Author: Cameron Art
Cult of The Deep
Player Count: 4 - 8 Players
Playing Time: 45 - 75 Minutes
Designer: Sam Stockton
Publisher: B.A. Games
Year Published: 2021
"You are a cultist trying to complete your faction's rise to power. Fight over rituals and mythical monsters as you seek to control the cult and victory. Your actions are driven by dice which you may use to help or betray other cultists."
- Description from the Publisher
In Cult of The Deep, 4 - 8 players will secretly select roles in the cult and will have to both cooperate with and betray their fellow cultists in order to achieve their own special goals. Perhaps you'll be the High Priest, whose only goal is to root out the corruption within and kill all the cabalists and heretics. Maybe your among the few faithful that remain and seek to protect the High Priest or maybe your a traitor looking to either take power for yourself or destroy the whole cult from within. With just a roll of the dice you'll commit to rituals, attack others and attempt to stay alive as long as you can...
Cult of The Deep is a secret role game with aspects very similar to the setup you might find in any other secret role game you may have played in the past. Each player is secretly dealt a role card that will tell them what their goal is for the round. The High Priest and the Faithful are working together to purge the cult of the corruption within, the Cabalists seek to kill the High Priest and take control of the cult themselves, and the Heretic just wants to burn it all to the ground and be the last one standing. Rest assured, however, that this game is anything but your typical secret role game.
Setup beyond dealing out player roles is very simple. Whichever player was dealt the high priest will flip their role card face-up. Everyone will also be randomly dealt a character card (face-up) which will determine their starting amount of health tokens and a sigil card (face-down). Altar boards with ritual tokens are placed in the middle of the table according to the number of players and one ritual card is randomly dealt to each. When everyone is ready to begin, the High Priest takes 5 cultist dice from the supply and play begins.
On a cultist's turn, they will roll all 5 cultist dice once. They may then re-roll any amount of those dice up to two times before they commit those dice to actions. After committing all 5 dice, each other player will have a chance to respond before the dice are resolved.
Here's a brief overview of how this works:
1) Roll Dice
Re-roll up to 2 times
2) Commit Dice
Dice can be placed in a number of places. Dice with damage symbols (swords) can be played
in front of other players to deal the corresponding amount of damage to them. Blood Droplets
can be used to heal yourself or any other cultists at the table.All other symbols can be allocated
to rituals with matching symbols or they can be used to heal yourself if they match your personal
3) Response Phase
Each character in the game has a unique power that may allow you to manipulate the dice
committed by another player during their response phase. Additionally, certain rituals can also
earn you special abilities or coins that may also allow to take actions during this response
4) Resolve Phase
All dice are now resolved and their corresponding actions are taken.
At first glance, the gameplay seems simple. Deal damage to those you think are against you and heal yourself and those you think that will help you. As a small addition, each player also receives a sigil card, which is a one-time ability that hey can reveal and use at any time during the game.
However, it is the altar boards with ritual cards that really mix things up and make this game so interesting. Each altar board will be randomly dealt one ritual card along with 1 or two ritual cubes. A ritual card can have two kinds of abilities, ALTAR and KEEPER:
ALTAR: Anytime you resolve a die matching one of the symbols on the ritual card, you can take the Altar action. These actions can do a wide variety of different things like introduce new kinds of dice, allow you to gain special coins that allow you to manipulate dice, deal massive amounts of damage (Although sometimes at your own expense) and more... After you take the action, you'll move the corresponding ritual marker one space down on its track (see below).
KEEPER: Whenever a player moves a ritual marker down to it's final space on the track, they become the keeper of that card and now have their own personal ongoing power that they can use for the rest of the game. Much like the Altar abilities, these powers can vary wildly and are typically very strong.
After as player finishes their turn, they pass the dice to the next player in clockwise order to take their turn. Gameplay continues in this way until somebody achieves their objective.
Now you may be asking yourself, what happens when I run out of health? You die. But, unlike in a lot of other games, this does not mean that you are finished playing! After you die, you will flip your role card face up for everyone to see and then draw a wraith card. For the rest of the game, you are a wraith and use your own special dice and abilities to manipulate other player's actions and turns.
While you may be dead, you're not out! Each role in the game (with the exception of the high priest) still has a way for you to win even beyond death. Most of them have to do with how the other players are doing, so as a wraith you will still be focused on trying to determine who is on your side that needs help and who are your enemies who need to be hurt.
There are a lot of secret role games out there, but I think that the super fascinating gameplay of Cult of The Deep really sets it apart from anything else that's out there. It has a lot more depth and gameplay beyond just talking with your friends and trying to figure out who is lying that make it have a far more lasting table presence. I think you'll enjoy this game if...
- You enjoy games for large groups. If you play and enjoy games with larger groups of people (4 - 8) on even a somewhat regular basis, I think this game is a no-brainer buy!
- You like secret role games or games with hidden information.
- You like simple dice-chucking games that still provide players with interesting decisions and mechanisms beyond just rolling.
- You like games with lots of replayability. The vast amount of character cards along with randomly dealt secret role card, sigil cards and ritual cards can give this game a lot of variety from one play to the next.
- You appreciate games with a high production value. The copy that I received was a promotional, prototype copy and I was still blown away by the quality and beauty of the pieces. The artwork is all beautiful, the dice are unique and the extra components like the metal coins (which may be a stretch goal or add-on for their Kickstarter campaign) just add so much extra to the experience of playing. This is a very nicely made game that has clearly had a lot of thought and care put into it.
Cult of The Deep, at first glance, looks like just another secret role game. But it's unique blend of dice-driven gameplay and game-changing powers gives the game a lot more depth without sacrificing simplicity and it's a game with player elimination that still easily keeps all players involved on other player's turns, even if you've already died. I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the variety of cards and nuances within the gameplay and I myself am very much looking forward to following and supporting their upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
If you are interested in learning more about Cult of The Deep, it launches on Kickstarter on February 2nd, and you can check it out by clicking here.
Disclaimer: A copy of Cult of The Deep was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest preview. All opinions written above are entirely my own.Components and artwork shown are prototype and may vary from the final game's components.