Slava review

Slava Review

The battlefield is filled with danger, but if you play your cards right, you’ll win more than just the battle. Slava is a military trick-taking game with visuals packed with 1980’s G.I. Joe nostalgia. Use your forces at just the right time to win points, but pay attention to the weather condition which will dictate the hierarchy of battle.

Prepare for Battle

In Slava, players start the game with a hand of 8 cards. Each turn around the table is called a battle, and 8 battles are called a campaign. Players are trying to collect the most points by winning tricks during the campaign. The starting player will play a card and proceed clockwise around the table. Unlike most trick-taking games, Slava doesn’t have a suit or number system. Each card represents a unit of the military force in this war, and there’s a natural hierarchy to the card types.

Slava player hand

Before each campaign, a weather card is revealed. You’ll either face “Good Weather” or “Bad Weather”. This simulates the weather that can impact the effectiveness of your forces.

During good weather, Planes are the king of the battlefield. They will easily win against Infantry, Tanks or Artillery. But, the Anti-Aircraft Gun will easily take down a Plane, changing the dominance on the battlefield. Each time a card is played, the table evaluates if the new card beats the card that is currently winning the battle. The player who wins will take the cards and earn their printed points.

Each of the 7 unit types has a commander card, which is the highest ranked of that unit. Leading with a commander card can ensure that other players who play that unit will not win the trick.

Slava - battle

Fog of War

Slava’s weather mechanic is an interesting one because it can completely upend what would normally be a good hand. If the bad weather card is revealed at the start of the campaign, those powerful Plane cards are now left sitting on the runway. Infantry now becomes the most powerful unit at the table as they put boots on the ground.

Much of the strategy in Slava is about strategically playing the right cards and choosing when to give up points to opponents. At the bottom of each card is the card title, followed by a point value. These are the points that players receive at the end of the campaign to determine a winner. Infantry cards are plentiful and only worth 3 points. It may be worth throwing those away early in the game during good weather. Anti-aircraft Guns are worth 0 points, which are worth losing tricks with during bad weather.

Slava card art

One player at the table will have a Bomb card in their hand. This Bomb will wipe out the trick on the table, taking away any points that would have been earned in that battle. Hold on to this Bomb card until the 8th battle, and you’ll have 10 points deducted from your score for that campaign.

Most of the time, the winner is not the player who wins the most tricks. It’s the player who earned the most points on the cards they won. The rules say that the player who wins a total of 5 campaigns wins the war (the game). We’ve found that this is totally up to how many players are at the table. In a 4 to 5 player game, we normally play until someone wins 3 campaigns. Sometimes we’ll just play and record how many campaigns everyone wins. This is totally flexible with the people you’re playing with.

The Perils of War

I really love this game. Slava is doing something unique here with the hierarchy of the cards. I love how the team at Brothers in Games structured what cards win in each of the two weather conditions. Our friend Victor even came up with a really dynamic variant for the game that is so much fun. After 4 battles, we roll out a new weather condition, which could possibly shift the value of the cards in your hand. This forces players into tough decisions as they weigh out the potential of a potential change in the weather.

Slava - Infantry card

Slava is a really fun and thematic trick-taking game, but it’s not without some issues that need to be mentioned. The amazing graphics pop off of the black matte finish cards, but the unit icons are small and can be tough to see at a glance. This is especially an issue when playing with 5 players. We’ve heard a comment about this almost every time we’ve taught someone the game.

The color of the Anti-Aircraft Gun and Plane cards are too similar in color (orange-ish and red). Players that are new to the game commonly get them mixed up. The grungy font choices for the weather cards are a perfect fit but don’t have enough contrast, especially in low lighting settings. I wish that the game had a couple more reference cards. In a 4 and 5 player game, the single reference card is being passed around constantly. (I’ve created a player aid that can be downloaded and printed from Board Game Geek)

Slava - weather and reference card

I’m bringing up these issues because I’ve taught the game often enough that I hear the same comments in almost every game. Most of these issues go away once a player has a couple games under their belt. Familiarity with the cards and their hierarchy feels so smooth once players get into the game. I’ve played Slava enough to see all it has to offer and forgive it for a couple missteps in the UX of the game.

Final Thoughts

I had some skepticism jumping into Slava. Our family plays a lot of trick-taking games and it can be tough to stand out. I really enjoy the flow of this game, and it hits the sweet spot of being a card game that’s fun and dynamic with artwork that I love.

Slava review

Those moments of counting cards and forgetting that there was one more Anti-Aircraft Gun as you play a Plane card are etched in my mind. Winning a campaign by edging out an opponent by less than 10 points can be thrilling. Slava is all about being tactical with the hand that you have. You may not win the battle, but you always have the chance to win the war.

Slava is an excellent first game from the team at Brothers in Games and it’s a card game that will be on our table for a long time to come.

Slava is now available to purchase from Brothers in Games website.

This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.

Highs

  • Fantastic G.I. Joe inspired artwork on oversized cards
  • Battlefield theme is felt throughout
  • Weather mechanic is a fun twist in the game

Lows

  • UX issues can cause frustrations in learning the game
  • Too few reference cards in the game

Complexity

2 out of 5

Time Commitment

2.5 out of 5

Replayability

4 out of 5

Ryan Gutowski

I'm a huge fan of strategy games and pretty much anything that involves "city building". My love of board games goes back to my childhood and passion for building relationships with others.

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