Cult of the Deep (Kickstarter PREVIEW)

[Editor’s note: The following preview is based on a complete, but not finalized, product; in advance of a crowdfunding campaign. -dc]

Bang is a fun hidden role game, but it had some potential problems depending on the size of the group playing. Samurai Sword was essentially the same game but balanced out most of those issues. Samurai Sword quickly became one of my regular group’s favourite games when it first came out. Jump forward to a different time and a different group of players, and the secret role games du jour was
The Resistance and Avalon. I liked these games… less. Jump again, different time, different group. Now it’s Secret Hitler, and I’m even less of a fan. I don’t have an issue with the controversial theme, I just find it so boring that even the cheeky Wil Wheaton narrator-intro can’t save it for me.

Jump ahead a few years more, and Cult of the Deep is about to hit Kickstarter. I’ve always loved a good cultist themed game, and as I mentioned, I have a ton of friends who love hidden role games. Well, when I first agreed to this CrowdFUNding Preview I had no idea that Alberta would be extending pre-Christmas lockdown measures into February. Technically they just began to allow limited outdoor gatherings, but it’s snowing and -25º as I’m writing this. So, not so much. Why you’re getting this long and rambling preamble, is because what I’m left with is my mostly negative opinion of the genre and playing a multiplayer social game with the imaginary friends in my head.

My review in short? I can’t wait to pull this out at every possible future gathering. My brain is already planning a cultist themed party, where everyone dresses in their best cult costumes. (I’m picturing lots of bathrobes, and maybe an Up With People shirt or two.)

There are different roles available depending on the player count, but every player starts with a secret role card, a unique character, and a unique single-use Sigil card. In the middle of the table, there are a number of Alter boards (again, based on player count) and a deck of Ritual cards. A Ritual is revealed and placed on each Alter, each of which has different requirements to complete and a different effect when that happens.

The Characters are known, but the only player whose Role is revealed at the start is the High Priest; they become the starting player. Each player starts by rolling five Cultist dice, and they can reroll any or all of these dice up to two more times. Then they commit to assigning the final dice to players or rituals. The dice can gain or remove damage to players or be used to advance the completion of Rituals.

Some abilities can be used by players to respond and change the dice, which the active player then may commit elsewhere before they are resolved.

Whenever dice are committed and resolved for a ritual the active player gains a specific benefit from it. If that ritual has been fully completed, it is discarded (or sometimes kept by that player) and replaced with a new ritual card.

Whenever a player takes enough damage from dice to kill them, they reveal their role and continue to play as a Wrath with different abilities.

That’s the game. Not complicated at all, really. Like most games in this genre, there are several potential end game conditions, and the winner or winners are determined by the player’s role, and how the game ended.

I don’t know if I made this clear enough, but it has been a VERY long time since I’ve been excited to play any hidden role game. Remember that as I say that I am super stoked for this hidden role game. It doesn’t REQUIRE you to be super social, or have a poker face, but those things sure will help when smack talk ensues. There is constant action and engagement from everyone playing, so no one feels bored. You can’t just flip a coin: Yes or No and come out with the same results as if you actually cared. You are creating a distinct strategy, beyond just voting someone off the island and hoping you got it right. There is character elimination but never player elimination. The things I don’t like in this genre have been fixed, and I’m excited.

Cult of the Deep launches on Kickstarter on February 2, 2020

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