Before I begin, I was sent a prototype copy of this game, and will be sent a production copy of it upon fulfillment in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather watch a video of this review, check it out below. Click here for more info about the game.
Hey wanna play a game about converting followers to your faith? “Yea that sounds amazing!” said three people in the history of gaming. Thankfully, when I saw Theurgy pitched it talked about bring all but forgotten gods trying to revitalize their power, and grow from weird fringe not big enough to be a cult, to strange cult, to religious minority to dominant religion. To go along with it game some cool looking god art.
At its core Theurgy is an area control game, though on a seemingly smaller scale than something like Lords of Hellas, or Rising Sun. You know what kind of games I am particularly bad at? Area control games. Part of it is, deep in my soul I feel bad for attacking other players, and I do not have a particularly strategic mind for these massive maps, that some how still have no room to do what you want to do. Then you add on top of that what seems like so many options that I just crumble and am lousy at the whole thing. (Root is an exception, that I can usually manage, because there really is not that much you can do at the end of the day.)
In Theurgy, however, you have 4 actions that you can do. That is it. You can go on a pilgrimage, which means you can move your acolytes, and all your followers a single hex, then your acolytes can either kill a monster, or convert a follower of another faith.
You can Spread the Word, meaning on a hex where your acolyte is you can put a faith marker on a vertex. You can Divinely Intervene, which lets you either summon a monster that does things, or you can perform a miracle. Finally you can Test the Faith, which sees which god has the most influence in a hex, conversions happen, and whomever has the most followers at the end of that mess, gets to build a temple. Whoever builds “x” temples first is the winner.
So what do I think?
The theming of this game is on point. I cannot believe how they just nailed, it. There are skeptics, that have no faith in anything, but you can make believers out of them, you perform miracles, you can even destroy a rival religions temples and build your own on top of the ruins! So satisfying. Even the most important action of the game, Test the Faith, which results in you building temples feels right. You see who has spread the word the most effectively (most vertices of the hex with their token), then whomever has the most gets to convert some of the other followers, then whomever has the next most gets to convert whomever has fewer followers than them. YET at the end of the round, the temple goes to the god with the most followers in the hex…so you could have only a few faith tokens, but have enough followers in the hex that through sheer force of numbers you get the temple. It is FANTASTIC.
Speaking of the skeptics, or if you are looking at the picture, the grey cubes, to me they are what make the game. You see, they are a third party that can rise and fall in power like you can, but most importantly the fact that they exist means the game just does not feel as nasty and cut throat as so many other area control games.
Finally, I am very happy with the overall simplicity of the game, at the end of the day there are 4 (6 if you count variants with in the 4) things that you can do. That makes learning the game not at all difficult.
I like the artwork. I think the gods look good, the hexes look good, the art on the miracle cards looks good (though I do wish they were all unique, rather than having a single repeated image-I suspect this is just for the prototype however). I think the monsters look pretty good as well, though they seem just a little bit dull, I wish they would pop more.
[Note: I spoke with one of the designers and he let me know that the monster art is not the final version, and they likely will pop more.]
The game is a bit fiddly to play, not massively, but there is certainly a LOT of pieces that each player winds up controlling, and when you take the pilgrimage action, there wind up being a lot of cubes that you can move about, and you can certainly lose track if you are not careful.
The components. They are fine. They work. But man, it would be super cool to have god tokens that looked like you god, and acolytes that did not just look like a meeple, and so on. The meeples, pawn and cubes work fine, but they are not particularly exciting to look at on the table. (I am told that this is something that they hope to offer in the next KS)
I also think that the small player count games (due to a statewide shelter in place that is all I have played), I think the game goes just a bit longer than I would like it too. I think if the game was just, ever so slightly shorter it would really sing.
Bringing it all together
Theurgy is theming done right. Even without unique components you really do feel like you are in a theological battle throughout the whole game, you preach and convert some, then your opponent converts them back, so you bring in the bigs guns and perform a miracle. The game is simple to learn, but does deal out a hefty supply of strategy. There are a lot of bits in the game and it can feel a tad fiddly at times, and for my money I wish it was just a tad shorter, but that may only be an issue in two player games. I find myself thinking about this game, and wanting to get it to the table with a host of other people.
Long speeches are why my followers deserted in the first place
* An easy to learn area control game that has just enough options to remain interesting, but not so much that it is impossible to jump right in and compete
* Solid art, potentially better art if the final version has unique arts on all the cards
* Theme is nailed, but would really sing if the components were not generic
* The game can feel slightly fiddly as you move so many cubes around, and the two player game feels just a little long
* This is an area control game that I WANT to get back to the table to play with a host of others
* If you are hesitant about trying area control games, this may just be the one for you