This is a fantasy combat game that gives you plenty of options. For starters, it can be played as a 2–6 player PvP (player versus player) contest where the winner is the player with the last hero standing. It can be played as a team game where two or three players work together against an opposing team. It can also be played as a co-operative game, where all the players are together fighting one or more monsters. And, as you’d expect, because Theosis includes several co-op modes so it can also be played as a solitaire player versus monster game.
Whichever mode you play, Theosis is a game of two halves. You start by selecting your heroes: beautifully detailed minis (sculpted by Jamie Phipps and Rafael Dioli) and, most important, each with their own layered mats that show their abilities and special skills/powers along with indented slots for weapons and armour, and to track health. The mats are double sided and each side offers a different combination of skills: there really is no end to the options for variety in this game. Players can put together any combination of heroes but they will need to have regard to each hero’s alignment…
Having selected your heroes, you’ll first send them to Hierapolis to buff up their powers and equip them so that they are properly prepared for combat. The Hierapolis board is essentially a worker placement game where you’re choosing between locations that give you an assortment of benefits, including rituals and quests, but heroes’ alignment comes into play here. The selections made in Hierapolis move alignment markers and you’ll want your alignment track to be showing positive because that will give you gold which is used in ranking the heroes, determining initiative and resolving ties in the arena combat phase.
To activate your heroes’ special skills demands mana gems, so you’ll be wanting to visit Hierapolis locations that give you them. If you’re playing a competitive (PvP or team v team) game, you can also use your time in Hierapolis to try to hobble an opponent by dishing out some damage before you even get to the arena.
But your time in Hierapolis is merely prelude. The meat of Theosis is combat. This takes place on a hex-divided arena board and is card driven, tho’ you mostly have to discard a power card in order to use another one. We especially liked the inclusion in Theosis of templates that are laid across the arena showing the hexes affected by a ranged weapon, skill or power. These added greatly to the atmosphere of the game. All in all, the interaction between the various attack and defence powers, and the way in which players use and burn cards makes for some highly tactical combat. We had particular fun developing combos that made the most of the synergy between the skills of allied heroes. And when playing in co-op and solo modes, you’ll find the monsters make tough opponents.
This game is so good that it’s surprising it hasn’t garnered more attention. It’s designed by Aiollus, and publishers Dreamcraft have done a great job with the production of this, their first game. The art by Vaggelis Manousakas is of high quality, as are the boards and components. We’d have just, maybe, liked to have seen clearer alignment marking on the cards and use made of the the reverse of the arena board to offer an optional alternative layout (perhaps with obstacles blocking movement and line of sight). That said, you can’t fault Theosis for replayability: there are countless different hero combos and the various options for modes of play. There are a couple of errors and omissions in the rulebook but it’s well illustrated and you won’t have too much trouble getting up and slashing. And, even with six players, you can expect to complete a game in under 2 hours.
We’ve enjoyed our plays of Theosis immensely. Played solo or as a co-op it has all of the essence of a GM-less dungeon crawler in a very manageable package. As a competitive combat game, it rewards clever tactics (sneaky, if you’re on the receiving end) in a brisk and accessible game. Theosis may be hard to find at retail so if you see a copy, snap it up!