Reviews

Artisans of Splendent Vale review— Splendid!

Artisans of Splendent Vale is one of those strange amalgams that is just different enough from anything else you’ve seen that it defies categorization. The majority of the time you spend with it, it’s an asymmetrical choose your own adventure book collection that you and up to three of your friends are going to be reading together. Occasionally, you’ll put your paperbacks down to bust open the spiral bound adventure book and do some dungeon delving that won’t feel too dissimilar to those who have played Mice and Mystics or Jaws of the Lion. Sometimes, your characters will come back home from their journeys to have some downtime, where you’ll unfold their brochures to engage in crafting and leveling. Combining everything the result is easily my favorite iteration of what legacy storytelling can be.

I’m going to be purposefully vague for a lot of this review to avoid spoilers, so let’s start with the part I can be the most explicit about: action scenes. As you go through the story, you’re going to hit points where it tells you to break off and play what most resembles a traditional dungeon crawler. The whole process is incredibly simple; you open the action scene book to the appropriate scenario, drop the meeples for your group and the enemies on the marked spaces, choose your equipment, and get started, with characters taking turns whenever the marker hits their picture on the pre-printed initiative track. Player turns consist of two steps: roll 3 dice and add them to the pool, then perform up to two actions provided by your character sheet or equipment. Enemies follow a step by step AI explained on the page opposite the map you’re playing on. I’ll be the first to admit that the board game here isn’t particularly mechanically interesting, especially when put alongside contemporary legacy dungeon crawlers, but it keeps the complexity bar for entry low and obtains tension elsewhere. The big thing is, this isn’t Gloomhaven, your character doesn’t just automatically heal up between encounters. You’ll actually track your damage every game, with real repercussions for these characters you’ll grow to actually care about.

The main way you’ll grow attached to your character is from the group reading y’all will be doing. For the most part, one person will be doing all your reading aloud, while everyone else follows along in their character’s book, chiming in with the occasional quip and insight unique to them. Occasionally, the party will come to a choose your own adventure style branch where you’ll step away and discuss what y’all want to do, but easily my favorite was the itemized landscapes you’ll come across. Main features will have entries in everyone’s book, but there are pictures where, for example, the character that loves plants will notice something growing that’s not native to the area and have an entry exploring that. It’s nothing crazy, but it really helps flesh the cast out as actually realized entities instead of just their class and crafting abilities(which are both also very unique to each character). I understand that the story will be a smidge too wholesome and saccharine for some, but given that it’s a story about neurodivergent queers and their allies, I enjoyed not being constantly reminded of how almost every aspect of the real world is hostile to our very existence.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Nick grew up reading fantasy novels and board game rules for fun, so he accepted he was a dork at an early age. When he's not busy researching the intricacies of a hobby he'll never pick up, Nick can be caught attempting to either cook an edible meal or befriend local crows.

85

Great

Artisans of Splendent Vale

Review Guidelines

While most legacy games focus your attention on opening the next container of cool stuff, Artisans focuses on cooperative storytelling. Sure, the game itself suffers a little to keep the barrier for entry low, but I'm totally convinced it's a worthy sacrifice.

Nick Dubs

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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