Sleeping Gods – Playing with Five Players

According to BoardGameGeek 97.1% of people don’t recommend Sleeping Gods for more than four people. But I am here to tell those people… that… that they may not be entirely right, because I have played it as five players, and it actually works quite well.

The main reason why I believe that Sleeping Gods still works at five players is that almost all decisions in the game are done together. Very rarely are you left with decisions that can’t be discussed amongst the group.

Because of this shared group decision space, I have found four different options (modes) for how such a variant could be done… and the first two modes don’t even require you to change any of the rules.

  1. Cerberus Mode: Two people play as one.
  2. Facilitator Mode: One person acts as Storyteller and/or Gamemaster.
  3. Equal Mode: Divide the characters as evenly as possible.
  4. Asymmetry Mode: One person plays as Captain Sofi Odessa.

Cerberus Mode

Much like the Greek myth of Cerberus, the multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld, this simple mode requires two people to share a single player position (the Cerberus Player), thus mimicking the setup of playing Sleeping Gods as four players.

The two people playing as the Cerberus Player could either decide to divide their shared components, getting one character and half of the Ability Cards each, or (the simple solution) they could just share everything and discuss amongst themselves what Ability Cards to equip.

Facilitator Mode

In this mode one player will act as Storyteller/Facilitator/Gamemaster. And I do recognize that this solution definitely isn’t for everyone, but it works nonetheless, and in fact it’s what my gaming group does when playing Sleeping Gods.

Four players will play according to the four player setup of Sleeping Gods, while one player (the Facilitator Player) will be in charge of reading from the Story Book as well as keeping track of gained cards. If your group likes to take notes during the game (which Sleeping Gods sometimes will require if you want to remember where to go), the Facilitator Player can also be doing that.

It may seem like this Facilitator Player isn’t actually playing the game, but the only part of Sleeping Gods that they actually miss out on is not having a hand of Ability Cards and thus not being able to decide on whether to equip characters with Abilities, but that’s about it. Everything else in the game is preferably done with agreement from the other players.

I have tried both being the Facilitator Player and a player, and there really isn’t that much of a difference.

If you want to add a bit more of a Gamemaster role to the Facilitator Player, you could have them be in charge of orienting the enemies at the beginning of combat. Normally, you shuffle the Enemy Cards to randomize what enemies are next to each other, but the Facilitator Player could be allowed to be either good or evil by setting up the combat to either make it easier or harder for the players to win the combat. If the Facilitator Player is really good, they could even set it up to facilitate (hey, that’s the name of the player!) cool moments based on the characters’ Abilities.

Equal Mode

This is the first of the four modes that actively requires you to change the rules of the game to work.

In the Equal Mode you quite simply divide the available characters as evenly as possible. Sleeping Gods has eight characters (plus Captain Sofi Odessa) that could be divided to where two players control one character each and three players control two characters.

This has the advantage of giving every player the same amount of agency in the game, however it also has some problems.

The obvious problem here seems to be command tokens, or rather the lack thereof. The game comes with 14 command tokens and if that has to be shared between five players, you will very quickly run out. Now, that’s not necessarily a problem – it just encourages you to actually use your tokens more often, but if you use your tokens you won’t be able to participate in challenges on other players turns, meaning a longer wait before your turn.

Again, it’s worth mentioning that Sleeping Gods is just as fun of a game when it’s someone else’s turn as it is when it’s your turn, so waiting for your turn really isn’t a problem.

Asymmetry Mode

This mode is kind of similar to the Equal Mode in that the fifth player will get to have an actual turn, but instead of dividing the eight characters as evenly as possible, four players will control two characters each (as normal) while the fifth player (the Asymmetric Player) will control Captain Sofi Odessa.

Under normal rules the control of Captain Sofi Odessa follows the current player in a way that means that both everyone and no one controls her.

Captain Sofi Odessa has the advantage of being generally stronger than the other characters (she has one of each skill by default, whereas other characters lack certain skills). This means that the Asymmetric Player wouldn’t be weaker than the other players by only controlling one character as opposed to two.

A potential problem is that this mode would probably make the game harder. Sleeping Gods is balanced around the idea that everyone will have access to Captain Sofi Odessa’s skills during their turn, meaning they won’t be forced to do a skill challenge without being able to boost it by having a character with that skill.

By giving full control of Captain Sofi Odessa to one player, you would likely fail more challenges, unless you do something clever such as giving the Asymmetric Player more command tokens than the other players to allow Captain Sofi Odessa to participate in more challenges. Of course, this has all the same caveats as the Equal Mode about command tokens being very limited.

But it could be very fun.

In conclusion

Sleeping Gods is definitely playable at five players. Don’t let the player count on the box discourage you from playing this wonderful game!

At least, I have presented four modes that all make it possible to play Sleeping Gods and still get the same enjoyment out of the game.

And that’s it. Is there another mode that I have left out? How have you handled playing board games (either Sleeping Gods or others) with more than the official player count? I would love to know!

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