Deus

RRP: £59.99
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RRP £59.99
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In Deus, players work to develop their own civilizations in a shared environment. Each player starts the game with five building cards, and on a turn a player either uses one of these cards to construct a building or discard one or more cards to make an offering to a god. Cards come in six colors: red for military, green for resource production, blue for trade, brown for scoring, pu…
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Category Tag SKU ZBG-PGDEU01EN Availability 1 in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • This is a game with a high amount of expandable replay-ability.
  • Good if you enjoy card management and combos as a mechanic.
  • Relatively straightforward rule-set that offers a good amount of depth.

Might Not Like

  • The theme. It's bone dry, don't try to justify it.
  • If you stick solely to the base game. It's decent in its own right, but the expansion is a must.
  • When you're lumbered with the AP player.
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Description

In Deus, players work to develop their own civilizations in a shared environment. Each player starts the game with five building cards, and on a turn a player either uses one of these cards to construct a building or discard one or more cards to make an offering to a god. Cards come in six colors: red for military, green for resource production, blue for trade, brown for scoring, purple for temples, and yellow for a variety of effects.

When you construct a building, you build it in the appropriate location on the modular game board — which is sized based on the number of players with the hexagonal tiles composed of seven landscape "circles" — then you place the card in your personal tableau in the appropriate stack of colored cards and activate the power of all of those cards already in your tableau, starting with the card at the bottom of the stack.

When you make an offering, you discard cards, then receive the help of a god associated with one of the cards that you discarded, with the number of cards determining the strength of the associated action. You then refill your hand to five cards.

The game ends either when all the barbarian villages on the game board have been surrounded and attacked or when all the temples have been constructed. Whoever has the most points wins.

  • Ages 14+
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes playing time

Deus is one of those games where I play it once, don’t think more of it, disappear off to other games and then come back to it much later. I did the same thing with Robinson Crusoe when I first called it overrated. But in that case, when I returned to it (I felt it call to me as if I was missing something) I realised that I’d been missing out on a great game. Usually when you love or hate a game, the first play is all you need to tell you that, but when one is “ok”, it’s a little more hard to pinpoint.

Deus had that same impact on me. I felt it was “ok” after a first play with sub-par teaching and analysis paralysis over the table. But I kept seeing it on shelves, it got an expansion to add to the variety and Zee Garcia from The Dice Tower raves about this on his lists. And this has mechanics I’m generally a fan of – card combos, chaining effects and simple rules with plenty of depth.

Okay it has zero theme but then how is that different from most Euros these days (seriously designers, get more theme into your games, you’ve been warned)? For less than the average board game price, I can revisit Deus and see if it deserves a second chance.

Deus Overview

In Deus, players take on the role of a civilization leader (no-one in particular, just make a name up) placing their pieces on the board to control the land as well as to attack barbarian villages.  The board itself is a modular affair with lots of rounded teardrop style sections. Each tile has two sea regions, one barbarian village and one each of the four different land terrains.

Each player gets a building board and two buildings of each of five types (Maritime, Production, Civil, Scientific and Military). On your turn, you have a choice between two basic actions: A) Build a building or B) Make an offering to the Gods.

Building is straightforward – play a card from your hand and pay the cost for it (either resources that match the cost on the card OR four 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 onto the board providing you have one available subject to some basic restrictions for quantity and location.

Simple enough, except now you trigger off EVERY effect at the bottom of each card in that column, so the more cards you’ve used of that colour in the game, the more effects you chain off for some obscene combos. Temples are additional buildings that you can acquire, but these are more relevant for end-game scoring opportunities.

Barbarian villages scatter the map which are essentially sitting bags of victory points. Once a village is surrounded by player pieces after building, whoever has the most military units among them scores the village.

Instead of a building you can “Make an Offering to the Gods,” which allows you to discard as many cards as you choose to trigger a different bonus depending on the colour of the card, be it gold, resources, buildings or additional cards on top.

Deus ends when either all of the temples have been constructed OR when all of the barbarian villages have been scored. All the points from VP’s earned throughout the game as well as bonuses for resource monopolies and temples are totalled to reveal the winner.

You Know Nothing…

Components are nothing stellar here, but they fit the bill and make the game look striking. I like the teardrop style of the map tiles and all the different colours make for a vibrant, if odd map layout. Artwork throughout the cards is fine, nothing is bad, nothing is great, but the highlight is the general graphic design that’s used on them.

Anyone who’s played any modern card game will understand the iconography straight away and all the card powers are explained both in text and imagery. This is a concept I don’t see used often, but I find games benefit greatly from offering two ways of interpretation on them. I learn quicker from pictorial representations then I do walls of text any day.

 

Insert Reference

Deus’ special tweak is that you not only have to consider how many effects will trigger in a column, but also the order in which they have been placed.  If a player gets this right it means that they can harvest resources early in a turn to use later in that same turn, or move an army and then do some invading for points. Get the order wrong however and you become frustrated with sub-par combos, but then that’s the whole idea of the game, creating obscene combos.

It all sounds easy until you try and a particular path to victory might not reveal itself until part way through the game. Certainly do not try to state at the beginning “I’m going to munchkin Maritime cards this game,” because you might spend forever cyling for them all when you should have been focusing on something else.

Deus becomes progressively more complicated and slower as the game progresses which is typical of most tableau builders, however this sometimes causes a bit of a downtime issue with four players especially if you’re unlucky enough to have invited the player with analysis paralysis to the table. This isn’t one of those games you want them to sit in.

Normally however even a four-player game doesn’t usually over-shoot 90 minutes and with 2-3 players, you’re looking at between 60-90 minutes. Not bad at all and certainly three has always been my sweet spot for many Euro’s, including Deus.

It’s good that they also gave some decent benefits to discarding cards as well. This could have easily been a boring “discard and redraw” affair, but instead you now have an incentive to discard some cards over others. And by cycling through the deck, you get to see a lot of buildings and create better combos.

Sure, there is 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 and some force you to put up with that for more than twice as long as Deus does (cough cough Mars cough). That element of luck keeps the game tense, doesn’t outstay itself and allows for newbie players to stand up to the big gamers as well at times.

The Temple cards allow for additional paths to victory on top of simply utilising your normal cards. All players have the chance to play one Temple card each game, but after that further Temple cards can only be played once you have played at least one card of each type.  Thus, if you choose to concentrate in a single color, which gives you incredible giant turns at times, you lose out on the opportunity to score more Temples – a decent balancing act.

Why was it called Egypt?

Some people have had concerns over the longevity of Deus as you only have one deck for each building type in the base game. Those are legitimate, unless you grab the fairly cheap Egypt expansion, which simply adds another deck of cards for each building type, allowing you to pick and choose which one you want to use for each colour type in any game. Do it randomly or pick your perfect setup, your choice. I already have preferences for which ones I’d like to use in every game, but I haven’t found a deck where I’m like “that’s a rubbish one, I’ll never use it.”

There is no business calling it Egypt as there’s no thematic reference to it. The next expansion may as well be called Birmingham for all the difference it makes, but what it does is more than double the replay value of Deus. It’s like how Crossroads for Tokaido improved the variety in that game, it just gives you more options.

Any new mechanics present are specific to that deck and are easy to pick up even for new players so you don’t have to feel you need to stick to base set only for teaching Deus. And thanks to the oversized Deus box you can easily fit the contents with your base set with room to spare for any possible future expansions. It’s essentially the perfect answer to what Deus needed.

Verdict on Deus

I’m glad I gave Deus another chance. Providing you avoid the AP player, this is actually a solid card management game. It’s fun every time to try different combos and focus on different types of buildings or playing styles. And now with the Egypt expansion, the replay-ability is kicked up to 11 by allowing you to randomise the cards used or create your own perfect setup. And yet the rules themselves are pretty straightforward meaning I can put this game down for a while and still come back to it without needing a revision course ahead of time.

The depth comes from how you’re going to best utilise the card combos you have. An element of strategy is required for the long term, but as you only have five cards in your hand, a lot of it is based on sound tactical play as well, always a plus for me. Component quality is pretty good across the board, even if the box is oversized, but on the plus side, you know that you’ll be able to hold the expansion and any future ones with ease. You may however want to sleeve this on account of the constant card manipulation that goes on.

It’s completely themeless, which is a downer for me, but beyond that, there is a solid Euro that I feel deserves a bit more attention from players these days. This could have potentially featured on my Top 10 Underrated Games list as I would grab this over many of the more buzzed about Euro’s these days when I want an engaging game that takes no more than 90 minutes. Try the base game first, and if that works, grab Egypt as a must-buy.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • This is a game with a high amount of expandable replay-ability.
  • Good if you enjoy card management and combos as a mechanic.
  • Relatively straightforward rule-set that offers a good amount of depth.

Might not like

  • The theme. It's bone dry, don't try to justify it.
  • If you stick solely to the base game. It's decent in its own right, but the expansion is a must.
  • When you're lumbered with the AP player.