Dale Yu: Review of Siliconvania


  • Designer: J.B. Howell
  • Publisher: Wizkids
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 45-90 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

Says the publisher: “The Vampire Council is looking to hire a new city planner to turn Transylvania, the most legendary vampire town in the world, into the world’s newest tech haven! You and your rivals are competing to land a job that will ask you to create a diverse cityscape for vampire and animal life, provide plenty of blood banks for your citizens, secure contracts, and bring aboard the best specialists in the industry. The race is on to present to the Vampire Council the most organized plans for the city to renovate Transylvania into Siliconvania!”

Before you can play this uniquely themed game, there is a small bit of setup.  The Council board is placed in the middle of the table; there are two tracks here (Survival and Innovation) that move in opposite directions – many of the spaces in these two tracks have bonuses printed on them. The deck of cards and all the tile stacks are customized for player count.  Each player gets their own City Planning board, a hand of bidding cards, a different hand of Specialist cards, and 2 ghost-shaped Vampire meeples (shouldn’t they be Vamples?!).

In Siliconvania, players bid on building tiles and multi-use specialists that provide either one-time bonuses or end-of-game scoring. Players take the building tiles they win, and place them in their 4×4 city grids, juggling different scoring opportunities, and collecting vampire and pet meeples that are looking for places to live!  The game is played over 8 rounds, each going through the same four phases.

1] Refresh – update the selection of building tiles and Specialist cards available for the players.  In a 3-4 player game, this means there will be (n+1) selection pools of 2 building tiles and one specialist card per player.

2] Bid Selection – Players secretly and simultaneously choose one of their Silent Bid cards in addition to a Specialist card from their hand.  When all have chosen, they are revealed.  Each player has an identical hand of Silent Bid cards numbered 1 to 7.  The Specialist Cards also have a unique rank number (1 to 70) and a bid effect.  Higher ranks are more likely to win auctions but their actions are proportionally weaker.  

3] Building Tile Resolution – In bid order (highest Silent Bid number, ties broken by highest Specialist Rank) – choose one Selection pool (set of two building tiles), taking any bonuses seen in the upper left of the tiles.  These tiles are now placed on the player’s City board in empty spaces.  The Silent Bid card is discarded into a facedown discard pile.

4] Specialist Card Resolution – Again in high to low rank order, players now resolve their Specialist card by performing the action seen on the bottom half and then they choose a new Specialist card from the pool on the table.  The Specialist card is then discarded.  In rounds 4-8, you also add a Specialist card from your hand to your City Objectives area of your board.  This card will now provide a scoring ability in the endgame (the needed information is found in the right of the title bar).  

The game ends after eight rounds, at which time everyone’s city grid will be full. You score points:

5 VP for having each of the seven building types, 

1 VP per blood icon on a single cluster of tiles having blood

1 VP for proper housing for the vampire meeples (i.e. those in a coffin)

Varied points for having a variety of animals and animal meeples on your tiles

2VP per council contract plus 5VP bonus is you have at least 3 contracts

Your specialists also provide special scoring conditions, up to 12VP each.  You can only score 3 of the same type of a particular City Objective.

The player with the most points wins, ties broken in favor of the player with the most housed Vampires.

My thoughts on the game

Siliconvania combines a couple of different ideas into a cohesive game: A bit of tile laying/city planning, a bit of blind auction, a bit of hand management, and a bit of special card actions each get their time in the sun here.  (Well, we’re talking about vampires here, so maybe it’s better to say each gets their time in the limelight?) The player interaction comes in the vying for selection order in the auction(s).  Once you get cards and tiles in your area though, you’re on your own to play a little solitaire optimization game.

In my initial games, the game intensity has gradually but continually ramped up.  One of my fellow gamers even went so far as to say that the first couple of rounds didn’t matter as much because without having any endgame scoring bonuses, you had plenty of time to take whatever tiles you could and then figure out which scoring cards you wanted to play in the ending rounds.  While I agree to some degree with this statement, I don’t think you can be that cavalier about the tiles.  You still want to try to focus towards whatever scoring metrics you think will work for you AND you also probably want to start collecting those color cards to have in your hand; after all, even if you’re set up for a particular scoring bonus, you can’t cash in on it without having the card to play.  Additionally, many of the cards have actions on them which support the scoring bonus of their color – often leaving you with a tough decision of choosing to play a card for that action or using it to score.

Speaking of the scoring, I would definitely recommend going over the different types of bonus scoring in the rules teach.  I didn’t do a great job of this in my first game, and I think that the players that didn’t immediately grok how that scoring would turn out were at a severe handicap.  There are as many as 48 points up for grabs in the bonus scoring, so it could end up being more than half of your final score. 

As the game enters the final two rounds, competition for cards and tiles really heat up as players now have specific things they want in the auction.  I would definitely recommend watching what your opponents are doing so that you know who your competition is for the things you want – whether it is features on tiles or specific colors of cards to score large bonuses..  As with many games, having a different goal than most will likely be beneficial as other players are less likely to take the things you want, even if you don’t do well in the auctions.

I like the way in which the specialist cards have either a good rank (for card choice) or a good action.  The limitation of card choice can definitely be a factor in when you can get away with playing a single digit rank specialist card…  In the first couple of rounds, it may not matter as much – but as I said before, it can be rather disheartening to work towards a particular scoring goal and then not be able to draw that color card in the auctions.

The two tracks of Innovation and Survival provide some very useful bonuses for track progression, and some of the tiles placed on the borders of your board can be quite useful in meeting scoring conditions in the endgame.   Additionally, if you get lots of movement on the tracks from tiles, you can try to get the color bonuses that reward having those tiles.

The components are solid, with the icons on the cards and building tiles being easy to see and understand.  The scoring patterns on the cards is a bit small, but everything is explained in good detail on the player aids at the right of the player board, so that’s no big deal.  I will state that I had some complaints with the wooden bits though.  

First, the game uses pink ghost shaped bits for vampires.  This is kind of a stretch, and it really seems like a more suitable shape could have been found.  Second, the dogs and cats are both small black things and honestly a bit hard to distinguish from each other.  I’m not sure why these weren’t painted different colors to make it easier to tell them apart from afar.  Finally, the purple and gray track cubes both look like shades of gray to me, and having a more distinctly different set of colors would have been helpful.  As we’ve only played 4p games so far, the problem has been solved by never using both colors in the same game.

Games run in the 45-60 minute range right now which feels right for this level of complexity. Though I have only played 4p games so far, the game seems to scale well for different player counts by keeping relative proportions of the cards/tiles based on player count.   The seven different colored endgame scoring criteria give plenty of opportunity for players to develop their city in different ways, and the final scores are usually somewhat clouded in mystery until the final scoring happens – making for a tense ending as each player hopes to get the tiles and cards they need to solidify their endgame strategy.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • Not for me.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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