Theme and What is it?
While Nova is waiting to be announced at her coronation, she reflects on everything that has happened over the past two days. Nova’s father had suddenly passed and she was sent immediately sent to the family’s alchemists where they work to keep the family’s Daemons restrained. There, Moloch was bound to her during a blood ritual. As Nova heard her name at the coronation, she only felt fear. Any one of the lords and ladies from the five houses could have been responsible for her father’s death and now planning to kill her. She is to become the new master of Moloch the Immortal Flame, the keeper of peace, and Empress of Alpreich. She did not feel any of these titles were her right to claim but the task was now hers to fulfill. In her head she can hear a voice that she recognizes and realizes something went wrong with the binding. Moloch will break free soon and when it does, Alpreich will fall. The five houses of the realm sense this weakness and are waiting to take the throne. These houses cannot move directly and have hired mercenaries, the Subrosa, to do their bidding. Subrosa is the first in the Daemon Trilogy by IDW games. Players play as the head of one of the five houses to complete contracts for power (victory points).
Subrosa can be played with or without the companion app. At the start of the game, players receive three contracts and they must keep at least one but can keep all of them. Then, the character deck is dealt out to players forming a hand of fifteen cards.
Each round in Subrosa, players recruit (draft) two mercenaries from their hand facedown to help complete contracts. These character cards are now considered crew members.
After recruiting, players now choose one of these crew members to play simultaneously. This is where playing with the app companion can make things interesting. Secrecy is a huge part of the game mechanic in Subrosa. Using the companion app, makes the secrecy even better because each player does not reveal the cards that are played. The app does it for them which keeps each players cards hidden.
Once the app or players have resolved all character card abilities, each player can complete contracts by revealing the crew members required for it. Then, all players pass their current hand to the player on their left and a new round is started.
Once a player is down to 0-1 cards in their hand at the end of a round, the game ends instantly and all players score their contracts.
I was not immediately drawn to the game. In my opinion, the box is plain and does not attract. Based on the box art, I expected the game to be about the mob or have that theme.
Game Build Quality
There is not much to the game other than cards and they are the good linen threaded cards. The wooden initiative token is really nice, but it is not used when playing with the app. There is also what appears to be a hidden screen in the box (just one) but it is not listed as a component in the rulebook or referenced on how to use it in the rules so I am not sure what it is for. I researched it a little online and could not find anything as well. I really like the box. The lid flaps over and attaches to a magnet on the other side.
I would describe the art in Subrosa as modern dystopian. Initially reading the story throughout the rulebook, it has a fantasy vibe and I suppose that the term fantasy can have several meanings to anyone, but in my opinion that is not the theme here when looking at the artwork on the cards. However, I do think the artwork is excellent.
We liked the game. We played with the app and it was very interesting. With three players, it was sometimes easy to figure out what card each player played, but I don’t believe there would be this problem with more players. I enjoyed the secrecy and the “take that” mechanic of the game.
Age Range & Weight
Subrosa is suggested for a 12+ age group and I would agree with this. The hidden cards could be confusing for a younger audience as well as playing with the app.
Honestly, I felt the game was a little flat. I did not hate it but I also did not love it. I did not think that the game mechanics supported the theme very well. The game is very similar to other drafting games with the exception of the added companion app. I do plan to play the game again with more players as I think it will be more interesting. There is a lot of flavor to the story in the rulebook that made me expect more and it fell short. However, I do not think that Subrosa is a bad game. It has intrigued me enough that I would like to see how the other two games of the trilogy weave into the story.
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