What do you do when you are a gamer… I mean a SERIOUS gamer… but you still find yourself nostalgic towards games (the FEW) good games of your youth? Well, my friend, this is where I must bring you down, disappoint and deflate you. There simply aren’t many games that both satisfy gamers and feel like a direct descendent of the games we remember. As time marches on and things change, we tend to distance ourselves from outdated concepts and mechanisms. So what is one to do? Well my friend, I have no idea how to help you here… or at least I didn’t… (That’s the cue to read on.)
Oh My Gods (a play on words, not a curse) is a game of deduction for 3-5 players. If you have played played Clue you know the concept (a crime has been committed, and whodoneit). If you have played Guess Who you know the mechanism (ask a series of targeted questions to eliminate suspects). And if you have also played games during the past decade, then you are familiar with the twist that make this game exciting… the special powers. But how does it work, and how do these concepts from such a different period in gaming combine to make a game enjoyable to modern tastes? Anyone familiar with the trading card games of the 90’s will be familiar with triggering unique special abilities on cards. So this concept is nothing revolutionary. One might even call it mundane. What makes Oh My Gods stand out is that it incorporates the familiar concept of special powers to the basic deduction game (as in Guess Who). The kicker is that when you make the choice to trigger an ability, you also reveal vital information to the other players that can give them edge. Holding onto this information until the timing is right (after they reveal information about a card through questioning for instance) is the key. Through skillful tracking of both learned and revealed information players can best utilize the special abilities of their characters without giving away the game.
Plot summary: One of the Gods has stolen Zeus’ lightning, and it is up to you to be the first player to figure out who. The quick and dirty summary of gameplay: At the beginning of the game, the Zeus card is set aside for later use. The lightning chit is placed on a random card from the deck (the thief!). Next a number of Gods appropriate to the number of players are placed face-down in common central area of the table (Olympus). The Zeus card is added to the remaining cards which are shuffled and dealt out to the players. Players examine their hands and whoever has the Zeus card places it in front of them and begins play as the start-player. A turn consists of three phases. In phase one, players search for clues asking the player on their left to show them a god matching either a specific element or trait, noting the result (pay close attention on other players turns as well to help yourself solve the puzzle). In the second phase, the player has the option of guessing the thief, but if they are wrong they eliminate themselves from play. Phase three allows the option of playing one of the gods in your hand face up to the table. This action reveals valuable information to the other players allowing them to eliminate suspects, but may also reward you with even more information yourself. And that is basically it. Easy, but with some depth of strategy.
So, the game has been played and it’s time for first impressions. I think OMGs has an interesting premise. As a child I had a great deal of fun playing Guess Who. I was never a fan of roll-and-move games, and that game always seemed a bit more game than activity when compared with the other offerings of it’s time. The fun part of Guess Who has been reinterpreted with the very pleasant and recognizable addition of special powers. Add to that the strategic decision making element of having to balance the need to use the abilities and the need to keep information from falling into your opponents hands. The cards each seem to provide their own unique usefulness with a easily understood set of rules and conditions. The one card whose balance with the other cards I am uncertain of is Dionysus. It has seemed (and this may simply be coincidence as the players were the same which doesn’t account for drastically differing strategies) that with each play, the person who played this card one with rare exception. That said I can enjoy the challenge of things possibly being slightly out of balance as it feels even more satisfying when you overcome odds. That said, I have not won yet, but I have had a lot of fun trying. If you are a fan of filler games and deduction games, give this one a look. Even with the one potentially overpowered card, the fun of the game was able to shine through for all in our group and the setup is so easy that it is very easy to bring to the table! We also laminated our clue tracking sheet so we could use dry erase markers with it and that was awesome…I highly recommend doing so. Also notable is that the character cards don’t have a to of reading. With repeated play I think kids will be able to compete at a reasonable level with adults. The random distribution of cards and abilities serves to level the playing field and keep things fresh.