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Game Preview: Deus, or Divine Card Play for Mortals Like You

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Deus
Each year since 2010 when it debuted with Troyes, Belgian publisher Pearl Games has lived up to its name by taking one sandy grain of inspiration and carefully caressing and honing that seed until a game design of unbelievable smoothness issues forth to the delight of gamers.

For 2014, Pearl Games owner Sébastien Deujardin — co-designer of the Pearl titles Troyes and Tournay — is releasing one of his own designs: Deus, which calls on players to develop their own civilizations via card play and requests for help from the gods. Deus debuts at Spiel 2014 in October in English, French and German versions, and Asmodee will distribute the title in North America.

Board Game Publisher: Pearl Games
Prototype components

The land that you inhabit has a pleasing regularity that can be found only through divine action or the whims of a game designer, assuming of course that there's some distinction between the two. Each double-sided hexagonal land tile has two sea regions, four resource-producing regions (field, forest, swamp, mountain), and one barbarian village, and players use four, six or seven tiles depending on the number of players; barbarian villages must be separated during construction, but otherwise you can construct the world as you wish. Your own moment of divinity!

Each player starts with one resource of each type, a hand of five cards, 5 gold, 5 VP, and two buildings of each type — civil buildings, production buildings, military units, maritime buildings, and scientific buildings — on her individual player board. Actions in Deus are simple: On a turn, you either (1) use a card in hand to construct a building or (2) discard one or more cards to make an offering to the gods.

Board Game: Deus
One building card of each color

Cards come in six types, five of them matching the building/units named earlier with temples being the sixth. When you construct a building/unit, you pay the cost on the card in resources and/or gold (with you being able to replace each resource with four gold, should you wish), place the card in the proper colored slot on your player board (leaving uncovered the bottoms of other cards of this color), then place a building of this type from your personal player board onto the land.

When you place your first building, you must place it on the edge of the land at least two spaces away from anyone else; for each subsequent building you can place it in a space that you occupy (assuming the building is of a different type) or in an adjacent vacant space. Maritime buildings can be placed only at sea, as you might imagine, and nothing else goes on the sea as those buildings are decidedly less buoyant and prone to sinking. If you become pinned and are unable to grow, you can establish a foothold at another edge of the land for a cost of 3 VP, which suggests that Monsieur Dujardin is a far kinder deity than Herr Teuber.

Barbarian villages can't be occupied, but must instead be surrounded, whether by you alone or in combination with others. Once a village is so surrounded, whoever has the most military units adjacent to it claims the VPs located there. In a military face-off, the player with the most buildings triumphs.

Board Game: Deus

If you construct a temple, you pay the costs as normal, then take a temple from the common supply and place it in a region you occupy for no one would build a temple in unoccupied land where it could not be watched over and protected. To construct a second temple, you must have first played at least one card of each color to prove that your civilization is well-rounded, as versed in warfare or trade as it is in scientific achievement and civic life, and to construct a third temple you must have first played a second card of each type because one must maintain standards, after all.

After you construct a building and place the card above your player board, you carry out the effect of all the cards of this color from bottom to top, thus giving you an equally good reason not to be a well-rounded civilization. Decisions, decisions. Green cards produce resources that you require for future growth while yellow cards allow you to draw more cards or restock buildings from the central supply. Blue cards let you trade for gold or VPs, brown cards reward you for your growth on the land, and red cards move your military units to advance on distant barbarians or not-so-distant yet still barbaric opponents.

Instead of constructing a building, you can discard one or more cards, with the top card granting you the power of the associated deity and the bonus that you receive being determined by the number of cards you discard. Neptune, for example, grants you one maritime building from the central supply — for if you don't have a building type on your player board, you can't construct it in the future — as well as two gold per discarded card. Vesta grants you a civil building and VPs, while Ares prefers physical rewards, giving one building of your choice for each card discarded. After making an offering, you refill your hand to five cards.

When all barbarian villages have been forcibly brought into civilization or all temples have been constructed — four to seven, based on the player count — players finish the round, then each take one final action. They then score up to 12 VP for each constructed temple depending on how well they met the conditions listed on it, and those with the most of each resource type snare an additional 2 VP. Whoever has the most VPs has won the favor of the gods — or at least the game.

Board Game: Deus
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