Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies Game Review

25 February 2024
Sleeping Gods' hotly anticipated expansion Distant Skies is here, and it's the board game you don't want to sleep on. A fascinating but dangerous world awaits you on the tabletop, in what our reviewer describes as a Must-Play game.

The first thing you discover playing this is that the title is a lie. The gods are now AWAKE (I met four of them!) and interfering with human affairs as is their wont.

What's the Story of Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies Game?

It’s 1937, eight years after the events of Sleeping Gods, (which you don’t need to have played to enjoy this), pilot Claire Smith is flying her passengers to Honolulu when disaster strikes again.  A tutorial comic portrays their abduction through a portal and subsequent brush with a pterodactyl (no, really). Landing in this strange world, they soon meet one of the gods who explains the need to find totems to escape the world. So much, so familiar, but this time around the totems will initially be dormant. We will also need to obtain rare resources - plants and minerals - for her to rejuvenate them.  Luckily we obtain Treasure maps showing where we can search, and we also earn them from quest rewards and combat spoils, so restoration isn’t a big problem.

Since restored totems are always very powerful weapons or survival aids, obtaining as many as possible quickly becomes the goal. We are free to explore the landmass at will; Claire’s plane helps us move long distances, and the rest of the time the party travels on foot, chatting to folk, offering our skills and exploring the environment.  Particularly noteworthy are Wandering Encounters (a confusing expression for a dungeon habitué!), full page paintings of locales where players can choose where to place their character(s) - the only time the party splits up.  These present a particularly rich source of quests and items.  Experiences will vary, but in my journey, I chose to side with the King against rebels, interfered in some other local politics, got unexpectedly thrown into jail and tracked down a legendary beast.

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Is Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies Gameplay Different to Sleeping Gods?

Having completed six voyages in Sleeping Gods, I believe all aspects of gameplay have been reviewed, tweaked and polished, making this a more satisfying and unpredictable experience.  Most strikingly there are now only four playable characters, taking up less table space (Claire is a joint resource). The fussy command tokens are gone and the game feels brisker - you now simply draw two ability cards and one event card at the beginning of each turn.  The rigid three act structure has been replaced by a limited number of camps. Thus you try to achieve as much as possible between rests and it helps that you always know the price of failure.  Expect to take around twelve hours if all goes well.

Combat is exceptional. Attacking routine enemies or bosses we have to be extremely wary of enemy power, which increases each round if left unchecked.  Fortunately, a customisable deck of weapons and tactics offers good flexibility.  Often frightening at first glance, it’s a case of selecting the right tool (and character) for the job, gradually chipping away at the most dangerous sections, placing damage in adjacent grid spaces, balancing de-buffs and health damage, and weathering counter attacks.  In summary: a real puzzle, and very satisfying when achieved.  A “suicide” attack is a new option for the first strike against the toughest opponents such as the final boss (bosses are promoted to storybook pages which increases their impact).  A hard game mode with further enemy buffs and harsher events is available for the brave (or foolhardy).

In conclusion, I found my first (solo) journey a compact, eventful, crunchy experience with great on-boarding.  Judging by the size of the world map I’m guessing further adventures in this series await.

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Debbie Brown

Should You Play Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies?

It's a Must-Play.

A big improvement on the original game, this is a journey of discovery you will want to share.  Particularly strong as a solo or two player (sitting side by side) game.

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What's on the box?

Designer: Ryan Laukat

Publisher: Red Raven Games

Time: 1-10 hours

Players: 1-4

Age: 13+

Price: £100



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