We tried to lead our crew home from the Wandering Sea in Sleeping Gods, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
Time: 60-1200 Minutes
Designers: Ryan Laukat
Artists: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Red Raven Games
Sleeping Gods is a story-driven cooperative sandbox-type game where players take on the role of a ships’ crew that has found themselves in the middle of an unknown sea. They must seek out totems that they think will help them awaken the sleeping gods of the realm, who may send them home as a reward. Players are hoping to find a happy ending for their crew before being devoured by a monster that is tracking their moves. If they can find an ending, all players may win.
The game is set up with the map book opened to the starting map, the ship board placed nearby, and all the various resources placed nearby. The market deck is shuffled (after making sure to take out the starting items!), as is the fate deck. The captain’s character board is placed where all players can see, and then players divvy up the rest of the characters. The first event deck is set up with six deadly events on the bottom, six perilous events next, and then six mild on top. Then play is ready to begin.
For the first game, players will follow the tutorial story in the quick start booklet; for subsequent adventures, they can forgo this and simply take the starting resources for the game.
On their turn, the player first takes a ship action, which means they move the marker on the ship board to another location. These actions will give the player some “command” – tokens that are used to purchase skills, activate certain cards, and jump in to help on skill checks out-of-turn. They will also get a number of skill cards, and then have an optional action like drawing extra cards, healing one of the crew, or removing fatigue from one of the crew.
Next the player reads and resolves an event card. This will often involve a skill check. There are five possible skills in the game, as indicated by symbols on the character boards and on skills that the player adds to their characters. To bring a character into a skill check, they must first gain a fatigue token — each character can only have two fatigue tokens, and if they have two, they are less effective at combat. If a non-active player would like to add their character’s abilities, they need to play a command token first. Then a card is drawn from the skill deck, and the number on the card is added to the number of symbols on the characters who were participating. If the characters match or exceed the skill needed, they succeed. If not, the involved players can also play cards from their hand to add to the skill, or other players can play a command to come in and help with cards. If they’re not able to match the needed skill, they’ll fail and take a consequence.
Then they take two actions. The actions can be moving the ship, shop from the market (if the ship is in a market spot), visit the port for healing and supplies (if the ship is in a port spot), or encounter a story. The main thing that drives this game are those story encounters. This action will bring the players to a story that will offer various choices like helping out a village, battling an enemy or embarking on an adventure. The stories may have skill checks involved, and many will give the players missions to go for, including key words that will change the stories at certain locations.
As a free action on their turn, players can also pay command to add a skill to any character.
Players continue taking turns until they finish the event deck. Then they’ll resolve a story in the book. And, at some point, they will reach a story ending, which is when they’ll find out if they’ve won or lost.
I backed this game when it originally was on Kickstarter because I’ve enjoyed several of Ryan Laukat’s games, especially Near & Far with its combination of worker placement and adventuring out on a board with stories that can be encountered. This seemed like it would be an amped-up version of that where the story was even more present.
Without mincing any words, I love Sleeping Gods. It certainly has some flaws, but those have been outweighed by the story and adventures we’ve experienced while playing the game. This was a game that we would just immerse ourselves in for several weekends in a row. We pulled it out with our pandemic pod and spent six to eight hours on Saturdays to get through one of the event decks. And after a few Saturdays we would finish one adventure. I don’t want to spoil any stories, so I’ll just say that we had a lot of laughs, make some tough decisions, and stumbled into some exciting situations.
The combat is a little clunky and slows down the game, but I still enjoy it. There’s a spacial puzzle involved with the combat that adds a neat dimension. The other mechanism that we struggled with were the skill checks — you need to decide beforehand if other players are going to join in, which means you can end up wasting command to come in. However, it clearly didn’t bother us too much because we played through several full campaigns! Finally, the game is a table hog. Even with our dinning-room-sized game-table, it was a struggle to get everything to fit, especially in the later phases of the game. But those end up being nitpicks for what is a fun, immersive, story-driven game.
Three Quick Questions
How is it as a 2-player game? Sleeping Gods works great with two players. I’ve played it at two, three, and four, and it works at all of them. I might favor the two- and three-player game more than the four, since it means you get more turns throughout the game.
How about the art and component quality? I am a huge fan of Ryan Laukat’s art and world, so you know I love the art here. The components are great, too – the cards are good quality, tokens and chits have held up after many hours of play, and the card design is clear and easy to understand.
Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. Even though we’ve played through many campaigns, there are still places on the map that we haven’t encountered. And there are stories that we want to try again, making different decisions to see where it leads us.