Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto Review

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Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto is a co-op dungeon crawler board game, published by Incredible Dream Studios, set in a world of Atios that is consumed by the Darkness. Only the city of Din’Lux and its magical Kinfire lighthouse remain.

While I could go on and talk about the fantastic worldbuilding done by Incredible Dream Studios, that is not why we are here, but if this is something that interests you, feel free to check out their WorldAnvil page or read their webtoon Kinfire Chronicles: First Expedition

No, you are here to see what this Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto really is and if it is worth your time. The simple answer is yes! However, to fully understand why, you’ll need to dive into my Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto review. So grab your lantern seeker and let’s go.

Rating:8
Playing time:45 to 60 minutes
Number of players:1 to 2
Age:14+
Complexity:Light game
Genre:Co-op dungeon crawler
Release date:2023
Publisher:Incredible Dream Studios

Pros: 

Cons:

Gameplay Overview of Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto

In Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto, you play as one of two seekers tasked with clearing out one of the Wells of Power known as Vainglory’s Grotto. To do so, you’ll have to reach the bottom of the well (deck) and defeat its master, Vainglory (the dungeon boss). If you are looking for a light dungeon crawler that you can do solo or with a friend, you’ve found it.

To reach the end of the well, you’ll have to progress through the well deck challenge cards by overcoming various traps, puzzles, obstacles, and Vainglory’s creations. Each “floor” of the dungeon has four of these present. Don’t worry. You won’t have to go and solve each of those 57 well cards. Because, in most cases, when you solve one of these obstacles as a reward, you’ll move a certain number of cards from the top of the well deck to the discard pile. Just be aware that there is also a penalty for failing to solve the challenge. In most cases, it’s an HP penalty. You start the game with 10 HP, and when it falls to 0 HP, you automatically lose. But in some cases, you’ll have to move a certain number of well-discarded cards back to the well deck. So, you see, it’s not so easy. Darkness has a way of twisting things, and you can easily end up going forward one step just to go back two steps in the next turn.

Kinfire Delve: Vainglory's Grotto box content

As soon as you run out of well cards to place on the board, you’ll have to face Vainglory in one of his three forms that are randomly picked at the start of the game. Each Vainglory master card has its own special rules, but you’ll have to find them out yourself when you reach the end of the well deck. 

The two seekers you get to play are Elven rogue Asha of Brillbrook, a standard DPS oriented character with a few tricks up her sleeve, and Revenant Khor, a tank with the abilities that allow it to punch way above its weight. 

Each of these heroes comes with a deck of cards (abilities), a special ability, and a lantern ability. As you progress through the well, you’ll use up your cards, and unlike in most other games, you won’t be adding cards to your hand at the end of your round. Oh, no, that would be too easy. Instead, the game uses an exhaust mechanic.

This is a game’s way of forcing you to think carefully before you decide to refill your hand. Every time you want to or have to (once you don’t have any more cards in your hand) get new cards, you’ll have to take one of the exhaust cards, discard all remaining cards in your hand, and only then refill your hand. Each exhaust card comes with a penalty, and in some cases, it may end the game completely. Luckily, there are ways to get rid of exhaust cards, but not a lot of them. 

Another way I like to keep my game interesting is by implementing a special rule: if one of the seekers uses or discards all of its cards, the game ends automatically. In a normal game, whenever a seeker runs out of cards in the skill deck, you would reshuffle all of your discard cards and create a new deck. 

This isn’t an official rule. This is my homemade rule. It adds additional pressure and makes things exciting (well, at least for me). It only works with two players and don’t be surprised if you don’t succeed at first.

Be aware that the game is a lot harder when playing solo than with a friend. In solo play, you are limited to only one hero and one deck of cards, which means you’ll go through cards a lot faster, and you’ll start racking up exhaust cards really fast if you aren’t careful. 

How to Play Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto

Each time one of our seekers gets to play, they decide which of the challenges they want to attempt and if they want to play a skill card. Each challenge card has its own strength, symbol, and ability. When attempting a challenge and using a card, a seeker has to match the symbol, except if they use a white card, which can be counted as any symbol.

When playing a game with a friend, your heroes don’t just provide moral support by staying on the bench and rooting for you. You can help each other out when facing challenges by giving away one or two of your precious cards to boost the other player’s chances of success.

Once you and your friend have settled on a strategy, it’s time to roll the dice. But these aren’t ordinary dice, but special seeker dice containing symbols found on the challenge cards, as well as one symbol for the light and the dark. Each matching symbol and a white is counted as one extra progress, unless stated otherwise on the challenge card. 

Kinfire Delve: Vainglory's Grotto review playing the game

Round up all of your successes and compare them with the challenge card score. If your score is equal to or greater than the challenge card difficulty, you’ve successfully solved the challenge and will get to collect the reward. If you fail the challenge, you’ll use progress tokens to track how many successes you had, unless stated otherwise on the card. It’s important to note that only the seeker whose turn it is right now gets to collect the reward. You can’t pass it on to another seeker, even if they need it the most. You’ll keep repeating the same steps until you reach the end of the well and face Vainglory in the final battle. 

Turn the Vainglory’s card face up and position four gauntlet cards around it. You cannot directly attack Vainglory. Instead, you must first reveal one of his weaknesses by defeating gauntlet cards. However, not all of them will reveal the final boss weaknesses.

And we have reached my only problem with this game. You have exactly four gauntlet cards. After your first successful playthrough, you’ll know which gauntlet cards reveal a weakness and which don’t. If they added at least two additional gauntlet cards with different weaknesses, you would have a poll of six cards to pick four at random, which would add some variety and randomness. Right now, every time I have to face Vainglory, I know exactly which gauntlet cards to attack to get to Vainglory as soon as possible.

Difference Between Kinfire Delve Chronicles: Night’s Fall and Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto

Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto is a nice and tight experience for anyone who enjoyed Kinfire Delve Chronicles: Night’s Fall core gameplay mechanic, unique world and art style, and wants an easily transportable experience for one or two players (or more if you get your hands on other versions of Kinfire Delve games). 

Both games feature the same mechanic where players take turns, and one player plays an active role while the other one is helping them complete an action by playing boost cards. While the original game has more of a tabletop RPG experience with positioning and taking care of the environment you are playing in, Vainglory’s Grotto reminded me more of games like Slay the Spire, where you are trying to make the most of your deck and picking challenges in order that you can handle. 

Still, as someone who loved playing Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall, it was good to see familiar characters again and take them for a spin to handle new challenges. 

Other Kinfire Delve Games

While there are no direct expansions planned for Vainglory’s Grotto, Incredible Dream Studios has already announced two additional games in the Kinfire Chronicles with the same style as Vainglory’s Grotto: Kinfire Delve: Scorn’s Stockade and Kinfire Delve: Callous’ Lab. From what I’ve seen so far, both of these games seem to play similarly to Vainglory’s Grotto but will feature different heroes we’ve already seen in Kinfire Delve Chronicles: Night’s Fall and new well-masters to fight against. Kinfire Delve: Scorn’s Stockade is already available in the US, while Kinfire Delve: Callous’ Lab should be released by the end of the year.

That is not all. By the end of April, Incredible Dream Studios will be launching a kickstarter campaign for their new game in the world of Atios: Kinfire Council. Instead of going on a perilous adventure, even bigger danger awaits you in the city of Din’Lux, where you’ll be charged with rebuilding and defending it from Starless Night. Unlike their previous games from the same series, this will be a board game with a hidden traitor mechanic. So choose whom you’ll trust carefully.


Final Thoughts

Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto is a fun dungeon crawler game that I’d proudly keep in my collection. Its replayability, combined with its affordable price point, make it a worthy addition to any board game collection. The quality of the print and design is exceptional. It surpasses many other bigger and more exclusive board games I own, making it a steal in comparison. This game is well worth its price, and I can safely recommend it to anyone who likes roguelike card games. Whether you are playing it solo or with a friend, you won’t regret it.