A primer on the Sanctum, the newest mechanic in Gods Unchained. Written by Lead Game Designer, Andrea Davis.

Releasing as part of our 0.21 Client Update, the Sanctum is an exciting addition to the core gameplay of Gods Unchained. Featuring five side-decks, available to both players, the Sanctum greatly expands the strategic depth seen during play. In this article, I’ll discuss the rules about Sanctum (and the new Favor resource), why we have added these features to the game, and how we believe the meta may shift as a result of this new mechanic.

Favor and the Sanctum

Here are the new rules (updated 6/25/20) about Favor, in condensed form:

  • Players begin the game with 0 Favor.
  • Whenever you complete a ‘Favor Action’, you are rewarded as follows:
    • You gain 1 Favor during your first turn,
    • You gain 2 Favor during your second turn
    • You gain 3 Favor during subsequent turns
  • Favor Actions are as follows:
    • You attack an opponent’s God
    • You destroy an enemy creature outside of combat
    • Your creature survives an attack during combat and the attacking creature dies

Here are the new rules about the Sanctum, in condensed form:

  • There are five decks of cards in the Sanctum, each containing some number of cards. (For now, there are 12 cards in each deck.)
  • Three of the decks are randomly chosen to begin available to both players. The other two are on standby. The top cards of those three decks are revealed.
  • During their turn, a player may spend Favor to pull a revealed card into their hand. If they do, that deck is replaced with a standby deck at the end of the turn.
  • A player may pull up to three cards per turn (one from each of the available decks).
  • Players do not own these cards. (Just like when cards are created from other cards during play, cards from the Sanctum are not permanently owned by either player.)
  • The card list for the five Sanctum decks will change over time.
  • The mana cost for cards in the Sanctum may be different than their cost in player’s decks. Currently, we aren’t using this feature, but we will in the future.

Why did we create the Sanctum?

Gods Unchained is a great game, with six domains of cards, each of them giving multiple deckbuilding options to players. Not all War decks look alike, not all Light decks look alike, and so on. But once you get into a game, games can fall into a predictable pattern. Some matchups are better than others, and at times it can feel a bit too by-the-book. The Sanctum changes that forever.

Games with Favor and the Sanctum are more-rewarding of skill, by increasing the gameplay complexity a little bit. It is no longer enough to rely on patterns of play that happen when one domain faces another. Now, players will be challenged to adapt on-the-fly to changes you couldn’t predict. For instance, players can pull cards from the Sanctum that are from a different domain — a War player can grab and play a Magic card. Auros can unleash an Inferno! 

This style of play, a strategy card game with deckbuilding-game elements, is unique among digital TCGs. We’ve created something of our own, and we believe it improves the game for both the experienced and the new players. Players new to Gods Unchained can play with cards they don’t own, getting a glimpse into a style of play they didn’t previously consider. Experienced players have a new challenge to master. And hopefully, everyone will get to enjoy their collections in a new way.

How does the game change?

In testing, I’ve had to rethink how I approach games of Gods Unchained. In addition to general metagame concerns, such as how and when to mulligan, and knowing which god power I want to select against which opponents, I now have an additional vector to consider – Are there any cards in the Sanctum that can wreck my plans? Are there cards I need to destroy my opponent? And what sacrifices am I willing to make to get those cards before they do?

Because of Favor, I am now much more willing to make a “bad trade” than before. I would rather have my creatures die on my turn if I am sure my opponent is going to kill them on theirs. Doing this denies my opponent Favor, and it also gets me closer to earning Favor myself. I am also willing to attack my opponent using a relic than before! Previously, unless the game was nearly over, I would only use my relics to help control the board. Now, depending on the state of the Sanctum, it is completely worth it to attack an opponent for one damage… because 3 Favor is sometimes the difference between winning and losing!

Generally speaking, cards that generate easily-killed creatures have all been nerfed a bit. My Golden Harpe is slightly less awesome, knowing that I am likely giving my opponent several points of Favor as a result. However, it is still a great card worth playing! I’ve just needed to adjust my plans accordingly. Playing a Harpe on turn 2 (using a mana pip / Bag of Tricks) to then start attacking the opposing god… not the way I’ve ever used it before now.

I have not had to change my deckbuilding because of the Sanctum — there aren’t any cards in there that absolutely require that I use or avoid certain cards. Though we will have some events where that might happen in the future!

In Conclusion

The Sanctum is the first of many plans we have this year to surprise, challenge, and delight our players. Consider its release in our 0.21 client a “public preview” with changes to come in the near future. We can’t wait to hear what you think – please let us know in our discord.