes a “group” symbol indicates that all players entering have to apply those effects.
    – If these icons are Blue, it means that they apply immediately when you flip them on its B side, even if you were already present on the location (if the Location was flipped by an action like the Precision Action of our example, for instance)

    – Beside those icons, you might find additional gameplay instructions above it, that you need to apply beforehand.
  6. A flavor text sometimes gives additional information about the feel of the place, events that are happening, or any information that can’t be seen on the picture. It is not always present.
  7. A pretty picture by Guillaume Tavernier external image
  8. The various actions that you can perform in the Location. Here, you can :
    – spend 6 action points to move to Location 7
    – spend 8 action points to move to Location 1
    – spend 5 actions point to perform a precision Action that allows you to pick the grate’s lock, and flip immediately the Location on its B side.
  9. Icons showing the effects triggered by the heroes during the Reaction phase. There can be any number of these, and you resolve them from left to right.

Visibility : some icons display a “Visible” symbol associated with it ; this means that you apply its effect only if you are NOT invisible (a powerful spell!). Being invisible will typically prevent you from falling into traps, ambushes, or raise the alarm, but the applications are many.

In the Location used here, if you are invisible nobody will see you to raise the alarm!

Effects triggered by entering in a Location

Here is a list of the most common effects triggered when you enter a Location:

  •  Random enemies : draw a number of random enemies corresponding to the current Threat Level.
  • Scenarized enemies : draw the scenarized enemy with the corresponding number.
  •  Threat : move the Threat token by 1 space on the Threat track.
  •  Ambush : enemies on the location attack immediately.
  •  Damage : lose an amount of Vitae corresponding to the Threat level.
  •  Increased visibility : reveal the indicated Location on the table. This gives you a sneak peek of what’s coming !
  • Story : draw the Story card with the corresponding number, and read it.
  • Other icons: let’s not spoil all the icons here ! But we have covered the basics external image

Effects triggered during the Reaction phase

Some of these icons are also used as Reaction effects, at the bottom of the Location sheet, on an orange background. If they require you to draw enemies of Story cards, simply decide which of the heroes on the location gets to do it (as there is no First player to enter anymore).
There are a few additional icons, the most common being:

  •  Alert : if at least one enemy is on the Location, move the Threat token by 1 space on the Threat track.
  •  Sandglass : add a Sandglass token on the location. These tokens have a variety of effects : it can be used as a countdown (when X tokens are displayed, flip the Location, draw a Story card, etc.) or quantify an effect (lose as much Vitae as the number of tokens, etc).
  •  B side : Flip the Location on its B side.
  • Other icons: you’ll have to play to find out external image

The B side

If you take a look at the B side of this same location, you can notice that some things have changed :

  • The grate is now open ! A new path is available, it will lead directly to 5B.
  • It looks like you made some noise and attracted attention, or took your sweet time opening the grate, because the Alert Reaction icon is now replaced by reinforcements showing up at the end of each round !

As you can see, iconography has an important place in Soul Raiders. It is combined in numerous ways to symbolize the story unfolding ; for Marc André, it’s a support to the players’ imagination. Not only does it prevent from constantly referring to long paragraphs or a book, but it also allows for a wider variety of interpretations, which is crucial as the characters can come from many different paths to end up in one same situation. While remaining story-driven and narrative, it smoothen Soul Raider’s gaming experience and replayability.

What you’ve seen so far are locations from the prologue, but we’ll leave you with a few illustrations of the first chapters of the game ! Black arrows show the future paths to be added to the Locations external image

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