Sanctuary: The Keepers Era

After a long wait, we have finally gotten our hands onto Sanctuary! Since we have played Mysthea and Icaion before, so we already got to discover the universe of this ancient planet from Tabula Games a little bit. We back then already fell in love with the weird creatures we encountered, amazing art and quality of the games. With the unboxing of Sanctuary, the fun already begin. Not only did we discover six pre build decks from different factions, we also found some familiar components like crystals and discovered a surprise in the bottom of the big box. When we opened the drawer designed in the storage box of sanctuary, we also found two awesome playmats especially made to battle in Sanctuary. Now let’s find out who can protect their sanctuaries the best.

How to play.

For the setup, take the playmats to see where each card can be placed. You can also choose to play without playmats. Place your sanctuaries in a row in the bottom and arrange them freely. Change the decay and aegis counter for each sanctuary so the numbers match and place your champion in the left bottom corner face up. Shuffle your deck and take four cards as your starting hand. Also place the essence crystals nearby.

In Sanctuary, it’s your goal to destroy all of your opponent’s sanctuaries. When the last sanctuary falls, you are declared winner.
To help you win the war, there are four different kind of cards. You have four sanctuary cards (placed at the bottom of the battlefield) that you need to keep safe. Each sanctuary has a powerful special ability that you can use once the decay track has count down to zero. This could be moving your soldiers or making opponents soldiers inactive for example. At the end of each of your turns, the decay track will move one number down. You sanctuaries also have Aegis track. This track stands for it’s health and durability. For each damage it receives, the Aegis track will move. Once it’s reduced to zero, your sanctuary is destroyed and you can’t use the special ability of that sanctuary anymore.

In your deck, you will find ritual cards and Acolytes that you can draw during your turn. The ritual cards are more rare and are never placed on the battlefield. Ritual cards can cause damage to your opponent or allow strategic maneuvers for example. Each card in your deck has a cost to pay. In the top left corner of each ritual, Acolyte or champion card, you will find how many crystals you need to discard in order to play the card from your hand. In your deck you will mainly find Acolytes. These are your soldiers that can be placed onto the battlefield. After paying the necessary crystal cost, you can place an Acolyte on any one of the eight empty spaces on your side of the battlefield (above your sanctuaries). The front line is to attack while the second line, who is closer to your sanctuaries, is for defense. The strategic placement is very important, so choose wisely. Acolytes always enter the field exhausted (on the side) and get activated at the end of your turn, unless a card says otherwise. Acolytes have many different ways to attack and defend. Some have special abilities while others may come to the battlefield already activated. Some Acolytes can only attack while others might be better to use for defending. Watch the abilities assigned to each soldier closely ass they tell you what they can and cannot do. Your reference card will remind you what each icon means during battle. Lastly you have your champion, the strongest soldier of your faction. Champions are introduced the same way to the battlefield like Acolytes, however they are not found in your deck, but near the battlefield. If you play your champion, pay the cost like normal and use it’s abilities. Once your champion is defeated, place the card facedown near the battlefield so it can not be used again.

At the beginning of your turn, start with gaining two crystals. If any Acolytes or champions have ‘At the beginning of your turn’ abilities, resolve them now. Then is the summoning phase. After resolving any related abilities or effects for this phase, you can now summon soldiers onto the battlefield and cast rituals from your hand in any order. After summoning comes the attack phase. Soldiers that are active will now attack your opponents sanctuaries in the lane they are placed. If you have placed an Acolyte in the leftmost lane to attack, they will attack your the sanctuary of your opponent in that same lane, not the sanctuary in the middle for example (unless a card states otherwise). Your opponent will be able to defend if he have placed his own soldiers in a defending position on that same lane. Each Acolyte and champion is defeated once they receive more damage then the health they have. Defeated Acolytes go to the controllers discard pile, fallen champions are placed facedown near the battlefield and destroyed sanctuaries are removed from the game. Watch your soldier closely as some of them may have abilities that activate when they are defeated.

After attacking, you near the end of your turn. All partial damage on remaining Acolytes or champions is reset. You need to destroy them fully in one round to defeat them, or they heal their wounds from battle and return in the next round. Damage done to sanctuaries will not be reset, change the Aegis track accordingly during battle for each sanctuary. Your exhausted units now become active, ready for the next turn and all of your sanctuaries decrease the decay counter by one. If a counter is reduced to zero, you may use the special ability of that sanctuary on your turn. Remember to resolve any ‘end of turn effects’ now. You can now discard any number of cards and draw new cards up until your hand limit, in the beginning this will be four. Later this can be altered by certain cards. If your deck runs out of cards, at the beginning of your next turn, you have to destroy one of your sanctuaries every turn. That means if your deck is empty, you only have a couple of rounds left to destroy your opponent. Choose wisely how you manage your cards and which cards you discard and keep.
You win the game immediately if all four sanctuaries of your opponent are destroyed.

Sanctuary also has a two versus two mode , artifacts that can be put into play and a one versus one campaign mode. These modes follow a lot of the same rules of the base game, but add more replayability and provide more depth. For the rules of these modes, refer to the rulebook of Sanctuary.

Playthrough of the game.

People who know me well, know I am not good in making decisions. So since card games can be very overwhelming the first time, my strategy in choosing the first faction playthrough was to not look at any cards at all, but just choose the most colorful one. Tomasz on the other hand likes to experiment and do research in order how best to defeat me. With this in mind, you can imagine our first playthrough was, interesting.
Tomasz played with the Wul faction while I chose the Antar deck. During the game as we were trying to figure out how to play our decks the best, we discovered that my faction was all about exhausting and moving opponents soldiers, while Tomasz his faction was more about discarding cards in order to gain resources or actions. This combination did not turn out to be very fair. Every time when Tomasz summoned his soldier in play, he could summon many because of discarding other cards. However, most of them came to the battlefield exhausted. I was saving cards to try and make the best combinations which allowed me to either exhaust or move his soldiers on which he just spend a huge amount of cards and resources on. I didn’t deal a lot of damage, but my sanctuaries were pretty well protected. After a while, Tomasz realized he was out of cards after so much discarding which forced him to discard his sanctuaries after a couple of turns. Needless to say he was a little frustrated. After giving him a hug and cookie as peace offering, all was well again.

Thankfully Sanctuary comes with a lot of options to create your own decks, combine decks, or you can just choose other factions at the beginning of the game to make sure your next game will be better balanced. This is exactly what we did as Tomasz combined two cards from two strong factions together according to the rules. I simply took a couple of the double cards out of mine to replace them with other cards of my choice. Because of all those options, this board game has a lot of replayability and can create a lot of depth to. The art on the cards is also amazing and very fitting for each action. If you have played Mysthea, Icaion or Mysthea the Fall before from Tabula games, it’s very satisfying to see the same art coming back from that universe. When playing Sanctuary, we do recommend to play with the playmats if you can. It’s much easier to track what card is placed where and how big the battlefield is. I do hope more designs will come for those playmats since the box seems to have enough space for four and I have to say, I’m not in love with the big contrast the two playmats have now. But the quality is great and individually the art is awesome. There is one big frustration with Sanctuary that I hope Tabula games will never choose to do again and it’s about the rulebook. It’s as big as a cards deck which is very annoying to go through or read properly. Other then this, we really like Sanctuary, the strategies behind it, the art and everything else.

Final Thoughts.

Sanctuary is a fast paced hand management game with a high fantasy theme. In order to have your faction at peace, you need to destroy the sanctuaries of your opponent. The first few games for us were a big learning curve. Getting to know the factions, experimenting with building our own decks, knowing how to play the game best. But after a couple of games, Sanctuary is easy to play and has a lot of depth. But the best thing about this game is that you don’t have to be an expert in deck building to have fun. You have a lot of freedom to decide how you want to play and how much you want to build. The cards also have amazing art and are of high quality as well as all the other components in this game. Once again, Tabula game has made an awesome game that will get a nice spot in our collection.

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