Wiliam Atta designed the game Caylus, which was released in 2005. This game quickly caught on with game lovers all over the world and won a bunch of prizes (including the Deutscher Spiele Prize). In 2007, another card game variant of Caylus (Caylus Magna Carta) was released, but apart from two small games that didn’t get much attention, no new games of William Atta appeared until Spyrium was presented at Spiel 2013. This game has also gone quite unnoticed. The question is whether that is justified.
What Spyrium shares with Caylus is that it is again a very ‘stale’ game. Thematically it takes place in a kind of steampunk-like world. Spyrium is a mineral with all kinds of special properties and is therefore very popular in this world. In the game, getting and selling (for money or points) Spyrium plays an important role.
The game is played in several rounds. In each round nine cards are placed in a 3*3 formation. Next, a round consists of two phases: in the first phase you place your pieces on the board and in the second phase you remove them from the board. Players may decide when to move from phase 1 to phase 2, so they can choose not to place all their cubes, but instead to start with retrieving them.
When placing the cubes you have to put them between two cards. When retrieving the cubes you may choose what you want to do with the recovered cubes. You can let them earn money, you get as much money as there are other figures around the card the figure was on (you have to choose which of the two cards you pick). The other option is to use the figure to perform a card action on a card he is on. There are different types of cards, some give the right to perform an action (grab money, grab spyrium crystals, get points). These cards can be activated by several players (as long as there is only one figure next to them). Other cards can be bought and are yours after that. Often these cards give you the opportunity to perform an extra action (for example, a card with a mine will give you extra spyrium).
If you retrieve a cube to perform a card action, you have to pay as much money as there are figures of others around that card. During the game you often want to get figures back early so you get a lot of money for them (because many other are still on the board), but on the other hand interesting cards become cheaper for the other players.
After 6 rounds the game is over and the player with the most points wins.
Spyrium is worth it if you are up for a challenge
Spyrium is a great game for the hardcore gamer. It is an accessible game with few rules that are also logically put together so they are easy to remember. But it is a very challenging game. You are always short of everything, you always want more than you can and the attractive actions are quickly hijacked by others. So you have to have a good game plan and at the same time be able to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. That’s why this game is hard to rate. On the one hand the game is really good, but on the other hand it is a game full of frustration because so much can go wrong. I think the game is too good not to pick up if you are up to the challenge. But be warned, things can go wrong! If you don’t like that (or can’t stand it), it could be that a game of Spyrium will become a frustrating experience for you.