In most stories, we see the world through the eyes of the hero, even in the world of board game s— we typically take on the role of the ‘good guys’ battling the forces of evil to save humanity as we know it. In Possession, a new card game currently on Kickstarter, the tables are turned, and instead of plucky knights and wizards, we take on the roles of nefarious demons, competing to possess the souls of innocent villagers!
Premise of the game
As described above, in this game you play the bad guys, some very bad guys in fact. Each player takes on the role of a particular demon, each with their own abilities.
Each demon starts with a base possession power of 3, this is probably the most important stat in the game as each innocent human you possess will have a certain willpower value, your possession value must always exceed this (gets more difficult as you start possessing more victims simultaneously).
If your possession value drops or your victims’ willpower increases, one or more victims will break free from your spell, roll the possession-willpower balance is restored.
This is bad because you’ll be earning victory points at the end of the game based on the health and strength of your victims.
Of course it’s not quite as simple as that (it never is!) your fellow demon opponents will be trying to sabotage you by wrestling victims from your control and through the enticements of brave humans to attack you.
Playing the Game
Possession starts off in familiar card game territory, each player starts with a hand of 8 cards. But you soon see some additional layers falling into place. To start with, you flip a token to determine if this day or night. Humans are stronger in the cleansing light of day, while the demons grow stronger at night. Many other victim, characters and cards are also impacted by the setting and rising of the sun. Add to this a location deck that creates various effects that impact the players and their victims and you start to experience some of the depth and variety this game has to offer.
Players take turns playing 4 of their 8 cards – one at a time – with the remaining 4 cards (more of certain players have passed) being passed to your opponent to the left. This adds a great sense of tension, incentivising you to play strong cards now instead of handing your opponents the tools to vanquish you.
Your hand will generally consist of possession cards — cards that will stay out on the table permanently boosting your possession rating, nemesis cards that can be deployed to attack the possessed victims of your opponents or equipment which can be added to victims to protect them from attacks. You can also play trap cards can can boost various properties, both those beneficial and detrimental to demons.
At the end of the turn ‘fights’ will be resolved. These typically involve one of your possessed victims and a nemesis played against you by an opponent. Clearly this is where equipment cards played to bolster the strength (not willpower!) of your victims. Not only can these cards help your victims resist attack, they can actually boost your score at the end of the game, as the health (heart icon) and strength (sword icon) for your victims will be totalled to give you your end game score.
It’s worth noting the game has a solo mode and the designers have teased some very clever expansion ‘modules’ that can be mixed and matched to deepen the game experience.
Firstly it’s worth noting that there’s a lot more to Possession than can be covered in a preview, please do check out the Kickstarter page for many more images, videos and descriptions. But the idea here is to give you an overview.
So what did I think? Overall I think there are two elements of the game that I found really interesting. Firstly the artwork is some of the coolest and most thematic artwork I’ve seen in a game. It looks like the illustrations have been found on ancient tomes, or medieval tapestries. This really helps set the mood for your demonic shenanigans. Secondly, the flipped script — taking on the role of the bad guys is very new and refreshing. But beyond these the core mechanism of the game — the need to constantly balance your possession powers against the willpower of your victims, it’s highly original (at least in my experience).
This game is a card game, but it’s not like many other card games I’ve come across. There’s also a really fun competitive element to this game (which I highly enjoy) with a lot of dramatic moments where you’ll be playing cards to punish your opponents, or even where an opponent can scupper your plan of attack by revealing their unique demon power (these are kept secret till triggered).
The originality of the game makes it harder to draw a very clear comparison to another game — but if you enjoy the theme, and want to take the walk on the demonic side, then this unique and meaty (no pun intended) card game may be well worth checking out!