Imagine looking down at the world full of people as a god adrift on a cloud, or from a mountain temple down a lush valley…
In Cauldron, as it is lovingly called in the CivAn workshop, you get to play as an immortal deity directing a champion in an arena, but not just any arena: The Cauldron of the Gods is an arena raised for the special purpose of entertaining and resolving disputes between the gods themselves!
The base game contains 8 distinct, original deities and their champions, as well as 12 mini-games to put to use for those purposes in a flexible, modular arena to keep the game spicy time after time. Players compete to earn glory via the crowd’s acclamation by winning clashes—micro-conflicts between players—and accomplishing the objectives of the match’s game.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of his competitors closing in as he reached for the flag. His mind filled with panic, then: Dodge right and roll! The command came sharp and he jinked aside, diving in the sand and rising to his feet. His foe stumbled past, surprised at his quick maneuver…
Clashes are the core mechanic of the game. A light tactical game, Cauldron is built on the familiar and accessible bedrock of an improved rock-paper-scissors which is used whenever two players come into conflict. Quick turns with only one action can sometimes lead to a chain of clashes, which leads to a lot of out-of-turn interaction that produces a high degree of engagement and value for spectators. Each powerfully affects the board and character positioning, though even the most pivotal clash can be undone by later ones that turn the tide. Although there is plenty of implied violence and a coliseum setting, there is neither player elimination nor grisly death: Everyone stays a contender the whole way through! The majority of gameplay is the selection and resolution of these micro-conflicts, alongside a deity’s boons and blessings.
As the blade fell, a flash of golden light deflected the strike and the gladiator rose from the ground with a shout of triumph, facing off against his opponent as though the first, devastating exchange never happened. As the denied veteran tore his weapon from the sand, the thunder of his supporters chanting the name of their god. With a roar, his ax blazed forth in a nimbus of power, sending his foe running from his renewed onslaught…
In addition to the glory which will determine the winner, the champions in the arena can earn you Favor cards which can be used to gain further advantages either by playing them out into the arena or triggering their god’s unique boons: Each god has special powers they can use to influence and sway play to their advantage by discarding Favor cards. The powers give each a unique play style and strengths—be careful you aren’t too obvious in your strategy, though, or your opponents may take the game by winning the clashes!
All games should be fun, but this game has substance too!
This game can serve as a wonderful starting point for discussion with young minds: Disparate topics from the mundane facts of ancient Roman life to the metaphysical of differing human viewpoints on religion to the identification of strategy-dependent tactics, in addition to play itself being made up of a series of low-intensity proxy conflicts which can be used to teach grace in victory and defeat alike and other sportsmanship essentials. These lessons lurk about the edges, never obstructing gameplay or forcing themselves into your game nights. As this game’s creator I know I am neither the first nor the last gamer to have been an abominable sport in my youth. This game is aimed at me, years ago. Good sportsmanship and learning to compete without declaring war or feeling threatened off the court or field has improved my life dramatically, and if this game helps even one family teach one child some of these lessons by example then I will be overjoyed.
Cauldron of the Gods entertains 3-8 players, ages 8 and up. There is a high degree of customization built into the game, from the user-controlled play time to the board tiles which can be rearranged to make different arenas for play to the deck of mini-games and the different modes of play which can be randomized to keep you having fun and encountering new scenarios and interactions for ages.