Leviathan Wilds is a cooperative game slated to come out next year from Moon Crab Games, a new publisher created by former Fantasy Flight and Z-Man Games employees. In the game, 1-4 players are tasked with managing a hand of cards while trying to climb over huge creatures covered in binding crystals, represented by D6’s on the play area. Break all the crystals and you free the creature and win, but if you ever run out of cards, your character risks falling down to the nearest ledge or crashing back to the ground.
Since this is a Preview I’ll be sticking to what’s there, not what’s missing – the rulebook does mention a couple things like the Crew Log and Reward Track which I look forward to hopefully reviewing when the game comes out next year. But what’s already available is a solid game that doesn’t overwhelm players with choices but gives you enough to strategize and make solid decisions for both your character and the team as a whole. For instance, if anyone gets KO’d it triggers a final stand round, so sometimes it’s wise to let go and drop down to a lower ledge or even the ground rather than take the brunt of an attack.
On each player’s turn, 4 things happen. First, the Threat card is revealed, showing what negative effects will happen to the player(s) this round. Sometimes it’s a targeted attack, sometimes it’s an area attack, and sometimes it targets a specific player such as the highest or most healthy. Each Leviathan has a different deck, and requires different tactics. Second, the active player takes their turn. The number of actions they can do depends on which of their 3 cards they commit to using for Action Points instead of the skills or abilities on the bottom half. After taking all their actions and any cards being played for skills, the Threat card is resolved (third step), which usually makes someone (occasionally everyone) lose health, gain blight, or lose cards from their Grip (draw pile). If a player’s Grip is ever empty, they will free-fall until they land on a ledge or the ground, suffering any ill effects of spaces they pass during their fall. The fourth and final step is for the active player to draw back up to 3 cards, if they want to. Sometimes if you’re low it’s smart to leave a card or two in your Grip, just in case something happens that makes you lose a card before your next turn. The last thing you want to do is end up in a free-fall before you can act.
Players can move, recover health, rest (recover all their discards), glide, and break crystals with their Action Points (AP). Crystals cost 1 AP per pip on the D6, and every time they chip away at a blighted crystal they gain a point of Blight, which cannot be recovered. This mechanic forces players to work together and strategize; one player cannot take on all the crystals themselves and risk succumbing to their Blight. Also as the game goes on, players will have to shuffle the threat deck, and every time they do, they raise the threat meter. Each Threat card has a top half and a bottom half; the bottom is a more powerful attack that is triggered by a threat threshold on each card. Some are triggered at 3+ or 5+, while some are as low as 1+. This increases the tension as the game wears on, as players see more and more powerful attacks wearing them down.
There’s 5 different Leviathans in the game, and each one is different and comes with a different Threat deck. The Sage is a giant turtle, and is the most straightforward encounter in the game. The Sentinel is a tall Leviathan that sees the play area turned vertical, and his Threat deck punishes the highest player and pushes players down. Storm is another vertical encounter that also has random damage dealt out based on where players are, determined by the symbols at the top of their columns. Avalanche sees players accumulating Frost tokens that increase the negative effects happening to them, and the only way to lose Frost is to rest. The final encounter, the Watcher, has an additional overlay for its center eye, which when open does significantly more damage or ill effects, sometimes even making players resolve the Threat card twice.
Each of these different Leviathans keep the players on their toes, and each one make for a different experience. Players can fight back against the increasing difficulty with the help of Mementos, which have both passive and 1-time bonuses to help players after they play the Sage and on. Players can also upgrade their deck in-between encounters by grabbing Insight cubes on the play area and by completing encounters with Leviathans. The Crew Log and Reward track weren’t in the Preview Kit, but I’m looking forward to seeing them.
Based on just what’s available here, Moon Crab is on the way to putting together a fun co-op game with plenty of strategy that isn’t too bogged down with rules or hard to set up. It also feels like it scales well since more people means many hands, but less means you burn through the Threat deck at a slower rate. I like how the map book just opens up like Gloomhaven: JotL, and I look forward to seeing the final, polished product. Keep an eye out next year for Leviathan Wilds from Moon Crab Games.