Divinity Derby Review
Quick Glance: Divinity Derby (Ares Games)
Game Type: Racing
Number of Players: 3-6
Mechanics: Bidding, Drafting, Variable Player Powers
Introduction/Overview: You’d think that being a God would keep you busy 24/7. With all the creating and watching over everything and what not. Yet somehow, even gods find ways to have a little bit of downtime. How do they like to spend this time? By betting on mythological creature racing, naturally. Divinity Derby lets you play a god, at least temporarily. You get to bet on your favorite mythological creatures, and then try to make them finish in the place where you wagered. Just watch out for Zeus. He's there to catch you if you cheat a little too often.
Gameplay: A full game of Divinity Derby takes place over three races. Each race is broken down into a series of phases. To start a race, each player is dealt a hand of cards. You then put those cards on the card rack to your left. You now share these cards with the player on your left. Similarly, you also share the rack with the player on the right. This is where a lot of the intrigue of the game lies. You make bets and plans based on two hands of cards, but you don't really have any idea if you'll even get to play those cards or not!
Before the race begins, there are two rounds of betting. Each player has the same hand of bid cards at the outset. The bets are valued based on the amount of risk you're willing to take. For example, betting on a creature to win is worth more point than betting on it to finish in the top 3 spaces. You simply place a bet card face down, and put a matching creature token on top to show which creature you have bet on. That info is public knowledge, but not the bet.
During the race, your turn consists simply of taking one card from each of the two racks you have available to you. You then play one of the cards as the "fast" movement card, and the second as the "slow" card. Besides deciding which card will be which, you also may have to decide if you want play a dirty trick with the fast card. On some, but not all, of the movement cards there is a speed modifier. If you use that card for its fast movement, and use the extra movement...that card is discarded into a special "dirty tricks" pile. We'll get back to what that means in a second.
Once the first creature makes it to the halfway point of the track, the race temporarily pauses for a third round of betting. The game goes until all the cards have been placed from all the tile racks. At this point, you might think "Hooray! The creature I bet on just won!!" Not so fast my friend. Remember all those times you cheated with those fast movement cards? Now, they are shuffled up with two Zeus cards. The top two cards are then flipped up. If you flip over a card showing a creature, they are immediately disqualified from the race. This is usually a bad thing, unless you actually bet on that creature to get disqualified in the first place!
This procedure is repeated for three full races. After which, you score points for all the correct bets you made during the game, most points win.
Rulebook: The rulebook is short, and full of examples and pictures. I've not had many issues playing or teaching this game with minimal referring back to the manual. It's pretty straight-forward to play.
Theme: I enjoy the fact that this is a racing game that isn't cars or horses. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of theme in the actual racing. There are a few power cards that can be used in a variant that does help bring in some more theme.
Set-Up/Takedown: It takes a few minutes to set up and teardown, but it's not an excessive amount of time. The game has a nice insert that keeps the game well organized.
Components: Divinity Derby has a nice, bright, colorful board. The cards are small, but extremely easy to read. The miniatures for the racing monsters are big and nice, and would look great painted. The card art is big, bold and easy to make out, even from across the table.
Final Thoughts: Divinity Derby is a blast to play. The game plays from 3-6 players, which is a nice range. It plays well with all counts. I will say that if you're the type of player that is averse to chaos, you might not want to play it, or if you do...don't do it with more than 3-4 players. You at least have some knowledge of most of what cards are in play. For my money, playing with 5-6 players is where this game is most fun because it's pure madness. Divinity Derby is not a game for serious play. It's a great end of night / almost party game. Highly recommended.