If you’re reading this, you’ve probably come to the realization that Deliverance isn’t an easy game.
As the creator of the game, I have players exclaim their surprise at how difficult this Christian game can be — after all, aren’t the good guys always supposed to win?!
Rather than debate the philosophical question, let’s boost your angelic prowess! Level up your Deliverance skills with these 5 tactical tips:
1) Movement Efficiency
Movement is extremely important to your angel’s survival in Deliverance. Moving to the right space can make all the difference on its own! Here are some considerations when planning your movement (Remember, try to accomplish at least two of these with your moves!):
- Can you move out of range of a demon so that even after its movement, you can avoid its damage?
- Are you moving close enough to your allies that a demon can damage you both?
- Can you move to a space that allows you to do everything you wanted without having to spend an action to move again?
- Does your movement protect a saint, or get you adjacent to a contested saint (for future protection)?
- Should you do anything first before moving?
- Are you moving to a space that will allow you to do something meaningful next round before you move again?
- Is this movement a “free action” or does it cost an action?
Sometimes, a player might think there is no difference between moving to one space or another, when in actuality, one space is safe and the other represents taking a ton of damage! There is more to consider, but these things will really help you on their own, which is why this is tip #1!
2) Damage Efficiency
You can only beat Deliverance by dealing damage to foes, but how efficiently you deal that damage can spell the difference between an easy win and a nail-biting defeat.
When dealing damage, there is always a trade-off. In most cases, the resources are the trade-off (an action token and/or your limited Courage tokens). You want to gain as much as you can for those resources. The more you accomplish with the same resources, the greater your efficiency!
Here are some considerations you should make when spending actions or other resources to deal damage:
- Does this cause a demon to be defeated?
- Can I damage multiple targets with this action?
- Do I gain resources, boons, or bonuses (Courage, shield, etc) with this action?
- Can I use the action to move to a better position?
- Can I use a more efficient action to deal with this target?
- Does the damage I deal bring the demon closer to defeat?
- Can I protect a contested saint by defeating this demon?
- Should I heal myself instead?
- Is there a Darkness Card that I should deal with instead?
- Can I do the same thing with a “free action” instead?
Let’s use an example. Christine’s Lightning Stab costs 1 Courage, and deals 3 damage (this is without considering bonus stats or other effects). It can deal damage to up to 2 targets in a single action.
Whenever you use this skill, you should almost always be dealing damage to 2 targets. If you’re only dealing damage to a single demon, you’re not being as efficient as you could be! There are exceptions to the rule, though — if you need the damage (or range) of Lightning Stab to deal that last bit of damage to a low health demon, then do it (because you’re doing more than one thing when you gain XP, prevent future damage, etc)!
Now, in the same example, let’s say Christine has one action remaining, and the only nearby demon is an Abomination at full health (13 HP). Using a Lightning Stab is most often a mistake. It’s a bit of a waste to spend the Courage to deal 1 extra point of damage, when you could instead simultaneously gain Courage and deal 2 damage with Clash instead (Clash is her courage-building attack). You may also find a better use for the remaining action entirely if you take some time to consider your options!
In the end, defeating demons is most often how you win the game (Some Campaign missions have different victory conditions). This should be your primary goal when dealing damage. With that in mind, aim to gain as many of these other benefits as possible while accomplishing that goal!
3) Prayer is Powerful!
Prayer is the angel’s answer to the Darkness, and neglecting it is likely to spell doom for your team. You use it to cast down Darkness cards, but relying on it as a reactionary tool against the Darkness is not the best way to use your angel’s Pray action.
The best angelic warriors are proactive in their prayer! Prayer cards give you “answers” to unknown terrors that await inside the Darkness deck, or twisted tactics that the demons might throw at you. The most valuable elements of the Pray action are the resources you gain (1 Courage and a Prayer card). The successful test is the *bonus* and not the only reason to use it.
You might be asking yourself, “Why isn’t the primary reason to pray the chance to cast down the Darkness?” I’m not trying to tell you it’s a bad thing — getting rid of a dangerous Darkness card at the right time might matter a lot! But you really need to view your Prayer cards as critical to combat the unknowns of the game, regardless of your successes.
Prayer cards are how you maintain “player agency” over the random elements of Deliverance, meaning that you can actually begin to exercise control over the randomness in the game. Miss a critical dice roll? Thankfully you drew that +3 to tests a few rounds earlier! Are you going to be drowned by Darkness next round? End the battle now with the aid of your 7 damage Prayer card! Concerned demons might overwhelm your team? Grant each angel 3 shield and survive the onslaught with ease!
While you cannot control which cards you draw, you *can* use the cards you draw to press your advantage! Drawing a healing card allows you to stay on the offense longer. Drawing damage allows you to efficiently use your actions to dispatch an extra foe. And because Deliverance is a fully cooperative game, you are free to talk about how to best use them with your team!
Great Deliverance players will use Prayer cards to earn amazing results and survive seemingly impossible scenarios! And if you’re ever “on the fence” about whether to use a Pray action or do something else at a critical time, you may read the top Prayer card’s flavor text before you decide. The flavor text always relates to the card’s effect.
4) The “Snowball” Effect
The “Snowball” effect is where a great set of moves put you in an even better position in the future. The idea of “snowballing” is a critical concept of Deliverance, especially if you want to find victory in the higher difficulty levels or in difficult Campaign missions!
The first concept you must be aware of is that the game can (and will) snowball out of your control, too! You can learn to recognize this and counter with great tactics of your own.
- The Darkness Track
The Darkness is ever encroaching, and you cannot stop it. Many times players are defeated, they have focused far too often on the battle against the demons and neglected this Darkness until it was too late. While the info above from Tip #3 will help quite a bit, there is more you should know if you want to take your skill to the next level.
As you likely know already, Darkness cards first enter play face-down. Once enough cards enter play, they turn face-up and activate, and eventually, all of the angels start taking significant damage through excess Darkness. If you have to discard excess Darkness, your adversary is snowballing against you. However, there is a hidden catch-up mechanism that angels can take advantage of against the Darkness!
If you prioritize casting down face-up Darkness cards, you’re effectively casting down 2 face-down cards. Therefore, it is wise to focus on casting down the face-up cards! In addition, some of the Darkness effects (especially the ongoing effects that cause damage or reduce courage generation) can be pretty nasty — be sure to prioritize removing them as soon as they arise! Each angel being dealt 1 damage or having 1 courage reduced per round doesn’t sound like much… until you have allowed that card to sit on the board for 4 rounds!
Finally, if you want to reduce the effectiveness of Darkness against you, protect those saints!
- The Battlefield
Preventing the snowball of your enemies on the battlefield boils down to one simple phrase: reducing the damage you take from enemies. How to put that into practice is not so simple!
Smart movement, as described in tip #1, will help a lot with this. If you don’t wanna get smacked with a Fallen Seraph’s sword or turned into a pincushion by a bunch of Cruel Archer arrows, as a famous and effective battlefield warrior once put it, “No be there!”
However, you cannot dodge enemies forever! The demons will eventually chase you down, and if they don’t get you, the Darkness sure will! You cannot afford to waste time (or those precious actions) avoiding the conflict.
So what do you do instead? Demons can’t deal any damage if they’re locked in the Abyss! Attack them early and often. If you destroy one demon before they get a chance to act, that represents damage you will no longer receive. Even destroying one demon *before* they get a chance to act will begin the snowball effect for your team!
In Skirmish mode, destroying demons is how you level up. Leveling up on the first round is a powerful way to snowball your team toward success early through unlocking powerful skills and increased stats. It’s a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to gain enough XP to level up, especially on higher difficulties, but if you work with your team to protect saints and destroy demons to get that critical XP, the rewards are great!
You can also use many of these same methods to “snowball” your way to success in the Campaign (especially the difficult Campaign Challenges). Turn a little snowball advantage into an avalanche of Deliverance success!
5) Difficulty Levels
Your first experience with Deliverance should fit your level of comfort with tactical adventure games. You might be an experienced gamer, or this might be your first foray into cooperative games. Either way, Deliverance has a difficulty level suited to you.
Why is this included as tip #5 in this list? You might be a glutton for punishment, but even veterans of these sorts of games need to refine their strategy and tactics before they attempt high difficulty levels. There is no shame in warming up with a game or few before seeking out worthy foes.
If you’re reading this, I’m generally assuming you’ve played a few games. However, if you’re reading this for the first time, I have recommendations for you, too! As the creator, I would advise you to begin with the Deliverance Campaign.
If you’re inexperienced, start with Mission 1 (the Tutorial), and play through the first 4 missions! By Mission 4, you’re going to know your way around the game.
If you’re experienced, start with Mission 2 of the Campaign, OR jump immediately into a Skirmish game at Adventure difficulty. If that feels too easy, ramp the difficulty to Heroic or Nightmare difficulty for your second game and get ready for a challenge.
With near-perfect play, Deliverance is possible to win through Nightmare difficulty. Abyssal and above might be one of the most challenging games you ever play, but if you work together as a team with near-perfect play, you can still win.
Once you are comfortable with the rules, challenge yourself!
BONUS: Tiebreaker Mechanics!
In Deliverance, the players have a lot of control over the game through tiebreakers. When a demon skill, Darkness card, or other effect has more than one valid target, players get to decide!
You can use this to your advantage to guard your low-health allies from further harm, or you can use this to ease the burden of otherwise painful effects!
The simplest example is the demon target tiebreaker. If an Abomination used Smash, he is going to move toward an angel and deal a big chunk of damage to every nearby angel. His skill says “Move toward the nearest angel…” — If both angels in the game are an equal number of spaces away, then players can choose which target receives the damage (I call this “taunting” the demon). If one angel has very low health, the ideal target is obviously the angel with higher health! However, if each angel was at a similar health value, there are other considerations to make. For example, you might position the abomination in a way that protects a saint, or brings the monster to the place you plan to make your stand, or toward an angel that will have a hard time getting into the fight otherwise…
Another interesting tiebreaker frequently arises in resolving Darkness cards. Players often resolve Darkness cards (with the “activate” icon, aka the “Lightning Bolt” icon) in order from left to right, but you are not required to do so. In fact, it might be to your advantage to resolve them out of order! Because they are limited to a maximum of 5 cards on the Darkness Board at a time, it’s very easy to do without forgetting which cards remain that still need to activate. You might have one card that adds an affliction to each angel (aka, a negative status effect), and another that deals a significant amount of damage based on the number of afflictions on each angel. It makes sense to resolve the damage dealing card first, and then the affliction-adding card next, and you can do this regardless of their card order!
Consider wisely your tiebreakers, angelic warrior! A smart command over tiebreakers might be the thing that makes an otherwise impossible scenario beatable!
What Are Your Thoughts?
If you still feel crushed by the Forces of Darkness, or if you have advice that made a big difference to your personal win rate and gameplay, we would love to hear it! Head over to our Discord Server, Facebook Group, or BoardGameGeek Forums and share with our community today!