21/11/2019

Sarah’s Vision: Storytelling with dexterity [Review]

Sarah’s Vision is a story-driven board game which combines Uno Stacko and a touch of the story campaign. Intriguing, isn’t it? What’s more, this game is published by Baloise Group, a company that runs its business in insurance. They developed this game along with Inside the Box (ITB) and theStorytellers.

ITB has back then published one hit in Kickstarter, Sub-Terra (you can read our review here). Let’s find out if this game might be for you!

Game overview

“If Jenga or Uno Stacko is not tense enough for you, then here we spice it up a bit with a story campaign!” Yes, this is exactly Sarah’s Vision. You will live in a not-so-distant future; the world unites as one and everything goes fine in peace. However, several agents are working underground to bring back the chaotic world so they can thrive again to gain power. Will you be able to stop them?

Sarah’s Vision is a game for 1 to 4 players (yeay, another game for a solo player). One game session needs like approx. 30 minutes.

The setup

First, spread up the grid in the middle of the table. You have to draw the Resource Blocks from the bag to get two 2-colour-Blocks; place them on each of the bottom’s Inspiration Grid for Engineer, Scientist, and Senator (the roles) Then, place the corresponding colour on the side’s Inspiration Grid. The rest of the blocks should be used to build the HQ Tower. Afterwards, place one Inspiration cube on each of the role’s Section.

Take out the Scenario box you want to use in the game. You have to keep all other cubes nearby so players can easily access it. Choose 3 out of 8 available characters you want to play in the game. You are good to go.

The gameplay

During the game, all players have to cooperate to manipulate the outcomes of the Event cards to make it more ‘bearable’ until the end of the game.

The game ends when the winning/defeat condition is met. The winning condition is when the players have successfully finished all the event cards. The defeat condition, on the other hand, is triggered when one of the three characters has five Danger cubes.

In order to keep the world’s peace, we need to take one of several possible actions before one of the five Event cards is resolved every turn. If the action you took do not help you to minimise the damage from the Event card, you and the other players can still manage it by playing Directive cards before resolving Danger and Inspiration.

The actions you can take include swap two Event cards’ positions, remove one revealed Event cards, reveal up to five facedown Event cards, and cover the outlined spaces on the Event cards by using the Resource blocks. You need to pay the cost (Resource blocks) to take one of these actions and to play several types of Directive cards. The Resource blocks can be pulled from the HQ Tower and/or used from the Inspiration and/or the Unlocked blocks grid. And that’s it…

Experiences on Sarah’s Vision

Sarah’s Vision was a very refreshing experience. A cooperative, story-driven board game that would challenge not only the mind but also players’ steady hands. I got a mixed feeling for this game. It was an excellent game but I think they can be far better with some tweaks.

Anyway, I tried all player counts and I think it doesn’t matter how many players you will have here, you will not have an alteration in the gameplay. However, it is worth mentioning that more players mean more ideas to overcome difficulties (except of course if you are a lone-wolf). This would be mentioned later on.

Also, I thought at first that taking three characters out of eight randomly to start the game would actually mean something, for example, the character perhaps has unique skills. It’s not the case here anyway; the characters you take would not actually contribute to the outcome of the game. However, it’s not actually influencing my experience, so I would let it slide.

What’s good…

Nice mechanic, it’s absolutely amazing. Their team really did a good job there adding a dexterity mechanic on top of the story campaign. It really gives another tense moment when we tried to pull the Resource blocks without collapsing the whole HQ Tower.

It’s a cooperative game where you have to manage your characters’ movement together. Nobody controls one character; you and your team take charge of all characters, the resources you gain/spend, and where to place the Inspiration.

Sarah’s Vision has a depth, strategy-wise. Unlike Jenga/Uno Stacko, the collapse of your HQ Tower does not mean the game ends; I really appreciate this one. Meanwhile, not only you have to be careful during your attempt to pull the blocks, but you also have to take care of how many Danger cubes already placed on the Location grid. You’ll have to program the movement of your characters and while doing so, try your best to manipulate the outcome of the Event cards to survive until the end.

The story is written beautifully; it’s a top-notch campaign. The near-future is depicted not as gruesome as we usually read from other authors or story. The artwork is also first-class; it looks nice both on the cover and the components.

I think this game is good for a team building session. All players can help each other in this game. For example, you can help the player on the right during his/her turn to stabilise the HQ Tower when he/she pulls the Blocks; you can help each other during the Directive card phase, too.

What can be better…

I spot a design failure after reading the rulebook: they put the HQ Tower too close to the Unlock blocks’ grid. It’s a minor ‘bug’ that’s proven to be fatal. During all of my game sessions, the HQ Tower always collapsed. The result? Sometimes the Unlock blocks and the collapsing blocks from HQ Tower would get mixed up. It would be good to separate these two grids apart (I cut the grids, by the way, before it gets annoying, LOL).

I think after all of the scenarios are played, people would not really play this game anymore. Replayability is offered by taking out the stories cards and just shuffle all the event cards. However, it would not really feel the same. One thing to solve this problem: future expansion, please? That would really do, perhaps with an additional mechanic or two that would possibly make an entirely new experience with Sarah’s Vision.

The Directive card phase, although I find it good for a team building session, I also think that it would be better if the player can play the Directive cards only during his/her turn. It’s good to reach the singularity (thematically speaking), but I think for the sake of strategy, this would be a good addition for the rules.

Verdict

First, good job, guys in Baloise Group! Who could suspect that an insurance company would publish such an excellent board game and on their first attempt? It could be better but hey, the bottom line is, Sarah’s Vision is a very good first step for them. This game can be used for your relaxed team building session, whatever your audience is. There’s a depth in the strategy and there’s also this dexterity touch, both of these elements are combined perfectly. The design for the HQ Tower and Unlocked blocks should be definitely corrected, by the way!

Sarah’s Vision will be a good game for all audiences, well almost all audiences. It may be less interesting for the veterans but it definitely will get some loves from the new players, perhaps also from them who want to take their game’s experience to the next steps.

Do I like it? Yes! So much! Will I play it again with new groups? Of course, but perhaps I’ll just be the audience. I’m waiting for the expansion, guys! Really, I hope you develop it!