Cult of the Deep – Board Game Review

A cult divided against itself cannot stand...

Game at a Glance

A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own

Skip to Review; Skip to Final Thoughts


You’re a member of a secret cult in danger of fracturing. A few cultists are loyal to the High Priest, but several malcontents want to bring about change – by any means necessary. And in this case, those means are bloody.

Cult of the Deep is a hidden-roll dice-chucker for 4-8 players. Players in this game are secretly assigned to different factions, each attempting to stay in or rise to power. You’ll likely have an ally or two at the table. Unfortunately, it might take some time to figure out who they are. The only player whose identity is transparent from the beginning is the High Preist(ess). Along with their hidden role, players will have a secret Sigil Card that offers a one-time powerful ability and a public Character Card that grants ongoing skills.

The roles in each game will include the High Priest, the Cabalists, the Faithful, and a Heretic. The High Priest and Faithful strive to root out corruption – they win upon the death of all the Cabalists and the Heretic and lose if the High Priest dies. The Cabalists’ goal is to control the cult and kill the High Priest. The Heretic is an agent of chaos and wants everybody to die.

Players will take turns rolling and re-rolling their dice, Yahtzee-style. They are used to grant or remove life points from players and in rituals for powerful effects. If a player loses all their life, they die. But death is not the end in Cult of the Deep – players can become wraiths that stick around to haunt their enemies and help their team towards victory.

Turns progress clockwise around the table until all Cabalists and the Heretic are dead, or the High Priest is dead.



Cult of the Deep has an intriguing gameplay arc. It starts as a social deduction game, where players must scrutinize the actions of their tablemates while trying to hide their intentions. At some point, almost everybody will have revealed their plans, intentionally or not, and that is when it becomes a frenzied, team-based battle.

For a good portion of the experience you aren’t entirely sure who your allies are, which makes for an interesting exercise in teamwork. The Faithful know who to protect; however any advantage is neutralized because their enemies have the same information. While the Faithful are determining the best way to slyly defend their leader, the rest of the table are sharpening their knives. In this way, the visible High Priest drives the action. Cultists furtively chip away at each other’s life points, occasionally stopping to nip at the heels of the High Priest or to grant them life.

Players must strike a balance between working towards their goals and not making their identity obvious too soon and putting a target on their back. When most of the table thinks they know their friends from foes, the real bloodshed begins and it becomes a race to take out your enemies!

Game actions revolve around dice rolling and placement. A player will take a turn by first rolling five dice up to three times, after which they decide where to commit them. Several alter cards might come into play in a single game, depending on how many rituals players decide to perform. Often they grant a special ability, such as gifting coins to mitigate dice rolls or to cause damage or healing effects. If a player is able to complete all the ritual tracks of an Alter Card on their turn, they might be able to keep the card for a one-time or ongoing benefit.


This is a dynamic, interactive game that I would rate as medium-light. It’s not terribly heavy, but there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Combined with the darker occult theme, I would not classify this as a family-weight game.

Cult of the Deep is not incredibly difficult to learn. The toughest part was ensuring new players knew all the roles at the table. If a key player misunderstands the strategy, say, a Heretic goes too far in attacking the Cult Leader, they may unintentionally sway the game in the Cabalist’s favor. Once the roles are sorted and the turn structure is explained, it’s not difficult to play. Most of the rules are straightforward, but some of the Alter Cards and character abilities required a rulebook check.

There is much to consider on every turn, whether you are an active player or observing another’s actions. The threat of somebody changing or moving dice is worthy of consideration while they’re being committed. These actions could potentially affect every player at the table. The dice commitment (and re-commitment) is lengthy due to all the pauses, questions, and reactions. This is a bit of a double-edged sword – it adds plenty of intrigue and interaction to the game, but at the cost of slowing down playtime. This game felt a little too long for the weight.


Each game uses the same roles – High Priest, Cabalist, Faithful, and Heretic. But there’s a plethora of characters, alters, and sigils that vary from game to game. Each one behaves differently, and in the case of the Alter Cards, players will likely experience several in each game. Our games felt completely different because of this.

This game gets better with repeated plays, as it might take new players a bit for all the roles to click. Everybody must understand not only their part but every role at the table – it might take some people a complete game for all of this to come into clear focus. I think Cult of the Deep would benefit from a dedicated group willing and able to revisit it together often.

Theme / Aesthetics

The game goes nicely with the occult theme. Fantasy artwork featuring sirens, krakens, and dark rituals all fit well.

Actions, such as stabbing characters and performing rituals, are driven by dice rolls and work well with the theme. I appreciated the clever way that death was incorporated into the game without resorting to player elimination. Dying feels like a hefty price to pay – playing as a wraith is not quite as satisfying as playing as a cult member in the flesh. Fortunately, nobody loses their spot at the table until it’s over, and the ability to haunt other players’ dice is a unique mechanic that makes thematic sense.

I feel there is too much text on the cards and would have liked to see more symbology to help cut that down somewhat. Sometimes it is hard to see Alter Cards from across the table – perhaps symbology could have helped with that.

The component quality is nice although I am a bit confused about the necessity of the bags in the game. They feel premium but seem like an unnecessary token storage solution that takes up a lot of box space. The dice look great and there are plenty of them, plus I thought the artwork on the cards was fun. This is a nice production overall.

Interaction / Fun

Cult of the Deep is full of deception and is highly interactive. The first act of the game consists of plenty of small knife-pokes and side-eye. Players must carefully evaluate other people’s actions to determine who is on their hit list before making their affiliation obvious. Once that happens, the interactions go from accusations and deception to an all-out battle. Players stop chipping at people and work together to deal massive damage to their enemies in a race to the finish line.

The interaction is very head-on and can be a bit mean. Players comfortable with deception and take-that will have the most fun in a game like this. This experience benefits from banter and bluffing (and possibly bribing). This type of interaction leads to memorable table moments that make games like this so much fun.

Players usually have something meaningful to do on their turn – whether that be trying to boost their own health, help an ally, or attack an enemy. The ever-shifting Alter Cards offer fun options, as well. Players that turn into wraiths have much less to do on their own turn. Instead, they get to interact during other players’ turns by boosting or sabotaging plans. Haunting other players’ dice can be pretty entertaining.

The downtime between turns during the Commit and Response Phase can slow the fun down a bit, but a rowdy enough group might be able to bypass this issue entirely. The character cards and rituals in play affect how dynamic the Response Phase is. The downside to a busy Response Phase is that the turns can drag on, especially when inexperienced players are at the table.

Final Thoughts

Full of bluffing, dice-chucking, backstabbing, and deduction, Cult of the Deep is an interesting take on the hidden role genre of games. This spin on social deduction has enough structure to stand on its own for game night. The game is team-based, but alliances are hidden from the start.

My favorite part is the early game intrigue when people are trying to glean information from actions to determine who is who. The choice to make the High Priest’s identity open information was wise – every player’s win condition depends on their fate, so this drives the action in the game in a unique way. I have seen Faithful players half-heartedly chip at the High Priest, and Cabalists pretend to defend them – all in an attempt at subterfuge. The Heretic role always seems to throw the entire table off balance in the best way because their intentions are so murky. The shift in the game the moment a few key players are figured out is palpable. The entire experience feels unique.

People who do not like direct conflict in games may not enjoy this. There will be a bit of bloodshed early in the game, but toward the end it gets significantly more stabby. I find the team-based interaction to be a lot of fun during this battle frenzy, but the gaming group’s tastes should always be taken into consideration. 

I enjoy Cult of the Deep, but getting it to the table is difficult for me. The first challenge is the player count to playtime ratio. My gaming group consists of parents, so when we have a game night that seats six or more players, multiply that number by two – that’s approximately how many children will be attending. An increase in children seems to lead to an exponential increase in interruptions, and with a game with turns as involved as Cult of the Deep‘s are, that can make the game painfully long. In addition, a few people we play with dislike direct conflict and/or social deduction. These are group-dependent issues that affect my ability to get the game played, and are likely not common for most gaming groups.

That said, I think Cult of the Deep is a great pick for the right players. This game will shine brightest with a lot of exploration from a dedicated group. I can see this one benefitting from repeat plays with friends willing and able to come back to it with some regularity. There could be a lot of backstabby fun to unlock here!

My Personal BGG Rating: 6.5
Ok – will play if in the mood

1 comment

  1. Dear Tabletop Mom,

    I am truly Thankful for your game reviews.

    Happy Thanksgiving


    Ryan Wallace

    What’s The Point? – The Cactus Card Game

    (949) 573 – 2955

    Flagstaff, AZ 86001

    If you wish to not receive communication from The Cactus Card Game, Respode with unsubscribe to be removed from future updates.


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