A Review by Daniel Meyer
Put on your God hat, find a few worshippers, and smite your fellow wannabe deities. Such is the premise behind game designer Jay Semerad’s Foretold: Rise of a God. Knowing next to nothing about the game before eagerly jumping in, I opened the box and was immediately impressed by the high quality components. The tokens, tiles, and cards all have a nice thickness and weight to them. The punch-outs all came out smoothly, which may be a small thing to some, but I appreciate not having to perform minor surgery to extract them without the danger of tearing. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the nice art design. Art is always a matter of taste. I didn’t find the art particularly awesome or bad in my view.
After preparing the components for play and getting rather excited, I delved into the rules…and some of that excitement waned a bit. The rules are confusing and tend to get too wordy and "over-explainy" where illustrated gameplay examples would have done a better job. Yet it was kind of like reading a treasure map. The clues of a potential good game were there. If one could figure out the rules, a real treasure of a game might be found. I may be overselling how bad the rules are and it’s possible my daily allowance of coffee was not enough for my dulled brain to comprehend them, but it’s safe to say they could use another round of editing (or two). The rules also direct you to a website to check out video demos on how to play. I went there, but found no such videos. I did find some more rules on the website and, coupled with the included quick play guide, was able to slowly piece together the basics of this game.
Once we finally started playing, it quickly became apparent that Foretold has a few cool new gameplay mechanics. Your objective is to either be the last deity standing or collect the 4 relics of one particular Fate. The latter being more difficult and random than the former. Protecting you from being trampled like a tiny insect by your opponents is your temple and faithful followers. A player starts with a temple built of five square tiles and four “faithful” cards that make up your worshippers who will be used to make money, defend your temple, and raid other temples. Every turn you must split your faithful cards into a “temple” deck and a “raid” deck. The temple deck faithful buy stuff and defend, while the raiding faithful...uh...raid, of course. More temple tiles, faithful cards, and relic cards can be bought and arranged later in various strategic ways to defend you from opponent raids. In this way the game has a strong tie to tower defense games, a genre of games that haven’t really broken into board games much...yet. I mean come on game designers! There’s a genre of game mechanics just waiting to be plucked like the juicy, red strawberry tempting you from your neighbor’s garden.
Each turn begins with the current player revealing and adding a new faithful and relic card that can be bought in the marketplace. The player can then play their temple faithful cards for coins, which can in turn be used to buy more faithful cards, relic cards, or tiles for the temple. It’s nothing different than what you see in most deck-building games. The faithful cards occasionally have abilities that trigger when using them as money and taking advantage of said abilities can key tactically speaking. Adding tiles and arranging them just so in your temple can greatly improve one’s defensive capabilities. Relic cards that are bought are stored in your temple and usually give the player a one-time use ability when used. Some relics are extra special and called “Fate Relics”. Each of the four fates have four relics associated with them. A player needs a temple tile showing an altar icon for each Fate Relic they buy and own. If a player manages to buy all four of one's Fate Relics, they win. It’s tough to do since you need four altar icons on your temple tiles, there is only one copy of each, and whether they get put into play is random. I did manage to win one game by doing this, however (patting myself on the back).
After a player is done buying all their goodies, they then send their raiding faithful on a raid. Raids, coupled with building a defense against them, are where I feel this game is either going to shine for some or fall flat. On a raid you first choose an opponent to raid. You may choose the person with the lowest health to possibly help finish and eliminate them more quickly, choose to gang up on the leader, pick the player with the weakest defense, or your board gaming nemesis (we all have them). For every “station” icon on a temple tile, the defender is able to play a temple faithful card. They then roll a 6-sided die for each defender played, add in any combat bonuses, and add up the total for the final combat value. The attacker can then play as many faithful cards as they choose from their raiding party, roll a die for each, and add up the total. Highest total wins. If defender wins, the raid is over. If the attacker wins, they take one faithful back into hand, discard the rest, and move deeper into the temple. This continues until the raiding player is able to defeat the defender’s temple’s “heart” tile which allows them to damage the player directly. No, I don’t mean they exact physical harm upon the player (though house rules are encouraged). Rather, damage is done based on how many raiders are left and a bonus “smite” roll that does 3-6 bonus damage. Players start with 20 life. There are a few ways to heal, but mostly it’s a race to die more slowly than your opponents by defending and attacking more successfully. After raiding, you separate all your faithful cards into a temple or raid deck and the next player takes their turn at trying to knock your deity butt of it’s pedestal.
Foretold presents elements of deck-building, mashes in some light tower defense mechanics, and mixes it all up with generous helpings of smart, tactical play. This combination makes for a unique, fun experience. It can seem clunky at times with the many card abilities (I didn’t even mention the fate cards you can get during the game), combat bonuses, and tiles to keep track of at once. Turns can also drag on quite a bit toward the end of the game with much time taken debating what to buy, completing the raid, and then finally deciding how to divide your cards into the temple and raid decks. This is especially problematic for the AP prone. That said, and badly written rules aside, this game has a lot of fun to offer and I highly recommend it for any deck-building and/or tower defense fans. It’s also not a bad option as a family game. Recommended age on the box is 13+, but I played it with my 10 and 7 year old boys with no troubles on their part. In fact, they each one a game before I did (don’t go spreading that around).