Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- SINS: Gloom of Greed

Game: SINS: Gloom of Greed

Publisher: Cortadoo Games

Designer:   Daniel Greve, Jacob Lindborg

Year: 2019

SINS is a deck-building game which comes in three different flavours - Gluttony, Greed and Wrath. In this review we'll look at SINS: Gloom of Greed, which on its own is a two players game, although multiple decks can combine to play with more players. SINS was a Kickstarter project and it has a couple of red flags that tell me it might have a few traits of a 'bad' Kickstarter game - one where a few corners have been cut.

SINS made a bad first impression when I couldn't find the rulebook. It's a small box two-player game, so I looked hard for rules written on cards, or a small folded copy and eventually found a QR code. Rules should always be online, but they shouldn't be ONLY online. I don't want to spend ink printing out rules and they won't fit in the box, so I need internet connection to play your game. The excuse here is to keep a 'living rulebook', but this game isn't complicated (although the poorly written rules might have you believe it is). This was just a rush job. Evidenced by the fact the rulebook was evidently written in word and has Tabletopia screenshots as the only graphics!

Now that we're past that first impression, let's take a look at the game!

Gameplay

SINS: Gloom of Greed 
brings some new concepts to a two player competitive deckbuilder. While you have the standard market of cards in the center to buy from, there isn't a separation between purchasing power or attack strength on cards. Each round you'll have once chance to purchase cards, followed by one chance to attack your opponent. In the interest of saving you a headache I'm going to ignore the nomenclature of the game's rules and instead use standard terms in order to make this easier to understand.


In order to purchase a card you must overcome its 'defense' value, you do this by playing cards with the same, or greater sum of 'attack' resources. However not all resources are created equal, there are several different colours of  'defence' resource which you have to match with your 'attack' resources, you can't buy something with 3 green defence when you only have orange energy! Luckily your deck starts with 10 cards that provide the Omni energy type, this white resource counts as every colour making these cards great for buying new cards with. any purchased card is put in your discard along with the cards used to purchase it.

Then you move onto the attack phase. In this phase the active player may play a card to attack their opponent, to which they can play a card to defend. Most cards have 1-3 defence points in a specific colour, these can be used to block attacks of that colour, or any 'Omni' attack resources. This means those starter cards which were great for buying are awful for attacking as your opponent can block them with any card! Once the attacker chooses to pass playing an extra card the attack phase is over. Their opponent will take damage equal to the number of non blocked attack resources. This damage is taken in the form of cards being dealt face down off the top of your deck onto a damage deck for that player. Importantly for each point of damage dealt you'll draw one fewer cards next turn, a strong offence often cripples your own defence. At the start of any of your turns you can ask your opponents to reveal all of the cards in their damage deck. If the cards inside have 5 or more defence value in total then you gain one victory point. The game can be played between one and three victory points to declare a winner.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

I love a good deckbuilder, and the genre has come a long way from the original Dominion, though it should be noted that that still stands up as a great game on it's own. One of the things I love about trying new deckbuilders is seeing how they play with the formula, see Mystic Vale's card crafting or Tokyo Sidekick's Pandemic-style map. So, you have to picture that I was actually quite excited to get SINS to the table. Oh sure the manual was a badly done word document, but I can understand the concept of living rule books for card games, it's hardly unusual, especially as new mechanics get added each expansion. The excitement soon gave way to a migraine when I started reading the rules. The game is not overly complex, but their insistence on using the in-lore terms for their energy and attack and defence powers meant I was scrambling back and forth trying to figure out what exactly they were talking about with each obscurely worded sentence. 

Once you manage to get through the rulebook you are actually left with a sense of intrigue, if not confusion. Assuming you have translated the rules correctly then  you have quite an interesting game on your hands. The balance between offense and defence works rather well, launching a storng attack often leaves your weak to a counterattack. Succeeding in a strong defence means your hand will be relatively empty in your turn. Even the way you do damage adds some interesting choices to the game, since the cards that form their damage deck were from your deck you should have a good idea of the ratio of cards in your deck that have how much defence. You know you need five, so how many cards to your get in their damage deck before you ask them to reveal. If you got your good cards in their you might only need two, but that also means you lost the good cards out of your deck. This can feel a little random, with risk of swings of luck, but it's certainly interesting.


This disadvantage of this is that it can cripple your deckbuilding. While other games may have you refining and tuning your deck by making careful purchases and removal of cards, SINS instead has you lose a random collection of cards every time you attack. To counter this few cards seem particularly powerful, some have strong defensive abilities, while others are better at attack or purchasing. There is, however, one exception. One of the Sloth cards forces your opponent to pass, immediately ending their attack/defence. When you are defending this is powerful, but on the attack it makes you unblockable, completely altering the game's balance in one, relatively cheap card. Perhaps this could be subject to an FAQ in that living rulebook one day?

It takes a few plays to get into the flow of a game of SINS. I found the game is better with the addition of the included mini expansion, which adds an alternate way to win to each game. The cards feature wonderful gothic-style art and symbology that can be a little obscure at first, but works, once you get used to the concepts in the game. But that's the rub, you do have to get used to this game, it goes against the grain in an interesting, but not necessarily great way. 


Fi’s Final Thoughts

SINS: Gloom of Greed makes you think really hard about how you deck build. None of the card abilities seem obviously powerful or weak, they are all very situational, perhaps helpful when defending, rather than attacking, or able to manipulate the game situation to give you more control. Not only do you need to craft your deck carefully, you'll also want to time your attacks well. Going in for a big attack leaves you very weak in the next turn, and you might want to think about whether the cards in your facedown deck are worth attacking with or if they're just your basic starting cards. There's certainly some interesting twists on deck-building here.

Part of what I enjoy about deck-building games is the familiarity which makes me feel that I can jump right into a game and start to explore different combos and strategies. Perhaps it's because the mechanisms are quite unique, but Sins just doesn't give me that feeling - I'm constantly forgetting which aspect of the card is for purchasing, which one is for attacking and which one if for defending. The creators really went with style over substance when they created nice looking symbols rather than useable ones and gave creative thematic names to different game aspects like attack and defense. There are very few unique cards in the deck, so I'd like to say that I'm beginning to understand and identify good combinations, or even to be able to identify a good card after playing a few times, but I'm still a little stuck.
 

So, some of the ideas in this deck-builder are interesting, but the majority of games are uneventful and boring, but that is by no means its biggest sin. As a reviewer, I will persevere and give a game a fair number of plays before writing a review, but I don't expect many average consumers would get quite so far after encountering no rulebook in the box and a very poor standard one if they bothered to scan the QR code. It's obvious that corners were cut and it's a shame that the great artwork and some clever mechanisms weren't allowed to shine because of it.


You Might Like...
  • There isn't a huge variety of unique cards and yet there's still some interesting combos to find.
  • A game with more than one round has some interesting dynamics that allow for a sort of catch-up mechanism.
You Might Not Like...
  • Having no rulebook in the box and a poor word document with no graphic design as your online rulebook is unforgivable for us.
  • The game recommends a single round of play, but sometimes circumstances mean that your game last about 3 minutes.

The Verdict
4/10  There are layers to this deck-building game and it's certainly got more going on than you might expect for a small deck-builder, but its not got the joy that we normally find in deck-builders. It was very hard to get over the fact that this game has no rulebook. It's a bad first impression and our first game or two were not good either. After multiple plays we did find out it was possible to have a good game, but one in four is not a good hit rate.


SINS: Gloom of Greed was a review copy kindly provided to us by Cortadoo Games.

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