Myth: Pantheons is a trick-taking card game from Alderac Entertainment Group, in which each player takes on the role of a mythological deity battling for control of various ancient cities. Deity cards gives each player unique options, and tokens let players battle for control of cities even after the tricks have been won. It retails for about $25.
What’s In The Box?
Myth comes in a small-small box, with over 150 cards and 160 tokens crammed tightly inside. The backs of the “Mortal” deck (the normal cards you play from hand) and the city deck (the cities you’re fighting over) are not particularly distinctive.
There is, of course, a rulebook. Unfortunately, it is not the best, with confusing layout and terminology. I appreciate the effort to infuse flavor in the game, but we ended up just translating everything into “suits” and “tricks” instead of “domains” and “challenges.” Worst of all, we had to scan through the rules several times to figure out how you determined the winner, because it was buried in the back away from the rest of the actual rules, sandwiched in between flavor descriptions of the deities and an example of play. And the reference cards don’t correctly describe everything. None of this will really be a problem if you have someone instructing you when you first play, but rules need to be more clear than this.
At its core, Myth is a trick-taking game of the Whist/Spades family, but with a variety of extra bits added in (there is no bidding for number of tricks to take). A game of Myth is played over three hands (“epochs”), although each hand takes an indeterminate number of tricks. Like most trick-taking games, the first player leads, everyone else has to follow suit (“leading domain”) if they can, and the highest card in the lead suit wins, unless there’s a trump (“ruling domain”) card, in which case the highest trump wins. There are five suits instead of the usual four (Harvest, Weather, War, Death, Heavens), and some of the cards have effects when played (for example, drawing cards if you lose the trick). Each player starts each hand with seven “Mortal” cards from the deck of 60.
At the same time you’re taking tricks, there’s a city out on the table, with a challenge number on it (from 1 to 4). The first player to take that many tricks claims the city. A hand ends when, at the time a city is claimed, one (or more) of the players has no Mortal cards left. Repeat for three hands. Cities start out worth a number of points equal to their challenge rating (sort of), and the most points wins. Claimed cities can also provide static boosts or additional action options.
In addition to the above, each player has a deity card and 5 Divine cards. The deity card sits face-up on the table, and give the player some sort of static ability or an extra Act (more on that later). The Divine cards are part of a player’s hand, lasting from epoch to epoch, and each may only be played once per game. For most of the deities, the deity is aligned with one of the suits and all of the Divine cards are of that suit, ranging up to a rank 13 card (the Moral cards cap out at 12). The Divine cards all have special abilities when played. A player is never required to play a Divine card – so, for example, you can play an off-suit trump rather than following suit with one of your Divine cards.
But wait, there’s more! After every trick, each player who did not win the trick gets a token matching the suit of the card they played. And when a city is claimed, it isn’t worth a static number of VP, but rather gets a number of Harvest tokens equal to its challenge rating – these tokens on the cities are called Followers, and they are what get you the VP. After every trick (after players have received their token), is the Act phase. Each player may take one divine Act. Many of the deities have Acts, some of the cities have Acts, and each of the five kinds of tokens has two different powers, most of which are Acts. One of those two token powers relates to attacking or protecting the Followers on cities – War and Death tokens attack cities, Weather and Heavens tokens protect them, and Harvest tokens can be added as Followers. The other powers relate to the cards – Death lets you discard from hand, Harvest lets you draw cards, Weather changes the trump suit, Heavens lets you look at the top of the city deck, and War can be discarded when you play a card to increase its rank (this is the one token power that is not an Act).
So, ultimately, you play a trick, maybe claim a city, hand out tokens, and then take (or consider taking) Acts before playing the next hand.
Does all of that sound a bit fiddly to you? Well, it is. The biggest culprit is the Acts phase. It feels quite unnatural to have a trick-taking game where you have to stop after every single trick in order to pass out tokens and for players to engage in some other sort of action. Claiming cities, static divine powers, the deity cards – all of these add additional complexity and strategy, but are manageable and don’t disrupt the flow of the game. But the constant stopping to fiddle with tokens just breaks the game up too much and drains the fun out of it.