- Designer: Gary Kim
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 14+
- Time: 60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Mandoo Games
“You’re one of the ancient gods, revered and feared by a young civilization. With your help, your people are going to thrive and prosper. However, other gods also want their share of the glory. Will you be able to surpass them and be the highest deity?”
To set up the game, each player takes a player board and fills it with the colored plastic building pieces of matching color. There are walls, temples and towers. Each player is dealt 2 Providence tiles, of which he will keep 1. The others are discarded to the box.
The board is put on the table; players put their scoring markers on the 0 space of the track. Each of the four corner spaces gets a sanctum tile placed on it. Finally, the middle four spaces of the board are filled in with 4 village tokens (1 each of the three different types + 1 random one). These tokens are double-sided, and the illustrations cleverly show you what is on the opposite side. Two markets are created – the Development tiles have 4 face up on the table while the Disciple tiles have five face up on the table. The round marker is placed on the outside of the board, pointing to number one. The first player will move this forward each round until you reach the specified number of rounds for the player count.
On a turn, the active player goes through three phases: 1) place a village token and activate a line, 2) build buildings, 3) draw a new village token.
To place a village token, you can choose either side to place on an empty space. It must be adjacent to another village token, and it must form a divine line – that is, a straight line on the board (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) that ends on a token of the same type; additionally, there must be at least one other token in between the two ends; that is – the line must be at least 3 tokens long.
If you place your token in one of the corner spaces, there is a break in the action for an immediate sanctum scoring. Look at the quadrant of the board associated with that token, and give 10/6/2 points to the players with the most/2nd/3rd topmost buildings in that quadrant.
Then you activate a divine line. For the starting token (the one you placed this turn), gain the resource shown on the token. For the end token, earn the resource shown, and if there is a wall on this token, the owner of that wall scores a point. For all of the middle spaces – remember, there must be at least one – if there is no building, flip the token and gain the new resource shown, and if there is a building, you gain a coin or the resource shown while the owner of the building scores 1pt. Note that you must stop your divine line at the first instance you come across that matches your starting resource (the rules are not overly clear on this).
Then the player can choose to build buildings. You can build any type of building you want, and you pay the resources of the leftmost available building (the costs rise as you move to the right in each type). You can place your building on an empty space or a space with a lower level of building: empty < wall < temple < tower. If you build on top of another building, the owner of the lower building(s) earns 2 points.
If you build a wall, you replace it with one of the disciple tiles from the market, and take any effect shown on it. If you build a temple, you replace it with a development tile from the market. You can choose one of the face up tiles which have higher payoffs if you meet the criteria on them or you can take the guaranteed 4 point tiles.
As you are building, you can trade any pair of identical resources for a coin. A coin, in turn, can be substituted for any resource. You are allowed to build as many buildings as you like in this phase, and you are able to use newly gained resources (from disciple tile actions for instance) to buy new buildings.
Finally, to finish the turn, draw one village token to use in the next turn. If you have more than 6 resources, you must convert them to coins or discard them until you only have 6 resources.
The next player now takes their turn going through the same phases. The game ends at the end of the appointed round: 7/8/9 for 4/3/2 players. Alternatively, if a player is able to build all their buildings OR all 4 corner scorings have occurred; the game ends at the conclusion of the current round, regardless of which one it is.
At the end of the game, there is some final scoring
- If there are any corner sanctum tiles left; score them 5/3/1 pts
- Players reveal their Providence tile and each scores theirs individually
- Earn points for buildings built on your board
- Earn points for development tiles on your board
The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most resources left.
My thoughts on the game
This is a pretty thinky tactical game which I got to play a few times prior to SPIEL. Afterwards, we had to play it again as it turns out that we had misinterpreted one of the rules – and getting the right rule in place made a huge difference, making the game much tighter. (as it turns out, when you are calculating the divine line, you MUST stop at the first icon which matches the starting icon – we were initially playing that you could go as far as the line went).
There is a lot of tactical action in the game; the board state changes with each player’s turn, and the flipping of markers in the middle of each line means that you really have to look at the whole board each turn, not just the two or three new tiles that were placed in the interim. Additionally, as you’re playing your turn, you may want to survey the line that you are forming to make sure that you aren’t leaving a lucrative long option for the next player(s) in order…
When my turn comes up, I usually have to take a few minutes to place my tile in all the different possibilities and see what I would get for either side being face up, and then looking at what the play would do to the board state. Of course, the types of resources usually matters, as you’re often going to want to be able to spend your tokens on a building – and the limit of 6 resources left over means that you probably can only hold off for a single turn before you either have to build something or you risk losing goods.
Building buildings does a couple of interesting things. First, it can reward you short term with points each time it is used in a line. It can also be a strategic thing as temples and towers cover up icons which give the possibility of longer divine lines as well. The 2pt bonus for being built on isn’t shabby either. The disciple tiles can give you really nice one time abilities/bonuses, and the development tiles can pay off in the end game, as well as give you some needed direction in your strategy once you get a tile.
As there are only 7 turns in a 4p game, you really don’t have a lot of opportunities to make your mark in the game. This definitely puts a premium at picking up the resources that you need as well as getting any passive bonuses that you can. If you are concentrating in a quadrant of the board, it’s definitely worth your while to make sure the Sanctum bonus for that quadrant is scored during the game; while it will still score in the endgame – the doubled value for scoring mid-game can be a huge difference.
I’ve had a lot of fun exploring this game, and now that I have the right rules – I’m even more excited to try it again. Though there aren’t many “hidden gems” at SPIEL any more with all the information available on the Internet and whatnot – this is a game that many may not have heard of, and one that would be worth a try.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Rand: Gary Kim is a designer who flies so far under the radar, but certainly deserves more attention. So many of his games carry simple rules with deep player interaction, which is exactly the type of game I enjoy. Deities is another example of this design philosophy and was my favorite game I played at SPIEL. Players start on equal footing, yet develop their own goals over the game. They may finish the game with very different desires than their opponents, which also makes the gameplay that much more juicy. You can certainly try to play your own game, though there is far too much entanglement between player actions for that to be successful. There are opportunities for hurting an opponent’s position – especially through building – yet none of that goes too far toward ruining their endgame. I can’t wait to play more. My only complaint about the game so far is the amount of plastic inside. The pieces provide a great table presence, but I wish more companies considered other more sustainable options.
Dan B. (1 play): I like some of what the game does, but not the tile placement. We played with the correct rule and found that it made for a game that was not tight (which would be fine) but generally had no meaningful options at all for placement. Of course there are still choices as to what to build and which bonus tiles to take, but when you have so little control over your resources it doesn’t feel great. That said I’d be willing to try it again and see if we just had an odd game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Rand
- I like it. Dale Y, John P
- Neutral. Steph, Dan B.
- Not for me…