I’m not a huge fan of anime, Manga, or Japenese themed things. It’s not that I dislike the theme, I just don’t have an affection for it like some do. When I heard Dave mention the Ravens of Thri Sahashari and he talked about the style and gameplay, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure if I could get down with the art, the idea of playing a role in someone’s dream, or playing a game where you constructed a Japanese styled poem. After deciding to buy it for a date night, here’s what I think…
Ravens of Thri Sahashri
Play Time: 45 minutes
Player Count: 2 players
After following his father on a business trip to Japan, Feth, who recently began to have strange visions, meets a young courtesan named Ren. Being forced into this life of darkness, Feth and Ren develop a deep relationship that few understand. With each conversation they have, and every moment spent together, Feth begins to see a deeper darkness harnessing itself within Ren. As the bond between the two grows, they decide to flee their lives and escape with one another. During their escape, Ren collapses into a sleep that she cannot wake from. With the darkness encroaching on Ren’s mind, Feth must attempt to rebuild her memories before they completely disappear. Feth closes his eyes and drifts into her thoughts…
Feth and Ren
Choosing to be Ren or Feth, The Ravens of Thri Sahashri is a two-player cooperative game played over three rounds, or Dreams. During each of these three Dreams, Feth searches for the right memories for Ren to relive and repair her heart. Feth begins his turn by drawing cards from a deck and placing them together in the middle of the table in a type of puzzle, referred to as the Atman.
The Atman mid-game
Each card has a value, ability, a faded part of a memory, and a clear memory. Feth must place the cards on top of one another, but he must line up the cards so that the memory spaces match – i.e. a faded memory cannot rest on top of a clear memory.
Example of card placement in the Atman
On Ren’s turn, she simply chooses one of the cards from the Atman and places it in her “Heart Row.” In the setup phase, Ren will have created a “Heart Row,” consisting of four cards from the deck, which remain unknown to Feth. When Ren chooses a card from the Atman, she is trying to complete the different lines (Heart Row) of the poem. The poem, a “Dodoitsu,” is a type of verse inspired by Japanese folk songs, in which the first three lines always contain 7 syllables, and the last line contains 5. Ren must strategically choose one of the cards from the Atman as she is trying to add the card values up to the appropriate amount of syllables in a Dodoitsu.
For example, if Ren has a Memory card with a value of 3 in her Heart Row, she can choose a Memory card from the Atman with a value of 4 to complete that line of the poem. Or, Ren can choose Memory cards with other values for strategic purposes.
Mixed into the deck that Feth draws from are Raven cards which correspond to the colors of the Memory cards. These cards are sometimes beneficial, but often harmful.
At different points throughout the game, Ravens are capable of protecting Memory cards OR they can steal Memory cards. Whenever Ren chooses a card from the middle of the table, the Atman, and the cards become disconnected from one another, Ren must decide which pile(s) remain on the board and which get discarded. If the cards are discarded and a raven of the corresponding color is in play, they are considered stolen and removed from the game. There are, however, ways to get these cards back…
During Feth’s turn, if he plays Memory cards of the same color on one another, and they equal exactly 7 in their combined value, the Raven of that color is chased away. Any cards that were stolen by that Raven are placed in the discard pile as normal. A secondary effect is that Ren can reveal one of the Memory cards in her Heart Row that matches that color. That card is then counted as points for the two players at the end of the game. If Feth and Ren are able to complete the Dodoitsu in each Dream, they win!
The catch to everything you just read is… you must do all of this without speaking to one another.
Things I like:
- Size: The game comes in a box that is not too much bigger than a box of regular game cards. The portability of this game is really great.
Obligatory comparison to TTR Box
- Theme: For a game as small as this is, and using cards as the only component, players can really feel the theme the entire time they are playing. This is helped by removing the player’s ability to speak to one another, but the feeling of it being like a dream is really fun.
- Campaign: There is a campaign option that comes in three sealed envelopes. After your first victory you open the first envelope. I will not add more to this here other than the fact that a campaign type of option for a game of this size is really cool.
- Mechanics: I found this game to be really fun when playing either role, but specifically when you are playing as Feth. Trying to place all of the cards in the Atman feels like a really complex puzzle that you are building.
- Depth: This game can be very deep for those that want to make it that way. This seems to be pretty rare for strict two-player card games. I really like the depth of game you get with this.
Things I don’t like:
- Rulebook: The rulebook is physically small and loaded with information. With that said, I think the rulebook is somewhat vague in parts and leave the players having to make judgment calls. This is pretty typical of most games, but it is a bit problematic in this one because the players shouldn’t be talking but sometimes need to consult on rules. I don’t like that.
- Artwork: The artwork could have popped a little bit more than it did, especially given the theme and Japanese style. The artwork isn’t necessarily bad, but I would have liked to see some more colors and vibrant pictures (similar to the image on the box).
- Card Abilities: There are points in the game where both Feth and Ren can forget about the card abilities. I think this is often the result of the cards moving from in front of Feth to in front of Ren. Each kind of forgets what the abilities are and when they ought to be used. I wish there was some kind of player card for Feth and Ren that showed each available card’s ability.
- Space: This game takes up an enormous amount of space, especially for being a card game. Plan on using up a large amount of table for this one. Because of this, it kind of mitigates its portability.
Full set up of the game. It’s big.
In total, I think this is a really fun two-player game. There aren’t a ton of portable two-player games with this kind of depth out there, which makes this even better. This game is best for anyone that enjoys the Japanese styled theme or find “puzzly” games fun. Plan on spending some time trying to learn the rules and figuring out exactly how to play, but once you do, you’ll like it.
Cade’s GLG Rating – 6.8/10
Dave here. I’m with Cade on pretty much everything he said. Let’s start with the good. This is an exceptionally fun and puzzly game in such a small package. And like he mentioned, the mini campaign is great. Really adds to the amount of game that comes in the box. Being unable to talk is actually a huge bonus in this game. When played with someone you know it improves the experience even more. You really have to be in tune with your partner to be successful and that brings me to my next point. I love that this is both cooperative and asymmetric. This is a niche I’m really liking and the fact that it exists for just 2 players is awesome.
Now to the bad. I’m right there with Cade as far as the rule book goes. Ravens has so much specific terminology due to the theme that the first time you read it and you encounter terms such as ‘the atman’ or ‘heart row,’ you spend a good amount of time flipping back and forth through the rules trying to remember everything. It’s also a table hog for sure. The cards are great, tarot sized cards, but once you start laying everything out it takes up a bunch of space. My last point would be that if you are averse to anime themes, this may push you away. It’s very eclectic and when I first saw the box, I was a little turned off, however I would encourage you to stay the course. Overall this is a dynamite little game that is a great fit in the 2-player game category. Don’t let its size fool you. There’s way more game in that tiny box.
Dave’s GLG Rating – 8/10
Ravens on BGG is right Here.
Ravens on Osprey Publishing’s website is right Here.