Back in 1997, still a teenager, I got my first introduction to modern tabletop games. I still recall today how I felt completely overwhelmed by all the fun and possibilities a simple 60-card deck could provide. The game I’m referring to is Magic the Gathering (MtG), designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast.
Albeit a very intuitive and easy to learn and play game, what really drew me and most of my friends to MtG was the deck construction: going through hundreds of cards, magic creatures, spells, artefacts and what-not trying to find the right cards and combos. We'd start by selecting all the cards that might come in handy, rationalise until the deck was the right size, test it against other decks and make changes to improve it, or just start from scratch in case of a dud. For me it had the right mix of engine building, probabilities, beautiful art and an incredibly rewarding feeling when you won with a deck you had built from scratch. Its major drawback was the unsustainable cost associated with any collectible card game: the random nature of how you acquire cards coupled with your limited disposable income. You could potentially spend hundreds of pounds and still not get the cards you really wanted.
Much more recently, I returned to the hobby and was surprised to find that deck building had now become a core mechanism in a much broader range of games, from Dominion (Rio Grande) to Clank! (Renegade Game Studios) and Great Western Trail (eggertspiele/Stronghold), just to name a few. Although to me these mechanisms have never really felt quite as rewarding as constructing a deck; and I suspect other Magic and Netrunner (Wizards of the Coast) players will agree.
However, the whole deck building concept has been made more accessible to a wider audience, with Star Realms (White Wizard) and other similar games streamlining gameplay, as players start off with a basic set of cards and build their deck by 'buying' them from a common pool of cards that is available to all the players.
This brings me at last to SINS by Cortadoo Games. It's a quick deck builder game themed around the 7 Deadly Sins, with decks focused primarily on individual sins. The game was on Kickstarter last year and is now being delivered to backers. At Board's Eye View, we had a chance to try out just two of the SINS decks: Wrath and Gluttony: so no Envy, Lust, Greed, Pride or Sloth for us!
The card illustrations by Darryl Petrucci are beautiful and immersive. They also cover the whole of the cards, with no border, and the card stock is thicker than similar products. Our one criticism here was the objectification of women on some of the Spirit cards.
Gameplay is very similar to previous deck building games, with each player starting with the same small deck of basic cards and a shared pool from which five cards are available for purchase by the players. In order to succeed, each player will need to acquire the best cards while trying to get rid of the starting cards that will clog the deck as more and more are acquired. Nothing new so far, but the twist in this game is in how you score and win. Instead of taking Life points, you are trying to fill your opponent's Despair pile with weakness. You resolve this pile at the start of your turn, and add one Despair if the total of weaknesses is equal or greater than 5. Depending on the desired game length, players play up to three Despair points.
Each deck seems to have less variety of cards than other similar games but any lack of diversity is offset by being able to mix and match cards from different decks to create different card combinations and experiences. The way these cards can interact and be played is reminiscent of Dominion in the sense that familiarity leads to a better understanding of combos. In short, the more you Sin, the better you'll get at it!
SINS feels more tactical because the game isn't just about causing as much damage to the opponent as possible but also playing cards so that you know how much weakness is in your Despair pile so it can be successfully resolved...
This game is a must try for all those that enjoy the genre. Tho' the Kickstarter finished last year, if you get in quickly you can still snatch a Late Pledge so that you'll get the game along with the original backers. You just need to pick your SINS.
(Review by Rui Marques)