Updated: Mar 2, 2021
As you might gather from the title, the setting for Theurgy (Ministry of Meeples) is a religious one, with each player trying to build a number of temples to win the game. It is an area control game designed by Oliver Josiah and Charlotte Dowling that takes place on a semi-randomised board of 19 large hex tiles. The central hex is the capital; the six surrounding tiles have six different settlement types and then there are 12 surrounding those tiles to represent two of each of the settlement types.
The 2–6 players start on the edge of the board with their two acolytes: the meeples that will move across the map. During their turn, each player can take one of four actions providing it wasn’t the one they took in the previous turn. This prevents repetition of each action and provides a decent amount of sequence planning.
The object of the game is to build temples. The number varies with player count, and there are three levels of requirement for each player. The lowest number of temples to produce and win the game will include one built in your colour in the central capital tile. If you meet your secret objective but don't have a temple in the central hex you will need one more temple to be built, or you can win by building one additional temple anywhere on the board. At three and four player counts this will mean a requirement to build 5 to 7 temples.
Each player starts with a small number of followers who wish to spread the word. The first action, called pilgrimage, allows players to move their followers and acolytes to adjacent tiles. In addition, players can preach, which converts the non-believers (grey cubes) to your colour. You can spread the word (second action) by adding faith tokens which go on the vertices of hexes.
'Divine intervention' allows you to activate a monster (adding one to your side from a choice of the three displayed) or perform a miracle, which is playing one of three action cards you receive that will adjust your situation on the map. Finally, you can 'test the faith', which is the way in which to build temples. This is the most complex of all the actions as you first assess the number of faith tokens that border the hex where you want to build a temple and adjust the cubes of other players or the neutral player according to the difference between your faith tokens and those present from other players. Other players can then do the same and the person who has the greatest number of faith tokens present gets to destroy an existing temple and build one of their own.
These are the only actions. However, the range of monsters (30 included) and miracle cards (51) means that there is a tremendous number of combinations of actions that can take place during the game.
There are many things that appeal to me in this game. First, there are no periodic changes of play order: the game continues with each player carrying out one action at a time until they have met one of the victory conditions at the end of the term. Each player also has a special power that enables them to do one of the actions better than the other players. There are 24 objective cards which means that it is very difficult to deduce what specific objective each player has got from the way in which they are building their temples. I also like the clarity of the game board as the cubes are easy to see against the green background of the tiles.
Two or three times during the game (depending on the number of players) you will draw one of the seeded capital events which will radically change what’s happening within the capital tile. For certain victory conditions, this can prove central to winning the game...
Theurgy is likely to appeal to people who like player interaction, unusual events, as well as planning, as there is a considerable amount of this, tho' events can unfurl your plans... If this sort of interactive action appeals to you then you should certainly consider backing this when it returns to Kickstarter.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is the preview prototype but even at this prototype stage the art from Ben Flores, Bellafquih Mohammed, Fabian Parente, Katerina Poliakova and Carl Stjarnlov is very good. I particularly like the tarot-sized monster cards which have a few symbols, a small amount of text and a beautiful graphic for each of the monsters. The monster tiles show the graphic and these are easy to see on the gameboard so you know where they are.
Theurgy ends immediately when a player meets their victory condition. If this person has a temple in the capital it is clear what the position is. However, if another hidden objective victory condition is being targeted by the player it is unlikely that others will know specifically. This makes the game ending quite tense and it is possible that you can accidentally cause someone to win...
I've really enjoyed my experience of this game and look forward to its KS launch. You can find the Kickstarter campaign here...
(Review by Alan How)