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DELIVERANCE REVIEW from Jazz Paladin

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Quick Look: Deliverance


Designer: ANDREW LOWEN
Artists: Yoann Boissonnet, Dan Maynard
Publisher: LOWEN GAMES
Year Published: 2023

No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 1-2 Hours.
 
Find more info HERE.
 
From the Publisher:

Deliverance is a co-op tactical adventure board game for 1-4 players with a “Christian Fantasy” theme of angels vs demons. The game features angels working together to protect saints and defeat the forces of Darkness through tactical combat and the power of Prayer.

 

 

Review:

 

This will honestly be one of the most difficult board game reviews I have ever done. 

 

The concept of a Christian-based cooperative skirmish/campaign game was something that immediately caught our attention a few years ago when Deliverance entered its first round of crowd-funding. Even my wife was captivated, and she is usually a bit more restrained in showing excitement towards any “new” board games after having reviewed so many with me —she does tire of constantly learning new rules, and I will admit, it can be exhausting!

However, now that I have had a chance to obtain a review copy of Deliverance (Thank you, Andrew), it is with regret that I have to say that we walked away from a few weeks of multiple games feeling a bit ambivalent about our experience. 

And perhaps the most gut-wrenching aspect of writing this review is wanting to say nothing but glowing things (given the Christian theme), but having to proceed to say things that aren’t always quite peachy about our experience. But in my capacity as a reviewer, I feel that I must state my (and my group’s) ideas as they are, without embellishment or fabrication, ultimately staying true to ourselves. 

Before I convey too much fear to readers and prospective buyers of Deliverance, let me say that this is not a horrible game ; in fact, if you continue to read this review until the end, you will find that I believe the game has quite a few “silver linings”.

For the uninitiated, Deliverance sports two modes of play, both of which play relatively similar to each other. A skirmish session pits Angels (players) against groups of demons and a fiendish Prince that controls them in what is essentially a one-off battle for your game nights. The campaign mode operates similarly, but allows for character progression / leveling up over a greater duration rather than just one night, and also offers a story to connect your adventures together over a series of 12 missions.

 

First of all, the contents and  production quality is overall, quite good—exceptional even.

I will note, however, that I was not a fan of the small token storage tray, which I immediately tossed in favor of utilizing ziplock bags, but other than that, I didn’t have any reservations about the contents or quality of the materials within.

But , again, most of the contents of the box are superlative. The Angel minis came with a nice color wash to help details pop out a bit more. Even though I will likely paint them at some point, this small visual upgrade is a nice aesthetic touch, and helps the pieces be a step or two above plain and ordinary right out of the box.

I also personally paid for the acrylic standees as an add-on, as I love the ones I have in games such as Uprising and BEAST; because of their more non-fragile nature, I am starting to appreciate these designs over that of even miniatures , as they often look great, require no painting, and will definitely outlast cardboard.

The dungeon tiles themselves reminded me of what I “wanted” Etherfields to be, ideally, in its map visuals— a bit bigger and more detailed. And Deliverance created a similar sort of mood for me, even though it is a completely different kind of game.

 

 

But now that we have thoroughly described the contents of the box itself, let us now examine what failed to win us over : the gameplay.

At its heart, the game functions as a skirmish between angels and demons. After wiping out a certain number of “regular” baddies, an Evil Prince will show up in true Boss Form to give you a battle for the ages.

The gameplay itself possesses some ideas that, in theory, should win over many gamers ; in combat between your angels and demons, for example, damage that you deal is static for the most part. Even guaranteed.

Each angel has in their possession of abilities various means of attacking and controlling the battlefield. When it comes time to deal out retribution to your foes, if your angel possesses an action that allows it to move forward and dish out 2 points in damage to adjacent foes, all that you need to do is position yourself accordingly to maximize your potential. No roll required at all. 

Sounds great right?

In theory, yes. I can think of countless games of all types where I have lost due to bad rolls that plagued me throughout the night due to my inability to successfully land blows on enemy combatants. So this should be a feature that draws in gamers who do not like feeling like they did not contribute to a battle—in Deliverance, this will not be an issue at all.

However, the dilemma for us lies in the Prayer mechanic. 

And the Prayer mechanic for the game is conceptually great, and perfectly matches what one might expect of theology. 

God can answer a prayer with either a yes or no, to put things succinctly. 

Taking the “Pray” action on your turn has certain definitive game benefits that virtually never fail. It will invariably offer you a Courage point (to fuel your abilities) and allow for you to draw a a Prayer card that sometimes have very useful effects for the situations you may find yourself in.

In addition, taking this action also gives you a chance to make a skill check ; if you roll higher than a certain number, you can either eliminate negative status afflictions on you and your buddies, or (more importantly) negate the darkness cards that increasingly populate a game board. 

And the Darkness cards are generally all sorts of maladies that affect players and their abilities ; generally speaking, the more of these cards that are “out there”, the harder it is for you to succeed, and the stronger the game’s villains will become.

So when I said that it was fantastic that the randomness usually associated with dealing out damage was gone, that is indeed a great thing. But what this truly means for Deliverance is that this unpredictability was largely shifted over to the outcomes of taking a “Pray” action. And ultimately for us, whether or not we won was often the result of either A) Our player’s reluctance to “waste” an action on “Pray” due to the unpredictable outcome or B) Multiple strokes of bad luck taken on the Pray action where we could not eliminate enough Darkness cards to turn the tide.

I will admit that my group struggled with this game a lot and faced an uphill battle coming to terms with the “Pray” mechanic. Why would you ever take an action with uncertain results when you can take an action that yields predictable forms of damage that are unmitigated by most in-game situations? 

The mentality was often “If I can do 3 damage to multiple enemies, versus standing still, why wouldn’t I just simply do the damage to maximum effect?”.

And this line of thought is ultimately self defeating in Deliverance. It ultimately forces users to adopt a paradigm shift in order to achieve success. We did not even manage to get to a single Evil Prince fight after multiple play throughs until I tried insisting that everyone take the “Pray” action more. And this finally yielded our first big showdown. 

But I could really sense the reluctance everyone had in taking the Pray action. 

Coming from a group of players that largely enjoys plain old monster-bashing, this felt like it was a direct assault on their normal gaming tendencies. Really, for the most part, the people I play with are a bit of a blood-thirsty lot when it comes to combat versus enemy mobs, and they often felt like they were being denied opportunities to bash in skulls when they had to think about sitting still with a Pray action instead. 

If the results of the Pray action had been more consistent for us, I think opinions may have been swayed a bit more in favor of the game. 

 

 

Now as a positive, the game plays very swiftly, but this may ironically also be to the game’s detriment — It is very streamlined and designed to be played in about 45 minutes to an hour per game if things go smoothly, but this is also a double-edged sword — not being as long as other strategic games in my collection, it also leaves less room for redemption and salvation if you make a poor choice or roll. There is less margin for error as a result, and it can feel punishing to have little chance of salvation for your team if you cannot find a way to eliminate Darkness cards early in the game. Indeed, it feels like once you have failed in this regard, it is game over.

 

Now in all fairness, I will need to say that this biggest hurdle we faced in enjoying the game is in many respects due to my group’s mentality. Not coincidentally , I did notice that the people who had to biggest objection to taking the Pray action are also the people who I know (by their own admission) are not making proper time to pray in real life even though they know that this is something they should be doing — often choosing to play video games for hours at a time, while ironically stating that they do not have time to pray in the same breath.

The truth is that the game manages to make a good statement on prayer , though. You do need to make time for it in order to succeed in this game. It is a step that not all people are willing to make, and in this case, it make a poignant and compelling reason to do it in game. If you can adapt this approach to life, it may not necessarily give you what you want, but it can give you options that you did not have before if you choose to make time to be aware of them…

If you like this game and enjoy replay ability , there is enough variation between monster types and Evil Princes to keep you busy for a while, though.  It is nice that you never know exactly what monsters are going to be doing, due to their actions being determined randomly, and that their actions are all done collectively as a group, which greatly contributes to this game’s quick and streamlined nature — it doesn’t bog you down a lot between turns, thankfully.

And even if things manage to all go “right” for you in the randomness, the game still presents some difficulty — it is not a cakewalk, which is appreciated.

Another positive, the game is setup rather swiftly with little fuss.

 

 

In conclusion : 

Just last night my wife and I were sitting on the sofa, and it was weird, we both looked at the box of Deliverance on our shelf at the exact same time, and she pretty much read my mind , as at the same time I was thinking it, she stated out loud, “It’s too bad that game didn’t work out for us. It has such beautiful art, and theme and components”.

And while, yes, components , art, theme, really rank well with us, we will probably collectively end up giving the gameplay a 7/10 or so. 

Normally I would be in a better position to give certain elements of a game my own independent score in a given area, but given how much of my experience was shaped by my group’s frustrations (and inabilities to adapt) this also was able to impact my own enjoyment.

 

 

Should the game be changed ? 

Not at all.

If creator already met with success and acclaim (as it has) Speaking of which, Steven Foster here at Everything Board Game also recently reviewed Deliverance as well and thought a little differently than us.  I feel that the game shouldn’t be changed on our account — it has clearly resonated with many, and that is a good thing. I do feel that it is fair to point out that that not all mindsets will be able to deal with the nature of the game itself , however. And I am not even talking about the fact this is a Christian-themed game, but rather the way that it functions mechanically. 

Deliverance does do an exceptional job of pairing a Christian theme into a board game form, with a different, scripture-focused approach to dealing with conflict. 

Does it somehow manage to infuse a “Christian” approach into the feel of the game’s mechanics? Yes, indeed. That connection is obvious from the start. What is uncertain is whether or not players can alter their ways of thinking to overcome the obstacles the game presents. It does require a form of sacrifice, and some minds may be reluctant to come to terms with this particular stylistic deviation. 

 

 

Scores :

Components : 9.0

Successful integration of theme into mechanics : 10 / 10

Gameplay : 6.5 – 7.0

Replay value : 8

 

 

After reading Jazz Paladin’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Deliverance: The Game of Spiritual Warfare is available for purchase. Check it out and get your HERE.

 

Did you get it based on our review? Please comment below letting us know!
 

 

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Check out Deliverance and Lowen Games on:

         
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Paladin- Reviewer

 

Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.

CD’s are also available here!
See Jazz Paladin’s reviews HERE.

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