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Sleeping Gods Review

Sleeping Gods Review

Sleeping Gods Review

Welcome to our review of Red Raven Games‘ Sleeping Gods. Do you love intense narrative-driven games as much as we do?! This game is unique in that while it is a campaign game, it doesn’t have a set start and end point for each play session. It’s designed to be easy to pick up and put away quickly. It’s 1929, and your ship, the Manticore, is lost in the Wandering Seas. Do you have what it takes to discover enough totems to awaken the gods? This game is for 1-4 people ages 14 and up and will take 10 -20 hours to play. That said, we played for an hour or two for this review and will revisit this one in the future!

Game Overview 

Set in 1929, the Manticore is captained by Sofia Odessa and her crew. The players take on the roles of 9 members of the crew and attempt to find the missing totems within the Wandering Seas. The game utilizes two spiral-bound books. One illustrated with a bird’s eye view of the seas, surrounding islands, and numbered locations. This book becomes your game board and map when opened and laid flat on the table. As your ship moves across the board, you may reach the side of the book. Each side is numbered with a page to turn to, introducing new locations for your adventure. 

Besides traveling around on your ship, you can explore these locations, which utilizes a second 174-page narrative story book. Each location on the map you visit has a number. The corresponding number in the storybook details the events at that location. Often you will have choices of things to do. Some cost money or food; others require you to either have or not have a “keyword” in your possession. For instance, “Open the door – Only if you have the Cottage keyword.” These keywords are attached to other cards you gain throughout the story and are an ingenious means of tracking what parts of the story you have seen and have not seen.

Along with exploring, Sleeping Gods is also a resource management game. Each of the crew has a variety of skills that can be activated using command tokens. These command tokens also appear on other communal cards, such as recipes and items. You gain these tokens primarily by performing “Ship actions.” Each player gains their stash of command tokens which they can spend any time (besides during combat) to activate skills and equip abilities. Once placed, players can not complete those skills again until the command tokens are removed via another ship action. 

Each crew can also take fatigue, and both the crew and the ship can take damage. As with so many games we enjoy here at DHG, this game has skill tests. These skill tests come from event cards or storybook actions. Players decide to complete a skill test if they have a crew member they control with the skill needed for the test and want to add to it. Each crew added in this way gains one fatigue. Fatigue can be taken a maximum of two times per crew member/ Other players can also help with a skill test, but they must spend a command token and fatigue to commit crew. After the crew members are committed, the player reveals the next ability card in the deck and adds the “fate number” in the upper left. If combined, these numbers equal or surpass the value attached to the test; the player wins; otherwise, they fail. Failure doesn’t necessarily mean the activity failed, just that your group may encounter more damage or other ill effects while achieving it.

The ship can take damage through various means, usually due to a failed skill test. If the ship takes damage, each location on the ship can take two damage, except for the Hull, which can take only one. This damage is assigned by flipping over the next ability card in the deck and adding a red cube to the ship location with the same numbered fate. If both spaces in an area are full, the team decides where to place the cube. If all locations in the ship are full, you are defeated. Defeated does not necessarily mean the game is over. Depending on which game mode you are playing, you will either go to the nearest port and repair your ship and lose the next six events from the event deck; or the game will end. 

In Sleeping Gods the players each take turns, including taking a ship action, resolving an event, and taking two more adventure actions. The Adventure actions include moving the ship, exploring a location, shopping at the market, or visiting a port. 

From time to time, players will encounter enemies that they must face. Fighting in this game is unique, and we immensely enjoyed it. The storybook will tell the players which numbered cards to pull from the enemy deck. The players then shuffle these cards and place them side by side, face up with the illustration of the enemies facing them. The bottom half of each card has a nine-box grid with various symbols in each box. At the start of the fight, the players evenly distribute the four combat cubes, representing the four hits the players can make in a round. Each player chooses a crew member to hit an enemy and looks at their weapon’s ability and damage value. Then they choose which enemy they want to fight. The goal is to cover up all the heart symbols on an enemy to defeat it. Each enemy has an ability threshold, the value a player needs to reach to score a hit. Similar to other skill tests, the player takes their weapon’s ability value and adds it to a “fate number” from the ability card they draw. If they surpass the threshold of the enemy, they hit it. Otherwise, they miss.

Hitting an enemy means the weapon’s damage amount is the number of squares on the nine-box grid the player can cover-up. The only caveat is that they need to be in a continuous line. The cool thing is that the continuous line can spill over into adjacent enemies. Players can use this to hit other enemies with a higher ability value without directly hitting that enemy. There are a bunch of other symbols to cover up, including enemy damage symbols. You can prevent the enemy from doing this additional damage by hitting them correctly in the grid; after each hit, the enemy counter-attacks damaging the attacking crew member. If a player misses instead of hits, they will do one damage anyways. It’s a pity damage to help you along in the story. Once the players have all used the four combat tokens, the enemies counter-attack. This process repeats until all crew is wholly damaged or the enemies are defeated.

Game Components

As you can probably imagine, Sleeping Gods has many components. The main features are:

  • The Shipboard.
  • The atlas book.
  • The miniature of the Manticore.
  • The plethora of cards and crew boards.

We like the design aesthetic for each crew member and the enemies you face. The artwork is stunning. We love the design of the atlas and all the different islands. The game log sheets are beneficial because they have a mini-map of the complete atlas where you can make notes. This mini atlas is especially helpful when you find some location you can’t unlock immediately, and later in the adventure, you need to get back there to unravel the mystery. The map is super helpful.

The narrative storybook is also a fascinating design. It is segmented by number and within each number by a decimal. So, for instance, if you visit a town labeled 14 on the map and want to explore, you turn to section 14 in the storybook and read the passage. Often that passage has multiple choices that lead you to further passages like 14.2, 14.3, etc. We like the structure of the storybook, and it is easy to find the passage you need. Also, both books, the atlas and the storybook are spiral bound, which is helpful when playing the books can be laid out flat.

Game Setup

Ok, so not going to lie here; Sleeping Gods is a big one to get set up and keep up. The game has a lot of decks of cards that you can not look at before playing. These reveal themselves as you play. You will never see some cards in the course of the adventure – that’s how this game plays out. A bunch of wooden tokens represent command, ship actions, ship damage, person and enemy damage, etc. There’s honestly a lot of “stuff.” 

One nice thing is that the game comes with a magnetized box for the cards and a ton of clear zip bags to place all the tokens in. The box also has a divided plastic insert so you can place undiscovered cards in one area and all the cards and items you discovered in another. This insert helps you find everything you need once you set up your next game.

Gameplay

So we’ve mentioned a lot about how the game plays in our game overview section. We know it’s super detailed, but we want everyone to understand how this plays before getting into it. Well, what do we think of Sleeping Gods? It’s a genuinely fantastic piece of narrative construction and world-building. The first thing striking about this game is that while it’s a campaign board game, there is no finite endpoint for each gaming session. You end the game session whenever you feel like it. The entire game takes about 20 hours to play. Also, please don’t go into each gaming session thinking everyone will have many turns. In fact, in our two-hour session recently, we only got through 8 turns for two people. Each player’s turn can take up to 20 -25 minutes. That said, decisions and discussions among everyone happen throughout the game, so you won’t feel like you are just sitting there waiting for your turn. This game is cooperative, so discussion is encouraged. 

As we mentioned in the overview, we liked how innovative the fighting is in the game. We especially like the “splash damage,” the term the designers use for damage that hurts nearby enemies. Splash damage is very cool because you can be fighting one enemy and also do harm to others. 

The other thing we like in Sleeping Gods is the story and how immersive it feels. The part we find innovative is the use of cards with keywords. So that works because you may find an item or discover a location during your adventure. The game will tell you to pull a card with that name or number from the card box. The card will have a keyword, and future passages will have options open to your group if you possess specific keywords. 

Overall Impressions

Sleeping Gods is great for groups or couples who can get together regularly and want to play something over a relatively long period. It’s not suitable for people who play with multiple different groups as you can only run a single campaign at a time per box. 

We enjoy playing this on a weekday night when we want to get a game in and advance a story forward. We are tag-teaming this game with Familiar Tales and are playing these each right now. 

The biggest complaint of this game is the setup length. This is a huge game, so that that setup will take a while. We are referencing the initial setup of your first campaign. Once it’s set up and everything is in its bag or card box – the game takes much less time to get going – standard setup is about 10-15 minutes.

We highly recommend this game. The hardest thing is getting a copy, though. We do not have this in our store, unfortunately. Our distributor is almost always out of stock. We found our copy on the Board Game Geek store, so if you are interested in getting a copy check out their store here – https://geekgameshop.com/products/sleeping-gods

We’ll let you know if we offer this in our store! In the meantime check out our other Storytelling Games.

 

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