Deus is a game I was immediately interested in after seeing pictures of games in progress. All of those pieces on a hexagonal-ish board smelled of some combat goodness. But after hearing some reviews of the game it appeared that this was not the case. Turns out the board aspect of this game was more akin to Settlers of Catan with players placing their little house pieces onto the board, trying to control the right territories to produce resources and cut off the other players. Not necessarily a bad thing but not what I was hoping for in the game. But the other thing that came through in the reviews was the very strong engine building aspect of the game and that is what made me want to try it. I’m glad I got the chance.

That chance came in the form of an invitation from the guys at Pub Meeple to participate in a video play through and review. I couldn’t turn them down. Not only do I enjoy contributing to our great hobby but these guys are just plain fun to work with.

This reaction is based on two plays and some additional study of the rules and cards.Deus

 

THE GAME
Deus is primarily an engine building game with some hand management and board area control aspects. Players will be playing cards from their hand into different columns that will allow them to play buildings out onto the board. Each card has an action on it. When a player plays a card into a column it will trigger all of the actions on other cards in that column starting at the bottom. This is the engine building aspect where players can set up combos that when triggered can produce some very powerful effects.

The buildings played on to the board will allow players to produce resources, conquer barbarian villages, and block off their fellow players.

The other thing players will be doing is discarding cards as a “sacrifice” to the different gods. This allows players to get rid of cards they don’t need and get new ones, produce additional buildings to later place on the board, and get some special benefit associated with the god they sacrificed to.

Players earn victory points mainly by conquering barbarian villages and building temples which will score at the end of the game. As usual, the player with the most points is the victor.

WHAT I LIKED
Engine Building
I really enjoy a game that I can feel my progress. The combos I have set up get stronger and stronger as the game progresses. Deus is one of the best engine building games I have played. As you play cards into the different columns you will be creating combos that, when activated, can have some impressive effects. By the end of the game, you can feel like you have built a massive engine. Triggering 4 or 5 cards at one time feels pretty good.

Tension
Deus has wonderful decision tension. Do I play this card or sacrifice it? I need more production buildings before I can play this production card that I really need to play. I really need to be in that space on the board to prevent another player from taking points from a barbarian village. Everything you need to do feels top priority so your choices are very tense.

Hand Management options
I am very interested right now in games which have you managing a hand of cards. Since there is a random element in the card draw you will inevitably end up with cards you don’t need or want. This game mitigates this with the sacrifice mechanic. Sacrificing allows you to get rid of cards you may not want, draw new cards, and get some other benefit. So discarding becomes a really good option and something you want to do. This type of hand management feels really good: either you are playing and benefitting or discarding and benefitting. Win-win.

On a side note, This game really deserves a component shaped like an altar for the discard pile.

Simple rules/deep strategy
The rule book for Deus is only 4-5 pages long. Players only have two options on their turn: build a building or sacrifice cards. So the is pretty simple to learn but offers deep strategy due to the numerous ways players can build their card engines. Multiply this against all the strategic options on the board and you have some serious depth and replayability.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The game feels a bit dry
Looking at a board of Deus in-progress made me first think of a civilization 4X style game with some good combat in it. It is not this. There is player interaction on the board but no real combat. And that is fine, it just didn’t meet my expectations. I know, this is all based on my expectations and nothing really wrong with the game but players and buyers need to know this going in. The look can be deceiving.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS
Card draw issues
The first game of Deus I played I didn’t draw a single production building. Since the card draw is random you really have to adjust your strategy according to what you draw. The only mitigation you have for this is to rely heavily on sacrificing science cards to make big card draws. Even with this I could see an occasional dud of a game due to bad card draws.

ROADBLOCKS FOR NEW PLAYERS
Card Text Overload
Your first game or two may be slow and quiet as players read each card they draw into their hand and try to figure out how to use it. Then reread other cards they may have forgotten about. It isn’t that the cards are hard to understand, there are just many different cards with lots of text. Know this going in if you are learning or teaching the game. it would have been nice for the game to come with a card index players could reference. Before our second game, I got online and read through all of the cards which helped me tremendously. A little bit of study went a long way.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I like Deus a lot, but it doesn’t quite hit the “love it” level.  The buzz it received last year is well deserved. It is very satisfying to build your engine and watch it perform well. The player interaction on the board feels very Catan-esque but was still fun. The mobility of the military “buildings” gave some needed flexibility there and makes the game a bit less predictable.

If someone asked me to play this game I would be happy to oblige but I’m not sure I would suggest it. Since I know someone who owns it I don’t feel the need to buy it.

Originally posted on BoardGameTheory.com