All Bets Are Off: A Preview of Divinity Derby
Players are gods, betting on fantastical creatures racing around the board. Will the dragon win the race or will the phoenix come in second, in this magical racing game now on Kickstarter?
The game takes place over three races. At the start of each race, movement cards are dealt and placed into card holders. There is one card holder for each player and each holder is placed between two players, so that everyone will be sharing one hand of movement cards with the player on their right and one with the player on their left.
Each player has eleven bet cards. After the movement cards are dealt, players take turns placing their first two bets, consulting what movement cards they see in both hands.
In order to place a bet, you select one of your betting cards and take a creature token from the board and place it on top of the betting card. There are a limited number of creature tokens, so if one pile runs out, you can no longer vote for that creature. Betting cards might say that you are betting for that creature to come in first place, or it might say first or second place. You might even be betting on the creature coming in last or being disqualified. The bets are kept secret until the end of the race — so while the other players know what creatures you’re betting on, they don’t know exactly what you’re betting. More difficult-to-achieve bets are worth more victory points.
After players have each placed two bets, the race begins. On your turn, you select one card from the hand on your left and one card from the hand on your right. You then choose which order to play them in. Every movement card has at least two numbers on it, a higher number and a lower number. The first card you play, you are using the higher number and the second card you play you are using the lower number. Some movement cards have a third, extra high number on them. This is considered a dirty trick move. If you play this card first on your turn, you can choose to use this dirty trick, in which case, after playing the card, you discard it into a special ‘Zeus Judgement’ pile. At the end of the race, any cards in this deck are shuffled along with four ‘Zeus Protection’ cards, and two cards are drawn. If the drawn cards are creatures, they are disqualified from the race.
Once a creature crosses a certain point in the race, players each make a third and final bet. After all movement cards are played, the race ends and players check to see if their bets were correct.
After three races, the player with the most victory points wins.
There are multiple mechanics that make Divinity Derby enjoyable. The shared hand concept is quite interesting. You know what cards you want to play and when, but will the other player using that hand play the card first? The betting mechanic is also made stronger for it. You have to watch what other people, looking at other hands, are betting. But even then you have to guess, because you won’t know for sure what bet card they’re using (though by the third race you can make more educated guesses based off of which bet cards have already been used). The disqualification mechanic is also a lot of fun and adds a push-your-luck element to the game.
All of these different elements combine to keep Divinity Derby easy to learn and simple to play, but rich in strategy and fun choices.
In addition, Divinity Derby is likely to be one of those games that are a delight to look at. Just the prototype was lovely. The creature miniatures are detailed and elegant, the game board looks attractive, and the artwork for the gods is nice. I can only imagine that in the final version, with the components made of better quality materials, that the game will look fantastic.
It should be noted that players can really destroy each other’s plans and there’s a lot of ‘take-that’ decision making in the game. Some players might find this less enjoyable or perhaps frustrating. But there is a copious amount of player interaction and downtime is essentially non-existent as you are always watching the other players and trying to figure out what their end goal is.
Divinity Derby is fun, attractive, and does a lot of things well. Check it out on Kickstarter and see how well you can manipulate the race!
Pros: The shared hands is a really neat mechanic, the game looks beautiful, has a lot of player interaction
Cons: Some players may not enjoy the ‘take-that’ gameplay
Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.