The promise of treasure and glory has lured many adventurers into dangerous places, and unfortunately, many more adventurers will fall trying to find that treasure and glory in CGE's Sanctum. Despite the deep challenge, you'll have a ball of a time taking down monsters, leveling up your heroes, and picking up awesome weapons and gear along the way. Sanctum comes from designer Filip Neduk and artists Jakub Politzer and Frantisek Sedlacek, who have created an addictive Diablo-style adventure that delivers immense challenge at a quickened pace, all while asking players to push their luck to set themselves up in the best way for the endgame.
Sanctum has you attempting to take on and defeat the Demon Lord and his minions, though defeating them doesn't necessarily win you the game. The true goal of the game is to be the player with the most health at the end of the adventure, so while you all have the same goal, you are still sort of operating on your own island. That said, you will be competing to take down certain enemies, as each enemy has a different piece of loot attached to it.
You have several armor and weapon slots, and the way you gain those pieces of equipment is by taking on enemies from the board. If you can defeat them, you'll gain that piece of equipment on the back, but you don't know what that piece is, so there's an element of looking out at the enemies and deciding whether to go for boots or a sword, based on what you already have. It could score you an upgrade, but it might not be. Also, there are three tiers of enemies, so while the tougher ones will net you better equipment, you might risk losing some health, which will hinder you in the endgame.
As for actual combat, fighting is carried out through a several step phase and is one of three actions you can take. Players can either move, fight, or rest, and all of these actions feed seamlessly into the others, despite the fact that you can only take one per turn. If you choose to move, you'll skip ahead to the next available space on the board (moving past any other players), and then choose available enemies on the board to place on your hero board to battle. Now, that doesn't mean you have to fight on your next turn, so you can move again and get closer to the end goal and net yourself some rewards in the process. That said, there is a strategy in taking on a smaller group of enemies to get equipment early and not risk losing health.
At first glance, it might seem intimidating to see each phase have several steps, but after a turn or two you'll be moving through these steps rather quickly. It won't take long for the various systems to coalesce into an addictive and engaging whole, as you'll go from moving and assigning enemies to then taking them on to attain equipment and character skills in no time, and combat is incredibly easy to pick up.
You will have a certain amount of dice to roll in each combat, and each enemy card has a number you need to match to defeat. That's it, really, but the depth comes in the form of abilities, which let you manipulate the dice by adding or subtracting from the result. Those abilities can be used when you expend Stamina and Focus, which each character has a certain amount of, though that can be increased through unlocking more abilities and skills over time. Equipment comes with its own abilities, and as you defeat enemies you'll also gain gems, which are used to unlock new skills and to equip the gear you gain.
Those abilities and skills bolster your confidence in taking on more opponents at any given time, but it can be easy to get overwhelmed, and the game excels at pushing the player to push against those boundaries with the endgame in mind. As for that endgame, it's no joke, and odds are you will get wiped when you first approach it. You will have to make it through a barrage of enemies to claim total victory, and while you very well may fall while attempting to do so, the journey is more than worth it.
Sanctum's visuals are also worthy of praise, with gorgeous character portraits and opposing creatures, and the components are all high quality as well. While the hero and monster designs themselves are stellar, they are pretty traditional, so if you were looking for something outside of that classic fantasy fare you won't find that here. It's also worth noting that the player boards themselves take up quite a bit of room, though the game gets extra points for making the boards foldable to take up less space in the box. As for the endgame, it is the one aspect of the game that got just a little confusing in regards to the actual mechanics of how it all worked, yet that might not be the case for everyone.
Sanctum is a challenging but extremely rewarding dungeon crawler that delivers much-appreciated depth and balances it with a fast-paced and streamlined combat system, and we couldn't get enough. The game lends itself to multiple replays, as the different characters all feel unique in their skills and abilities, and the way movement and combat works ensure that you'll make your way through the adventure before fatigue or boredom ever sets in. If you're looking for an addictive Diablo-like experience on the tabletop, look no further than Sanctum.0comments
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sanctum is available in game stores now.
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