Sleeping Gods Review - by Brian Ellis

Hi all! When deciding which game to review recently, my eye kept being drawn to Sleeping Gods.  Much has already been said about this amazing game, but I have a few thoughts of my own I wanted to share with you.  Let’s set sail, and see what mysteries we can uncover!

Adventure

 

Sleeping Gods is a narrative driven cooperative game of exploration and adventure which follows the crew of the Manticore, a steam ship that has found itself transported from its home on 1920’s Earth and now traverses the islands of a strange new world. Taking its cues from the classic Choose Your Own Adventure and Pick a Path books of the 80’s, Sleeping Gods relies on the choices of the players to piece together the mysteries and recover seven totems required to awaken the sleeping gods in the hopes of sending the crew home. 


The sense of exploration and discovery is so compelling I found myself wanting to travel to just one more location time and again, until the early hours of the morning in some cases. The simplicity of the game’s systems themselves serve Sleeping Gods well as it places the focus squarely on the story, rather than bogging the gameplay down with mechanics.

Exploration takes place on the pages of a ring bound map book depicting the cornucopia of fascinating locales with which players can interact.  Each point of interest refers to a numerical location in the story book, a thick, wordy tome presenting a vast number of narrative paths for the characters to choose from.  Do you try to encourage an old woman to give up a desperately needed item, or try to steal it from her? Or worse? 

Characters

The crew consists of a cast of eight diverse characters led by a ninth, Captain Sofi Odessa.  The crew each have their own talents and, whether you’re playing solo or with a group of four, all the characters remain in play. Each character has their own player board noting their skills and allows players to track health, fatigue and command points used on their abilities.

The choices players are presented with offer moral implications and consequences.  Sleeping Gods may end up being less the story of a noble crew trying to make their way home than that of a group of thugs and pirates marauding around the islands, terrorizing the citizens. The choices made may even depend on the desperation of the crew at the time. If the crew is hurting or their ship heavily damaged, they may resort to more desperate measures, this is part of the thrill of Sleeping Gods.  

 

Manticore

The ship is where the bulk of the actions of the game happen and if the story book delivers the drama, the Manticore provides the touchstone through which the story is experienced. Ship actions allow players to replenish health, remove fatigue, draw item cards and more.  This is also where supplies are kept and where event cards are drawn, which essentially serves to escalate the peril for each session and have random events occur. 

The Manticore can also sustain damage throughout its adventures and this damage is tracked here.  Each action is assigned to a room and if that room takes too much damage, that action is unavailable until the room can be repaired. All of these systems combine to make the Manticore feel as much of a character as any other member of the crew, in fact several times I was more upset about the ship taking damage than I was about some of the characters, such was my investment in the vessel.

 

Likes

  • The story first and foremost!  It’s deep, compelling and emotional and presents players with moral and ethical decisions which carry with them consequences that affect the game across future sessions.

  • The game systems are simple, elegantly implemented and take a back seat to the story.

  • The artwork is gorgeous, particularly the maps which you’ll use to navigate the isles and explore this incredibly detailed world.

Dislikes

  • Setup can be a bit of a drag as there are a lot of cards and components that need to be sorted and arranged, this becomes more problematic when continuing a session after a hiatus.

  • While an amazing solo experience, the admin of running 9 characters alone can be a little much at times.

Final Thoughts

 

Absolutely one of the best adventure board games I’ve played.  The sense of exploration and discovery gave me a similar vibe to playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch as there are themes these two games have in common. A vast open world with mysteries around every corner and the satisfaction of seeing the story gradually unfold makes me want to keep pressing forward while at the same time taking things at a slower pace so as to enjoy every nuance the game has to offer.  If you’ve been sitting on the fence about Sleeping Gods, perhaps something here will spark your decision making one way or another. As for me, I can’t wait to see what adventures lay beyond the horizon.


Thanks for stopping by this week.  As always, I'd love to hear of any future blog ideas you'd like to see covered so please feel free to share them below or with our awesome gaming community of our Game Kings Gamers page!  Until next time, play everything... all of the things!

Reviews