Review – Ivion: The Hound & the Hare
Know when to hold 'em, fight 'em, and when to smite 'em.
|Aislyn Hall, Aaron Shaw
|Paolo Cagampan & others
Ivion is a 2-player, hand management game where both players are trying to be the first to knock their opponent’s health to zero. Players also have miniatures that they maneuver around on the board to manipulate the battlefield. The version in this review is The Hound & the Hare, which in the base setup has a righteous knight taking on the court illusionist. So, is it a decent throwdown with good tactics, or should they have settled for an old fashioned game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? Read on for the review!
Players will attack each other trying to reduce their health to zero. Health is indicated by a small heart token on a sidebar. Cards help the players use physical attacks and magic to deal damage. Some of the knight’s cards have blood on them, but no gore. There is also a small blood spatter at the top of the health track after you flip it over, possibly a reference to an older D&D term when someone was below half health they were “bloodied.” Magic can cause damage or make players discard cards, as well as get control tokens that limit what cards they can play or what they can do.
There are at least 6 different boxes of Ivion games at this point, all of them containing 2 characters and having cool names like The Fox & the Forest or The Ram & the Raven, or the copy I reviewed, The Hound & the Hare. The “Learn to Play” leaflet does a good job of explaining setup and showing where everything goes and card anatomy, as well as a brief backstory on why these two characters have beef. The game also does a great job of packaging everything so it’s easy to see what cards you’ll be playing with; it has reference cards for your starter decks, as well as a third expansion deck if players have additional Ivion products and want to build their own deck.
First of all, The Hound & the Hare is a masterclass in component quality, storage, and setup. Each character has their own tray with a lid, containing all their cards, mini, tokens, and alternate setup cards. Also the minis are highly detailed and would look amazing in the hands of a good painter. The cards feel nice and sturdy but easily shuffle, and the player boards slot nicely into the side of the board.
To start, players get three action tokens (the orange lightning bolt) each turn, as well as an initiative token that can be spent to move or draw a card. Each player will also automatically get to draw a card on their turn, except the player that starts the game. Knowing when to use your initiative and for what (the Illusionist can use it to cast some spells) is key to getting ahead in Ivion. And while movement doesn’t play a huge part, if a player used the Illusionist well via hit & run tactics and staying out of the Knight’s range, they could easily take over the game.
Once you have your cards and tokens, you can move and attack orthogonally. Players can bank up to 5 of any type of token, good or bad, so sometimes in the early game it’s best to hang back so you don’t just use all your actions to run up and get smacked by the other player. The “bad” tokens are the Control tokens – Slow, Silence, and Disarm (green, blue, and red) and if you have one of them, you cannot use a card that is affected by them. Also, if you’re slowed at all you can’t move or spend your initiative token to move. Some cards are Heroic, and have a large shield and sword banner instead of the three control token icons. These can be played even if you have any of the control tokens.
Each character plays quite differently – the Illusionist will try to overwhelm their opponent with control tokens and by making them discard from the top and bottom of their deck often, while the Knight hits hard and has a relic deck that grants them abilities and items to boost their chances. I like how even though each one plays differently, just facing off against a character would give you most of what you need to know in order to either play as them or effectively counter them the next time you fight. In this box, the Illusionist needs to get their opponent covered in control tokens early and often, as well as forcing them to burn through their deck quickly. In Ivion you don’t reshuffle your discard, you become Exhausted if your draw deck runs out, effectively making you do a last-stand with the cards left in your hand. The Knight needs to find relics quickly and try to keep their Chivalrous status as it heals them each round and makes some of their cards more powerful. They also need to close distance as most of their cards are a range of 1.
There’s a lot to like in the box, but I do have one gripe: some of the cards can be a tad confusing as to when they work and when they go away. Both characters have abilities that can attach to a character in order to do damage or buff you your next turn, but don’t specifically call out when or if they go away. This led to a lot of arguments over when or if something happens, but after seeking some answers online, I found out they don’t go away unless specified or destroyed. Ivion seems to have an active community on Board Game Geek and Discord, so players hoping to find clarity can seek out answers there.
The Hound & the Hare is a great jump-on point for anyone looking to enter the world of Ivion, and if you get another box you could even expand it to being a 2-4 player experience. It is a little disappointing that some of the deckbuilding options are found in other products, but that is one way to encourage players to add to their collection. The bigger problem for me is the lack of clarity on some of the cards, in an otherwise well-explained rulebook and learn to play guide. Players looking for an asymmetrical hand management game where they can beat up their friends with magic and might should take a look at the world of Ivion.
If you like the idea of battling with cards and minis but want a more streamlined experience, check out The Dragon Prince: Battlecharged.
If you want to skip minis and would rather roll dice, try Dice Throne on for size.
The Bottom Line
A decent 2p hand management game with great components, but suffers slightly due to lack of clarity.