“Sanctum” from Czech Games Edition may evoke nostalgia among those who once played Sanctum. Here, players also fight hordes of enemies, collect loot, red and blue bottles to end the final battle with the mighty Demon Lord!
The game’s author, Czech Filip Neduk, makes no secret about where he got his inspiration. Like many other people, he played all three parts of the legendary Diablo in the past. So he made an effort to bring all of its main features to the board game and avoid accusations of plagiarism. Once seeing the box with the fire demon’s head, experienced gamers immediately know what to expect from such a board game.
But is there anything else in common with Diablo besides the box design? Is it even possible to bring the hack-and-slash genre into a board game format? Let’s explore!
The General Concept
Humans have recklessly freed the Demon Lord from a jade sarcophagus buried deep beneath the city of Sanctum. Several very different heroes have vowed to slay the monster. But first, they have to complete many levels, breakthrough an army of smaller demons, get as much power as possible, knock out all the good loot, and stock up on potions. And a couple of times during the game, they’ll get divine intervention – a real angel will come down from heaven and help from above.
Hordes of Enemies
Enemy hordes are a significant point of any self-respecting hack-and-slash fan! In Sanctum, there is nothing wrong with that. During a turn, the player has three options: move forward, and move new demons into the danger zone on the tablet, fight those already there, or rest.
Enemies here are not killed by clicking the mouse but by throwing dice. Demons on three different levels require one, two, or three dice with a strictly defined combination of numbers to win. Heroes start the game with only two dice, but as they advance to a new level, they may get one or two extra dice, and another pair of dice is simply brought down from heaven by an angel.
But even a bunch of five or six dice is not enough to hope to get the right combination of numbers when fighting a mob of enemies. That’s when the right equipment and heroes’ special skills come into play. Most of them aim to change the falling out numbers: to add or subtract, flip or copy. Real heroes should not rely on luck, they can control any randomness and level up failed throws, but only if they have enough red stamina and blue energy to pay for these features.
Each demon will not only leave the traditional “drop” to the winner after death but also will give a hint of what they stashed in advance: the enemy cards have images of helmet, armor, boots, weapons, or jewels. Obviously, the higher the level of the monster, the better “item” you get from it. Also, by shredding enemies, heroes increase their level. And that’s what we’ll talk about in the next paragraph.
There are four heroes in a game of Sanctum: a hunter, a criminal, a slayer, and a dancer. By killing monsters, they upgrade their level. The leveling system is very cleverly organized, including three skill branches laid out in advance on the hero’s tablet. But on top of these are multicolored crystals: red, blue, green, and the universal white. Demons are also divided in color – they are red, blue, and green. By killing the demon, players can move up as many crystals of the corresponding color as the monster’s level contains. For example, killing a first level blue demon and a second level red demon, you can move up one blue and two red crystals.
To unlock the skill, you need to free it completely from the crystals on the tablet. And it is not necessary to start with the first level – no one forbids mastering the powerful skill from the very bottom line first.
Obtained crystals also do not lie idle – they are used to pay for the enemies’ equipment. It boils down to this and most of the game decisions: which demons to choose, what skills to pump first, what items to put on the hero so that they could smash more difficult monsters. The author of the game created a very simple and transparent system of ranking – the enemies, levels, and equipment are so closely related to each other that there are no questions left after a couple of moves.
The classes of characters differed widely:
- The Huntress is a marksman so that it can roll one dice with the right number at once, and the forces of nature protect it from damage;
- Outlaw specializes in potions – it can drink them at any time, turn them into explosives and carry some extra bottles;
- Slayer giving in to berserker rages and finishes off the wounded demons;
- The nimble dancer throws the dice in every way possible and many times over.
So it’s interesting to play “Sanctum” at least four times to figure out the power of each character.
The Final Battle Against the Boss
Dozens of enemies on your way to the finale will give you almost no trouble. All these little bastards are just a way to gain experience and cool items. The real challenge awaits you only at the end of the game, in the city cathedral. So prepare potions, take a rest, restore your energy and stamina, equip your best weapons, and go for the final battle!
The enemy is so unpredictable that, in fact, each player will have their own Demon Lord. Five Demon Lord cards, and four of his rage cards are laid out on the personal tablets. The first ones are similar to the ordinary demons – you just have to throw dice with the right combinations. But the rage cards are the sudden attacks that you have to endure. The insidious opponent will rob you of your abilities, dice, energy, stamina, and of course, will constantly beat you with all his power. Only after defeating all nine cards will you be able to take a breath and see which of your opponents and in what state survived the battle. The player who has saved the highest percentage of health is the winner.
Game type: adventure, role-playing
Author: Philip Neduk
Artists: Jakub Politzer and others
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Number of players: 2-4 (optimal: 2-3)
Player age: 12+
Gameplay: 60-100 min