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Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition Game Review

A game by any other name…

Justin reviews the 2023 tactical battler Bestiary of Sigillum, published by CrowD Games!

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

“Can I speak with you for a moment?”

I was at Gen Con last year when someone from the CrowD Games booth grabbed me; he saw that I had a media badge on. I was at the booth because CrowD had released City of the Great Machine and reviews were spectacular for the one-versus-many steampunk game. I was anxious to meet someone from the team to see what else they had up their sleeve.

One conversation led to another, which took me on a ten-minute walk to a completely different booth with a completely different person, then back to the CrowD booth to talk to a third person. I got my steps in, then I got a review copy called Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition, which frankly was the worst name for any game I picked up at the show.

The third person I spoke to was very passionate. “I’m telling you, I think everyone has missed on this game…it is very good.”

Yes, dear reader, I know what you are thinking: everyone says this to me when they hand me a game at a show, so I nodded and placed the game in my bag before continuing a day of meetings. When I got the game home, I proceeded to put it at the end of the line, which happens when I pick up a lot of games and try to hit the supposedly hottest games first. The game idled on my review copy shelf for months, and six months after the show, I got the game to the table.

Here’s the executive summary: that third guy at the show was right, and I blew it by waiting so long to try this game. Bestiary of Sigillum is really, really good.

Quick, Battle

Bestiary of Sigillum—the original game—was released back in 2014, which is clearly the Before Times when it comes to tabletop. I had never heard of the original, designed by Russian game enthusiast Peter Vibe, and in looking at the original game’s BGG page, it’s clear that the first game was released to little fanfare.

Pictures from that listing, including the game’s cover, board, and artwork, reveal a game that could use a facelift if it ever got a second life. Fast forward to the present, and in a world where it feels like a 20-year-old tabletop classic gets a facelift almost every week now, Bestiary of Sigillum got the deluxe treatment.

That means someone at CrowD Games really, really loves Bestiary of Sigillum, because this feels like a big risk to bring back a game that no one in my gaming circles had heard of. But even my first pass of the rulebook was promising. A video from the publisher taught me the entire game in about six minutes.

Players control a small band of characters, each with a core attack ability and two support abilities that can be used with a cooldown of a certain number of rounds before reactivating. The goal is simple: destroy the other team’s castle, represented by a marker that slowly tracks towards oblivion when characters are killed (“exiled”, in the game’s language) as well as during the end of each round, when catapult towers under the active team’s control fire at the other team’s castle.

Characters spawn at opposite ends of the tiny map and quickly make their way towards the opponent. But what makes the combat so interesting is the mix of support abilities to mess around with the game state, the application of positive and negative effects that last for a round, and the ability of many characters to strike opponents from anywhere on the map based on the four terrain types and each character’s status effects.

No one is safe on a 19-hex battlefield, and after seven games I can attest to the game’s short playtime…Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition is fast, baby!

Let’s Start with the Production…

The Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition box is something else.

There’s a ton of stuff in there, and the storage solution does the trick. You almost can’t believe how deep this is, for a game this accessible: four maps, event cards to offer random events, a small token storage box for positive/negative effect tokens, and a whopping 36 playable characters that can be drafted to build three-character teams for head-to-head duels.

The 36 characters each have their own small playmat, built in a fun format—the playmat looks like pages of a beast catalog (it IS called Bestiary of Sigillum) which have been ripped out to show you a picture of each character and detail on each one’s abilities. The iconography is incredibly simple to parse, but even if a player stumbles, all icons are listed on the back of the rulebook. The little pictures on each character’s ability token are slick, although the character names (Architectus? Catapultus?) are a bit bland. The storage tray for the character and ability tokens is fantastic. For a game that doesn’t have minis, CrowD crushed this element of the production.

More, you say? Well, the original game only catered to two-player setups. This edition plays two players, four players in a 2v2 format, or solo. Solo is a monster—there are THREE books of solo scenarios, with more than 50 puzzles that need to be beaten, usually within two turns. Beating a solo puzzle is usually very satisfying since there is typically only one way to beat each one and I love those little “a-ha” moments in a 15-minute exercise.

Team play with four players gives each player two controllable characters that take alternating turns. And if you find a friend to play the game in its original 1v1 format, there’s also a duel campaign for those seeking to extend (or demolish) a friendship with a gaming buddy.

So, between the mix of characters, the maps, and the campaigns, you could safely make Bestiary of Sigillum the last head-to-head skirmish game you play this year. That’s because the gameplay is so good.

…And End with the Why

Here’s a short list of why you should buy this game and not blow it like I did by sitting on a treasure for six months.

The strategy elements of the combat system are magnificent. Yes, magnificent. Fans of MOBA-style games or video games like Apex Legends will certainly see shades of what they love in three-character team format games: finding ways to best utilize your team’s abilities to strike opponents while also playing the area control game to slowly whittle the opponent’s castle hit points to zero is a blast.

There is so much variety in how each character plays. Sure, some characters are the tank types that can soak up a lot of damage and only strike opponents in adjacent hexes. But the rules here change a lot of that right out of the gate. One character, Vinctum, has an attack power of zero, but it gets better as he gets wounded. So keeping him barely alive is the best way to use him, then buffing him with defense powers from other allies makes him a terror on the battlefield.

Some characters can only damage players of a certain stature—small, medium, or large. I love that some characters have to attack while standing next to other characters, while some can only complete ranged attacks. Separately, most character powers are things I’ve seen in other games. But the integration in Bestiary of Sigillum is top notch.

Moving your group around is interesting here as well, because in most cases, a character can only move or attack on a single turn. Some characters can only hit characters in certain terrain types, or with certain conditions applied. Using special support abilities that have a long cooldown, in a game this short, means that you are usually only using the best support abilities once, MAYBE twice in the same game. Figuring out the proper timing here is special.

Death may die, as another popular tabletop game reminds us, but here death doesn’t last very long. Even when you lose a key character, that character respawns on their next turn and can usually do something positive depending on their ranged attack abilities or their remaining support powers. Experienced players could knock out two or three games of Bestiary of Sigillum in an hour and have rich experiences to share, especially because a poor draft means you are going to get obliterated by your opponent.

No sweat, because when a game only lasts 30 minutes, it’s easy to hop back into the fight. Setting up a new game can be done in a flash, thanks to the sorting trays. I found that sticking with one character that you understand well makes it easy to draft allies to ensure there are synergies with other allies and the chosen map.

The only consistent downside I noticed: it would be helpful to have a cheat sheet of what each opposing character can do, rather than always asking for a breakdown of opponent support abilities. That might have been hard to include, but in a deluxe edition, I’m expecting to have everything, and cheat sheets constitute “everything.”

The Most Underrated Game of the Year

Sure, it’s early, but 2024’s award for the hidden gem, the most underrated game of the year, the dark horse, the [insert your own cliche here] is Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition.

MOBA-style combat tabletop games are niche. Still, the design here, the variability, the depth, the replayability, the value for the price ($60, a steal)…I really struggled to think of any major negatives with this one. Maybe this is a tough sell if you can’t find opponents willing to invest in learning the system well enough to keep playing this? That’s a reach; you know if you like battlers or not.

The turn-to-turn puzzle of how to mix good old-fashioned stabbery with area control elements was interesting on almost every turn. In addition to plays of the standard 1v1 and solo play, I did one play of the 2v2 format. I really enjoyed this team format, finding ways to work against opponents and time the use of support abilities so that you have a couple of powers available at all times on the larger 23-hex team battle maps.

Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition is super quick to learn and has all the makings of “it takes a lifetime to master”, one of my favorite catchphrases. Currently ranked 9,921 on BGG’s overall game rankings, I’m hoping that Bestiary of Sigillum: Collector’s Edition makes its way up the charts in the years to come. Don’t blow it like I did on this game, people!

  • Perfect - Will play every chance I get.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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