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Sleeping Gods

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“Are the stars unfamiliar here?” she asked, and the sky grew suddenly dark, the star’s patterns alien and exotic. “This is the Wandering Sea. The gods have brought you here, and you must wake them if you wish to return home.” In Sleeping Gods, you and up to 3 friends become Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew, lost in a strange world in 1929 on your steam…
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Golden Geek
Dice Tower


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

You Might Like

  • Gorgeous production
  • Wonderfully diverse characters
  • Hugely replayable
  • An epic adventure to get swept up in

Might Not Like

  • It’s a huge investment, both financially and time-wise
  • A lot to keep track of, especially if you have to pack it away each session
  • Can be very challenging, even on easy mode
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"Are the stars unfamiliar here?" she asked, and the sky grew suddenly dark, the star's patterns alien and exotic. "This is the Wandering Sea. The gods have brought you here, and you must wake them if you wish to return home."

In Sleeping Gods, you and up to 3 friends become Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew, lost in a strange world in 1929 on your steamship, the Manticore. You must work together to survive, exploring exotic islands, meeting new characters, and seeking out the totems of the gods so that you can return home.

Sleeping Gods is a campaign game. Each session can last as long as you want. When you are ready to take a break, you mark your progress on a journey log sheet, making it easy to return to the same place in the game the next time you play. You can play solo or with friends throughout your campaign. It's easy to swap players in and out at will. Your goal is to find at least fourteen totems hidden throughout the world. Like reading a book, you'll complete this journey one or two hours at a time, discovering new lands, stories, and challenges along the way.

Sleeping Gods is an atlas game. Each page of the atlas represents only a small portion of the world you can explore. When you reach the edge of a page and you want to continue in the same direction, you simply turn to a new page and sail onward.

Sleeping Gods is a storybook game. Each new location holds wild adventure, hidden treasures, and vivid characters. Your choices affect the characters and the plot of the game, and may help or hinder your chances of getting home!

Welcome to a vast world. Your journey starts now.

Players: 1-4

Playing Time: 60-1200 Min

Age: 13+

“This is the wandering sea. The gods have brought you here, and you must wake them if you wish to return home”. With these words, your adventure begins. And in my opinion, that adventure is one of the best board games ever made.

Set in 1929, you and up to 3 friends play as the crew of The Manticore. Your ship was caught in a storm on the journey from Hong Kong to New York and you now find yourselves stranded in a strange land with only one way home – you must wake the Sleeping Gods.

This is a campaign game, played over a number of sessions as you explore the world. You will go on quests, fight strange monsters and meet a host of characters, each of whom will shape your unique journey.

A Captain And Her Crew

The first big difference to most other campaign games is that you will each control multiple characters throughout the campaign. The Manticore is captained by Sofi Odessa and crewed by 8 other (wonderfully diverse) people. You will divide these roles as equally as possible between players, with Sofi always being controlled by whoever is currently taking their turn.

However, a lot of the actions you take during the game will require skill checks and everyone can get involved, which means you’re always excited when another player takes their turn. It also means you’ll be equally invested in how each character improves and evolves during your play through.

Those improvements come in the form of level cards, which are permanent upgrades that cost XP, and abilities, which are temporary but only cost command tokens to equip. What are command tokens you ask? Well, let me explain…

Command & Conquer

Each turn of the game is divided into three phases – the ship phase, drawing an event card and the action phase. During the ship phase, you will take one of six ‘ship actions’.

Each of these actions will give you a benefit (healing one of your characters, more ability cards etc…) and a set amount of command tokens. These tokens are used for all sorts of things –

  • Your items each have a command cost and can only be activated by placing that many tokens on them.
  • If you want to help another character out during a skill check, you have to discard one.
  • Each character has innate skills (printed on their board) that can be activated using tokens.
  • Some ability cards require tokens to be spent to activate their powers.

The beauty of this system is that it requires you to get very creative. The supply of these tokens is limited, so if you’re supposed to collect some on your turn and there are none left, you’re out of luck.

One of the ship actions returns all the tokens back to the supply, but you can’t do the same ship action two turns in a row. This means you always have to be planning ahead. Do you use that item now, knowing you won’t be able to get the tokens back (and therefore won’t be able to use it again) for two turns? And what if you want to save some for a tough skill check or surprise combat encounter?

Every decision feels weighty and fosters lots of conversation around the table, as you try to plan ahead for your next adventure.

We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

Speaking of adventure, it’s time to talk about the real heart of this game. The majority of your time in Sleeping Gods will be spent sailing around the world map (a beautifully illustrated atlas) and getting caught up in all sorts of weird and wonderful quests.

The game comes with a 170-page storybook, and there are over 200 locations to visit on the map. Each one will lead you on some sort of mini choose-your-own-adventure, in which your crew will be asked to make tough decisions, skill checks and possibly fight monsters.

A lot of these stories come with quest cards, which contain a keyword and a short summary of the mission you’ve undertaken. In terms of game mechanics, this means that when you explore, the storybook might throw up options that require these keywords (e.g ‘You spot some markings on the cave wall – if keyword TABLET, turn to option 2. Otherwise turn to option 3’).

This works on a number of levels – if you have the relevant keyword, it’s wonderful to feel like you’re actually on a quest and to maybe reach the conclusion of something you started hours ago. But if you don’t have the keyword, the rulebook encourages you to annotate your map (a scaled down version of the entire atlas), so that you can come back later if you start the relevant quest.

By the end of our campaign, our map was absolutely riddled with keywords, clues, hints for future playthroughs and warnings. It’s so immediately thematic, despite being such a simple touch, and I wish more games employ something similar.

The other brilliant thing about this mechanic is that, unlike some games in this genre (I’m looking at you, Tainted Grail), the story is never held hostage by skill checks. If you fail a check, something bad usually happens (lose some health, gain fatigue etc…) but the narrative continues.

This makes your decisions so much more freeing, as the advancement of a quest isn’t based entirely on a lucky card draw. You still get to experience the story, but your character might come out the other end a little battered and bruised.

Monster Hunters

I’ve mentioned combat a few times, so it’s probably worth explaining how fights work –

Each combat encounter starts with you drawing quest-specific monsters from a facedown deck (the rulebook instructs you not to look at these cards beforehand), shuffling them, and then setting them out in a line.

The monsters each have an attack and defense stat, as well as a 3×3 grid showing various symbols. On your turn, you will activate one of your characters and draw a fate card, adding the amount shown to their accuracy stat (modified by any weapon, item or skill you might want to use). If the total is the same or higher than the enemy’s defense, you hit!

However, it’s not as simple as just taking HP off the monster until it dies. Every monster has a certain number of hearts somewhere on their grid and you need to cover them up to defeat it. Therefore, combat becomes a sort of spatial puzzle that you solve over multiple turns.

Say you do 4 damage on your turn – you’ll place 4 damage tokens onto the grid, but each one has to be adjacent to a previous token. This means you have to be really tactical with where you choose to inflict damage. It’s often not possible to kill a monster in one hit, so you want to make sure you’re helping out the next player as much as possible.

Combine this with the fact that monsters also have other effects on their grids (bonus damage, status effects etc…) that are prevented when you cover them up, and you’ll see how tricky your decisions can be each round.

Of Space & Time

One of the other interesting aspects of Sleeping Gods is that the campaign is always the same length, but there is no set path to take during your time in this world.

As I mentioned earlier, you will draw an event card on every turn of the game and the event deck acts as a sort of timer. You start by making a deck of 18 cards and once this runs out, you will face a scripted event in the storybook. Do this two more times, for a total of 54 events/turns, and the game is over.

However, there is no definitive ‘win condition’. There are 13 different endings to the story, so the choices you make will always lead somewhere. The goal of the game is to find as many totems as possible, but it’s entirely up to you how you go about it.

Do you want to focus on a few sections of the atlas and visit every location, trying to complete every quest? Or do you want to just sail the seas and see what happens, maybe simply learning more about the world for a future play-through?

During my campaign, there were 2 whole pages of the atlas that we never even saw. I have no idea what awaits me in the frozen north, or in any of the 160 locations we didn’t have time to explore, but I can’t wait to find out.

A Confession

At this point, I should probably let you in on a secret – we played the campaign on easy mode. After the game was released, Ryan Laukat added an official easy variant for the game (you can find it on BGG/Red Raven’s website) to help ease new players in. You start with a few resources, extra money and 20XP, which can make the early game much more manageable.

It’s not that I think the game is liable to be particularly unfair on normal mode, or that any of the rules are unbalanced or not fun. It’s simply that we wanted to enjoy the story without worrying too much about the possibility of defeat around every corner.

That said, the game was no walk in the park. We had our fair share of tough fights during our adventure, and we failed plenty of skill checks. I know lots of people enjoy the challenging, against-the-odds nature of some campaign games, but I think it’s worth knowing you have options, should you wish to use them.

What A Wonderful World

Finally, I have to talk about the aesthetic of this game. Simply put – it’s gorgeous.

Every component is fantastic –

  • The atlas is full of character, with little touches that help guide you during quests.
  • The characters are diverse, with lovely illustrations (and backstories) on their boards.
  • The monster deck is full of wild and beautiful creatures, each lovingly hand drawn.
  • All the tokens are wonderfully tactile, whether cardboard or wooden.
  • The storage solution is great, most notably a magnetised box to hold all your quest and adventure cards.
  • Did I mention you get a plastic ship?!

The love and attention to detail that has gone into this world is, quite frankly, insane. I think Ryan Laukat might be a wizard.

Adventure Is Out There!

At this point, it goes without saying that I absolutely recommend this game.

Do I think it’s for everyone? Not at all. If you don’t like campaign/story games, this won’t change your mind. It’s definitely less complex than some others on the market, but it’s still a big investment. Our first campaign took around 20 hours and we ended up leaving it on the table for 2 weeks straight. The thought of packing it away and then unpacking it each time was too much to bear.

However, if you do enjoy this type of game, and you’re looking to get swept up in a new adventure, I genuinely don’t think they get better than this. From the production, through the storytelling and mechanics, this game delivers on all fronts.

And all of this is without factoring in the Tides Of Ruin expansion, which expands the map and adds more than 100 new locations to visit. There’s also a Dungeons expansion that should be coming to retail this year, adding even more replayability.

Simply put – Sleeping Gods is the best game I played in 2021.

After its very successful Kickstarter run in 2020, Sleeping Gods has established itself as a truly immersive experience. Up to four players take control of the crew of the Manticore, a ship that has been stranded in a strange, unknown world in 1929. With nothing but your ship and a handful of clues, you travel this alien world in search of adventure and a way to wake the sleeping gods, in the hope that they will return you home. With almost endless fun to be had, let’s learn how to play!

Setting Up Sleeping Gods

For a game that’s quite complex, the setup is relatively simple. First, place Captain Sofi Odessa’s player board and the Ship board (turned to the correct side based on player count) within reach of all players, with the Ship Action token placed on the Ship board. Place 3 coins and 1 grain on the bottom of the Ship board, this is a communal supply that belongs to all players.

Then take the three Event Decks and shuffle them independently, taking six from each to form a central Event Deck. This goes face down on the indicated space and will have deadly Events at the bottom and mild at the top. Now place the Atlas, open to page 2 with the figure of the Manticore in the region with the number 2 location. This Atlas contains all the areas you can travel to and explore.

All players will now divide up the remaining player boards as evenly as possible, taking the ones they want. These represent the crew members they will be controlling for this campaign. Someone should now take the starting adventure cards from the market deck. These are Gloria, Soup, Gear, and Flapjacks.

Then, the market deck can be shuffled and placed face down near the board. Next, shuffle the ability deck, giving one card to each human player along with one command token. Place the Quest, Adventure, and Enemy cards nearby, but do not shuffle these. They will appear in numerical order and should remain hidden until the story requires them. The level cards should be placed near the board. These can be looked through as they are add-on abilities unique to each character that can be bought with XP later in the game. Now all you need to do is start a new log sheet, decide if you want to play Normal or Brutal difficulty, and you’re ready to go!

Sleeping Gods – Gameplay

Sleeping Gods has an introductory scenario to help get you into the swing of playing. While it doesn’t use all the rules, it does give you enough to get playing independently, and so I strongly recommend you play this before getting into standard gameplay. To avoid spoilers, I’ll give you enough information to get you up to speed and playing the basic scenario, so as to avoid ruining any surprises.

Turn Taking And Actions

Before taking a turn, you must take a ship action. This involves moving the Ship Action token to one of the six different areas of the ship. This will grant you an extra benefit, which could be either healing wounds, gaining ability cards, or removing fatigue. Each space also grants a certain number of Command tokens. These tokens can be spent to use unique crew abilities, equip Ability cards to crew boards, or activate items you have bought from the Market deck.

These tokens are limited, and so if there are none left in the supply you cannot take any. Also, if any one area has two damage tokens, that ability is removed and you cannot use it, but we’ll cover ship damage later. Now, you must take an Event card and read it aloud. These cards will either have a challenge that you can complete or a choice of actions. This must be completed whatever the challenge. If the Event deck ever runs out, follow the instructions on the Ship board for what to do and how to generate a new one. Now, you are free to take your turn.

Each player gets two actions per turn. The first action you can take is Move. To do this, you can either use a character who has the Craft skill, placing one fatigue on their board and drawing for Fate. Fate is shown by the number in the top corner of an Ability card and ranges from 1 to 6. Add together fate and the number of Craft icons shown on the characters you used for your total. This determines how many spaces you can move the Manticore and is how you seek new adventures. Some spaces contain hazards. These require a skill challenge to be passed displayed on the hazard themselves and can lead to ship damage or other issues if failed.

The second action you could take is Explore. To Explore, the active player chooses one of the locations in the ship’s region and turns to that scenario in the storybook, reading aloud for the others to hear. This may lead to choices and challenges that the active player must face to continue the story. The challenges are displayed by a skill and a minimum requirement, for example, STRENGTH 5. Completing this is the same process that is used to move the ship.

The active player in Sleeping Gods chooses which characters to use and adds the total skill icons displayed to a Fate value. Players can modify their characters abilities by adding Ability or Level cards to their characters. These add an additional ability and some even offer other positives. Once a character has been used for a challenge, they gain a Fatigue token. The first fatigue doesn’t change anything, but if they get two then they can’t participate in any more challenges, and they are also less effective in combat.

The third and fourth actions require you to be in specific places, as they require your location to show either the Port or Market symbol. These are scattered across the map and can be a real lifesaver. Port allows you to do a range of actions, including spending coins to heal and rest your crew, repair the ship, or buy Level cards. Going to Market allows you to draw 7 cards from the Market deck. You may use your coins to purchase any number of items from the Market, with each showing a price in their bottom corner.


The final thing that needs to be covered is combat, which will crop up throughout the game. To begin combat, players distribute the four grey attack cubes evenly and then must draw the listed Enemy cards from the deck. These cards are then shuffled and placed face up in a row, so all cards are touching at their sides. These cards will list a defence value, attack value, and show a grid containing hearts and other icons. Players will then take it in turns attacking with one of their characters, using the weapon displayed in the bottom right of their board or one that they have found and equipped from the market or a quest.

Before dealing any damage, players will have to see if their attack hits. To do this, they check the accuracy value of the weapon, and add a Fate role to it. If this is higher than the required accuracy, as displayed on the Monster card, then the attack hits and they can deal damage equal to the weapon’s value. This damage must be placed orthogonally to any other damage, not diagonally. Also, the attacking player may choose to deal ‘splash’ damage. This is when players place under half of the damage they do on an adjacent Monster, provided the damage placed is adjacent to other damage.

While that may not sound that simple, once you get into playing Sleeping Gods, gameplay becomes incredibly natural, and you’ll be flying (well, sailing). There are other rules that will be uncovered throughout gameplay, but you’ll learn these as you go so don’t worry about those yet.

Zatu Score


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

You might like

  • Gorgeous production
  • Wonderfully diverse characters
  • Hugely replayable
  • An epic adventure to get swept up in

Might not like

  • Its a huge investment, both financially and time-wise
  • A lot to keep track of, especially if you have to pack it away each session
  • Can be very challenging, even on easy mode