Sellswords Tabletop Review — I'll Flip Ya For Real

Sellswords is a card-drafting action game that pits two teams against each other to create a killer team of badass warriors.

Published: June 9, 2015 11:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Sellswords Board Game Cover Art Showing Two Chibi-Style Valkeries Crossing Swords with the name of the game over their heads

Long before I became enamored with the dice and cardboard-infused world of board gaming, I spent countless hours of my youth playing video games in the Final Fantasy series. Two of my favorite games from the series were Final Fantasy VIII (I know, I know, boo-hiss and all that...) and Final Fantasy IX (if you don't like Final Fantasy IX, I don't know if we can be friends), and both of them had a card-based mini-game in the form of Triple Triad and Tetra Master respectively. I enjoyed playing both of those card mini-games so much that I would occasionally boot up my PlayStation just to play them, and so it comes as no surprise that I find myself enjoying Sellswords, designed by Cliff Kamarga and published by Level 99 Games, so much.

What is Sellswords

The core concept of Sellswords is relatively simple. Each player has a hand of six double-sided tiles, one side colored red, the other side colored blue. Each tile has a number on each of its four edges, and, in turn, each player places one tile on the table adjacent to any other. If a tile is played next to an opponent's tile, the numbers on the touching sides of those tiles are compared. If the tile played has a higher number than an adjacent opponent's tile, then the adjacent tile flips to the playing player's color.

The game is played over two rounds, with scoring happening after each round based on how many tiles each player controls in each row and column. The player with the most points at the end is the winner. If that's all there was to Sellswords, it may have been a fun distraction to try once or twice, but ultimately would have been boring and forgettable. Thankfully, Sellswords has multiple layers of depth and strategy built on top of this basic foundation that add a huge amount of fun to the game while keeping play-time short and the rules easy to learn.

For starters, each tile shows a unique character with their own special ability. These character abilities morph the game from a simple game of comparing numbers into a tactical strategy game where tile placement, facing, location and relocation, and spatial awareness become necessary considerations for effective play. Clever players can use these special abilities to overcome numeric disadvantages and shift the board into configurations that are more likely to benefit them. Only 24 of the game's 50 unique tiles are used in each game of Sellswords. This dramatically increases the game's replayability as players will constantly get to experiment with different combinations of abilities as they play.


Sellswords' drafting phase is yet another layer of strategy that benefits the game, as it neatly skirts any luck-of-the-draw issues that 50 unique characters and abilities could present. At the beginning of the game, 12 random tiles are dealt out on the table. Players take turns drafting one tile at a time into their hands until each player has drafted 6. After the first round is played through, another 12 random tiles are dealt on to the table, and a second round of drafting takes place. Since all of the tiles on offer are open information for both players, it is imperative that players not only draft the tiles that they think will work best for them but also consider which tiles their opponent has drafted and how other, still available, tiles could work in tandem with the tiles already drafted.

Agonizing over which tile to draft in order to create a winning hand is fun, and bluffing and counter-bluffing in an attempt to trick your opponent into staying away from the tile you want to draft next is a riot. The one downside to the drafting mechanic is that experienced players have a gigantic advantage over new players. While experience is almost always an advantage, it is especially advantageous in Sellswords, as experienced players will know exactly which combinations of tiles are especially effective based on the tiles on offer for that round.

Mastery of Sellswords Will Come, But Not For A While

Fortunately, with only 24 of the 50 included tiles being randomly selected for use in each game, it can take quite a while before players are familiar enough with the game that they can see a winning combination immediately from the wide variety of possible draft layouts. This also means that, while new players can blame inexperience on a devastating loss, more experienced players have nothing to blame but themselves. Independent of skill level, card drafting is fun, and it's exciting when you are able to craft a winning team.  While it is very satisfying to see your drafted tiles perform well, it can be equally heartbreaking to see your well-placed tiles flip and your hard-earned points slip through your fingers into the hands of your opponent when they make a clever move.

Sellswords are kept fresh via the inclusion of four different starting tiles. Each of the starting tiles changes the rules of the game, which in turn significantly affects how effective certain abilities are. The Niflheim tile adds tile chaining to the game, which adds a ton of chaos and gives the players, even more to consider as they place each tile. The Ragnarok tile sees players removing tiles between rounds, which can have a significant effect on end-game scoring, and the Yggdrasil tile has players forgo drafting altogether in favor of a draw two, keep one mechanic. These seemingly small rule changes have a huge effect on gameplay and allow players to not only shake things up to keep the game interesting but also to tailor the game to their tastes.

Is Sellswords Worth Your Money? 

While it most likely won't form the core of an entire night of gaming, Sellswords is a great game for players looking for a quick-to-play and easily portable game. Sellswords is a great 'filler' game to play between other heavier games or to take on the go, as it can be set up and ready to play in a matter of seconds. Sellswords offer enough depth and variety, especially with the alternate starting cards that change the rules of the game, that it offers a great amount of bang for your buck.

The copy of Sellswords used in this review was provided by Level 99 Games. This review was originally published on 06-09-2015. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.

Review Summary

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Maestro of cardboard and plastic, former Tabletop Editor. Now I mostly live in the walls and pop in unexpectedly from time to time. If you ever want to talk… More about Travis