Slowly losing your grip on reality as you realise you have subconsciously been building gates to a dark dimension isn't a problem for most people. For me however, it's too late. I have heard the whisperings of ancient monstrosities and my sanity is forfeit. Will you keep your sanity during your investigations into the regions, or will you join me in constructing the Gates of Delirium?
The world of gaming is littered with Cthulhu-themed games. Regardless, Gates of Delirium manages to stand tall in the crowd despite going under the radar for many. It is a deceptively clever game that brings a fresh lick of paint to set collecting and offers an incredible experience to gamers looking for an intermediate game.
The goal is to gain as many points as possible from a whole host of options. Do you feel the urge to build interdimensional gates to summon cosmic horrors? Do you feel like taking board dominance? Feel like blocking your opponents from finishing sets whilst building your own? There's plenty of strategic options on offer here.
Being restricted to only two action cards per round, the game manages to present to you the sense of urgency. This can also lead to you not knowing the best course of action. This would be off-putting in most games, but it ties in incredibly well with the theme of madness. Adding re-playability are set objectives from randomly chosen scroll cards. These affect everyone and may change your play style.
How Does it Play?
If you asked me “Hey, Markus, you want to play a game with eight different set collections in two different mechanic styles with area control thrown in for good measure?”. My response would have been “Who the hell is Markus?” followed by a nosebleed and a swift decline. Gates of Delirium manages to balance what would otherwise be a salad bowl of collections into an easy to manage, enjoyable experience.
'How does the game pull this off?' I hear you whispering to me menacingly from the fabric of another dimension. It’s simple really. The actions you can take are specific to the sanity level currently in play. The actions you can take are depicted by symbols on the cards in your hand.
Lost pages and map fragments can only be collected during 'sane' turns. Meanwhile, gate sections and ancient runes can only be collected during 'insane' turns. Using desperation tokens can change force your opponents to change their tactics or grant you little bonuses. This adds an extra level of mechanical ingenuity to the game and presents a few extra options to shift the balance in your favour.
Placing your investigators on the map requires a sane round, whereas building your gates and collecting more desperation tokens requires insane rounds. The more investigators you have on a map region when any player completes its gate, the more points you score. Completing a gate summons a monstrosity that kindly rewards your servitude with a plethora of points. Once the last monstrosity has been summoned, the game is over, and all set points are tallied. You'll need a balance in sanity to truly succeed in this game (and in real life. Apparently).
The set collecting is where Gates of Delirium truly thrives. There are five different coloured gates you can build, each colour corresponding to the coloured regions on the board map. As you collect the gate cards, you place them in a spiral fashion (the same as in Lotus, another 'Game By Jordan & Mandy'). This interlocks the cards themselves and gives the set collecting such an interesting twist and makes it such a delight to finish the set.
The beauty in the tactics is that the game does not dictate when a sane or insane round starts, you do! Or Markus does! And thus, encourages you to choose a sanity level that will enable your hoarding, or block your opponents from completing sets. Whichever you choose, your opponents can only take actions depicted by the current sanity selection. You can even choose a sanity level that benefits your current goals, then pay desperation tokens to flip it before it moves onto your opponents turn to restrict their options.
There are many little features to this game that really help to bring it together into a solid game. I thoroughly enjoy the mechanics and tactical options in Gates of Delirium.
How Does it Taste?
Why would you ask me that? Are you crazy?
How Does it Look?
The production value in this game is absolutely phenomenal! The game plays 2-4 players so there are four different colours you can choose between. Each player has a set of meeples that depict the investigators on the map. Then also one big meeple that is used to track scoring. The incredible thing about these meeples is that each colour has its own unique shape for both the investigator and the scoring meeple. This is a brilliant little detail that really strengthens the appeal of the components. Each player also has their own 'journal' which helps you keep your sets nice and compact.
The game board is bold, simple and acts as more than just a map. The board highlights the different 'desperate actions' you can pay to enact and has the score tracker down the side. Another amazing detail is that you can flip the board over for a slightly different map if you are playing a 2-player game. The small details like this really stand out to me and show that the designers had the players at the forefront of their designs.
A wooden sane/insane marker helps you to keep track of what sanity level you are currently restricted to. A deck of glossy, square, plastic gate cards; a standard deck of glossy, plastic action cards; a stack of monstrosity tokens; score tokens and desperation tokens also bulk up the game box. All of them are beautifully designed and are a joy to study in detail. The action cards themselves are split into a sane side and an insane side, making it simple to depict which side you can play. The artwork on all the cards and components really helps to encompass the vibe of this game. There is also no text on the cards, which makes it a delight for those who just prefer to jump into the action.
Mid to Late Game
With a lot of heavily themed games, I find that the momentum starts to droop as the game progresses. This is usually because I start to realise that the theme of the game has had more development than the actual core of the game itself. This dip doesn't come into play here, however. Gates Of Delirium really picks up momentum the longer you play. When you see players' growing collection of gates, journals, ancient runes, and map pieces, you can start to engage in some sneaky tactics. Take the gate pieces that other players need. Spend desperation tokens to force players to play an insane round when they are trying to play sane actions. Or maybe take dominance in a region to stop them gaining as many points when they open a gate.
Whatever way you decide to play this game, your tactics can be switched up incredibly easily. There is no character interaction in this game, yet your actions can still have a big impact on what the others are trying to accomplish. Careful planning and sanity checks go a long way here.
Gates Of Delirium was the first game I bought from Zatu and I don't regret purchasing it for a second. When I first opened the box, my brain exploded from seeing all the components. Maybe that was my first step into madness. Maybe that is what Markus wanted. After reading through the incredibly written rule book though, my brain soon unscrambled, and I moved to setting up with ease. Usually I find rule books hard to follow, but this one is professionally written and goes through everything in an easy to follow fashion.
The small details in this game really shine through for me and I would be remiss not to mention them here. The journal entries all being unique and tells a story; the meeples being different; the square gate deck easily distinguishable from the action deck; the outstanding artwork; the flippable board map; the way the theme and design bring so much set collecting together so well. My BIGGEST compliment to the attention to detail however goes to the box design. Not the artwork, not the glossy finish, not the simple overview on the back. The compliment goes to the design itself, that whether you choose to lay the game flat in your collection, stand it face forward or need to squeeze it in sideways between other games: the game title and artwork orients to that position so that it never looks out of place. Such incredible attention to detail!
I can see expansions being easy to implement in this game. New maps and gates would be welcomed alongside new meeple choices for more players. And some new monstrosities to summon with specific triggers would help to flesh the game experience out some. There are rumours that there is a hidden expansion built into the game if you can decode the hidden numbers spread throughout the artwork on the cards themselves. Maybe this is just the designers' way of spreading a little madness. Who knows? Markus certainly doesn’t.
I have taught this game with ease to people who have limited experience playing board games, who have all enjoyed the game. I myself have loved each game of this I have played. Overall, I have a lot of love and praise for this game and really encourage anyone to give it a try. The designers of Gates of Delirium are a couple to keep an eye on, I’m predicting some truly great games to follow.
But seriously, who is this Markus? His voice is getting louder. He keeps trying to convince me to build something.