Cult of the Deep Board Game Review – First Impressions

Cult of the Deep Board Game Review – First Impressions


Cult Membership must stay hidden at all costs. You do not know who walks among you, you do not trust those that you walk among and now you’ve said the word among repeatedly in your head and like most words when you repeat it again and again, it sounds completely riddle-iculous. 


Cult Of The Deep is a Hidden Role game. So when you play, you’ll have different character powers from other players and you’ll either be trying to assist other players or hinder their progress. You have different victory conditions based on who you play as. You might need to defeat all of the other players if you play as a Heretic, or win as a Faithful if the High Priest is alive and the Cabalists and Heretics are dead. The different victory conditions will change depending on the number of players that take part in the game.


The main gameplay is actually very straightforward. You’ll roll five dice and based on their results you’ll then either reroll in a Yahtzee type mechanic another two times and decide which dice you keep as you go. Those who have played any of the King of Tokyo games will be familiar with how to play. Then you’ll commit results of the dice either to yourself or other players, with the idea being that you are testing the water to see if you are dealing with possible allies or enemies. You also can commit dice to rituals in the centre area which will grant you additional powers and effects. Some of the powers can be claimed once the ritual has been used a number of times. Even if you do get killed off, you can still take part in the game, but as a Wraith instead, though you are no longer able to commit dice but you can use them on other living players thus continuing to effect the final outcome from beyond the grave. The main strategy with Cult of the Deep is to try to form alliances to allow you to guess who you are playing against and who you should be trying to eliminate. The only role that is public is the High Priest which will help to dictate fairly early on where the factions are around the table and where you should concentrate your efforts. 


Winning is based on a combination of factors, but basically you are either trying to wipe out everyone else out or save certain players on the table, or keep certain players alive with yourself or bar yourself. With the randomness of how the roles are assigned and how many people are playing the game then victory conditions will be changing on a regular basis, and it will help to keep the game fresh through multiple playthroughs. 


Cult of the Deep has clearly spent some money on the art and design here. With the card art fitting the theme and design extremely well. There are little touches that I really appreciate. The UV spot effects on the back of each of the cards. The extra quality of the individual dice in terms of their production and their glitter finish that just add that extra little piece that shows the designer wanted to give Cult of the Deep a real presence at the table. Even the rulebook cover is strangely evocative, with art work that is unexpected but in it’s own way tells a story that will have you asking a question. The iconography on the cards is clear and easy to understand and that to me is important as it will not only be you that will need to see the information, but potentially other players as well. 


What’s this? A Quick reference guide on the back page? There’s detailed instructions on how to play that mention the win conditions not only once, but twice in the rule book? Multiple examples of how to play dotted throughout? Some additional variants for play? When there is a chance that less experienced players are going to be checking the rules as they play, it’s really important that the rulebook is clear and easy to understand, and that is achieved very well within the COTD rules. Again, I would prefer that a rule book doesn’t take up the size of the whole box, but here we’re not looking at a huge size pamphlet and so I suppose forgiveness can be given. Your big decider here though is how much of a social game this is going be and if you are going to be a bit more lenient with the rules for the first couple of games while everyone learns how to get the best out of the different characters that are available. 


This is where we start to enter the ‘Your Mileage May Vary’ part of the review, because this is going to be as social as it is going to be mechanical, so if you wanted just to burn through the game with players rolling dice and knocking health off other players, then you’re going to be easily getting through a round within forty five minutes, but that wouldn’t necessarily include the learning part of things. This is the type of game that is much more suited to a learn as you play, rather than a read through followed by a game. If you bring in roleplaying into events and if the players really embrace playing characters, then there is no reason for a game to last much longer. We’re not talking hours here, but there is nothing going to be lost here if you take it on a slower pace and allow the players to breath a bit. Bring snacks, but make sure people wash their hands and no drinks are allowed on the table. 

Final Thoughts

 Cult of the Deep has all the ingredients to be an excellent hidden role game, with clear instructions on how to play that are displayed from the rulebook to the card art. I don’t see an issue with it being accessible to those who are new to playing games and have already cut their teeth on the like of Coup and One Night Werewolf. There’s not a huge amount to learn here and you can take the roles as far as you want to, deciding to play either quick games to rack up the winners or take your time and settle into some back and forth between players as they try to bluff and double bluff their way to victory. Your biggest issue with Cult of the Deep comes down to the number of players you’ll need to get the most out of the game. Even if you play the minimum of four, there’s going to be an automata that will take the role of the high priest. This needs to have five players minimum to make it worthwhile and probably even higher numbers to make it sing. If you have that option and you’re a fan of hidden role games then I think this game will sit very well within your collection. You like it, and your friends will like it, but it’s just a mutual liking thing, it’s not a Cult type thing. Honest..

Any Tips? 

Even though the High Priest is common knowledge to everyone, better to start by targeting others in order to confuse which role you have. 

Game Designer – Sam Stockton

Game Developer – Ed Stockton

Illustrators – Liam Peters, Maura Elko,

Concept Artist – Charles Walton II

Graphic Designers – David Li, Imaginaire Studio

This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.

The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. Our Six Degrees of Expectation have been written to make it easier for you to find out what is important to you as a player. Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played. 

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