You'll thank the heavens for bringing them to your table.
Einstein was wrong -- God very clearly does play dice with the universe. They’re also partial to a round of cards and a spot of worker placement, now that you mention it. At least, that’s what our deity-driven board game collection would imply. If your packaged pantheon is lacking the pious touch, however, allow us to help you escape eternal damnation with these six godly board games deserving of your worship.
The best god-based board games
The eagle-eyed (and perhaps headed) demigods reading this might have spotted that we said God, singular, back there. When it comes to board games, though, why limit your gaming group? There’s a wealth of deities lining up for a turn at your table. In our god-based board game list, we’ve detailed which divine crew will be taking a seat and just how heavy an influence they’ll have on the result.
Pantheon at play: Ancient Greek’s warmongers.
The supreme being’s summary: It’s time to slap each other silly over the right to rule a handful of islands in the Aegean sea. Cyclades is a race to construct two megacities and declare yourself sovereign of the seas. Unfortunately, you’ll only be able to act with the favor of a god. Each deity grants a power to use that turn such as summoning and moving ships or launching an attack -- but only if you outbid your rivals for their affection.
It’s not just the gods out to make a quick buck, either. Drop a few coins their way and mythical beasts like the Kraken or Pegasus will briefly terrorize your foes, swinging a battle in your favor before they move on to the next big spender.
Divine interference: Decidedly fickle. In perhaps their most true-to-the-tales board game depiction, the Greek gods of Cyclades will shift their favor to and fro among the mortals. Whether they grant glory or visit disaster depends entirely on who showers them in the highest levels of golden devotion (the monetary kind, get your mind out of Tartarus’ pits). Victory could be a single move away, but that won’t matter if you can’t afford the god needed to claim it.
2. Blood Rage
Pantheon at play: The Norse at their most bloodthirsty.
The supreme being’s summary: It's the end of the world, but rather than sitting back to watch Midgard melt away, it’s time to grab your axe and earn a place in Valhalla. Draft cards representing the favor of the gods, then spend a lifetime of stored rage to take actions like raiding villages, slaying monsters, and battling the Viking clans of your mates.
You’ve got three ages to gobble up glory and prove your worth before Ragnarok descends to consume existence. The most important task of all? Dying a glorious death to impress the Valkyries. You need to convince someone to carry you off this sinking longboat of a world, after all.
Divine interference: Instilling us all with an unceasing drive to murder everything until the world collapses. Thor and Tyr will grant strength to your armies, but there’s plenty of room for deceptive trickery when Loki fills out your hand. They all have one thing in common, though: a desire to spill as much blood as possible.
Pantheon at play: Even more of the Ancient Greek variety, but this time they’re messing with bricks instead of bloodshed.
The supreme being’s summary: The gorgeous island city of Santorini isn’t going to build itself. To speed matters along, a cohort of OIympus’s finest have gathered master builders from across the Greek states. Moving and building with one of two workers each turn, players race to see who can construct and scale a three-story building the fastest.
Ancient Greek health and safety standards decree that you can only build on an open, adjacent tile, but the fussy gods won’t abide laziness. If you’re ever trapped such that you can’t move and successfully build, that’s game over for your team (and presumably some kind of celestial punishment). It’s kind of like Tic-Tac-Toe but in 3D and with the gods screwing up your plans each turn.
Divine Interference: If there’s one thing the Greek gods love, it’s messing with the affairs of mortals. Santorini features a full 30 God cards, letting everyone from big man Zeus to the haggard Limos weigh in on construction efforts by granting unique powers and win conditions for their chosen player.
4. Rising Sun
Pantheon at play: The Kami of Japanese shinto mythology and folklore. Sort of, anyway.
The supreme being’s summary: We’ve always said that history doesn’t feature enough giant turtles. Rising Sun tasks you with conquering feudal Japan faster than your friends. Clearly humans haven’t been doing a good enough job warring in this universe, however, as the gods have decided to lend help in all manner of monstrous forms.
The spiritual successor to Blood Rage, Rising Sun tempers its fury to tell a war of careful contemplation and diplomacy. Over three seasons, players vie for control of eight core regions in Japan, earning victory points for battles won in designated locations. Each season opens with alliance negotiations over a shared cup of tea, but friendships are temporary -- only one Daimyo can rule at the end. Honor is often the path to victory, but sometimes an underhanded swing of an Oni’s club can push your clan into dominance.
Divine interference: Pretty much an excuse to field giant monsters. Devoting priests to the shrines at the top of the game board will reward you with gifts from the gods, but we all know you’re here for the big fellow with the club and his dragon friend. Fielding them is undeniably cool, but the game’s respect for its source material is questionable at best.
After raising several million on Kickstarter, publisher CMON had a slightly awkward moment when board game geek forumites noted that the Kōtahi creature included wasn’t actually from Japanese folklore. It’s real origin? A joke Wikipedia edit by friends of a New Zealand board gamer. Maybe hire those localization experts next time, yeah?
Pantheon at play: Ancient Greek again? Listen you lot, we are not allowing Dionysus near our board game table. You know he’s only going to spill wine on it.
The supreme being’s summary: The gods are up to their colonial antics again, demanding players build up rival civilizations, scoring points as they punt the barbarians off their land and erect temples instead. Playing cards adds to your own tableau, but also plonks down buildings on a shared board with limited space.
Each building placed offers a unique power to generate points or resources. Playing a building of a matching type activates all the previous powers in that stack, allowing you to construct divine point-pumping engines if your positioning and cards are right.
Divine interference: Minimal. On any turn, players can decide to slack off from building by discarding cards in “worship” instead. Seemingly amused by your indolence, the gods will toss resources your way for the type and number of cards discarded. A good choice for those looking to avoid any miraculous turns of fortune.
6. Cthulhu Wars
Pantheon at play: The Great Old Ones (if the Ancient Greeks get three entries, you can allow us this one).
The supreme being’s summary: Humanity? Forget about them. Those losers are long dead, and now is the time of the Elder Gods. After the apocalypse has come and gone, it’s up to the most monstrous of monsters to fight for control of the planet.
By summoning cultists, acquiring spell books, and conducting rituals, you’ll attempt to out-evil one another and amass the Doom required to own the planet for good. The number and size of included miniatures make Cthulhu Wars a devilishly tempting prospect, but it’s also so expensive that only those with unholy cash stores should really consider buying it.
Divine interference: Direct and deadly. The entire reason to play Cthulhu Wars is to drop your gigantic Elder God onto the table with a resounding thud. Acolytes and monsters all get their own glorious minis, but the first time you rouse your Old One from its slumber will have everything watching in a blend of anticipation and dread.
Crying to the heavens about a game we’ve missed? Let us know your favorite godly board games by dropping us a message on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. For more board games chatter, check out the Going Analog Podcast, or test yourself in Season 2 of the Board Game Quiz Show.
Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.