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This review series is dedicated to reviewing games I’ve received from publishers in exchange for an unbiased review. I play each of these games multiple times before reviewing them. Subscribe to this Geeklist to be notified when I publish a review: Z10N X Reviews. Please Geekmail me if you're interested in having me review your game!



Introduction: As someone who has played both Coup and The Resistance over twenty times each (see my reviews here and here, respectively), I have a great deal of experience with Indie Boards & Cards’ social deduction lineup. I’ve also rated their games Dragon Slayer, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and Aeon's End: War Eternal highly. When I was asked to help playtest a new game from this company, it was almost a foregone conclusion I would like it. I expected something in the same vein as Coup and especially The Resistance, and though I was technically correct, I was surprised to find a game that utilized elements from Secret Hitler while also fixing many of the minor issues I had with The Resistance. Note: all images in this review are provided by the publisher.



How to Play: Please note that some details of this rules overview may be subject to change. Several rules were tweaked over the course of our playtesting experience, and I’m not sure if the changes are final or not. I’m not going to cover every single rule, but below is a solid summary:

Players are given a role card that provides a variable player power and a card that denotes their secret team affiliation. You can either be a Rescuer sent to recover refugees from an urban warzone or a Hunter trying to take out the Rescuers. The rescuers, who start with six cover tokens and five free distance, are trying to maintain a distance gap between them and the Hunters, keep at least one cover token, and survive seven rounds with more victory points than the Hunters. They win if they can do all those things. The Hunters are trying to either catch up with the Rescuers through distance, eliminate all the Rescuers’ cover tokens, or finish seven rounds with more victory points than the Rescuers. They win by doing any of these things.

Each round is broken into several phases. First, players secretly select how many of their 10 voting cubes they’ll use that round, and then they take turns assigning their selected voting tokens to elect a leader. Second, the leader selects a Tail End Charlie, which will become important later. Third, all players may submit a distance card to the Leader. The Leader gets to pick which cards to keep, in some circumstances, and there’s a randomization mechanism that typically eliminates one card submitted by a player and replaces it with a random card from the draw deck. Fourth, the Leader selects which distance card to play for the Rescuers. This card will move the Rescuers between 1 and 5 distance, add 0-3 victory points, and possibly eliminate a cover token for the Rescuers and/or cause the Leader to lose one health. Finally, the Tail End Charlie takes two cards at random from the top of the draw deck. S/he must play one of those two cards for the Hunters. This card will do all the same things as the Leaders’ cards did for the Rescuers, except the distance and victory points count for the Hunters. Additionally, if the card causes health loss, it’s the Tail End Charlie who loses health.



If any player dies (you only start with two health), that player’s team immediately loses. Otherwise, victory is determined by the win conditions listed two paragraphs above this one. The game will end after the seventh round if the Hunters can’t catch up to the Rescuers or cause them to lose cover. At that point, victory is determined by counting victory points.

What this game does well:
1. Variable player powers keep the game interesting. The variable player powers in Exodus make it a cut above games like The Resistance. Players might be able to buy the Tail End Charlie token, start with more voting cubes, pay one distance token to add a cover token, etc. Each game feels different because you can be on one of two teams and also play with one of a number of different powers. Some of these powers stack very well with your team affiliation and others don’t. The ones that don’t stack with your team will help you blend in when necessary, though.
2. Players’ deduction ability is highlighted. My Board Game Club students and I felt like this game utilized talking better than most social deduction games. In this more intimate setting (4-6 players), you have a sense of players’ allegiances at all times (though you’re often wrong), and it’s impossible to fly under the radar. If you make a suspect play, people will spot it immediately and call you out.
3. It’s really tense. In my ten plays so far, most of them came down to the very end--many to the last round, even. If you’re on the good guys’ side, you’re constantly worried about cover, distance, and victory points. When even one of those three slips, you get nervous. And the bad guys are constantly trying to look like they’re good. So much tension!
4. The game can end multiple ways. In ten plays, we experienced every different kind of ending multiple times. Throughout the playtesting process, the game became more and more balanced as the folks at Indie Boards and Cards adjusted the gameplay. While I still feel it’s a bit easier for the bad guys to win, that only adds to the feeling that the Rescuers have been betrayed. When you’re betrayed, the odds are rarely in your favor.

Potential issues with this game:
1. It’s slightly harder to teach to new players. When compared to The Resistance, there’s a lot more going on here. I firmly believe this is a good trait. However, the variable player powers and subtleties of the game make it a bit less friendly to non-gamers and light gamers, which is one area that Coup and The Resistance both excelled in.
2. Sometimes the card draws can back you into a corner. The Tail-End Charlie only has two cards to choose from, and 50% of the cards in the game will cause him/her to lose health or drop a cover token. Additionally, and this may have changed since the playtesting phase, there was no easy way to get rid of cards you didn’t want. I suggested a fix on this minor issue, and maybe it’ll be fixed. If not, it wasn’t a problem very often.


Rating:

The Bottom Line: If you like social deduction games and want a little bit more variability and depth, this is a game for you. Exodus’ tension and balance are two more features that will endear it to many players. In addition, it was refreshing for me to play a social deduction game that works well with a smaller player count, and this is one I can see hitting the table many times in the coming years. I only had two small issues with the game. First, because of its depth, Exodus has been a bit harder for me to teach to new players than Coup or The Resistance. But it’s easy enough to teach, and the added depth is more than worth the tradeoff. Second, the card draws in the game can sometimes back you into a corner. Neither of these issues is worth much consideration for me. This is simply a slam dunk social deduction game that utilizes conversation better than most games in the genre. Check it out this September when it’s released.
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Louise McCully
New Zealand
Auckland
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Re: Z10N X Reviews #21 - Exodus: Paris Nouveau: Martin Wallace's Coming Social Deduction Hit
When I playtested it ages ago it had a jungle theme. It's different but can still see the original elements.
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Louise McCully
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Re: Z10N X Reviews #21 - Exodus: Paris Nouveau: Martin Wallace's Coming Social Deduction Hit
I can't give an opinion on it because I'm rubbish at these types of games.
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