I usually look at games I’m interested in and know about, but sometimes good ones pop up out of the blue. A great example of this is when I was walking through the exhibit hall at Gen Con last year when someone yelled, “Hey, BGQ!”. They waved me over to their booth and there I met Sam Stockton from BA Games. We chatted for a few minutes before he asked if I wanted to review their new game called Cult of the Deep. This game wasn’t on my radar, but it sounded creepy, which I like. The next day a group of BGQ staff returned to the BA Games booth and Ed Stockton walked us through the rules and we were shown the full game.
This brings us to today’s review The cult of depth by BA Games. This stealth, dice-rolling role has players as members of various cult factions fighting each other in an attempt to gain power and control over the cult (or its destruction). Cult of the Deep is designed for 4-8 players and lasts about an hour.
Cult of the Deep settings will depend on the number of players and will determine how many different hidden roles and altar boards will be used. Each player will secretly be assigned one of four roles: High Priest, Faithful, Cabalist, and Heretic, and each has unique victory conditions. The only role that will be revealed is the High Priest. Each player is also dealt a Character card (face up) and a Sigil card, which is kept secret.
The game then begins with the player who revealed the High Priest, and each player’s turn consists of the following 4 phases:
1. Roll: players roll 5 Cultist dice and have the option to re-roll any number of dice or save, but players must save the second result. The dice contain unique symbols for life loss and gain and for ritual progression.
2. Carry out: the active player passes the cultist dice they rolled to other players (to gain or lose life), to their cultist to gain life, or to altars to benefit from rituals.
3. Answer: this is where all players other than the active player have the ability to use abilities and ritual benefits to change the outcome of fixed dice. If the players pass or respond, then the active player can re-pass the changed dice to another player or perform the ritual.
4. Decide: the active player now resolves the results of their locked dice as indicated in Phase 2.
When all the tracks on the altar board reach 0, the Ritual is complete, and if it has a Guardian effect, the player who finished can keep it and gain the power, and if the Ritual does not, it is canceled and a new Ritual is created.
If a player loses all their lives, they die and reveal their role card. Players keep their Sigil card and any tokens they may have collected in Rituals, but they lose any collected cards. That player then draws a Wraith from the deck. The Wraith card will show the player how many Wraith dice they have and what power they get. Wraith players will still have 4 phases to their turn, but they are different than living players.
The game ends immediately after a player’s turn ends if any of the following win conditions for a given role are met. The high priest will win if all the cabalists and heretics are dead. The faithful will win if all perish except the High Priest. The Kabalist wins if the High Priest dies and at least one Kabalist remains alive. The Heretic wins if all other players, including him, are dead.
I have to admit that I really enjoyed Cult of the Deep from my first play through to my last. It’s easy to pick up and learn, and the rules are very simple, keeping the game fluid and engaging for players. The hardest part for most players is when they die and become a Wraith. The mechanics are quite different, so most players usually need a turn or two to get used to this new role. In addition, the game mechanics are reliable and allow you to get Cult of the Deep quickly.
The next thing I want to cover is the good news and the bad news. Let’s start with the bad news: Cult of the Deep is light on stealth player. Most players, especially those who have played the game a few times, can pretty much tell who is playing which role after 2-3 turns. Of course, the High Priest is revealed, so there’s no mystery here, but it doesn’t take much to figure out who the Faithful, the Cabalist, and maybe even the Heretic are based on how the players roll their dice each turn. So, if you were expecting One Night Ultimate Werewolf or The Resistance, then Cult of the Deep might not be the game for you.
Now for the good news: Cult of the Deep’s lack of respect for the stealth player doesn’t hurt the gameplay at all. It’s still a blast even if you guess who the Faithful, the Cabalist, and the Heretic are. In fact, I think it adds to the fun because the players will likely continue to deny their role the whole time, you know, but the doubt can creep in again. Also, you don’t need the “right” players to motivate playing Cult of the Deep, because if they accidentally or intentionally reveal their role, it’s not a win condition that reduces the game or gives other players an automatic win.
I have to say that the best part of Cult of the Deep for me is the social gameplay. You’re constantly blabbing about who you can or can’t trust and trying to convince other players not to throw daggers at you (lose life) or try to trade for bloody dice (gain life). All the players interact and try to sell the players what your role isn’t (unless you’re the same role), and the banter keeps all the players engaged and having fun. Overall, the social aspect of Cult of the Deep makes it memorable most times the game hits the table.
The last positive point I want to mention is the role of the Wraith. Yes, it’s not as interactive as the roles you start with, but it does get around the player removal drawback that some games have of removing players from the game. The Wraith is more of a support role for allies and a hindrance to your enemies, but regardless, it keeps players in the game, especially since even in death the Wraith player can fulfill the victory conditions and win if they are met.
The only thing that kept Cult of the Deep from scoring higher was the Ritual deck, which could have been deeper. Now, I don’t mind going through the 11 Rituals that come with the game and they are all unique, but more Ritual cards would add variety to the game because after 3-4 games you will likely run through the deck and deeper decks will help to play the value, I think. This will also help you avoid shuffling your Ritual deck when you’re playing a 7-8 player game. There are some rituals that you really want to see only once (or not at all).
I love the macabre and Cult of the Deep allows me to play a cultist, yes a bad guy in this easy to learn dice roll quickly. Cult of the Deep is light on the stealth role mechanics, but it won’t ruin the player experience or give any player an automatic effect if the player’s role is revealed.
The cult of depth is a great social game that engages players and keeps players in the game even after death, allowing players to become a Wraith and stay entertained. Now of course, could the Ritual deck be made deeper, and adding more cards would help increase the overall replay value and variety of this game.
Final score: 4 stars – A social and memorable dice roll that can be light on stealth but heavy on fun and player engagement.
• Quickly to the table and learn
• Role detection does not harm gameplay
• Great social interaction
• Illumination of the hidden role
• A deeper ritual deck