Into the Cosmic Jellybean Jar – a review of Sovereign’s Chain

Sovereign’s Chain is an interactive tableau-builder with a retro science fiction setting. Given my affection for Wizkids’ Fantasy Realms, I approached this new title with expectation. High hopes aside, let’s find out if Sovereign’s Chain held strong or if some weak links made it snap.

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The goal of Sovereign’s Chain is to achieve the greatest point differential in your chain (aka tableau) between the game’s two suits, planets and stars. Players take turns playing a card either onto their own chain or onto an opponent’s, then carrying out the card’s special effect. Once one chain reaches 7 cards in length the game ends immediately.

The card play makes the game immediately interactive, as players have to decide how best to either help themselves or screw over their opponents. Players might throw down a Scout, sniping away a powerful card from an opponent’s chain, or dispatch an Envoy, changing the suit of a high value card at the last moment. The lower point value cards often contain the more dramatic abilities, while higher value cards have subtler effects. Sovereign’s Chain has a plethora of ways to throw off your opponent’s plans, making it clear that the Void Horizon is no place for the faint of heart.

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While most cards are played face up, some cards, including the first card in each chain, are played facedown. This is a neat mechanic that allows players to keep part of their chain hidden from prying eyes or insert a hidden agent into an opponent’s chain. Cards are eventually flipped over and “revealed” either at game end or due to a card effect, triggering their ability. This can create fun twists and comeback endings. The many unique cards in the game make all kinds of possibilities and combos possible.

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Adding to that variability is the event deck, which changes frequently every time a card with a small “e” symbol is played. This deck does a lot to keep the decision space fresh by giving players another layer to consider on their turn. As many cards trigger the event change, it can sometimes feel like events switch out a little too frequently for my liking. Events range from forcing players to play cards only on opponent’s chains, providing free modifier tokens, and extending the game end to 8 cards in a chain.

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While the high variability is a positive trait, it has some downsides. There is an overall lack of agency in Sovereign’s Chain that is not always satisfying. Sometimes an opponent has a strong chain and you don’t draw anything to mess with them, or you have a hand that would either hurt yourself or benefit your opponents. These situations just don’t feel great. When all of your cards are acquired randomly, coupled with random and ever-changing events, it can feel like you are at the mercy of Lady Luck.

Thankfully the good Lady is swift in dealing judgement and Sovereign’s Chain ends within 20-minutes. If the game lasted even 30-minutes the chaos would likely be a deal-breaker for me. It is snappy and interactive, and each game feels different thanks to the many event cards and the random draw of the class cards. It has some clever tricks to explore and that “one more round” kind of feel. The variability is high and will likely have players returning to experience more of what the game has to offer. While some weak links will keep Sovereign’s Chain from being a game I love, it does enough right and in a tight enough playtime, to be a game I still enjoy.

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Sovereigns Chain is like a jar of jellybeans. You don’t know which flavor you’ll get with each blind draw into the multicolored menagerie. Sometimes butter popcorn will leave a bad taste in your mouth, other times cotton candy will make you scratch your head, and yet, on other occasions, the fiery taste of cinnamon will remind you that not even space has lost its spice. While inconsistent, you may just find this unpredictable little game addicting; knowing that the next time you shuffle up the cards you won’t know exactly what whacky flavor you’ll be biting into.

 

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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