Carlos Brito
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It seems Stefan Feld wanted to do something different from his usual style. Maybe a bit tired to be called the "King of Point Salad" he tried here a different approach. Here there are no victory points at all.

However it seems to have been a shot in the water. The Oracle of Delphi doesn't seem to have arisen much thrill. Not many reviews, the only one in English that doesn't claim to be of "first impressions" is clearly negative. It is currently low in bgg ranking. Maybe the Feld fans didn't like it because it doesn't seem Feld's style and the Feld detractors didn't give it a try?

Let's see what was the outcome of Feld's trip for me.

So far I played it 10 times. Twice with 4 players, 4 times with 3 players and 4 times with 2 players.

I took some pictures, but I tried to use several images that were already in the bgg gallery. I'd like to thank the people who originally submitted the images I used.

A not so short description of gameplay

If you’re familiar with the rules, you may skip this whole section and go straight to My Opinion.
The Oracle of Delphi is a race game. The players have a ship that they move across a modular board, which is a representation of a sea space with many islands.



Along the game, moving their ships from an island to another, the players have to perform 12 tasks. When a player performs all tasks and returns with the boat to the initial space this triggers the final round of the game. Normally this player is the winner, but if in the few remaining turns other players also manage to do the same, then there is a tie broken by resources the players own.

Mechanically, the game is simple, and it's somewhat similar to The Castles of Burgundy. You have 3 oracle dice that you rolled in the previous round (or during set up in the first round of the game) and you use all 3 to trigger actions. After you used your 3 actions, you roll the dice again before the turn of the next player. Those are the results you'll use in the next round. This is nice in 2 ways: first, all players always know which dice will be available to their adversaries on their future turns, and second, while the others players take their turns you can try to plan in advance what you'll do.

The ship tile

There is the physical ship wood token that is put on the board and is moved over it. And on the player's individual boards there is a ship tile. Ship tiles are all unique and they're either randomly distributed or chosen by the players during set up. They represent the cargo area of your ship - where you can store certain items loaded during your journey. Most of the ship tiles have enough space to store 2 items. The ship tiles also have an icon that represents a unique power each player has along the game. This is the only asymmetric element of the game.


Possible ship tiles. The lower part of the tiles represents the cargo area of the ship, normally with space for 2 items. The upper area contains an icon that corresponds to a unique power the player will have along the game


The oracle dice and cards

As in CoB, you use your oracle dice to trigger actions. Different from CoB, the dice have 6 different colors instead of numbers on their faces. Almost everything in the game is associated with one of those 6 colors: wounds, gods, monsters, offerings, statues, spaces on the board, all come in 6 different colors that are related to the colors on the faces of the dice. The players have individual boards, where they put their dice and the space where the dice rest is arranged in a circle with 6 positions, each one of one of the 6 colors. You can spend favor tokens (that work like workers in CoB) to rotate the dice in that circle to the next space in the clockwise direction, to change the color of its face to that of the next space. As you can do this as many times as you want, if you have enough tokens, you can change any die color in any other spending 1-5 tokens per die.


Part of the individual board containing the 3 oracle dice


Once in a while you can gain oracle cards as well. Oracle cards are cards that also come in 6 colors and they represent a "virtual" die. You can spend one oracle card per round - assuming you have one, since they're scarce - to get a fourth action in your turn, in the color of the card spent.


Oracle cards


The injuries

Every time before you take your turn, you check your wounds, that are colored cards that you receive along the game (you begin the game with one, drawn during set up). If you have none you gain a bonus, that can be 2 favor tiles or increase your level of favor with one of the gods (more about gods later). If you have 6 wound cards of any color or 3 of the same color, however, you lose your turn and merely discard 3 wound cards of your choice.

At the end of every round, after of the last player takes his/her turn, he/she rolls a separate black die. This die represents the attack of the titans. If this die result is 6, everyone draws 2 random wound cards. Otherwise everyone compares the die result with his/her defense (everyone starts with defense of zero). If the die result surpasses your defense, then you must draw a wound card. Usually that's how you gain those unpleasant cards.


Wound cards


The board

The board is modular and you can assemble it in whatever way you want. As you have several modules, it's practically impossible to assemble the same board twice in your lifetime. Once assembled, the board represents a number of islands scattered through a sea are divided in a hexagonal grid. Practically each hex is associated with a color that borders that hex (the 6 colors in the 6 faces of the oracle dice).


Parts to assemble the modular board


The land hexagons also have marks that represent what kind of element will be placed there. By looking at those marks and in a random way the players populate the land hexagons with temples, statues, monsters, offerings and face down shrine tiles.

There's one module that only contains sea spaces and has a hole in the center. In that hole the players put their boats (they'll start the game here) and the Zeus token, marking the place to where the players must return after completing their 12 tasks.


Zeus token and ships at their initial position


The actions and the tasks

As mentioned before, each oracle die is spent to trigger an action and the action is often related to the color of the die.

Although there are many actions possible, most of them are related to the 4 kinds of tasks the players must fulfill, as we'll see below.

There are 3 actions that you can use no matter what the color of your die.

1) You can gain 2 favor tokens (what is equivalent to get 2 workers in CoB),
2) you can draw a random oracle card and
3) you can look at 2 facedown shrine tiles on the board, returning them face down to their original positions (we'll see the meaning of this more below).

The actions that are related to colors but not to tasks are only 3.

1) You can increase your favor with one of the 6 gods (the god equivalent to the color of the die, more below I talk about gods),
2) you can throw away all the wound cards of a color (the color of the die, that's the primary way to get rid of wounds), and
3) you can move your ship.

Moving your ship is the action you'll perform more often in the game. When you use a die to move your ship, you can move it up to 3 spaces and the ship must end its movement in a sea space of the color of the die you used to move it. If necessary, you can spend favor tokens to increase the range of your ship beyond 3, one token per additional space (for example, you can spend 2 tokens to move your ship 5 spaces), but the rule that requires a match between the color of the die used and the color of the final destination sea hex still applies.


Diagram showing the yellow player using a pink die to move his/her ship and a favor tile to extend its range to 4


The 12 tasks are: the players have to build 3 shrines, kill 3 monsters, raise 3 statues and make 3 offerings in temples. All players begin the game with exactly the same tasks. All other actions are related to fulfilling those tasks. Every time you fulfill a task you gain a specific bonus. The tasks are represented by a task tile with symbols printed that represent the task itself and the corresponding reward. If a task is fulfilled, the corresponding tile task is discarded from the game.

I discuss the tasks below:

1) Make 3 offerings in temples
Certain land hexagons contain offerings (1 per player). Offerings are colored cubes that come in the 6 colors of the faces of the oracle dice. There's one cube of each color per player scattered over the board, so in a 2 player game, there are 12 cubes, 2 of each color, scattered in 6 different land spaces. To fulfill this task you have to move your ship to a sea hex adjacent to one of those spaces, use an oracle die of the color of the offering to load the cube to the cargo area on your ship tile (that's one of the actions available), move your ship to a sea space adjacent to a land space containing a temple of the same color of the offering taken (that may be far away from the place where you took the offering, the board contains 6 temples, one in each color) and then use an oracle die to unload the cube to the temple of the same color of the offering and the die (that's another of the available actions). Every time you succeed in a task of this kind you gain 3 favor tokens as a reward.


Figure illustrating the load/unload offering actions. The blue player may use a red die to load the red offering cube on the right to his/her ship. Then he/she may use another red die to deliver the red offering cube to the red temple on the left. Usually the distance between the place where you collect the offering and the temple is greater than this.


Of the 3 tasks of this kind, 2 demand a specific offering color (that is the same for all players) and for the 3rd the players may choose any other color, provided it's different from the other 2.

There are 4 different task tiles of this kind that demand a specific offering color. During set-up a player picks 2 of them randomly and the other players select tasks showing the same colors. The reverse sides of the unchosen task tiles contain 2 monster tasks of specific colors that must be then placed as monster tasks. Again, all others players do the same. This way the colors of the specific offerings you must deliver (and specific monsters you must kill) are usually different from one game to another (there are 6 possible combinations).

2) Raise 3 statues
This is another pick and delivery task. There are 6 land spaces on the board, each one containing 3 statues of the same color. Those land spaces are always scattered at the border of the board. There are other land spaces scattered across the board, showing places where statues of certain colors can be raised. Each of those spaces has 3 different colors. To fulfill this task the players have to move their ships to a sea space adjacent to a land space of the first kind, use an oracle die of the color of the statue to load the statue to the cargo area of their ships (that's one of the actions available), move the ship to a sea space adjacent to a land hex of the second kind containing the color of the statue picked (but still empty) and then spend one oracle die to unload the statue (that's another of the actions available), raising that statue on the space of its color on the land hex.


Figure illustrating the action of loading a statue and raising it. The blue player used a red die to load a red statue to his/her ship. Then he/she used a yellow die to move his/her ship to a position adjacent to a hex where the statue can be raised. And finally used another red die to raise the statue. Note that the hex where the red statue was raised still has space for other 2 statues, one yellow, another green.


Those tasks don't require any specific color; you can raise any 3 statues, provided their colors are all different from each other.
The reward for this task is to choose one of the 3 companion cards that are associated to the color of the statue. The companion is a mythological hero or creature that gives you special powers. They come in 3 kinds, all the same for each color.


Companion Cards


a) You increase your defense by 2 and from now on you don't gain any more wounds of that color
b) Immediately you draw a random oracle card and from now on, you can use oracle dice/cards of that color as if they were of any other color (this color for you is now a joker).
c) When you use a die of that color to move your ship, its range increases by 3 and you can stop in a sea space of any color

Those are very nice rewards that make your life much easier for the rest of the game.

3) Build 3 shrines
You have to move your ship to a sea space adjacent to a shrine tile of your own color, and then use an oracle die of the same color of the land space containing the tile to build one of your wooden shrine token on their spaces (that's an action). As a reward you increase your favor with one of the gods (see below). The problem is: at the beginning of the game you don't know where those tiles are.

This task represents the exploration part of the game. The board starts with 12 shrine tiles turned down, so no one knows what color they have. Of those 12, 3 are of your color (there are 3 for each player's color, even if there aren't 4 players in the game). You have to find out where yours are and build your shrines on them. In principle there are 2 ways to do this. The first one is to use oracle dice several times to look at 2 facedown shrine tiles (one of the actions that can be done with any die).

There is also an action of "explore". You move your ship to a sea space adjacent to a facedown shrine tile and then you use an oracle die of the same color of the land space containing the tile to explore it. Then you turn over the tile, revealing it to everyone, and from now on it stays turned up. If by chance (or by previous knowledge) it's yours then you build your shrine over it and fulfill your task at once.

If its color doesn't match yours, then you collect a reward. There are 4 different rewards associated with a symbol printed on the tile. You can increase your defense by one and get rid of all wounds of a same color, you can rise 3 steps in the favor of the gods, you can gain 4 favor tiles or you can gain 2 oracle cards. All those rewards are nice. They need to be so, because by exploring an unknown shrine tile you risk to reveal a shrine tile of the color of other player (what is much probable in a 4 player game), what will save him/her a lot of effort he'd spend looking for it.

If someone else reveals a shrine tile of yours, you still have to move your ship to a sea space adjacent to that tile and use a die in the color of the land space to “build a shrine” (another action) straight away.


Face up shrine tiles of all players


The green ship is beside 2 facedown shrine tiles. The one on the left can be explored with a red die, the other on the right with a green die.


The green player explored the locations on the left and right of the ship. On the left he/she revealed a yellow tile. As it's not green, the player will collect a reward correponding to the sigma symbol on the tile (he/she can advance a god 3 steps). The tile on the right, however, is green. So the player builds a shrine (the white wooden piece) on the tile and fulfills a task.


4) Kill 3 monsters
During set-up you spread across certain land spaces on the board monsters of 6 different colors, one of each color per number of players. So in a 2 player game, there will be 12 monsters, 2 of each color. Each color represents a different kind of monster. The black is the Minotaur, the pink is the hydra, the blue is the siren, the yellow is the chimera, the green is the Medusa, the red is the cyclops. The monster types are merely thematic, when you fight them, they all have the same power.


Monster tokens


You have to kill 3 monsters. 2 are of specific colors (shown on the reverse sides of the task tiles not used as offering tasks - see offering task above) and you can choose any different color for the 3rd.
To kill a monster you move your ship to a sea space adjacent to a hex containing the monster and then use an oracle die of the same color of the monster to start the battle against it. That's an available action.
However, this only starts the battle. There's no guarantee that you're going to win.

You have to overcome the monster strength rolling a number equal or greater than the monster strength in the battle die. The battle die is a 10 sided die, with faces from 0 to 9. The initial strength of the monster is 9 minus your defense. So, if you go to fight with a monster with defense zero (that's the initial defense of all players), then you need to roll a 9. Ouch! Hard! But don't despair! Even if you don’t succeed (what's probable), the gods may help you. You may spend a favor token to keep on fighting and roll the die again. In this new roll the monster got tired and it's easier to beat him. You can subtract 1 from the monster strength. And you can do this several times, provided you have enough favor tokens to spend, and each time you need to roll a smaller number. If you manage to defeat the monster before you run out of favor tokens, then you win and remove the monster piece from the board (putting it on your individual board as a trophy). Otherwise you lose and leave it where it was. You have to fight it again on another day.


The yellow player uses a red die to start a fight against the cyclops on the right of the ship. Yellow defense is marked as 2, so he/she needs a 9-2=7 or higher. A 5 is rolled. The monster is not defeated. Yellows spends a favor token to keep on fighting. Now he/she needs a 6 or higher. A 7 is rolled and the monster is defeated.


During the fight, every time you roll a zero on the battle die, you take a wound and draw a random wound card.

In principle, it would be the easiest of the tasks. You know where all monsters are when the game begins and there's no pick and delivery here. You just go to where the monster is and fight it. But you may rely too much on your luck if you go straight for it at the beginning of the game. You may want to increase your defense and/or collect a reasonable number of favor tokens first.

The reward for fulfilling this task is also very nice. You gain an equipment card. Each equipment card is unique and there are always 6 showing up on the table. There are 2 kinds of cards. Cards that give you a specific power or ability, and that are very nice to achieve at the beginning of the game; and cards that give you a powerful one-time benefit.


Some examples of equipment cards.


The gods

On the players' individual boards there are 6 colored markers that can be moved along a cloud track to show how high in favor with each of the 6 gods the player is (yellow=Apollo, red=Aphrodite, green=Artemis, Blue=Poseidon, Pink=Hermes, Black=Hades). When a marker is at the bottom the gods ignore totally the player. When a marker reaches the top of the track, anytime during his/her turn, the player may invoke the power of the god. This is a free action and many different gods can be invoked in the same turn if there are several at the top. All powers are interesting. Once the power is invoked, the respective god marker is returned to the bottom of the track.

At the beginning of the game, all markers are at the bottom except one (the one with the color of the wound card the player drew during the set up) that is placed at the first position above zero of the cloud track. This first position varies with the number of players. With fewer players the first step is higher, so the markers have a shorter path to move from bottom to top.


Individual board showing the cloud track for the gods. Poseidon (blue) and Aphrodite (red) are above the bottom and can be moved up using other players' oracle dice results. All other god markers are at the bottom of the track.


This is so because the primary mechanism that allows gods markers to move up is through other players' oracle dice rolls. When a player rolls his/her oracle dice at the end of the turn, all other players check if there is any color on the faces of those dice that matches any of their gods on the track that are above the bottom but below the top. One of such god markers whose color matches the oracle dice can be moved up one step (only one step of a single god, even if there are more matches). With fewer players in the game you benefit less from other players’ rolls, so it makes sense that the path be shorter.

Also, oracle dice and certain rewards (like the reward for building a shrine or by revealing a shrine that is not yours and has a certain symbol showing) can be used to move a god marker one step up. Using the die or collecting such rewards is the only way to raise a god marker one step above the bottom. This is important because a god marker at the bottom cannot be moved up using other payers' oracle dice rolls. The more gods you have above the bottom the greater the chance of a match that moves a god one step up when other players roll their dice. So it may be a nice idea to use some of your dice at the beginning of the game to move a few gods from the bottom.

As the mechanism that moves the god markers upward is a slow one, the players will invoke the power of the gods few times during the whole game and will seldom invoke the same god twice in the same game. This has to be so, because the gods’ powers are really nice.

Apollo - When you invoke his power, during the current turn all your oracle dice and cards can be used as if they were of any other color for free.
Aphrodite - Discard all your wound cards
Poseidon - you can move your ship for free to anywhere on the board
Hades - when you use the action to fight a monster, you can invoke Hades power to defeat the monster automatically, without rolling the battle die
Hermes - if your ship is adjacent to a hex where statues are stored, you can invoke Hermes power to load another statue from anywhere on the board to your ship for free
Artemis - You can reveal any turned down shrine tile on the board for free and execute its effect


Image of the individual player board showing several elements of the game
1 - Gods cloud track with Apollo (yellow token) above the bottom
2 - Favor tokens
3 - Ship tile
4 - Titan die (only on the board of the last player)
5 - Oracle dice
6 - Shrines
7 - Initially drawn wound card
8 - Gods tokens at the bottom of the cloud track
9 - Player defense, showing an initial value of zero
11 - The 12 task tiles


My opinion

Many people claim Delphi is a pick & delivery game. Well, looking at the list of tasks above this is half true only. Of the 12 tasks above, 6 fit in this description (Raising statues and making offerings). The shrine building adds an element of exploration to the game and to kill the monsters you just have to go to them and fight, using the combat die, however you may have to improve your defenses and collect some favor of the gods to improve your chances first.

The key to win in Oracle of Delphi is - like in many other eurogames - wise planning. In this case, planning your ship's path well, executing your tasks with a minimum of moves and giving some priority to monster and statues, if feasible, because the rewards for those tasks are usually powers that can be used along the rest of the game making it much easier to fulfill the remaining tasks.

So, in Oracle of Delphi, at the beginning of the game a player should take a deep breath, take a good look at the board - that is always completely different from a game to another - and try to devise the best path to take and the best possible order for his/her tasks to be completed. This may be a complex problem, because the number of possibilities is great, but the player who devises the most efficient path is in a good way to win.

In this sense, the game is somewhat similar to The Voyages of Marco Polo, where at the very beginning the players have to devise the best travelling route they will take along the whole game to take the most of their objective cards and the position of the bonus/city tiles.

But, though Marco Polo is strategically meatier, Oracle of Delphi is more flexible. You seldom can deviate from your original plan in Marco Polo. In Delphi it's easier to change your plans. And due to the players interaction you may be forced to do so. Because other players are looking at the same board as you, and they can execute part of your plan before you are able to do it, taking offerings, raising statues or killings monsters that were in your master plan, before you're able to do it, forcing you to change your route.

So we're before a game that involves planning, has a reasonable strategic depth and good player interaction. What can go wrong? I analyze some aspects below.

Complexity and depth

By looking at the rules description, the game may seem to have complex rules. Too many elements. Too many different tasks, too many different actions, too many different gods powers, too many different rewards and equipment cards.

This is not the case. The basic mechanics is simple. The actions are simple and natural. The details are related to things that don't happen often in the game. Very quickly any player grasps the idea behind the game.

So I consider the game easy to learn.

Still, given the need of constant planning and the great number of possibilities it has a reasonable degree of depth, though it's really not a really deep game.

It's a light to medium game.

Game time and downtime

The game is not long and should play in 2 hours, more or less. It tends to be quicker with fewer players. As players roll the dice they'll use in the next round at the end of their turns and as they are seeing all the dice the others will use before them, it's very easy to plan your moves ahead and then play quickly when your time comes again, occupying the time span between your turns. So the game time is nice and the downtime usually small.

Fun

This is the main point of the game in my opinion. It's something that's very particular from person to person. Some games do trigger some click in you and some don't. This one definitively triggered a click in me. I really find it pleasant and don't mind playing again and again. It helps it's a considerably light but not silly game. Some more complex or meatier games can be more meaningful from the mental challenge point of view, but are usually longer, more exhausting and mentally demanding and you're not willing to play them so often.

You have to analyze your moves trying to solve 2 kinds of problems. The first is the long term problem, the long term path to your ship and the order of your tasks resolution. The other is the short term problem, that is how I am going to use my present oracle dice, that not always fit in the previous long term plan, to get the most of them right now. The combination of the 2 kinds of problems offers a kind of mental puzzle that I find pleasant to solve.

So, obviously when I talk about fun, don’t expect to see people laughing out loud around the table. The game offers fun to those who like to solve mild mental puzzles.

Interaction

There's no direct interaction, but indirect interaction is considerable. First, because when players explore, they may reveal the shrine location of their adversaries, making the game potentially easier to them. Second, because as the players have exactly the same tasks and move along the same board, they are all the time competing for things. They are competing for the best positioned offerings, the best positioned statues and the best positioned monsters. The players who go for those tasks earlier will let the worst positioned items to those who go for the same tasks later. This is something the players need to have very much in mind when they make their plans and moves.

Quality of components

I also find this point totally satisfactory. The components are of satisfactory quality (maybe the individual boards could be thicker) and the ratio price/quality is totally adequate in my opinion. From the Aesthetic point of view, I can't say the game is particularly beautiful, but I don't think it's ugly either.

Theme

Feld's games are claimed to be too abstract. This one has of course elements that don't fit well in the theme, such as the companion powers or the equipment cards, or why some gods give you some powers, or why the color of statues matter, or why there are many identical Minotaurs and Medusas to be killed, but in an overall way this is one of the more thematic games ever made by Stefan Feld. Like Jason or Herakles, you're sailing on your boat along the greek islands trying to perform heroic or pious tasks, looking for favor with the gods and occasionally being helped by them. That's theme enough for me. Not that it matters much to Feld's fans, since The Castles of Burgundy, for example, is his best ranked game and one of the most abstract games ever made that claim to have a theme.

Replay value

As mentioned before, it's practically impossible to repeat the initial set up of this game. So the replay value is virtually infinite.

Strategy x randomness

Well, not everything is so bright with this game and we have come to its weakest point and probably the reason why it seems to be so unappealing to Feld's fans.

The game has a considerable degree of randomness. In fact, except for maybe Bruges and La Isla, that I classify among the weakest games designed by him and known by me (I don't know games like It happens or his designs prior to In the year of the Dragon/Notre Dame), I have not seen another Feld game with so many random factors. Let's see them in order, from the least serious to the most serious:

Titans' die
It's a minor factor because the die result affects all players more or less in the same way. Still if your defense is 4 and another player has a defense of 1, die results of 1, 5 and 6 have the same effect for both. If those results consistently appear you might complain you wasted your time improving your defense getting the same effects as someone else who didn't. Still, it's a minor factor. Along several rolls, statistically your superior investment in defense should pay off.

Battle die
It's another random factor because the outcome of the battle is resolved by a 1d10 roll. I consider it also minor because every player only fights monsters 3 times in the whole game and normally before doing so, players collect a good amount of favor tokens to mitigate potential bad luck. Still, there are times you'll see bold players with no care for planning going straight for a monster with defense still at zero and practically no favor tiles, rolling a 9 in the very first roll or an 8 in the second and last possible battle round. Everyone else will look at the guy and say: "Wow, what a lucky bastard!”

Wound cards
Normally the players will watch carefully their own wound cards and will try to get rid of cards when they’re too close to some limit. Otherwise they will risk losing their turn. For example, when if a player gains a fifth wound card, he/she knows that when his/her turn arrives it's highly advisable to get rid of at least one wound card, otherwise a 6th card might be drawn at the end of the next round. So, as players normally will be careful to avoid giving a chance to bad luck and due to this, this is still a minor random factor. However, once in a while it may happen that a 6 is rolled in the Titan's die, for example, when a player has exactly 4 wound cards. Losing a turn in this game is not a disaster, but it's unpleasant, to say the least. On the other hand, some players may successfully push their lucks ending their turns with 5 wound cards or 2 of the same color and never be punished in the next Titan die roll, giving them additional actions they’d have wasted if they played safer.

Shrine Tiles
Well, here we begin to come to where the luck may hurt you or others. The shrine tiles are facedown at the beginning. You have to find where yours 3 are among the 12 and they will be revealed in a random way. Normally what I see happening often with shrine tiles is that at the beginning of the game you don't make specific plans to reveal them. However, if you are beside a facedown tile and you have a die that allows you to explore it and you have nothing else of much useful to do with that die, the temptation to use it to explore the tile is too strong. It's particularly strong with less than 4 players, when there is the chance to reveal the tile of a player who is not in the game. Exploring an unknown shrine tile location is one of the strong random factors in the game. If you reveal another player's tile, you may collect a nice reward but you make that player's task easier, because now he may include that tile location in his future long term travel plan. In this case, he's a lucky bastard. If you reveal your own tile, then - unless you knew by previous inspection that the tile was yours - then the really really lucky bastard is you.

Oracle dice/cards
Here the main core of the luck in the game is located. All other factors above only appear occasionally along the game. But rolling and using oracle dice is something you do all the time, it's the core of the game itself. When the dice don't help you, it's terrible. Otherwise it's wonderful.

Like I said, the dice here work more or less like in Castles of Burgundy. There, like here, you may complain of bad luck in the dice. There, like here, you have tokens to mitigate that bad luck changing the die result (workers there, favor tokens here). However, here the things are considerably worse.

First, in CoB, you can use workers to change the die result in 2 directions (you can add or subtract 1 to/from the die), here you can only change the die in one direction. In CoB you'll need a maximum of 3 workers to turn a die into any other die. Here you may need a maximum of 5 favor tiles. In fact, there's a ship tile that gives you the power to change the dice in both directions and that's maybe the nicest ship tile in the whole game.

Second, though in CoB you have only 3 possible actions and here you have several, in CoB during most of the time you have much more flexibility in the use of your dice. Here, as I said, you have a plan and you must try to follow it, what may demand a very specific set of dice colors. If you move a ship close to a statue hex your plan is normally to load that statue, then you specifically need a die in the color of that statue, and it's normally unwise to do anything else until you get that color. So you may get stuck in that position, using dice in secondary actions like getting favor tokens or drawing oracle cards or raising a god 1 step, bidding your time until the desired color comes up, or you gather enough favor tokens to turn another die into it. Drawing an oracle card is one of my favorite options, because you're trading an action now for another in the future - assuming the game is still far away from the end. And if you're lucky enough, you may draw a card in a color you need to use straight away. However, the fact is that usually you're losing time and may be losing the race. This may be specially hurtful if, for example, you plan to collect an offering of a specific color, doesn't get the appropriate die color this turn and while you're bidding your time another player comes and grabs the offering you wanted right below your nose.

So, strategically you have a plan to follow, but it happens often that your oracle dice don't fit in your plan for the moment. At all. It may happen that your master plan is clever and well-thought, but the dice only allow that you follow it at a considerable higher effort than the necessary for other player who had a plan not as clever as yours. The opportunity to change your master plan slightly to get a better use from your oracle dice exists, of course, but it's not unlimited. Once in a while the dice will look like the worst obstacle to your plans. Though all this is unpleasant to players who like low-random, high-strategic games, the cleverness to look at the board and try to get the most of an individual apparently bad dice roll is one of the talents needed to win the game.

Another minor element of luck linked to the oracle dice is that they may help other players, increasing their favor with gods they specially desire to court, in a totally random way.

Final verdict

The Oracle of Delphi is a medium-light race game. In my opinion it's another nice Stefan Feld design. It's not among Feld's strategically deepest games, but it is a pleasant game that still has enough strategic elements to make it very interesting. Its main flaw is a possible degree of randomness involved in the use of oracle dice and exploration of shrine tiles. My theory is that this randomness and the fact that it doesn't fit much in Feld's most usual pattern (more deterministic VP oriented games) scared Feld's fans away.

I rated it among my favorite Feld's games. It has the elegant combination of strategy and simplicity in a relatively light game. Just for all to know, my favorite Feld's games are Castles of Burgundy, Macao, Luna, Bora Bora, Notre Dame and Aquasphere. Although Oracle of Delphi has little to do with any of those (mechanically it has some similarity with Castles of Burgundy only, given the somewhat similar use of dice to select actions), it has now joined this select group of games.

I really think it deserved to be better positioned in the bgg ranking.

(revised a few times merely to correct some mistakes in english)
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-=::) Dante (::=-
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brito wrote:
So, strategically you have a plan to follow, but it happens often that your oracle dice don't fit in your plan for the moment. At all.


One thing almost all new players overlook are two of the most powerful uses of a "useless" die. Moving that colored god up the god track and taking an oracle card.

The incredibly powerful god track is often sorely underutilized by new players and if you don't already have an oracle card in the hole it is an absolute no brainer to always take the card rather than a suboptimal use of a die you don't need this turn.

1) You may very well get exactly the oracle card color you did want this turn and can use it immediately for the current goal you have. (or put it much closer in the conversion wheel lowering the favor token cost to do what you want)

2) If it isn't immediately useful it adds more versatility mitigating the luck of your next roll and bestows another available action on a future turn. Ultimately this game is about the most efficient use of your total number of actions over the course of the game, and in many cases having an extra action on a future turn can be even more useful than whatever you wanted to do with that action this turn. Unless you're vying for a particular item that someone else is going to scoop from you if you don't get it now, it rarely matters whether you do it this turn or next turn. (and you're still getting the same total number of actions when you defer the current one to take an oracle card and use it later)
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Joe K
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Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. -- Samuel Beckett
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Really nice review. Thank you.
 
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Brian Hughes
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Thanks for a very good review. I really like the God mechanism and in particular the need to watch, in other players' turns, what dice they roll. Being able to plan ahead as you roll the Oracle Die at the end of your previous turn is a brilliant piece of design. Turns fly by as there is so much to think about when it is not your "go". Best of all, this is a well tested design very different from anything else Feld has come up with. Great fun and I suspect the apparent randomness evens itself out over a few games. Certainly all of ours have been very close.

How does the BGG ranking work? I think Delphi's 7.5 score is similar to other of his games which are much higher up the table.

Brian

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-=::) Dante (::=-
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Brian Hughes wrote:
How does the BGG ranking work? I think Delphi's 7.5 score is similar to other of his games which are much higher up the table.

Brian


Number of ratings is the other key factor so it would need to be owned and rated by as many people as those other games before it can achieve a similar ranking.
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Thank you Dante.
Brian
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