Light novel fans may already be aware of author Kei Sazane, thanks to their popular series Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World which received an anime adaptation in 2020 and is due to receive a second season next year. Today I’m here to take a look at Volume 1 of Gods’ Games We Play, another ongoing series from the author, with an anime adaptation scheduled for next year. Does it impress? Let’s find out!
The story is set in a world where the gods grew bored and invited humans to compete with them in the Gods’ Games. To help them compete with the gods, humans are granted an Arise which manifests as a super-human ability or magical power of some kind. Those with an Arise are then known as Apostles and they are allowed to challenge the Gods’ Games in a bid to achieve ten victories and be granted a Celebration (rumoured to result in getting a wish granted). However, this is more difficult than it sounds because if you lose three games, you’re banned from ever being able to play in the Gods’ Games again. So far in history, the most an Apostle has achieved is eight wins, so there’s still a long way to go before anyone reaches the milestone!
But if anyone can do it, maybe our protagonist Fay Theo Philus can. He’s a celebrated rookie who so far has three straight wins in the Gods’ Games and has an ability that makes him immortal. He’s been away from his home in Ruin the Sacrament City for six months, but upon his return, he’s notified that he’s being paired with god-turned-human Dragon God Leoleshea (nicknamed Leshea) who has been asleep in a block of ice for three thousand years! Upon being discovered and awakened, she requests to meet the best Apostle of this era, who just so happens to be Fay…
As she’s a former god, the higher-ups want Fay to spy on Leshea and keep her under control but more than that, they genuinely think she will be the perfect teammate for him. Fay loves nothing more than playing games and while most Apostles fear losing and having their careers ended too early, Fay relishes the challenge that playing with the gods brings. He’s struggled to find teammates who feel as passionately as he does, which is one of the reasons he’s still a free agent. Luckily for Fay, Leshea also adores playing games and can’t wait to start playing with him. When they first meet, they spend almost 24 hours playing board and card games with one another! Perhaps together they will be the team that makes it to those ten wins…
Reading Gods’ Games We Play, it’s difficult not to be reminded of No Game, No Life or Liar Liar due to the similar premise of playing games against others in a more fantastical setting with something at stake. But while similar, this one does differentiate itself from those other series with the unique spin that humanity is playing against gods who have come up with often tricky rulesets to confuse those who challenge them. Discovering the hidden rules and the win conditions for a given game is all a part of the fun and that adds a deep psychological element to it, where players have to be smart enough to figure all this out on the fly while also being physically capable of putting a plan into action once they know how to win.
Credit here to author Kei Sazane, as watching Fay and Leshea take part in the Gods’ Games is interesting enough in its own right, but Sazane also makes sure to drop enough hints so that the readers can figure out the rules of the game alongside the cast. It has all the hallmarks of a mystery series in that regard, even if it’s not the main theme. And just like Sazane’s other works, Gods’ Games We Play has a likeable cast of characters that you’ll find yourself rooting for. Fay and Leshea are both well-developed in this first book; they’re driven by a love of games but they also have wishes they want granted, should they manage ten wins. Leshea wants to return to being a god and Fay wants to find the person who taught him how to play games as a child. Leshea is often impulsive, but her personality contrasts well with Fay who’s a bit more laid-back. As a pair, they remind me of the main characters of Our Last Crusade, where they might bicker and tease one another, but there’s a strong bond there and you’re left wanting to watch over them.
More than anything else, this series is simply fun in a way that’s quite different to a lot of the other new series making their English debuts right now. It’s a fantasy, sure, but it’s not an isekai and there’s no great evil to overcome. It’s about competition, sportsmanship and having fun playing games. This is much more light-hearted than many of the titles I’ve been reading lately, which I appreciate.
Gods’ Games We Play Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Kevin Steinbach. The translation reads well with no issues to note and I especially like how Kevin has handled the banter between Fay and Leshea; the dialogue flows well and is entertaining! The book opens with colour pages by illustrator Toiro Tomose and while a lot of the images throughout the book are of the female cast in sexy poses, there is a two-page spread showing off our main cast which I always enjoy when starting a new series.
In Japan Gods’ Games We Play is ongoing with seven volumes currently available. In English Yen Press released Volume 2 in June, but there are no further volumes scheduled at present. I imagine once the anime begins airing, we’ll quickly see it return though! In Japan, there is also a manga adaptation of the series, but this is currently unlicensed for English (although again I imagine that will change soon).
Overall, Gods’ Games We Play Volume 1 gets off to an entertaining start as we’re presented with a novel that shares similarities with several other series in this emerging ‘competitive games’ genre but manages to differentiate itself effectively. Those familiar with Kei Sazane’s other work will undoubtedly want to pick this up, as will those who are looking for something different from the constant onslaught of isekai stories.
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.