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Artisans of Splendent Vale

Artisans of Splendent Vale

Artisans of Splendent Vale

Today we’re looking at a fascinating campaign game, Artisans of Splendent Vale, designed by Nikki Vales and published by Renegade Studios. In this narrative-driven game, you take on the role of one of four friends living in Splendant Vale, each with a technical specialty. This game will take a fair number of sessions to finish, and there is quite a bit of reading to be done. Let’s get into our review!

Game Overview

In Artisans of Splendent Vale, you are playing through a grand adventure. The game is split into two distinct halves. One half is the action scenes book. This spiral-bound book has glossy pages and highly designed artwork featuring the “game board” on one page for your action scene. On the other side, the order of each character and enemy completes their turn and special setup and play instructions for this scene.

Most of the game does not take place in the action scene book. Instead, each character has a narrative book of their own. These books are each easily 200 pages long. These books contain numbered passages. For the most part, all passages appear in each character’s book; however, within the passages, each character may have their own dialogue that only appears in their copy of the book. In everyone else’s book, there is a placeholder symbol representing the character followed by an ellipsis representing that character is speaking. At the end of each passage, the players have decisions, leading to other passages in the books. Sometimes those decisions are specific to the character, and that passage number is only found in the character’s book. Other times the decision leads to an action scene, as mentioned previously. This interplay between characters and their unique narrative and the action scenes keeps drawing us back to see where the story goes!

Game Components

Artisans of Splendent Vale come with several unique components to this game. The most prominent of which is the character-specific narrative book. It is impressive how this book was constructed. The passages are numbered, but you don’t read in sequential order, and it is like a massive choose-your-own-adventure book. Some passages contain images of the rooms you are in, either top-down, like a game board, or an illustration of the room from eye level. Those images have different numbers printed in various locations. These may be the same numbers as your fellow players have in their books on the image or even different numbers if some of the activities are unique to a character. For instance, the image might have a book on a bookshelf. Everyone sees the book in their image, but only Javi sees a number on the book. This means that book is unique to his story and that passage number only appears in his narrative book.

In addition to these narrative books, a collective action scene book is used as a game board for fighting and defeating enemies. The game comes with an index of cards containing weapons, armor, items, and trinkets you gain throughout the adventure. These help you to achieve the story objectives.

Speaking of the story, the game comes with a fold-out map of the entire Spendant Vale. As you progress through the story, you fill in newly available locations for you to choose to visit on your next play session. All these locations drive your campaign group back into the story.

The final set of components worth mentioning is enemy and player figure meeples. These are excellent, and each meeple looks like the player character and enemies in the action scene book. What we will say, though, about these is that many enemies have multiple copies of meeples. This can cause a bit of confusion at first. That is until you realize that each meeple has a dice icon. This icon shows which copy it is, and depending on the number of players, you may only use a certain number of each enemy (this is how the difficulty level can be adjusted).

Game Setup

In a game ofArtisans of Splendent Vale, you typically play one or two “days” within the story. At the beginning of the campaign, you must set up your character and take the starting Stat sheet and any starting afflictions. As you return to the game, players only need to grab their narrative book, stat sheet, and a pencil. Then one player needs to lay out the action scene book and sort the meeples and other tokens into their respective piles. Once all that’s done, you should be ready to play!

Game Play

The gameplay for Artisans of Splendent Vale kicks off immediately, with you taking on a thief and her gang overlooking a cliff. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of how the game plays, these action scenes are entertaining! You get to try out the weapons you crafted in earlier sessions, and the game uses a set of custom dice. To start a round of the action scene, you roll eight dice to form the dice pool, then each player, on their turn, rolls three more dice. The dice have symbols representing what you can do, from moving to fighting or defending. Each character’s stat sheet shows what specifically these symbols do. These skills are upgraded using stickers throughout the adventure. So it’s a legacy game, but the creators have a supplemental box you can buy that allows you to reset the entire game if you wish to reuse characters from a previous playthrough. When it comes time for the enemies to take their turn, one player rolls a die not in the pool to determine which actions they take that are printed in the action scene.

Often the goal of the action scene is to defeat enough enemies to complete the scene or reach a specific location on the game board.

The goal changes with each action scene, and I’m sure there are more goals that we still need to get to in our playthrough.

The other part of the game, the narrative book, is no less fun and enjoyable. We love the writing; it keeps everyone engaged, specifically with specific dialogue and choices only available to particular characters. We are doing a two-person play-through right now, and generally, in a game like this, we’d each take on two characters. We decided against this on this game, and it still plays well. Whenever you reach something in your book that is a character you aren’t playing as a group, you just skip over that dialogue, and the narrative works just as well.

The passages in the book present choices for the group to take. When the group decides to follow a choice, everyone turns to the same passage in their own book, and one person reads the general narrative.

Overall Impressions

With Artisans of Splendent Vale, this is a game we keep revisiting because we love to get lost in its narrative. The story is exciting, and it’s full of adventure. We’re only about “10 days” into the game of about 30 possible sessions, and we’re excited to see where the narrative takes us. We highly recommend this game for players who love adventure and narrative-driven games. In the action scenes, there is some strategy on how you play; however, you are at the mercy of the dice roll. You must adjust your strategy if you don’t get the dice you need.

We also love the crafting aspect of this game. Each character crafts differently based on things you’ve found during the game and how you put them together. For instance, Harinya crafts potions based on recipes she’s found along with ingredients, whereas Javi uses ingredients to craft new tech upgrades.

If you like the sound of this game, it’s coming to our store soon! Our review copy was from the Kickstarter we got earlier in the year!