This is my first attempt at a review, but this game seems deserving of some more BGG love, so I'll add my 2 cents to the forums and give it a go.
Brief How to Play Overview
In End of the Line you are a nuclear family: Dad, Mom, Boy, Girl and Dog. The world as you know it is gone and you need to survive. Society is gone, it's every family for themselves. All that remains of civilization is lines. LINES!?!?!
All your basic needs must be acquired by waiting in line for the proper resources (water, food, ammo and fuel) and there's also a black market for trading one good for two of another. So just place your family members in line and your all good right? Wrong. First in line gets 2 goods, everybody else gets 1 except the last person in line who gets nothing. Dogs get you nothing no matter where they stand.
Add to that that each line is able to get special rules for how they operate. You may not be able to keep your women there or all kids get killed. When the mutants come back, you'll look on those rules an relish them as the last shred of society you have left. Players also are able to play events on the lines messing with the line order or supplies and can play defense cards to mitigate things somewhat.
People collect their goods when the dust settles on a line and once all lines are completed, total up the body count and close lines if you have a multiple of the number of players in the casualties. Each round a new calamity will hit the remaining players.
Lose all your family members and you're out, have the last one remaining, and you win.
The game is of decent quality. The wooden family members are all a different cut and easily discernible. They are a little lighter quality wood, but don't seem like they'll suffer a lot of wear and tear. The cubes for the resources are of standard wooden cube quality and I can attest can end up in an infant and a dog's mouth and come out fine (don't ask). The cards are a little lighter card stock, but seem adequate. The line boards, player screens and box are all good quality; both a solid weight and durable. You also do not need to worry about any extras like pen and paper or finding alternatives for shortages of pieces. Everything you need is in the box.
The overall game play is really fun. There's a lot of take that, but you are kind of wielding a weapon that you don't know who you are pointing at at times. You have to pick events you want played on a line and place them in order prior to revealing them and can't swap them once they're played. So if you are second in line and have a kill the first player and somebody plays a card in front of you the removes the first player making you first, you may have just killed your own guy.
The laws on the lines make for some interesting plays too. I had a recent game where I had only my mom left and one line was kill all adults and the other was return all women before collecting. I was pretty much done at that point, but some interesting decisions get setup.
Overall, this game feels a lot like a quicker version of Dominant Species. You are fighting the game for survival while your opponents shape what crap you have to deal with. You don't win, you just survive (in a good way ). There's even the area control aspect by trying to establish your place in line. I'd classify it as medium-light, feeling more light to experienced gamers and a little more medium to newbies due to having some potential analysis paralysis pitfalls in selecting how many cards to acquire and which cards to play when.
The theme is pretty much ever-present. You're in line, bad stuff's coming and you are doing what you can to survive. Sometimes the cards even seem to line up perfectly to further drive home the point. We had a game where the mutants came and we had to toss a bunch of fuel and ammo their way only to have the next card be zombie mutants and then we had to do it all over again and once more at the end of the round for good measure. (They just kept coming ) You can pretty much think back at some of the more damaging calamities and events and semi-narrate the whole story.
The art is fairly minimalist. It is a series of icons that depict the events well. The best way to describe it would probably be stylized iconography. It really comes off clean and fits the game well.
The rules are fairly straight-forward. They go over setup, then the whole of a round, then break down the parts of the round into detail so you can find where you are quickly. The only hangup we were really having was that there's a check for line closing and victory in the first step and last on the round overview cards and in the rules, but nothing describing that check in the actual first step text. We played that you check, but are still only 95% sure that was right. Otherwise, the rules were fairly clear and easy to understand.
I will say I saw these guys playing this at Protospiel Minnesota and thought it looked pretty awesome there which led me to get a copy A) because I like to support smaller game designers being a hobby game designer myself and B)it looked like a solid game.
This game for me didn't disappoint. It's controlled chaos in a short enough time frame to fit a wide range of my gaming buddies. The rules were easy to grasp and easy to convey to the others who hadn't played and you get strategy down after a round (if you haven't blown a hole through your family by then). Overall we had some fun and were talking about what transpired even after the game was done.
You'll like this game if you like direct player interaction, worker placement, some pressing your luck and can handle 45-75 minutes of game play depending on your game group.
You might not like it if you are completely adverse to player elimination (although they do have a variant to try to alleviate that), hate not having total control over you piece of the play area, or are playing with super AP-prone players.
My recommendation is to give this game a shot, you might find something you really like. I'd give this an 8 out 10. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to seeing what else this group comes up with. Until then End of the Line earned a solid spot on the game shelf.
Thank you so much for the encouragement and the review! We'll do our best to continue making the best games we can.