Skoventyr: Is the Oniverse expanding to embrace...Danish folklore?

I haven’t heard this one mentioned here, but I picked up Skoventyr a few weeks ago and it is a pretty great solitaire challenge. It’s published by Shady Torbey’s company, InPatience, but designed by someone else (Morten Monrad Pederson, whom I believe works on the Stonemaier solitaire bots.)

It feels very similar in scope and concept to an Oniverse game, but darker and meaner as it is steeped in Danish demonic folklore. I’m finding it very difficult, but thrilling to play. The art reminds me of cursed little golden book illustrations and it has an adorable badger meeple.

Has anyone else has given it a try?

That looks like a fun shorter game…$22 on Amazon right now.

Just picked up Lords of Ragnarok which promises a decent solo game so need these other types of quicker games so I don’t get too burned out.

Thanks so much for the heads-up about this!

I have played about ten games, and I’m about to figure out the two “expansions” now. Which I suspect are really “the rest of the game”, as with Shadi Torbey’s designs.

I’m not sure how I feel about this being published by InPatience. On the one hand, I applaud them for giving designers the opportunity to publish their work, and I feel like Morten Monrad Pedersen has more than paid his dues by now. And I of course hope the game is wildly successful and everyone at InPatience gets filthy rich so they can publish ever more games! But I’m not really feeling the Oniverse “magic” in this design, partly because of the theming, and partly because the base game feels so convoluted.

The gameplay reminds me a lot of the Arkham Noir games, which are relatively simple single-deck set-collection ditties based loosely on Lovecraft’s stories, but brought to life with Yves Tourigny’s artwork (he’s also the designer!). In a similar vein, Skoventyr is just set-collection, with the usual card management, as you work your way through a deck of cards, trying to collect the requisite number of sets while avoiding the failstate. The overall concept is basically a badger running in a circle to get away from a block of misshapen wood representing the bad guy.

As @thatdudeguy mentioned, the theming is Danish folklore. The badger is a hero named Vogter (rhymes with “doctor”, believe it or not) and the bad guy is Old Eric, a Danish stand-in for the usual devil. If he catches the badger, game over with a loss. If the badger collects the requisite six sets, it’s a win.

It’s certainly a weird concept. But without better hooks to help me internalize the mechanics, the weird theming translates into arbitrary gameplay. Why does a Huldre wither the forest and let me recruit two free Allies? Does it have anything to do with her tail, or her weird back vagina? (I’m not even making this up!) Oh, look how cute the garden gnome Nisse is hoisting aloft his bowl of rice porridge, but what does that have to do with letting my badger run away one space if I can expose an adjacent ally? And could Old Eric’s minions be any less developed? I just collect two sets of two, two sets of three, and two sets of four, and I pretend that’s somehow defeating a pair of Gengangers, a pair of Mares, and a pair of googly-eyed Lindorm dragons? That’s all these cards do?

(To be fair, the “Lightman” expansion adds a touch more gameplay here.)

And to give you a sense for the convolution I’m talking about, there’s no simple single mechanic like “draw 1, play 1”, which is more or less how Arkham Noir works. Instead, there are a four actions available to you at any time (actually seven, since a few of the four actions break apart into various sub-actions). And the actions aren’t simple things like “draw a card” or “discard a card”; instead, they’re a variety of ways to interact with the cards and their symbols, and in order to help you remember the particulars for each action, the “player aid” is a set of cards you arrange like so:

As you can see, the actions are pretty detailed. It’s taken me a while to learn them all, and I was constantly realizing I’d forgotten some element or another, like having to shuffle the deck after discarding positioned allies, or only being able to take the farthest Future offering if it’s Old Eric, or having to discard withered Trees when a damage Tree option is played…you know, that sort of thing. For it’s size, weight, and playing time, it’s not an easy game to learn. Because in addition to the actions, there are also each of the card’s weird powers, and then the two expansions add two additional layers of gameplay with additional badger command cards. Eventually, this is the player aid you need for Skoventyr:

You got all that? By golly, you will if you expect to run through this little ten-minute game!

As for the artwork, I’m not terribly impressed. I mean, it’s cool that InPatience got Vincent Dutrait to lend his colorful drawings to Yet Another Boardgame, but this is the company that channeled Elise Plesse’s deliriously dreamy visions into gameplay! This is the company that gave life to a whole host of critters without having to write a single rule or explain a single thematic justification because it all felt of a piece, as if Torbey and Plesse were dreaming a single dream in tandem, transliterating it into wordless and numberless cards, without having to festoon the table with verbiage for how to do the things you’re supposed to do. I probably have too many expectations from the richness of Torbey and Plesse’s collaborations, but this artwork feels like something less, like something more prosaic, more like a job than a vision, more like the fulfillment of a contract than a creative expression. As much as I’d love to get a Danish folklore vibe, and especially that meanness mentioned by @thatdudeguy, I’m just not feeling it. I only get the sense of artwork slapped onto a game about a weirdly shaped block of wood chasing a badger in a circle while I do the obligatory set collection. : (

Maybe I’ll change my tune after I’ve messed with the expansions.

…and I just realized I’d only been moving Old Eric one space instead of two spaces when I failed a Risk Draw. Which explains why I was finding the game so easy. I think now I see what @thatdudeguy was getting at when he called it difficult!

So all my games so far get an asterisk, but at least I’m finally figuring out how it works. What a weirdly intricate design for such a “small” game!

Interesting read! I hadn’t made the connection to Arkham Noir, but that is spot on. “Defeating” the 2-, 3-, and 4-point monsters does feel thematically empty in comparison.

This is not a smooth or elegant game to play, unlike most of the Oniverse games, and maybe that’s why it feels a bit mean to me. I don’t have a coherent set of tools to use, but a mixture of ill-fitting actions that each destroy some bit of future choice. But I also kind of love that discomfort, and that may be why I’m still interested in the game.

I haven’t tried the expansions, because I don’t feel like I’ve internalized a basic winning strategy yet. I’m curious whether adding any new mechanics will make things slightly more complex than I want to handle in a short, memory-focused game.

Very well put, @thatdudeguy. That’s exactly what I’m chafing against, and you’ve expressed it as an observation about Skoventyr’s design instead of wording it as a complaint, which is what I did. Whereas I might characterize it as “clumsy”, there’s perhaps an argument to be made that it’s expressing a weird ecology among these shadowy/colorful creatures. One man’s convoluted rules are another man’s deep dark Danish forest. : )

I really got the wrong idea about the game by doing the Risk Draws incorrectly (basically, this is a way to get a “free card” at the risk of endangering your badger, but I was only applying half of the danger!). That made Skoventyr so easy that my choices were essentially robbed of meaning. But once I started doing Risk Draws correctly, I came to appreciate how little room there is for error or faffing about or even getting your bearings; it’s a very tightly tuned game, which you noted in your frst post, but which I didn’t realize while I was doing Risk Draws wrong. But once I got it right, Skoventyr started really pushing back! I finally managed a win last night with only a single Trold in the deck with the 13 Old Eric cards! Yeesh. Talk about close. It hardly even felt like a win!

Of course, one element of the design is that you’re at the mercy of how the Allies emerge from the deck. The Nisse, for instance, are great at giving you more wiggle room by recovering Allies who have fought minions, but they can only do this if you’re not gathering them to defeat a minion. So it kind of depends on whether the cards shuffle in such a way as to suggest an early Nisse set. This is true of all the Allies! Do they fight monsters or do they do their “back-end” work? As you said, “ill-fitting actions that destroy…future choice”.

And one thing I came to appreciate last night, and probably the final piece of the rules puzzle to fall in place, is Tree damaging. Because of Vogter’s Gambit action – damage a Tree, put up to three Future cards at the bottom of the deck – you will almost certainly be damaging Trees. Not to mention getting Huldre’s into your hand! So there’s a whole system of sacrificing the forest in order to save it, of managing when a withered Tree is occupied so you can damage a different Tree instead of actually reducing the size of the forest by discarding a Tree. That might have to happen, but you want to wait until the very last moment. In my victory with the single Trold in a deck of 13 Old Erics, I defeated the last minion by deploying 3 Allies to the last 3 surviving Tree cards. Again, way too close for comfort!

And this, by the way, gives me a great deal of trepidation about the expansions. It almost looks as if they’re make the game even harder to win, by 1) forcing you to take Allies out of circulation, and 2) shielding minions. I’m going to have to get a lot better at reading the card distribution, especially during the harder later turns, before I’m comfortable ratcheting up the difficulty with expansions.

So I guess I’m coming to appreciate that, yeah, there is a sort of ecology going on down here, with the Nisse replenishing (feeding?) the Allies and helping Vogter sneak away, with the Huldre gradually withering the forest and seducing Allies into service, with the Trold being scary enough to drive Old Erik back, with the Ellefolk presiding over the forest politics (the Ellefolk arranging cards for free Risk Draws was another “a-ha!” moment for me), and with the Formskifters as borderline evil wildcards helping wherever they’re needed.

Hmm, maybe I like this game better than I realized. Better add a link:

Just got this at work today. My 2 bosses are gone the next two days and my co worker is super sick…so will be playing multiple times. Sounds like a nice little risk/reward game with a bit of card draw luck…cant wait to play tomorrow.

Played one game yesterday but my boss came back early today so no more plays till the weekend.

Lost with one 4 power enemy still left out there. I thought it was going to be too easy and then kept burning through the deck and killing the lower numbered enemies and then started getting nervous, realizing I should have been working on taking the higher number ones first.

Spent a lot of time looking at the discard pile near the end and then, when there were only 3 blighted trees left but that one 4 power dude, and forgetting there is a way to heal a tree, I quit, thinking I had no chance (which I probably didn’t.) Oh well, try again this weekend. I did make the mistake of when I had to damage a tree, I damaged a healthy one whether there were any withered ones out there or not…so playing that correctly, the game most likely would have ended sooner.

I need to get home.

Hah, I made the same mistake about withering healthy trees myself on my first game. That rule, along with the risk draw penalty of moving Old Eric twice really tighten up the number of actions you get. I’ve played a couple more times now and came really close to winning by going for the low numbers first and aggressively thinning the deck of adversaries so that later risk draws were better bets. Still no wins for me yet with the base game :)

The only chance you have to thin the deck if adversaries is when you remove a minion and you do revenge and that’s just one adversary so you can only really remove four or five of them before the end of the game. I guess that would help somewhat.

I left the freaking game at work. Omg.

Delighted to see y’all posting about this! I’ve still been playing, and although I’m still super “harumph!” about the artwork, I’ve really found a comfortable groove with the gameplay, which I partly credit to the expansions. More on that in a sec.

@Petey, something I picked up specifically for Onirim is arranging the discard pile in such a way that you can tell at a glance what’s still in the deck. At the end of my Skoventyr games, the discard “pile” actually looks like this:

I know some people are good at keeping card counts in their heads, but I suck at it, and tracking how many of each Ally are left in the deck is a pretty critical part of learning Skoventyr. So laying them out like that might be helpful when you talk about spending time looking at the discard pile?

On a Friday? Nooooo!

Oh my gosh, Tree damage was another massive “a-ha!” for me, and I owe it mostly to the Rescue expansion. I started playing Skoventyr thinking of the Trees as basically my “hit points” and they kind of are. But with some nuance that took me a while to figure out. Namely for how you can manage the important distinction between flipping and removing a Tree, and the way you recover each type of damage, which is introduced in the Rescue expansion.

The Rescue expansion leans into Tree damage, and also forces you to think of it as a necessary ebb and flow (which also fleshes out the Huldre, as they’re part of that ebb and flow!). And I love how this makes the forest so dynamic: withering, healing, dying, regrowing, expanding and contracting the distance between Vogter and Old Eric in new ways. It even kicks Old Eric’s otherwise inert minions awake a little (they’re guarding the seeds you need to regrow the forest).

So, big thumbs up for the Rescue expansion. In fact…

…okay, now you guys are going to give me a big head, because I’m at the point where I think I’m done with the base game? I believe Pedersen implied in the rules book that the base game is more-or-less solvable, which is where I’m at. Unless something goes cattywampus with the card distribution, I mostly win. Of course, that’s where the “expansions” come in.

As someone who doesn’t care for “variants”, I’ve always been a bit conflicted about the Oniverse “expansions”. In most of those games, the base game is just the skeletal structure, and the modules called “expansions” are often “the rest of the game”. But there tend to be so many “expansions” inside each game that the picking-and-choosing and mixing-and-matching can be a game in itself! Onirim, for instance, has an insane number of ways to play because you pick a few of the several expansion at a time, but you’d never want to use too many; in a way, Onirim is always and only variants. Yet in some of the Oniverse games – Nautilion, for instance – I feel that the full game is all of the expansions.

So I’m not sure how to approach Skokventyr. Is the full game just one expansion at a time, or both of them? Whatever the case, I dislike Lightman’s Meddling, the other expansion. It feels like a kick in the nuts instead of an expansion. It adds severe restrictions to how you play while simultaneously shaving down the margin of error in the basic puzzle. Ouch. And the mild advantage you get from the rallied Lightmen doesn’t feel like it offsets the additional difficulty. And while I’m whinging, that artwork of the Lightman is just so, I dunno, Ralph Bakshi or something. Ugh.

I confess I’ve only tried Lightman’s Meddling a couple of times, and I was using it simultaneously with Rescue, so I probably bit off more than I could chew. I need to back up and play Lightman’s Meddling with only the base set to suss it out more.

Anyway, I guess that makes me the forum’s Skoventyr Obi-wan! You guys let me know if you have any questions and I’ll throw back my hood to answer them wisely and with a British accent.

After several more lunchbreak games, I think I’m approaching this point. I don’t feel like I’ve cracked the code, as there wasn’t a big revelation or single strategy that led me to victory. But I have a better sense for how to apply each ability just a bit more efficiently, and when an ability would be wasted.

I did also discover a couple more rules mistakes I had been making, both in my favor and not:

  • Allies drawn from the top of the deck during a Risk Draw are recycled to the bottom of the deck, not discarded. For some reason, I had assumed that the Risk Draw card was disposed to the same location as if from hand, so Adversaries recycled and Allies discarded.
  • The Nisse ally who lets you recycle two cards from the discard pile has two restrictions that I completely overlooked: they must be different and must not be other Nisse allies.

I have to get back to this…I usually dont enjoy playing games more than once or twice…but this one is pretty good…but now I have Apiary showing up next week…yet another Stonemeier game I most likely will play once yet again and then never again…we’ll see.

Ooof, that one hurt to read. But if you were playing that way, I bet you got gud fast! :)

Either that, or you hadn’t yet discovered the trick of using the Ellefolk to seed the deck for safe Risk Draws. I’m imagining what a head-scratcher that power must have been if you were discarding your Risk Draws instead of tucking them safely at the bottom of the deck!

Petey, that makes me sad for you. The best games can be savored ten, twenty, fifty times! Hopefully you’re just talking about games you didn’t like and moved on from.