AEG's release of Myth: Pantheons is very telling, to me at least, that they are a versatile company that can make not only great "board" games, but they can make some killer card games too. With their last release, Thunderstone, proving that they can produce solid performing card games, Myth takes a traditional card game, Spades, and injects a high-powered dose of one part "Kick-Ass" and another part "Screw Your Neighbor" to create a clever trick-taking game that delivers a solid, fun gaming experience.
Also included in the game are City cards, Mortal cards, and a boatload of tokens to help you keep track of your worshippers, defenses, and finally, what kinds of actions you can potentially take on your turn. The cities, which are the focus of the game, have both a Challenge rating that indicates how many challenges must be completed by a player to take control of the it, and its inhabitants rating, which indicates the amount of followers live in that city. These followers are the coin of the realm in Myth, and act as victory points when the game ends. Mortal cards are the only cards besides the deity cards that actually are played against one another during challenges, and each has a Domain listed on it which acts as the suit of the card, as well as a Roman numeral which indicates the strength of the card. Each player starts with seven of these cards in addition to their Deity cards. Essentially, Domain is equivalent "Diamonds" or "Clubs" and the Roman numeral value is equivalent to a "Five" or a "Queen". These Mortal cards can also have special abilities on them which allows you extra actions during the "Divine Acts" phase of each turn, can allow you to draw new Mortal cards, or can allow you to take tokens for free. Many of these are outcome-dependent, such as "Take a War token if you win this Challenge", or "You may perform an additional act if you lose this Challenge", which really adds to the depth of strategy during each turn.
Once the challenge has been resolved and all tokens are distributed, the Divine Act phase begins, where you get to use your accumulated action points, if you earned any. The champion of that challenge gets to take a free Divine Act for winning the challenge, which can be anything from putting followers on a city from their pool of tokens they may have previously received, defending a city by placing Weather or Heavens tokens on it, attacking other players' cities with Plagues and Invasions, and arguably the most influential action, changing the Ruling Domain to one of that player's choice. Players take turns taking these actions, and once all have been resolved, gamplay continues.
If any player happens to have enough Challenge victories to take the city, they take that city card and place the indicated amount of Follower tokens on top of it to indicate the population amount that resides there. Your cities are initially very vulnerable to attack, and so it is very important to defend them or they can be destroyed by enemies who have Death or War tokens. Enemies can cause Plague in your cities by spending Death tokens to kill followers in one of your cities, depriving you of victory points, but you can help mitigate that by placing Heavens tokens on it which must be depleted before your population begins to die off. Alternatively, enemies can invade your city using the most powerful attack type in the game, the War token. Players may spend these in an equal amount to an opponent's city Challenge value plus the amount of Weather tokens defending it. For example, Ethiopia has a Challenge rating of one, and if it had no Weather tokens to defend it, that city would be destroyed and subsequently discarded, along with all its inhabitants, by spending a single, solitary War token. This happened to me last night when my wife mercilessly destroyed Jericho on one turn, then Timbuktu on the following turn, which cost me a great many followers, and by extension, victory points.
When any given player runs out of Mortal cards, the Epoch, or round, ends when the current city that is in play has been taken or nobody can play any more cards in the next challenge and passes. All Mortal cards are dumped into the discard pile, the entire pile is reshuffled, and 7 more Mortal cards are dealt to each player. The game is divided into three of these Epoch rounds, and at the conclusion of the third the game ends and the player with the most followers is the Supreme Being.
The first game we played last night took us almost an hour and a half to muddle through because we weren't completely sure of the rules regarding Divine Acts. Once we got that sorted out, every game that followed lasted 45 minutes with four and five players, and the turn sequence, distribution of tokens, and Divine Acts all became automatic to us. All in all, playing the game, although having a fairly steep learning curve, was a really fun time. There were a ton of "Gotcha" moments, and the brisk gameplay where everyone was involved made downtime boredom a complete non-issue.
Things I Liked:*The art is outstanding on this game, like all AEG games
*The concept of taking Spades and adding combat and treachery was brilliant
*Devilishly evil fun was had when launching devastating surprise attacks, decimating my opponent's cities
*The realization that Death can be trumped certainly gives one new hope
Things I Disliked:
*The first time I played was excrutiating for me because I'm not great with trick-taking games and the rules weren't as clear on the finer points as I'd have liked, but subsequent plays were very easy once I "got" the concepts
*The Roman numerals on the Mortal cards were very distracting, and should've been Arabic numerals. There's only one Roman deity in the game, so it didn't make sense
*The numbers on the tokens were too big, making it hard to distinguish between domains from across the table, and they should've matched the Domain colors as well
*We ran out of Harvest tokens several times, but we did use War tokens as they have no persistent effect, which worked fine
If you like trick-taking games and are not opposed to blasphemy, this is the game for you. While the learning curve can be tough for the first game, if you stick through it, every subsequent game will not have you referring back to the manual for anything but to remember which tokens are for which Domain. This is a lot of fun to play, the art is amazing, and the concepts and mechanics make the game shine.
Pete is a member of Fortress: Ameritrash. You can read more of his reviews at The Superfly Circus.