"The people of the world live simple lives, but these lives are often disrupted by the whims of capricious deities."
from the Risk Godstorm rulebook
This game may be about gods and goddesses, but they're nothing (literally) without the little people. Without soldiers in their territories, gods simply cannot exist.
The five factions in Godstorm each have two types of figures to represent their forces of war. The soldier -- a simple fighting man with a humble spear -- represents one army of men. The war elephant -- a massive beast with five riders in its howdah -- represents five such armies. At any time in the game you can trade five soldiers in one territory for a war elephant, or vice versa. Arnie Swekel's illustration of the soldiers and war elephants came to life as these figures.
Up to five players can play Godstorm. Each takes on a civilization's armies. In a two- or four-player game, each civilization starts with 30 soldier figures. In a three-player game, each player gets 35 armies. In a five-player game, each player gets 25 armies.
To start the game, you can deal out the 42 territory cards and have each player place one army in each territory they get. Then each player places three armies at a time, either in one territory or several, until all are out. (You can also play with a non-random setup, with a die roll determining who chooses the first territory. Then each player places one army in another territory, and so on until all armies are out. This is an especially good way to play if you want the Egyptians to start in Egypt, for example. Simply agree that the home territories will be the first territories chosen.)
In a two-player game, a neutral civilization enters play. You divide the territory cards into three piles, each player picks one, and then three armies of a neutral civilization are placed in each of the third pile's territories. Those neutral armies can defend but never attack, summon gods, or use any of the other special actions in the game.
One of the most powerful abilities of the soldiers in Godstorm is to make their gods incarnate. A god cannot exist in a territory without his or her followers. Should the last soldiers fall in a territory, the gods fall with them. In fact, it is the faith of men that holds this world together.
The Faith of Men
Faith powers Godstorm. Tokens of your faith can be sacrificed to summon gods, control the turn sequence, build temples, and play cards. All the faith tokens start in a faith pool, and each player gets three 1-point tokens to start. (Five 1-point tokens can be exchanged for a 5-point token, and vice versa, at any time.)
A game of Godstorm can take a maximum of five epochs. (Most of the time. Like everything else in Godstorm, this maximum is alterable by the wills of the gods. More on that in a few weeks.) Each player takes one turn in each epoch. Who goes first can change on each epoch, based on the bidding of faith tokens.
At the start of each epoch, each player takes some faith tokens in his or her hand. You reveal how many you want to sacrifice in the bid for turn order. The player who made the greatest sacrifice gets to choose which turn order marker he wants, then the next player, and so on. Players of Risk 2210 know that sometimes you want to go early in the turn sequence, and sometimes you want to go late in the sequence. Bidding high lets you make that choice first, even if you choose to go last.
On your turn, you collect a number of both armies and faith tokens equal to one-third of the number of territories you control; this first step of the turn is called the Raise Armies and Gather Faith step. You get a minimum of three and a maximum of 14 of each (armies and faith tokens) from this calculation each turn. You can place them in any territory you control. Some of those territories, however, might be very bad places to put your soldiers.
Risk 2210 introduced devastation markers, a very cool innovation that changed the play of every game. Those four markers sealed off territories for the entire game, meaning that you had to go around them, never through them. Risk Godstorm uses a similar concept but with a very different effect.
At the start of the game, four territory cards are turned over randomly, and those lands each get a plague marker. In the middle of each turn, the pestilence kills half of the armies in each plagueland. You round down, so a single soldier in a plagueland can't be killed by the plague.
The problem is, someone still controls those territories. In fact, to control a continent that contains a plagueland, you must station an army in that hot zone. It makes plague territories both easier and harder to defend, and also makes attacking through them very difficult. Having a plagueland on the fringe of your empire can be very useful; having one in the middle can destroy you. It all depends on the whims of fate.
There are five plague markers in the game. Four lands start with the plague, and it's very possible for another territory to contract it -- fair warning.
Plague does one more thing that can change the game on a dime. Gods in plaguelands are immediately dismissed when the plague hits, as the faith of men is easily shaken by such horrible events. Because of this, plaguelands effectively serve as a barrier to marching your gods and goddesses across the board without fear.
In the next column, we'll finally consider who those gods and goddesses are and how you march them across the board. See you then.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
- Into the Fire
- The World of the Ancients
- God-Fearing People
- Gods Among Men
- The Warlords
- Miracles On the Battlefield
- The Sky Kings
- Blessings From the Heavens
- The Reliquary Opens
- Pandora's Box
Mike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.