Title: Sacred Rites
Designed By: Julia Koerwer, Jono Naito
Art By: Kristena Derrick
Published By: Story Machine Games
Player Count: 3-9
Time to Play: 30 Minutes
Meet Sacred Rites, the most adorable little game about being in a cult that you will ever find. Sacred Rites is a social deduction game for 3-9 players ages 13 and up that plays in about a half-hour. Players will need to bluff their way to the top if they hope to be victorious.
Take on the role of either a believer or an outsider and work to try to become the new Master of Ceremonies. Believers attempt to cast out the outsiders and outsiders attempt to blend in.
Getting set-up and learning to play Sacred Rites is quick and easy, with only one double-sided sheet for the rulebook.
Count the number of people playing, and grab that number of believer envelopes. These are the envelopes with a window in them.
Grab both of the outsider envelopes
Shuffle all of the envelopes together face down so you cannot tell if they are a believer or an outsider envelope.
Separate the blank rite cards from the deck and put them back in the box (these can be used to make your own rites in the future). Shuffle the remaining rites cards
Shuffle the tradition tiles and place them face down near-by.
Place the flower tokens within reach of all players (white flowers are 1 point and pink flowers are 5 points).
You are now ready to begin the ceremony!
How to Play:
There are three parts to each round of Sacred Rites. Rounds will continue until someone reaches 13 points, then that person becomes Master of Ceremonies and goes on to be the next cult leader.
Part 1: Initiation
Have each player take an envelope keeping it hidden from others. Have one player pick a rite card and slip it into their envelope and look at the envelope once the rite card is inside. If they are a believer they will be able to see what is on the card through the window of their envelope, if they are an outsider, the card will be blocked and will not be able to be read.
Have the player remove the card (without looking at it once it is out of the envelope in case they are an outsider) and pass the card to the next player. Continue this until everyone has had a chance to put the rite card in their envelope and look at their envelope.
Remove the rite card from the final player's envelope and put it in the center of the table face down.
Each player now selects one tradition tile a piece and views it secretly.
Part 2: Ritual:
In whatever order players want they each take turns showing their tradition tile and then sharing an aspect of the cult's ritual that matches the rite card they looked at before and the tradition that they randomly selected. Player's say the following statement: "The [tradition] of our Sacred Rite is...". The end of the sentence can be filled with a word, sound, motion, poem, song, or any other clue related to the rite card that would help other believers know they are part of the cult. An example of the sacred rite of flowers with the tradition tile of smell might be "The smell of our sacred rite is pollen."
If a player had an outsider envelope, their goal is to create a statement of the tradition that they selected that makes people believe they are not actually an outsider. As players can make their statement in whatever order they choose outsiders can wait to go until others have gone and make guesses off of what they have heard, or they can confidently go first and hope that their strong beliefs will win others over.
After each player makes their statement all other players should repeat it back in unison. (Funny note: when we first learned to play this game, we thought at the end of the round all players were supposed to repeat their own statement at the same time. It made for a really funny accident as a whole bunch of ridiculous phrases happened at once. We recommend trying it the wrong way once for laughs.)
Part 3: Scoring:
After the last person completes their ritual, without discussion all players count to three and then point toward who they think the outsider(s) is. As it is possible for 0-2 people to be outsiders, players point up if they think no one is an outsider, or point at up to 2 other players.
Players then reveal their roles. Anyone who guessed correctly about the nature of the outsiders (or lack of outsiders) gets 2 points. Any player who was not pointed at by anyone gets a point. Then all outsiders get a chance to guess what the rite card said. If they guess correctly they get two points.
If a player gets to 13 points they win! If not another round begins and players go through the initiation, ritual, and scoring again.
As fans of games like Werewolf and Coup, we were instantly intrigued by Sacred Rites. It is one of the first social deduction games that we have seen where the color scheme is light and bright instead of on the darker side. When we opened the box we were blown away by the quality of the components. The extra touches such as the screen printing on the scoring flower tokens, the embroidery on the bag, and the wooden tradition tiles gave Sacred Rites a very polished high-end looking finish.
We appreciated that the rules are short and simple, making getting started playing Sacred Rites super easy!
Regarding gameplay, one aspect of Sacred Rites that we particularly enjoyed is that sometimes there are no outsiders, sometimes there is 1, and sometimes there are two. Unlike in werewolf or other games where players are essentially on teams of good guys and bad guys, in Sacred Rites, each round offers players a chance to have a potentially different role. The fact that scoring is based on how well you can guess other's roles and convince your fellow players that you belong is impacted in a neat way by this. Some rounds there won't actually be any outsiders so it is like looking for a wolf in a field of sheep, where everyone is actually a sheep. This mechanic makes you have to pay attention to all the other players, not to just try and get them out, but to see if anyone really does belong on the outside.
We also like that you can score points in two different ways (not including guessing the rite correctly if you are an outsider) as they can play to the strengths of two different kinds of gamers. Players who are good at bluffing may score points by frequently convincing others to not vote for them. Since if a player receives no votes, they score a point, this can be one good strategy. For players who may not be so good at bluffing, they can work to score points by being good at using their detective skills to uncover the real outsiders. We appreciate that this is a game that gamers with different gaming skills can both excel in.
The gameplay itself is a blast. We had a wonderful time trying to create rituals for the very varied different rites. Originally we stuck to just words, but as we branched out to more elaborate bizarre clues Sacred Rites got to be even more fun. Try doing a round with just hand motions for clues, trust us, you will laugh.
So in conclusion, if you are looking for a game that your friends will want to play religiously come join our cult and play Sacred Rites!
Pudgy Cat Games makes no profit off reviews. Should you wish to purchase Sacred Rites, you can help support us by purchasing the game through our Amazon Affiliate Link below. It will cost you nothing extra, but will help support our site! More information can be found on the Story Machine Games' website.