In Deus, players take on the role of a civilization leader – placing their pieces on the board to control the land as well as to attack barbarian villages. The board itself is a modular affair – there are neat looking “rounded hex tiles” that are constructed out of seven teardrop-ish colored areas. Each tile has 2 sea regions, 1 barbarian village and one each of the four different land terrains. While I can’t confirm this until I see the actual bits – looking at the examples in the rules, it appears that each tile has a different arrangement of these seven areas. The board is built by randomly placing the tiles together – the number of tiles used is determined by the number of players. The only restriction is that barbarian village areas may not be adjacent to each other.
Each player gets a building board and two buildings of each of five types. Each player has a total of 25 buildings in his color – 5 each of the five types – but at the start of the game, only 2 of each type are available to the player. Players also get 5 gold and one resource of each type to start.
On your turn, you have a choice between two basic actions: A) Build a building or B) Make an offering to the Gods.
BUILD A BUILDING
You can build either a regular building or a temple – and then you possibly fight barbarians
Regular Buildings – Play a card from your hand – pay the cost for it (either resources that match the cost on the card OR 4 gold per resource). This card is placed at the top of the column of cards for that color on your player board. Then you get to place a matching building (type based on the color of card played) onto the board.
Building restrictions: You must have a matching wooden piece available to build in your personal supply (or you may not play that card). Initial placements must be on a region at the edge of the board, and later placements can either be in a region you already control OR a region adjacent to somewhere you already control. You cannot place in barbarian regions. Maritime buildings must be built in sea regions. If you place in a region you already control, you are limited to ONE building of each type in that region. If you want to start a new chain of buildings (on a new edge region), you can pay 3 gold to do so.
Finally, you get the special effects of the cards – each card has something awesome on its bottom third. You get the effects of ALL of the cards in the column you placed the card in, going from bottom to top.
Temples – the temples in the game are all of a neutral color – you play a temple card out of your hand, and the cost is always the same: one resource of each type, though again any or all resources can be replaced with 4 Gold each. The first Temple gets placed in a notch in the player board at the right end. When you build your second temple, you must first have built at least one card in each other color – and the Temple card will complete that row. To build a third temple, you must then have at least two cards in each other color… After paying the cost of the card, you then build a temple piece on the board – this must go into a region where you already have a piece though.
Once you have built your building, you check to see if it is time to fight the barbarians. This happens if two criteria are met: A) A barbarian village is completely surrounded (all neighboring regions have player pieces in them) AND B) at least one military unit is amongst those pieces. The player with the most military pieces around the barbarian village wins the VP bonus (which is equal to 1VP per region surrounding that particular village).
If, at the end of this turn, you have NO cards left in your hand, you may replenish your hand and draw back up to 5 cards.
MAKE AN OFFERING TO THE GODS
Instead of building, you can take this other action which allows you to discard cards. You choose as many cards to discard as you like, and place them on the discard pile in a single stack – so that your opponents can only the topmost card. Then, based on the color of the card on top, you get an action which is modified/repeated by the number of cards you just discarded.
Blue (maritime) – Gain 2 gold per discarded card, add a maritime building to your personal supply
Green (production) – gain 1 resource per discarded card, add a production building to your personal supply
Yellow (scientific) – draw 2 cards for each card discarded (Max hand size of 10), add a scientific building to your personal supply
Brown (civil) – Gain 1VP if you discard 1 card, 2VP for >1 card – add a civil building to your personal supply
Red (military) – Gain 1 wooden building of your choice for each card discarded
Purple (temple) – wild card – this can act as any of the 5 colors listed above.
After you take the special power of the God, draw back up to 5 cards – unless you took the Yellow action, and instead draw 2 cards per discarded card (to a max of 10)
Game ends when either all of the temples have been constructed OR when all of the barbarian villages have been attacked. At that point, you finish the current round so that all players have the same number of turns. If you build a temple, you still play the card, but you do not get to place a wooden temple on the board.
Points are added up:
VP are earned through the game
Look at each resource – whichever player has the most scores 2VP
Score points for each temple – each awards points based on different criteria (max of 12/card)
From my three plays – my initial feelings on the game have been confirmed. The game is quick paced, and it’s all about the cards. The mechanic of the card tableau is nice, and it does give you more than one reason to consider playing a card. Some of the actions on the cards seem weaker, but these cards often have a smaller cost to play, and if played early on in the game, they will repay you with their (albeit weaker) action many times over the course of the game.
To be frank, I still don’t have a good feel for whether or not the cards are balanced against each other – I think they are, but it is very difficult to tell as the value of any particular card shifts based on your position on the board and what other cards you have already played. I haven’t yet come across an unfairly dominating combination of cards, though I have certainly seen some really good combos in my games.
In our first game, it seemed like the board play was a lot of solitaire as each of us stayed pretty close to our initial hex – and the rules force you to give distance to your opponents early on. However, in the second and third games, I found that there is definitely a time and a place to spend the 3VP to place a unit in a non-connected exterior space.
I really liked the idea of cycling through the card deck using the Offering action. You generate a positive action through you discards, but you also get to really see a lot of cards at the same time – this way, you are better able to create some cool combination of card actions. Sure, there’s a bit of luck that is involved with drawing the right card at the right time – but that’s no different than any other card based game. The challenge is to set yourself up to be able draw a card you need and to do something with the card when you get it.
Finally, the way that the larger end game bonus cards (the Temple cards) are played is nicely thought out. All players have the chance to play one Temple card each game – further Temple cards can only be played once you have then played at least one card of each type. Thus, if you choose to concentrate in a single color – which gives you lots of repeated actions and probably lots of synergy between those cards – you lose out on the opportunity to score more Temples. Clever. ---Dale Yu