Tired of being a hero? Always saving the villagers from the latest threat. Maybe you just feel like doing some pillaging yourself for a change. Well in Covil: The Dark Overlords you take on the role of the bad guy, ransacking and pillaging the nearby town while vying for control of the map against your enemies.
Covil is a 1-4 player area control game in which players use troops to control the board, henchman to do their dirty work and utilize powerful relic cards to turn the tides. Covil is played over four rounds – “days” – with each day consisting of three phases – Morning, Afternoon, and Night. Setting up the start of the game, each player will receive an Overlord, five starter henchmen, will place a fortress and their troops in a starting location on the map – with one Rebel starting in the town – players will then proceed in turn order through the phases for each round:
In the Morning phase, each player will summon new troops onto the board. Everyone always starts each round with the same number of troops, regardless of how many you may have lost in previous rounds. For day one, players receive only two troops, but by day four each player will command five troops – making for a very crowded board.
Troops freshly summoned always enter the board in the space where your fortress resides, but troops still in play at the end of a round remain in their regions at the beginning of the next round.
Once players have refreshed their troops and summoned new ones, the Afternoon Phase begins – this is where the heart of the gameplay lives. In turn order, each player will choose one action to perform at a time until all players have exhausted their troops.
1 – Acquire a Minion: Each round a new batch of minions will be available for hire. At the start of the game, you will employ a number of henchmen already, but they aren’t exactly winning any awards at the Tough Stuff competition. Using gold, trading in power relics, or even trading up previously acquired henchman, you can hire new and improved henchmen to help you take control of the board.
Minions, once hired, join your champions hall – taking one of the five slots on your player board. Minions fill one of five roles: Assasin, Sorcerer, Guardian, Sabateur and Warrior – all have different strengths and depending on your strategy you may want more of one type or another. Don’t forget though, these minions are mercenaries for hire. If you hire a new minion and return one of your existing minions to make space, they are now available for your opponents to hire as well.
2 – Perform a Free Action: Many of the minions you employ have either a passive or activated ability. As a free action, you may activate one of such abilities by exhausting the minion – however, choose carefully when you want to utilize such an ability, as once a minion is exhausted, they must be refreshed from exhausted to tired and finally back to ready before they can be used again.
These free actions can range from moving a troop to activating power relics that have already been used – providing a big advantage if used at the right time.
3 – Perform a Troop Action: There are several ways to utilize a troop action, but again, plan carefully as you have a limited number of troop actions each round – and they can be taken away from you!
The first is to move. You may not always have a minion action to help move your troops around the board – and after all this is an area control game – so you will have to use your troops themselves to move. By laying down the selected troop, you may then move that troop to another adjacent space.
Secondly, you can choose to rest a minion. As we mentioned earlier, minions exhaust easily, and don’t recover quickly. To help speed them in their recovery you can lay down a troop to recover a minion one step (from exhausted to tired, or from tired to ready).
Third and fourth, you can lay a troop down to either repair a health point on your fortress, or to gain one gold.
And last, you can lay a troop down to attack an opponent – yes here it is FINALLY, the fun – mwahahahaha! Each troop in your army has a base stat set of one melee attack, one defence and one move, however – and this is where the strategy of the game can really build – a lot of minions you employ also give bonus stats to troops in specific locations. When you attack, select a minion to attack with (if performing a ranged attack it must use a minion with the range symbol as troops have base range attack of zero), gaining the bonus in the top right corner of their card, add all the zone specific bonuses and blast your opponents with thE POWER OF DARKNES- hmhmm. Sorry.
Now your opponent does get a chance to defend, all troops have a base defense of one, they can activate a guardian minion to add their defense stat, as well as bonus defense from any minion providing a defense boost in the specified region and lastly, the defender may play a power relic card to either provide the special action benefit or a defense boost. The attacker may respond by playing a power relic in retaliation and so on until both players are done playing cards. At the end, if the attacker has a higher value (tie goes to the defender) the defender must either lie down his troop – forfeiting an action that could have been taken later on – or must remove the troop from the board if it was already lying down.
Finally, the Night Phase occurs when all players troops are lying down. The night phase acts as a clean up phase, where players discard active power relics, refresh the minions available for hire, collect fees, raid the town and rest their minions.
During each round, a player may have no more than five active relics and must discard all played relics at the end of each round. The protection fees are where the area control aspect come into play. For each terrain type – forest, mountain, desert and water – whoever has dominance gains two gold.
At the end of each round, players with troops in the town will raid it, drawing bonus power relic cards. However, for every card drawn this way, a rebel is added to the town. If the rebel force reaches five, they riot – attacking every troop present in the town and their owners fortresses!
At the end of the four rounds, the player with the most victory points is the winner – coming from gold in the treasury, gold value on minions, gold value on power relic cards, minion abilities can grant bonus points and if your fortress is still alive you gain five bonus points.
Components and Art
The advance copy of Covil that I had for this review is a prototype, so the end result I’m sure will vary from what I you see in these photos. Having said that, as a prototype goes the quality of the materials is quite high, so I expect the production copies will have wonderful components.
There are two game boards provided for use with different player numbers, and there are several more boards that have been unlocked as stretch goals. I really love this added feature of the different boards as they provide a different strategy based on the layout and where you choose as your starting location. The different number of spaces for different players has a Smallworld aspect which keeps players in close proximity with all player counts.
The artwork in Covil is wonderful. I really enjoy the playfulness given to the different characters and I love that each minion and overlord is unique. Again, I’m not sure if the art is final but from the board to the cards, the art gives a really polished look to the game.
Overall, Covil is a great game. It has a light gameplay with easy to learn rules that combined with the great artistic style gives it an accessibility to a wide audience. Covil also has good depth though if you really plan ahead and utilize all the combo features offered through minion powers and relic cards. As I mentioned above, I love the game boards with the different sizes to allow for proximity to opponents. While I enjoyed the game with two players, I actually preferred it with three as the added player throws a wrench into any well laid plans.
The drawbacks? Well there aren’t many… The biggest one I have is that while the theme is a fun idea, it didn’t really show during gameplay. Since your Overlord and henchmen all exhaust/recover at the same rates and while yes, some of the Overlords have unique abilities, I didn’t really feel as though I was “playing as the Overlord”. There is also a solo mode to the game, and while I didn’t finish a full game of it I gave it a go and, keeping in mind that I’m not a big fan of solo board game play to begin with, I didn’t find it that captivating – though it is a nice feature for those that enjoy solo play.
Covil is on Kickstarter right now, ending July 3rd so check out the campaign here and pledge for your copy today!
You can also enter to win a copy by visiting out giveaway’s page here!