A mysterious package begins an otherwise inauspicious journey through the world of Spire’s End: Hildegard that will send its heroine fishing and chatting with locals but also facing down shadowy assassins and ambulatory scarecrows armed with ears of corn.
Spire’s End: Hildegard, currently on Kickstarter, plays out like a Chooseco book constructed from a deck of cards. It’s the second game from designer Greg Favro and follows up the decidedly darker Spire’s End. This latest entry focuses on the eponymous young protagonist with red braids as she sets out to deliver a package “of utmost importance” to the coastlands. Cutthroats, opportunists and worse have heard rumours of her charge and will attempt to make the journey as short and deadly as possible.
Each of the 400 cards comprising all possible branches of Hildegard’s story prompt a scene or encounter, along with choices at the bottom for how the player wants to proceed. In the most straightforward sense, those will simply provide a number of the next card to draw in order to continue forward. Deciding what to have for breakfast as Hildegard leaves town, or which bait she uses while fishing are prime examples.
Encounters complicate matters, but not by much - targets provide an opportunity to strike from a distance with Hildegard’s slingshot. She’s not yet a warrior and would much prefer using the stinging pellets to deter would-be assailants or nail far-off targets. Players will roll d6 shot dice with special faces that might compose a bullseye symbol if combined. Hits and misses are determined by how much of that symbol shows up on a certain throw.
But if push comes to shove, Face-offs - using the same dice roll mechanic - bring the courageous courier into a potentially dangerous situation with the shadowy face of the world. Losing isn’t a game over, but it can alter the course of the story irrevocably by sending the player to another card that closes off some branches for good.
Spire’s End: Hildegard will offer a cooperative version by letting the second player control little sister Hallveig, who is a crack shot with a boomerang. Both players will choose the course of the story together, and combat gets a little more complicated when adjusted for two plucky, would-be heroes on the journey.
The game will come with four story chapters spanning 400 cards, twelve shoot dice with the bullseye pips, a rulebook and marker cubes. Favro has collaborated with comic book artist Diego Frías visual concept artist Sy Gardener to construct Hildegard’s world through each of the cards. The muted palette and stylistic use of oranges and reds evoke a world in the deepest stretches of Autumn, just before the first howling gust of winter freezes thoughts of adventure dead in their tracks.
The Kickstarter campaign for Spire’s End: Hildegard will be open through August 12th, and it has surpassed its funding goal of $15,000 (£10,900) by more than ten times already. Backers can secure a physical copy for $40 (£29), which is expected to ship in July 2022. Be aware that shipping is not available to all countries, so check the FAQ page for specifics.