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Subject: It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.... rss

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steven riola

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There’s a plethora of board games that tackle the end of the world, post apocalyptic conditions seem to run rampant when it comes to cardboard and plastic. Publishers attempt to build and secure their theme through all sorts of measures, detailed story books that provide narrative, mounds and mounds of plastic to fill your table, all in an attempt to provide you with a solid storytelling experience and to immerse you in the game. Collectors have shelves full of games that they purchase to fill that itch, to provide a great narrative for an end time story.

Kickstarter is the platform for so many of these games. To be honest, it’s an oversaturated market, and I try to stay on top of what hits the site and make sure to grab ‘the next big thing’. So it was a surprise to me that not only did I miss a game with great theme, but that is able to provide a incredible story with only 394 cards and 38 tiles.
Maximum Apocalypse is said game. I was first intrigued by MA when I saw it at an online retailer, the art on the cover was the instant draw. Dark, Bleak and a simple logo dead center. That’s really all it take sometimes to draw me in, interesting name and good art. So, like many of you, off to BGG I do for research. Ten minutes later, after a message to my FLGS, I would have a copy the next day.

Can you stop rambling and get to the game? Sure...Let’s do this. Maximum Apocalypse is, for the most part a scenario driven card game. Each game you have the option to pick one of several “Apocalypse” scenarios, there’s 12 in the base game and you can pick up one additional Kaiju Scenario in the expansion. Each game you are going to take a stack of tiles dictated by the Scenario card and give them a good shuffle, and lay them out in any fashion you want. This simple mechanic for set up alone offers an extreme amount of variance for each scenario. In addition, the rulebook says that you can add additional tiles to the layout to increase the difficulty.

When starting out, you should probably follow the Enemy suggestion on the bottom of each Scenario card, and as you’re more comfortable with the game you can mix it up and swap any of the 4 included enemy decks. You’ve set up the Map tiles, when you’re done you’ll grab your van tile and set it on one of the outer edges, where ever you want. You’ll additional have to set up three separate scavenge decks. Each Scenario card will tell you how to set up the three Scavenge decks, there are Red, Green and Blue decks. Once each deck is assembled you’ll place them on the Scavenge board next to the game area. You’re almost ready to head into the Apocalypse.

Variability is the key to Maximum Apocalypse. Now that your Scavenge decks are assembled, the map is built, you have to pick one of the available characters. In the base box you have 6 “heroes’ to choose from, and if you pick up the previous mentioned Kaiju expansion, you’ll get to additional characters to choose from. Each character deck is roughly 30 cards, you’ll have a card giving you the information for your hero detailing their health and and stealth. Shuffle your personal deck and let’s take this beast head on.

Set up is fast, it’s really fast, you won’t be taking much more than 10 minutes to get up a 2-4 player game. It’s just as easy to throw it all back in the box as well. Now that we’re ready, each player draws 4 cards and the game begins. I’m not going to cover in heavy detail, but we’ll breeze through them.

You’ll Spawn Monsters to start. Each tile in the game has a number assigned to it. Take 2D6 and give them a roll, if any tiles match this number, spawn some baddies on the tile. If you’re on the tile, the monster will spawn in front of you. Easy enough right? This is part of Maximum Apocalypse’s charm and thematic detail. We’ve all watched a Zombie film, or ‘The Walking Dead’, or a Romero film right? When it’s time for the world to end, you never know where these atrocities are going to come from, additionally the longer you take to accomplish the Scenario, the higher the chances are that you’ll be surrounded by baddies all over the place. You have to be quick and efficient to get the job done.

Time to draw from your deck and take your actions. You’ll have a limited numbers of cards in your deck, some characters have more, others quite a few less (I’m looking at you Scientist). If you can’t draw a card from your deck you’re dead. You’ve exhausted all of your options and resources and won’t be able to survive the apocalypse. From your hand of cards, you can play an instant card, you can equip a card as long as you honor the equipment limit. Equipping a card can often lead to a tough decision. Survivors can only have so many things that they carry with them. Very often in scenarios you’ll need to deliver Fuel to the van to get out of there, but a Fuel can takes up a slot in your inventory. You may be out scavenging with your hands full when you discover one of the desperately needed Fuel Containers. When you draw a Fuel Container you have two options, to discard it or equip it, then and there. You can’t come back for it, you know the kind of crazies that are roaming the area? So what do you do? Do you drop the fire axe that you’re carrying to grab the fuel? What if one of those things is right around the corner? It’s another simple, but brilliant thematic mechanic that plays towards Maximum Apocalypse’s advantage.

Survivors can move one space, encountering any ‘Enter’ actions on the tile they just moved to, or if it was an undiscovered tile, there is usually a “Reveal’ action they must take. This is a hit or a miss gamble, sometimes you win the lottery and get a free scavenge action, sometimes you stumble onto a Bandits Den and have to drop an equipped card or lose some health. There are ways to mitigate this build into every Survivors deck as well, but often you’ll want to get out and discover things because those free Scavenge actions are worth it.

So, you keep mentioning Scavenge actions...Oh yea, sorry about that. Many of the different tiles will have either a Red, Green or Blue symbol in the corner. When you’re on a space you can take a Scavenge action to draw a card from the matching Scavenge deck. Who knows what you’ll find, but you’re desperate, hungry and you’ll grab just about anything at this point, just watch out for those awesome ‘Ambush’ cards that are mixed in. You also have a couple of free actions you can take once per turn, but those are vital to the talking about the game.

It’s an Apocalypse Survival game...You knew this was coming…. Once your actions have been completed you’ll have to increase your hunger. It’s tough out there, not only are you dealing with Zombies, Mutants, Robots and Aliens, but your stomach is pissed and really wants that twinkie you’ve been craving. You have to manage your hunger throughout the game by Scavenging and trying to find food sources. If your hunger ever hits 6 (on a 1D6) you’re going to flip your character card and lose your innate ability, a player specific action. Once all that’s done, the trouble starts!!!

Time to take Damage, any monster that’s in front of you that you haven’t dealt with, and my deal with I mean slaughter, will deal you damage. But...But...I ran from the Hospital to the tunnels this turn, yep, and these persistent bastards are right with you the whole time. Once they’ve chosen you, they’re your problem. You have have ways to pass them off, but usually they’re there with you until the end, yours or theirs they don’t care. That’s really it...Spawn Monsters, take actions, increase hunger, take damage, rinse and repeat.

So why does it work so well? Theme without forced narrative. You’re one of a handful of survivors out after an apocalypse. You don’t have a lot to work with, you have to be smart, you have to address threats in a smart and efficient manner and you have to balance your own life with that of the group. While many games with preset Scenarios can become stale and repetitive, the variable tile set up, the randomness of the shuffle and draw in the Scavenge piles and your card draw keep this interesting. Stop it, don’t say it...There you go...you hate randomness in games, I get it but there’s some good news. Battles aren’t determined by dice!! The randomness of the Scavenge deck thematically works. You’re never going to run into a Gas Station at the brink of a Nuclear Fallout and find exactly what you’re looking for! The only real randomness is the Spawning of the monsters, and where they’ll appear, and well that’s how the cookie crumbles. Mutant rats aren’t the most predictable animals are they? If you actually know the answer to this, I bet we could sit down and have some awesome conversations.

Maximum Apocalypse delivers a rich, survival horror game in about 45-90 minutes including tear down and set up. I’ve played the intro scenarios multiple times with different tile arrangements and monster decks to see how repetitive it feels and never once was I bored with it. As the game stands, the first few missions will probably feel too easy, but there are ways included to increase the difficulty. I was breezing through the scenarios until I hit Defuse the Bomb (number 5) and it was a brutal massacre of our lovely survivors. Characters all feel very different and to play efficiently you’ll need to spend some time with their decks and really figure out how to best utilize their abilities. That being said, I have no desire to min/max the decks and try to figure out the best combos, I shuffle them and deal with what I have, after all it’s the end of the world right? All the best plans could go belly up as fast as you can make them.
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v b
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Well done review! Only recommendation is to include some pics next time. :)
 
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Björn Harzer
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thearkhammonk wrote:
... When you draw a Fuel Container you have two options, to discard it or equip it, then and there...


Hi,
not sure if this is right (or I have been playing it wrong). When you draw from the scavenge deck you add it to your hand. If you are going above the hand limit, you have to discard one from your hand. But you can choose to equip fuel later on.
Good review though
Bj
 
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steven riola

joliet
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Text on the card takes precedent. I’m pretty sure it says you need to equip it or discard it when drawn.
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Balazs Szendroi
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Yes, fuel must be equipped right away. Otherwise you could just stay at the gas station if you don't have any enemy on you and do 4 scavenge actions every turn (except the 1 usual ambush per deck), to get all the gas cans and get back to the van safe. Since you have to equip them, if you scavenge too much, you won't be able to defend yourself, so it kind of balances out. I still think it is too strong, that you can scavenge 4 times a turn with your teammates, and get through a deck quite quickly.

Really great game otherwise, it's the first big surprise for me this year. I saw it on the shelf of our local game store aswell, I totally missed the kickstarter of the game.
 
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