It is a strange land, where I arrived. On its territory heaven, earth and hell unite into one indivisible whole. But maybe it’s not ruled by peace and quiet, as it might seem. Conversely, all three sides are at war with each other. And its not easy to distinguish individual troops. Who fights on which side? And how did it all happen?
This war was created by author Mike Elliott (Thunderstone, Quarriors), author of board game Sangoku. Theme of three worlds colliding and fights between them is main story of new game chosen to publish by Game Salute in 2016. European distribution will then be done by Esdevium Games.
Box is relatively large for a card game. It has square shape and lid allows us to look into all the three worlds, that meddle inside. After opening the box, we find gambling boards of those exact dimensions (one for each player). They are divided into three windows, each showing one of three worlds and also dedicated damage scale from twelve to one. In the bottom part of the plan, there are three positions for attaching the cards.
There are exactly two decks of cards. The larger one is called recruits and contains a total of 74 units. Each monster and soldier in the service of one of the parties has printed a numerical value, but at the same time, they can also be divided into color straights from twos to aces. Yes, just like in poker! The second package is a legend deck, where come creatures in more specimens. They also wear symbols describing skills. A whole set of gameplay components is completed with mention of fighter tokens (again with images of creatures) and wooden life pointers.
At the beginning of the game, each player takes one large board, places it in front of himself and marks number twelve (hit points) with wooden cones in each of his three worlds. Decks of cards are shuffled separately, while tokens simply create a pile somewhere in the middle.
Future events are divided into rounds. And at the beginning of a round, each player gets thirteen cards from a shuffled deck. Now, each rival has difficult task. These cards must be divided into three groups based on values in compliance with poker rules. More value lies in similar sets of cards and players can hold up to five identical ones. This is the most valuable combination.
In distributing cards, players must follow several rules. Each group must be assigned to one world, so that groups are ordered in descending strength from left to right. In heaven, there will therefore be five cards in the strongest combination, then earth gets less powerful combo of five cards and hell must be satisfied with only three remaining cards.
But at the same time, players are trying to keep each territory stronger, than their opponents, without knowing their combinations. Indeed, when all players have their cards separated into groups, they are revealed and compared. Winner in each of the world gets a chance to get a fighter token. He may not choose any soldier. He must follow weakest value from his winning card combination. This token must be immediately placed in the evaluated world. For betting on this win, player can also get a bonus legend card.
Obtaining troops (tokens) will start to make sense in the very next stage. That’s moment, when players compare their attack power in each world with rivals in a way, that tokens of the same values cancel out. Unjoined chip slip by and inflict damage to opponent’s world. Damage is marked by sliding the cone marker. Attack can be stronger, if a player had collected the necessary set of legend cards. They then contribute their skills and can damage the opponents.
Players then re-shuffle cards, get a brand new thirteen cards and match continues with another round. If one of rivals loses two worlds, he is immediately eliminated from the battle. Winner is the one, who outlives the others.
If Sangoku can do something, it is to appeal to your senses at first glance. The game looks absolutely exceptional and illustrations are gorgeously done as pencil painted illustration. It makes more difficult to evaluation the game itself as a whole, because is fees somehow unfinished.This is all the more surprising, as there is experienced author signed under this creation.
First and foremost, it is a theme, that does not work at all. Beautiful graphics somehow stands alone and does not ever play together compactly and fails to tell a story. But this would in itself not necessarily have to bring disappointment, there are many games without atmosphere, which are still fun.
But there are other problems, that bind first to time. Thirteen cards are really a lot, and before players manage to arrange them into ascending groups, more than five minutes can run by. And it only takes one careful player to make this time even longer. And length of rounds means, that there is no way to comply with printed thirty-minute per game time. Even in a smaller number of opponents, you should expect one hour. Due to the length of the game, there is of course problem also with players elimination. However, as this concerns players with two worlds destroyed, it certainly does not occur at the beginning of the game. Fortunately.
The actual evaluation of the round is slow especially, if the game has more players, who have to mutually compare their offensive power. Tokens are not discarded after the attack and their strength carries across the rounds, thus their number is increasing on all sides. Damage corresponds to only the strongest attack, that penetrated into each of your worlds.
In addition to the soldiers, players are trying to collect legends by betting on their victory and winning battles. They can be used at the end of each round, when larger group of them allows to attack opponents. But these cards are purely dependent on luck, without any possibility of influence, because the cards are shuffled into drawing deck. Even bets on territory victory are interesting only for those, players last in turn order.
Game uses classical values of poker games, which are a little altered. Their usage and combining is the most fun. It is a good feeling from getting strong (triple) cards will warm players at their heart. It is not easy to create interesting sets for all three worlds, and it is virtually impossible to concentrate on just one, because you always need to order combination.
We already expressed our impression on processing in terms of illustrations. Unfortunately, the actual quality of components is rather average. Tokens do not have pictures printed exactly in the middle, and cards are too wild and graphics goes against function.
When you think about it over the back, we actually did not praised or liked Sangoku a lot. But that does not mean, that it was a bad game. Some ideas are good, but their combination here just does not work for us. But if you love a secret planning and collecting sets of cards and do not mind luck, then you could at least try it and give Sangoku a chance.
Sangoku is a game, that did not meet our expectations, which we were putting into it. It is a clear proof, that beautiful graphics are not enough to make the game fun. We wish it offered gameplay as it is pretty, but its all spoiled particularly by disproportionate playing time, even during individual rounds. It's all completely about luck, that has its role in this poker game. But crazy graphics causes cards hard to read and theme is not anywhere to be found. Sangoku will become member of your collection only, if you put emphasis on graphics, but do not expect to pull it very often from the shelf.