Dark Harvest Board Game Review
Thanks to our friends at Skybound and Sideshow Collectibles, I had the early opportunity to play Dark Harvest, a game about harvesting and spending souls, as well as influence tokens, to…well…get more souls. Because to win at Dark Harvest, you need to have the most souls in your possession, and how better to get souls than to get some great reapers on your side. But does Dark Harvest deliver enough fun to warrant the $25 price tag? Let’s take a look!
Coming July 15, those with interest in Dark Harvest will be able to pick it up for a decent price of $25 – when punching out all the thick cardboard pieces, wooden influence tokens, and high quality, tarot sized cards, I instantly knew that even without playing the actual game, the components were actually much better than I would have expected for what I would call an impulse buy board game. So often, cheaper games like this, although quick and easy to play, are often muddled with poor quality components. While components don’t make a game – as the game play really needs to – I fully believe they can break a game. Thankfully, that is not a worry here.
Dark Harvest isn’t really a long experience, which is great for my current board game needs. Here is a bit of a blurb from the companies PR firm:
“Court of the Dead: Dark Harvest, is a strategic bidding game for 3-6 players, in which each player is vying for power in the Court of the Dead and struggling to save as many souls as possible from annihilation in the Celestial War.
Each game round has an income phase and two main phases of gameplay:
1. Income, in which players receive souls and influence to spend.
2. The Court phase, in which players will attempt to win the favor of powerful members of the court to aid their cause.
3. The Harvest phase, in which players will attempt to satisfy the demands of the Celestials while saving as many doomed souls as they can.
At the end of the game, the player who is able to shepherd the most souls to safety, behind their player screen, will win the game.”
For such a simple concept, you quickly realize there are a number of ways to manipulate the game to your liking – the biggest manipulations come in the Harvest phase, but let’s touch on the Court phase first.
In this phase, players will have the option of choosing one of three cards that are face up on the table. Each card is related to a specific symbol, which corresponds to a “always in play” card that provides additional bonuses, like breaking ties. These cards, once obtained by a player, are always in play, past between players when someone bids enough influence to secure a card from the deck that matches the symbol on the card.
Players secretly pick one of the three decks to bid on using a chip with a symbol on it (matching the deck), and a number of influence tokens they believe will net them that card. I quickly learned that bidding on the most beneficial card isn’t always the best option. While it might provide you a great, temporary boost to your game, it can set you back for multiple turns as you wait to recoup your spent influence.
Some cards in the Court Phase are obviously better than others, but all will provide some type of advantage that might be more advantageous for your game play style.
Most of the strategy and cunning that is needed to win happens in this phase. A card will be flipped stipulating the number of souls that need to be offered in order to “pass” the harvest and not recieve any of the negatives should you fail to pass. the thing is, only the player who offers the least souls will recieve the negative impacts, which often left us at the table bidding enough to not be last, but not enough to ensure one of the other players received some fairly negative consequences. Fail three times, and the player who submits the least souls is actually eliminated entirely from the game, which is also a great strategic maneuver if handled properly.
Dark Harvest is a good time, with some surprising depth in the strategic elements you normally wouldn’t get out of a 25$ game. While some may not like the mechanics, the game works well and with the right group of people, can be a really excellent experience!