Board Game Review

Devilish Deck-Building (Sins Review)

Being naughty is something we all do. We all get up to a mishap or two, whether we’ll admit it or not. What differentiates activities from naughty to sinful is the context. Five more minutes in bed? Naughty, but acceptable. Setting your partners alarm 50 minutes early because it might be funny? Probably a death sentence. But these are moral sins – actively chosen bad things done. In religion, the non-moral things that get categorised as sinful fall into one of seven categories: the seven deadly sins. Now, these are the things that are deemed immoral or wrong on a religious level, and don’t always fall into a person’s morality. It’s more of a negative trait that an action taken. Sins Rise of Wrath, a game by Cortadoo Games, is a deck building game of actions. You need to afflict others with weakness whilst enhancing the amount of power you own.

Point of reference, we’ve intentionally not included photos of a lot of the artwork. Not because the art isn’t of quality. On the contrary, the art is superbly specific to the Sin it associates to… Which, as you can also imagine, raises some issues with specifics like lust – for obvious reasons! We only played using a sample Rise of Wrath deck and note that the card stock quality is less than the retail quality. Also, each subsequent deck is unique in its cards and their effects. More decks – more play!


Sins is a strange game in that each box supports two players. You can increase the number of players by introducing a second box into the card pool. The aim of the game is to gain two dominance – whoever does so first is the winner!

Cards and Things Worth Knowing

There are three distinct types of cards in Sins: Kosmos cards, Sins cards, and Dominance cards. Sin cards form the shared deck (also known as the Realm) and are given face down to represent Despair cards when necessary from players’ decks, too. They’re categorised as Undead, Spirits or Beasts to clarify card effects. On the Sins cards, Power is shown at the bottom of the card as a single symbol, and Weakness is shown in the centre as several symbols. These are associated to specific colours, with a white icon being wild (when purchasing, two of any symbol can be swapped for one of another). Any cards given as Despair remain face down.

Set Up

To set up off, each player is dealt 10 Kosmos to start their draw pile. Then they take a Dominance card place it on their side of the table. All other cards get shuffled together to form then Realm. Next, players decide the starting player by drawing a card each. Whoever has the most dots on the card is the starting player, should there be a tie players just grab another card. Finally, five cards are then drawn from the Realm face up for players to see, and each player draws five cards from their own personal decks. The game is now ready to rock!

Phases and Sequence

The game is then run in four phases: status, buy, attack, and refresh. Each phase has a few steps in it, but it’s all sequential so it’s easy to follow! Status allows you to activate the opposing player’s Despair. If the Weakness value of their Despair cards is five or higher, you gain a Dominance (shown by rotating your Dominance card). The buy phase allows you to purchase new cards in order to strengthen your arsenal against your opponent. This is done in three steps, refill the empty card slots from the Realm, gain cards by spending Power on other cards played to match the purchase target’s Weakness (card abilities can also be activated), and discarding which is where all cards remaining in play, and the purchased card go into your discard pile.

The attack phase is where you directly impact another player, adding to their Despair. This is done over four steps: you first announce your victim. Then you play a single card (choosing to activate its effect should you so wish), and your opposer plays a counter card (again choosing to use its effect or not) to combat yours, aiming to overcome your Weakness with Power. This is repeated until someone passes. If they cannot match, or choose not to, they pass and can no longer play cards in this phase. Once this has ended, both players compare Power against Weakness for all cards. The defending player suffers one Despair for every unmatched Power. Once the Despair is calculated, the attacker draws that many cards from their deck and gives those to the defender. They place this on their Dominance. These are now considered Despair cards. Now all players discard cards played.

The final part of a player’s turn is the Refresh phase, where they can discard the remaining cards in their hand. Now they draw cards up to their current hand size minus however many Despair you gave. (You give three Despair, you have one card in hand, you only draw one card this turn.) When a player’s deck is empty, they shuffle their discard and make a new draw pile. It is then the next player’s turn.

How It Handles

Sins is a game that, when you’ve got a handle on it, plays with surreal depth. For a lightweight deck-builder, you’ll definitely be making big plays. It comes with the territory. The game enables players to utilise the whole spectrum of card abilities purposefully. No card is a dud. And, to be fair, none seem wholly contextual. We managed to use the cards’ abilities in a wide assortment of ways, being able to make good use of even the most trivial of abilities. What’s more is that, even though cards’ Weaknesses often reflect the ability’s impressiveness, the Power value is always one. Meaning that, as an attacker, all cards are worth using. Moreover, the game can be adjusted for difficulty too – need to introduce it? Play to one Dominance, need a challenge? Play to three! No adaptations needed.

The Big Play

This is a game where we ate much humble pie when starting out. Our own naivety led us astray. We initially found ourselves working slowly in the game when we first cracked it open. The cards’ abilities seemed standard across any deck-builder. The theme was attractive in itself and the concept was cool with you giving your cards as punishment. It was about four rounds in that our nativity ended and we cracked out some majorly ambitious card plays.

The cards flow beautifully into one another and you’ll be slapping down combinations and planned sequences like nobody’s business. Something about the cards enables you to see purpose behind each action. You’re able to acquire a Spirit by playing a card, to which you then use another ability to move it to your draw pile, to which you then draw it using another ability. All these three actions are done using three separate cards, and each still count towards another purpose. But here’s where it gets mega clever. Because the Despair they gain is from your deck, you’ll want to ensure your top dollar cards are on the top. The perfect play isn’t to make them gain tonnes of Despair, but to gain quality Despair. Despair that has a lot of Weakness to it, and that means manipulating your deck as needed.

Biding Your Time

The first phase is the one that gets you the win, so your turn’s actions matter from the off. Do you risk the unknown and take the Despair deck at risk? Or wait for there to be loads and a guaranteed Dominance? Well… We tried both and it had varied results. What we loved about it is how much it emphasises the need for you to know the game. The better you can manipulate and change the outcomes of a Despair card draw, the greater your chances. With this though, there’s a real feel of it being an old school standoff – pistols at dawn and such. Draw too quick and your opponent will have more time to bolster their attack. Too late and you can risk the game. It’s tricky, tense, and a delicate balancing act, but is excellent fun!

Sins has a way of making you second guess yourself. The starting deck both players begins with contains no Weakness, meaning the cards have no value in the Despair deck. It makes it so you have to have built a deck, and how you build it will determine the pace of your win. You could plough in and buy as many cards as you can as quickly as you can. This will mean you’ve got minimal defence in a fight but they’re more likely to be in your deck. It means that you’ll also have more chance of adding them to the Despair deck. Or, you buy big, hit hard with the spicier abilities, and use a true tactician’s mentality to manipulate the deck so you can hit hard with less Despair. Both feasible methods, neither perfect. Which we think makes the game have a tonne of longevity. If it can be mastered, why play? It’s a matter of working with what you know of the cards, and when best to deploy specific abilities.

Sinful Sights?

The art of Sins is gorgeous. Thematically, it’s perfect and fits in well with the Sin it is associated to. You look at a card, see the elements, and can easily say “Yep, that’s greed!”. On top of that, the abilities are written in an easy to understand way that you can’t really interpret incorrectly. That said, they don’t give direction as to why you’d use them, and with good reason! This isn’t a game to have your hand held within, you need to build tactics to win. It’s exactly as a light deck builder should be – accessible, but impossible to master. Our only comment against the aesthetics is the adult theming. We get the theme within itself isn’t one that younger people would necessarily be exposed to, but for the quality of the game it’s a shame! The accessibility of this game argues its more adult artwork, and encourages newer players to play… but that’s more an ethical point than one against gameplay! It’s still a game we found incredibly fun and one that we thought looked stunning!

Final Thoughts

Sins is an easily accessed, light, but tactically deep deck builder. Despite the theme, the game is incredibly easy to understand and won’t scare new players away. The flow and pace are easily understood and the quality of one’s performance is put down to their choices, not the cards themselves. We really enjoyed Sins and found it to be more pleasant than hellish, despite theme! Definitely one to check out if you’re looking for your next deck-builder!

Late pledges end 1st April for the first trilogy boxes of Sins, and the next set will launch on Kickstarter sometime this Summer! We definitely recommend you check it out here!