Jul 05

Staring Into The Abyss – A Review of The Banishing

Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

A dark void has opened, and undead creatures are attempting to enter our world. You have come together as
guardians who must work together to force the undead back through the void. However, the longer it takes, the
stronger the undead become, threatening to overwhelm all.

In The Banishing, players collect cards from the Void to form melds to cast unique spells and effects in an effort
to complete the ritual of Banishing, which will hurl the undead back through the Void. Players must work together
to create those melds, as well as to protect and heal each other from attacks by the undead in order to succeed.


Cooperative games are usually a mixed bag for me. Often the tension can get tiresome when the alpha gamer shows up. In The Banishing, I think they’ve mitigated it some. The random draws, asymmetric powers and hidden hands makes it more difficult. With a short play time, unique powers, and challenging puzzle, the game keeps my attention.

Each turn, you’ll take a row or column of cards from the Void, a 3x3 tableau of rune cards, which you’ll collect to cast spells, and undead cards, which do damage to you. The spells will do things like heal your fellow adventurers, remove cards from the void, or send the undead to The Banishing. However, each player’s set of spells is unique, so the challenge is to manage and coordinate those abilities successfully.

There is a nice amount of complexity in finding optimal solutions within the different character classes. While there are some built-in controls for scaling difficulty in the different player counts, I think 5p is too many, if only because you can spread the damage around much easier. 4p may be optimal, but 3p is a blast. Every action is an exercise in efficiency and a tad bit of luck. It’s the tough decisions that happen where one minute you are fine and then the next minute you feel like you stepped in a pile of “OK, What the hell just happened?”, that make the game fun for me.
The asymmetric powers ensure each player will have something to contribute to your quest. Good strategy will involve some long-range planning, but the randomness of the cards that appear in the Void every turn will throw plenty of monkey wrenches in the works. Players who take too much damage will become exhausted and have their abilities diminished, which will have you proceeding cautiously and slowing the pace of play in your race against the deck.

Like in any good dungeon crawl, we have to come together and make the best solutions for the group, so we can get out alive. As the void opens up, hope quickly diminishes as monsters pour out. I do like the theme, but the gameplay doesn’t exactly create a narrative for me. It feels more like an abstract puzzle, and that’s perfectly fine.

The Banishing is a spooky dungeon crawl, but it never really feels like one, and that’s OK. Yes, there are hit points and shields and wands and whatnot but what we really have here is simply a game that does a terrific job creating the creeping dread you find in great cooperative games. It’s more of a puzzle game than a rich, thematic experience, but the puzzle is so satisfying and compelling you won’t be displeased.

The minimalist art and basic colors show circles, squares, and triangles, feel a little bit like magical runes. The different monsters have interesting looks, but the items are all pretty blah. Overall it’s clean, easy to read, and doesn't get in the way of playing the game.
If you’re going to do a pure card game, you really need to knock it out of the park. Unfortunately, the art feels a little cheap here. The undead look like clip art silhouettes of cheesy Halloween monsters, which doesn’t really jibe with the dungeon crawl theme.

With a $19.99 MSRP, The Banishing not expensive at all. It’s easy to teach, setup and teardown. You can play a game as a filler or multiple games depending on mood and not get tired of the challenge. With all of the shuffling, I think sleeves would be advisable. After a few plays the cards already started to look slightly worn, so it’s probably worth protecting your investment.
The Banishing is a small box game with good quality components, so it’s priced appropriately. With the nice variety of player roles in the box, you could play this several times in a night and it would still stay fresh. The different abilities of each will have you adjusting your play style and strategy each time. It would be a nice fit at almost any game night.

I think if you want a different take on a cooperative game then check out The Banishing. The price point is reasonable, and gameplay is fun. With so little overhead in time, I think this is a no brainer to break out in between games or for a quickie on a school night. I’d give this game a rating of a 4.
The Banishing is a solid co-op experience that’s easy to teach and quick to play It’s a thinky filler and fans of all types of games will find something to enjoy. It’s challenging and fun enough to belong in the Duchy, but I’m going to knock it down a peg for the uninspired artwork. It’s a 4 for me.
The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

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