I’ve been interested in a board game by Fedja Buzancic of Muffin Games for well over a year now. I got to see early drafts of the rules and see the game grow and develop in that time. I am so happy to see Deities Domination by Muffin Games is making its way to Kickstarter next week (September 18, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT, to be exact…mark your calendars!). I’ve had a chance to play the game several times and I hope you find my thoughts insightful. More importantly, I hope this leads you to supporting Muffin Games. Fedja has been working on this game for a long time and has put a lot of thought into its mechanisms and theme.
Deities Domination by Muffin Games
Designer: Fedja Buzancic
Artist(s): Marius Jansuonis, Sebastián Koziner, Filipe Ferreira
Publisher: Muffin Games
Players: 2-4 (Fedja has assured me the 2-player variant rules will be included)
Prominent Mechanisms: Deck building, modular board, variable player powers, resource management, and area control
Theme: Deities Domination is a civilization game based on four different mythologies: Slavic, Greek, Celtic, and Nordic. Each god/goddess from the four clans are struggling against each other to claim an empty throne. Once friendly to one another, they are all now self-interested and will stop at nothing to seize control. Whether they seek the throne through benevolence or malevolence is up to you and the strategy you take. There are multiple paths to victory and there is no single “right way” to play the game. Different clans lend themselves to different strategies as do the individual gods/goddesses (three per clan). And, of course, player preference plays a huge role strategy as well.
What’s in the Game?
This is based off a review copy that Fedja sent me, so all of this is subject to change. Knowing what I do of the game so far suggests that the game components are mostly finalized. But once again, it is a prototype and a mass-produced game will likely look different even if only in quality. Deities Domination by Muffin Games plays using a modular player board with several different terrain types. The players will have a card representing which deity (and clan) they will play as. There are several components to represent heroes, boons, crops, villages, castles, shrines, temples, track tokens, and tributes.
*This is what came in the prototype. Muffin Games has done some right-sizing where it concerns components so you’ll likely see fewer components in the final game. Truth to tell, we had more than we needed in every game we played.
- 24 Terrain Tiles (grasslands, northlands, forests, mountains, orchards, and coastline)
- 12 God cards (Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Thor, Odin, Loki, Morrigan, Lugh, Dagda, Veles, Jarylo, and Marzanna)
- 25 God Power cards
- 56 Base cards (the game will have 36 Base cards unless certain stretch goals are unlocked)
- 15 Shrine cards
- 21 Village cards
- 24 Monster cards (there will only be 21 in the final game after Muffin Games removes some redundant Dire Wolves)
- 1 Monster Lair board
- 4 Player Tracker boards
- 10 Battle Dice
- 25 Tributes
- 25 Tribute Tokens
- 4 Tokens (per player)
- 5 Heroes (per player)
- 10 Boons (per player)
- 15 Crops (per player)
- 12 Villages (per player)
- 3 Shrines (per player)
- 3 Castles (per player
- 1 Temple (per player)
How Do You Win?
To win is simple: collect the most victory points. You get 1 victory point per Tribute token. There are several ways to earn Tribute tokens. You can build things to earn victory points. Or you can cash in fervor (a resource required to build structures) for Tribute and 5 Tribute can be exchanged for 1 Tribute token. You can also battle monsters to earn Tribute.
You can also win by building villages and shrines, by building castles and fighting monsters, or by building a temple. Of course you can blend those strategies to your liking as well. The first player to collect 12 victory points wins.
So, Is It Good?
Well, I have already answered that…especially if you follow me on any of my social media channels. But yes, I quite enjoy this game and I’m happy to tell you why.
Give me anything to do with mythology and my interest is immediately piqued. Give me options around the selected mythologies and I’m all but hooked. I was already familiar with Greek and Nordic myths and even Celtic to a lesser extent. But Slavic myth is new territory for me. Of course, I’m not going to walk away from the game with the ability to write a dissertation on the subject. But it’s refreshing to see something new.
I prefer the cover art style to the interior art but both styles work well and fit the theme. The theme really supports the game’s mechanics as well.
I’ve got to be honest, when I saw how many mechanics were in this game I got a little overwhelmed and not a little nervous. I tend to play more with my kids than with anyone else and I got concerned that there would be too much going on in the game for them to be able to focus and develop a good strategy. I was wrong. A lot of the mechanics didn’t exactly need to be explained to them. Deck building, for example. The players start with 9 Base cards and you add the appropriate God cards to that deck. Done.
You can gain Shrine and Village cards during game play to continue to build that deck and during Action Phase of your turn you can trash* any number of cards from your hand you want. Trashing cards is important because it’ll stop you from drawing unwanted cards repeatedly. If you’re not focusing expanding the map you don’t want to keep drawing that ability.
The resource management in Deities Domination is great too. You have 3 abstract resources to manage: Fervor, Power, and Growth and you can have no more than twelve of each. Then there are tangible resources such as Crops, Boons, and even Heroes sometimes. For example, Crops require growth and a played card from your hand and building a Village requires a Hero, a Boon, 3 Crops, and 2 Fervor. Building that Village awards you a Village card to add to your deck (deck-building again) and 1 Victory Point. Now that you have a Village on a particular spot on the map, you can now gain Heroes on that same spot (by playing the appropriate card, if you have it) and no one else can build on that spot (area control).
Variable player powers come from your chosen God card. For example, I chose Loki in one of my sessions. Loki gave me the ability to convert another tribe’s (player’s) boon to my own or move one of their crops to any other space on the board. I could even sacrifice a hero to gain 6 Power! But I also got a clan benefit since Loki is Nordic. Any Boons and Crops placed on Northlands cannot be destroyed. I nice benefit in a civilization game to say the least!
*Note: You do not have the trash cards ability in a 2-player game.
Engagement is something else I was worried about after seeing how much is going on in Deities Domination. But despite this, the turns moved quickly, and players are eager to advance their strategies. We found ourselves watching each other’s moves intently and quickly adjusting once anyone might’ve telegraphed what their short-term plan was. By and large, there was little downtime between turns and the action kept on trucking.
In the early stages of the game, Interaction is on the lower side. You have Base cards and a few God Power cards. But you’ll only draw six cards into your hand each turn. Most likely, you will be focusing on gathering your own resources in the early stages of the game. Once you start collecting Village and Shrine cards and building structures you may likely want to start focusing on what others are doing and potentially spoiling things for them. Or, in the case of playing benevolently, you may decide to give your opponents resources (there’s a reward and thus a strategic reason for doing so). For the most part though, you won’t do things like trading or negotiating between yourselves.
I’ve played this game at both the 3-player and 2-player level and it’s been a different experience every time. The modular board for one thing makes each session unique. You always start with six grassland tiles but then the remaining tiles are shuffled and played in the order in which they’re drawn. If I’m playing as a Nordic god but can’t seem to get a northlands tile into play, then my strategy will have to change. Likewise, some gods are more militant than others. Thor works best if the player focuses on battling monsters and he has no God power cards. But he permanently gains two Battle Dice whereas others start with none.
The game is too long for a filler but you’re unlikely to spend more than a couple of hours on a given session.
This is where I want to be careful. And where I want to be clear. This was a prototype. So, while the nature of the components is wonderful I cannot—I will not—comment on the quality of those components or their physical design.
Each of the components, I can tell, has been carefully designed and considered. Each is necessary for this game to work as it does. You will rely on some more than others depending on your strategy, but I would not say that any single component is more important than another. Fervor may have a slight edge since it can be cashed in for Tribute tokens at a 2:1 ratio and tokens can be cashed in for Tribute cubes at a 5:1 ratio. A cube, you’ll recall, is worth one Victory Point and collecting the most VPs is how you win. However, Fervor is required to build every structure in the game too, so you will have to manage this resource wisely.
My Final Thoughts
Overall, Deities Domination by Muffin Games is firing on all cylinders for me. It ranks high in engagement, interaction, and replayability. On a 5-point scale for complexity it sits somewhere between 2.5 and 3.0. The sweet spot for many a gamer. This is an ambitious first game for Muffin Games and I have enjoyed watching Fedja’s passion and his reception to feedback and constructive criticism.
Another dimension that I want to touch on in my final thoughts is in service. Often in gaming we consider just the game. But the publisher behind the game can be just as important. I have every faith that Fedja and Muffin Games will run a wonderful Kickstarter campaign. The money I use to back it will be put to great use (which includes a well-deserved profit). I anticipate strong and frequent communication regarding the project’s status upon a successful campaign and expect that any delays in fulfillment would be due to forces outside of Muffin Games’s control. Furthermore, I can assure you that Fedja Buzancic is as dedicated to service quality as he is to creating great games.
- Lots of Replayability
- Multiple paths to victory
- Beautiful art and theme
- Narrow player count
- May look overwhelming to new players initially
For an overall rating, I give Deities Domination by Muffin Games a 4.7 out of 5.0. This is a solid game that I’d always be willing to play so long as I had the time and right player count.
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