Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Here's a two-player card game that's quick and easy to play but will keep you coming back for more. Designed by Anthony Gibbins, with attractive unfussy art by Laura Jenkinson-Brown, players in Bellum Sacrum go head to head as rival Roman gods. You will be building a column made up of three rows of gods, and you'll be using these to attack your opponent's column. Cards all have an attack and defence value, and you succeed in an attack if the attack value of the god at the head of your column matches the defence value of the god facing them from your opponent's column. Players are trying to completely eliminate their opponent's columns, and every time they do so they win a Trophy card. The game is won by the player who is first to attain five Trophies.
You start by dividing the deck into two stacks of 42 cards (one of gods, the other of goddesses). Players take one of the stacks and each draws a starting hand of cards. On your turn, you can generally take any four actions, and that can include taking the same action more than once. You can Draw three cards from your individual deck (there's ordinarily no limit to hand size). You can Deploy a god card to your column but note that if you have more than one copy of the same card, their values can be combined - so with two copies of the same god card, its attack and defence will be doubled, and so on for more copies. You can Attack. You can Strengthen a god already deployed (ie: add a matching card to increase the attack and defence values of a god already in your column). And, finally, you can Invoke a god's special power (text on the card) by playing one or more matching cards to your discard pile. Most invocations can be blocked but only by your opponent discarding as many cards of the same colour.
That is pretty much all there is to learn to play the game. The wide choice of actions gives you something to think about. Obviously there's an element of luck over the cards you draw; you will bemoan the Fates if your opponent kicks off with three strong matching cards that knock out anything you can lay. But there's some subtlety to Bellum Sacrum too. Keeping a weather eye on the cards your opponent has played to their column and lost to the discard pile will give you a good clue as to when you can use an Invoke power to best effect, calculating that it's unlikely that your opponent will have the cards they'd need to counter it...
We found most plays of Bellum Sanctum took no more than 20 minutes; so there's no danger of this game overstaying its welcome. On the contrary, in most cases players were clamouring for an immediate rematch.
Bellum Sacrum is published by Bow String Games. You can check out the game further and back it on Kickstarter by clicking here.