If we’ve learnt anything from watching American Gods on Amazon Prime it’s that gods want to be worshipped. It’s the underlying premise too in 7 Gods, this charmingly idiosyncratic game from Mare Infinitus.
In 7 Gods, 2-6 players represent ancient gods competing to attract the most adherents by getting their ‘stories’ across to the village communities on various scattered islands spread across the board. It’s an asymmetric game where the gods all have their own individual powers, and you can activate your own god’s powers for free, but you’ll also be able to use the powers of the other gods…
Tho’ the game is called 7 Gods, and there are indeed seven different gods available, you set the game up by randomly selecting one to take out of the game. That god’s board is flipped to reveal the ‘disturbances’ it triggers, but more of than anon… Islands are randomised in set up: placed initially face down on the board. Players each have their own ‘envoy’ who’ll be sailing (moving) around the board, initially ‘discovering’ the islands (flipping them face up) and then seeking to recruit worshippers by regaling them with stories in praise of their god.
In the game, the gods’ ‘stories’ are represented by four-sided dice in the colours of each of the seven gods. They are referred to in the rules as ‘story tokens’ tho’ in our Board’s Eye View plays we invariably called them ‘story dice’. You start off with three of these d4 in your own god’s colour but otherwise you’ll be drawing the story tokens at random from a bag. Those you draw in your own colour you’ll need for spreading the word to the island villages (ie: rolling the dice and placing them out for the value rolled) but you’ll be able to make use of all the others by discarding them to use the power of the corresponding god. This makes for a novel mechanic.
Players also have their own individual deck of 30 cards. These too are highly asymmetric. They can be played for their movement value but you can also use them to take the actions indicated in their text. The cards aren’t an infinite resource, however. You’ll reshuffle your discard pile when you exhaust your draw deck but you then have to remove 10 cards at random. That means you’d be playing with no cards at all if you ever had to shuffle your discards more than twice!
You get an initial victory point for ‘discovering’ an island, so the early rounds of most games tend to involve players sending their envoys off on a voyage of discovery. That said, the single VP for discovering an island is dwarfed by the other scoring opportunities so canny players may find it more profitable to start proselytising on the islands already found by others rather than worrying over the discovery points. Likewise the victory points on offer for completing your hidden 'personal objective' will only prove crucial if end-game scores are very close. Envoys can share the triangular spaces on the board, but not with more than one other envoy. And when you move into another envoy’s space, you can ‘share thoughts’ with them. This involves both players rolling all the story dice they’ve collected and totting up the total: the winner gets a victory point and the loser gets to draw an extra story token, so it’s arguably a ‘win/win’.
When it comes to placing your god’s story tokens out onto island villages, you roll the die and place it out at that value. Each triangular village can accept the story tokens from two different gods. The villages all have their own ‘persuasion value’, which is the value that has to be matched or beaten for the village to be persuaded. When that’s met with two story tokens, the die with the highest value (or the most recently placed die in the event of a tie) adds that village to its followers, scoring victory points equal to the village’s persuasion value. The player who lost draws another story token from the bag and activates the ‘disturbance’ that corresponds to its colour. These disturbances vary, and are different depending on which god was removed from the game at set up, but they generally offer a way of screwing with the player who just scored the victory points. Some of the disturbances tho’ can be directed at other players, so players can conspire to use them as a catch-up mechanic when directed at the player who’s in the lead.
There are three possible end-game triggers, and part of the tactics of the game can involve hastening the end when you think you have the ultimate win, but be warned there are some surprise catch-up mechanics even in the end-game scoring so that even players who think they are out of the running can get a scoring boost from dice that had previously been condemned to the ‘Otherworld’, where players had otherwise thought them banished from the game...
With its several unusual quirks, 7 Gods feels very different from other hand management and area control games. You’re balancing the various god powers at your disposal with the drive to get your story dice out into the villages, and the various god powers mean you have to expect a share of ‘take that’ interaction with your rival deities. At Board’s Eye View, we’ve really enjoyed our various plays of this unique game, and at all player counts; tho’ for us 7 Gods is at its very best with six and all but one of the gods in play. This isn’t a game where you’re likely to encounter Analysis Paralysis (AP) so turns are all reasonably quick and, even with the full complement of six players, we didn’t find we were suffering from excessive down time. Most of our six-player games ran to around 2 hours, which is less than the time suggested on the box.
And talking of the box brings us to the game’s very distinctive design characteristic. There’s no Holy Trinity here but you’ll notice that designers Joris Maas, Alexander Remi and artist Studio Monnikenwerk have built the game solidly around the equilateral triangle. The box is triangular (not a feature of which we’re usually very fond) but, more important, so are the segments that fold out to make up the board, the spaces on the board, the god boards and the markers used for recording victory points et al. As gamers will know, the faces on a four-sided die are all equilateral triangles, and even the bag that the story dice are drawn from has a matching triangular pyramid shape. We were mildly surprised that the cards maintain a regular shape, tho’ it’s good that that’s the case because triangular cards would’ve worn badly and would be unsleevable. Kudos to Mare Infinitus for carrying the design concept through as far as they could without saddling us with impracticalities.
Look out for 7 Gods at your friendly local game store but if you have difficulty tracking down a copy, click here to order it direct from the publishers.