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SiliconVania Review: A Bloody Fun Twist on City Building

Bidding, building, and most importantly to vampires, blood converge for a banger of a board game

Don’t invite them in. Eat your pizza with garlic on it. Keep your bottles of holy water close to your chest. Don’t forget your wooden stakes and DON’T INVITE THEM IN! Vampires! A great theme for a board game. Are we Victorian-era monster hunters tracking down Dracula across Europe? No. Are we playing as vampires and fighting lycans? Uh-uh. Debating if vampires should sparkle or not? Nope. So, what are we doing? City Planning. Hello? Are you still there? Of course you are! Haven’t we all wondered what you get when you combine What We Do in the Shadows with SimCity? Wonder no more!

In SiliconVania, it’s the year 2035 and humans and vampires live together. The vamp capital of Transylvania needs an update and the Council of Elders are looking for a city planner to rework their old city into a modern-day tech hub. Present the best plan to the Council and you get the job (the win!)

SiliconVania, designed by J.B. Howell and published by WizKids, is a tile placement bidding game played across eight rounds with each round being broken into four phases. Thank you to WizKids for providing a review copy to help spread the word about this entertaining game. 

The Refresh stage sets the tiles and cards you will be bidding on for the round.

The second phase is the Bid Selection phase where players choose their bids for tiles and specialist cards. Each player has the same deck of Silent Bid cards valued 1-7 and also a hand of Specialist cards. Specialists are unique in their bid value of 1-60, which can serve as tiebreaker for the Silent Bid cards, and also have a bid effect. The higher bids have a weaker effect, and the weaker bids have stronger effects.

In the Building Tile Resolution phase, tiles are selected based on the silent bidding cards played. The two tiles you win are placed on a 4×4 grid which, at the end of all eight rounds, will be filled.

Lastly, Specialist Card Resolution has Specialist bid card effects resolved, and new Specialist cards are added to your hand.

Building Tiles and Specialist Card effects have a variety of benefits such as gaining vampire or animal meeples (make sure you have enough coffins to house them) or advancing up the Innovation and Survival tracks. At various points on the tracks, players will be granted bonuses like gaining back a Silent Bid card used or adding a castle to the perimeter of your grid. Some even grant the option to move a tile or two already played on your board. A great way to adjust strategies mid game.

Once you reach the fourth round, one Specialist card, of which there are seven different types, can now be played as City Objectives which provide an additional way to score points at the end of the game. It is during these rounds where a little more scrambling for the right tile/specialist occurs as players look to shore up their strategy for maximum victory points.

End game scoring is determined every game by City Objectives, but also a few other factors such as Housed Vampires, Animal Diversity and the largest grouping of buildings featuring blood icons.

The components all seem durable and easily distinguishable, except the dog and cat meeple. The distinctive art style of Mihajlo “Mico” Dimitrievski is, as always, phenomenal.

I brought the rulebook with me to my daughter’s lacrosse practice and was able to somewhat follow along. I gave a second read with the game setup in front of me and felt that was a much easier way to grasp everything. Rules will need to be fully explained to all players before starting the game. None of that “we’ll figure it out as we go” noise. Scoring is something that needs to be ironed out before the first-round starts.

The packaging of the game is something to be commended. WizKids as a company is looking to lower their environmental impact and move toward “sustainable and eco-conscious gaming.” Where possible, paper was used instead of plastics to package the cards and meeples provided. Always nice to see a company do their part to help!

SiliconVania is playable with a player count of two-five players. I have played both at the two player and at three player levels. While still a fun game with two players, the more players, the more exciting the auction aspect becomes. More choices of tiles, specialist cards, and more chances to screw or be screwed! The strategy of striking now for early tiles or holding your higher bid cards for later to secure that Noble Specialist to play as a City Objective are interesting and fun.

The combination of auction and tile laying, and the variability for end game scoring marks this as a game that has replayability to it. New players need at least one game under their belt to really feel like they have a handle on scoring, but the good news is that the game is fun and fast enough that you will want to play that second and third game.

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