Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MK Review: Aeons End

MK Review: Aeons End


Hullo!

Welcome back from our little holiday break. We will be reviewing a game that has just started landing on Tabletops across the US and Canada, with international shipping in progress. Yet another game birthed through the crowd funding site known as Kickstarter, we welcome Aeons End by Action Phase Games to our list of games reviewed. It is set to be released this December, just in time for the Holidays! As an extra bonus, this is our first review of what they can't quite call a "Living Card Game" (LCG).

First we should probably define the term for those of you who are not familiar with the LCG style. It is a relatively new category that has been created and defined by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), so as they own the term, we will use the definition given on their site
 
"A Living Card Game® (LCG®) offers an innovative fixed distribution method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. While LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and constantly evolving game play that makes CCGs so much fun, they do away with the deterrent of the blind-buy purchase model that has burned out so many players. The end result is an innovative mix that gives you the best of both worlds!
The Core Set is the heart of a LCG. Each LCG’s Core Set is a completely self-contained game experience packed with content, including high-quality game pieces and immersive game aides designed to enhance play. Additionally, each Core Set contains multiple decks that provide an exciting and infinitely replayable game experience right out of the box."

 Aeons End Can not officially be called an LCG for the same reasons that Champagne is only Champagne if made in the traditional method, both using grapes from, and created in the Champagne region of France. Even if done in the exact same method, using cloned grapes to assure flavor profile perfection, it can not be called Champagne because the French will not allow it. Thus no game other than one owned, created and distributed by FFG can officially call their game an LCG. So Aeons End is a cooperative build-as-you-play deck building game!

The story and lore behind the game are quite intriguing. Mankind has been driven underground. The end of the world has already happened. Now we are not much more than vermin, scared hiding in our holes. There are some who have learned to wield the magic of the breech. Precious gems once used as currency and personal decoration are now infused with the power of the breech that unleashed hell upon our world. These "Breech Mages" are our last ...only line of defense.

The time for heroics is all but past. Choose your character and grab your tiny deck of starting cards. As the game progresses you use the gems to power up by purchasing spells, relics and more powerful gems in order to increase the size and potency of your deck. I find the mechanic to be highly unique in comparison to classic Tabletop games and not all too hard to learn. If you can count and read, you can play this game! I played the very first suggested scenario with four Breech Mages on a solo play. I do this often with new games to help learn the rules before bringing it to the Tabletop. It is always easier to get folks to play if someone at the table has an idea of how to play.

The first Big Bad? The Rageborn. Not much more than rabid beasts destroying everything in their path. Each Nemesis has their own small deck that also gets beefed up with the "basic" nemesis cards. Note in the bottom left corner where it reads "Rageborn", notating that these cards are only encountered when facing the Rageborn Nemesis. All other cards read either the nemesis it belongs to, or basic in the corner for easy separation at the end of the game.
Three types of cards can be found in the Nemesis deck. The Rageborn has a secondary deck called the "Strike Deck" that relates to his personal abilities. You will find "Minion" cards that are the beasts either trying to remove your throat, or attacking the poor city of Gravehold. There are "Power" cards that unleash devastating abilities on either you or your home. The last card type in the nemesis deck is the "Attack" card. This one will most often be direct damage to a specific target.
I will admit right here and now, that I lost my first game. I was so interested in increasing my gems and buying power that when the hits really started landing I was facing a full-health boss with half-health mages and much damage already spreading through the city. I should have been paying more attention to charging my powers and increasing my ability to do damage.

The cards you can buy come in three types as well. Relics will help you in many ways and take immediate effect once played. Spells can be "prepped" in your open breech spaces and initially do damage, some have fun secondary effects as well. Gems can be purchased in order to boost your buying power to get those high-powered spells and relics. I found out pretty quickly that having the correct balance of these in your deck can make a huge difference! Each Breech Mage has it's own power and it's own unique starter deck. The many different combinations of Mages, Relics, Spells and Gems mixed with the slew of Nemesis options leaves a very high replay value on the game. Even if you play the same mage, against the same Nemesis, using the same "market" of gems, relics and spells, you can not guarantee the same outcome.

The core game box comes with enough to keep you interested for a countless number of play-throughs. Six mages, four nemesis and plenty of options for scenarios. The box leaves more than enough room for growth. Although the Kickstarter version came with two expansions that barely made a dent in the boxes storage capacity making me wonder just how much more they plan to release for this game in the future.I do have a few minor annoyances with the game...
 The packaging as I mentioned leaves a ton of empty space in the box. Normally I am quick to say how awesome this is, but in this particular case I am more inclined to ask: why? The amazing art on the cards and Mage/Nemesis play boards is definitely solid quality. The boards they are on are nice, thick cardboard stock, so longevity is provided. The size of these boards does not seem to have been a factor in box creation. The boards, even placed at an angle inside the box do not allow enough room for the box to close. Instead they must be balanced on top of the three inch (too much dead space) wide cardboard divider in the middle of the box. The rules book is basic paper pamphlet material about an inch short of filling the square of the box and sags down whatever side the player boards do not support. It is just my opinion, but the packaging should be designed to store all the game pieces in an organized and least possibly damaging way. This is more like a big box they had on hand with a quick cheap divider placed inside.
The only complaint I would have about the game itself is again a personal preference. I am not too fond of overly complicated set-up or breakdown of a game. I like to open a box and play with minimum delay and when the game is over, I want to put it in the box and walk away. The game set up requires some building of different decks dependent on the different characters and Nemesis chosen, as well as many different options for the "Market" of cards to buy into your deck during game play. While each and every one of these factors increases the replay value, it also increases the set up time, and the time it takes to separate and return the cards into the box.

The Wrap Up
Overall I have to say I am extremely happy that this game has found its way onto my shelf. I know that it will get plenty of play. The game is a lot easier to learn than it looks, and I love the vast amount of material available to play with. Even with my own opinions on the packaging, and preferences in time taken outside of play, I would recommend this game for anyone! New gamers will not be overwhelmed with rules and old Tabletop Pros will be happy with its wealth of content. Beautiful artwork mixed with high quality production. Fun to play and easy to learn! Four Stars.

Until next time ...Game On!
-MK