We have been hiding for too long. We have been trying to survive for too long. The shadows were our friends, but not anymore. We want to see every corridor, every underground hall. The place that has become our home and which we hate from deep of our heart has provided not only shelter but also a place for practice. We made our own weapon from rifts, that threatened us. It’s time to use it and find a way for a better life!
Post-apocalyptic dark world was prepared by Kevin Riley for all tables in his new game Aeon’s End. Latest news is, that second edition of this game was published by Action Phase Games (Dreamwell) and India Boards & Cards. First version was released in 2016 via the Kickstarter campaign, but we got this box on our table thanks to European distribution of Esdevium Games. A complete set of illustrations was handled by Gong Studios.
On the big box lid, we find a monster emerging from one breach. The way is double-sided, and the cracks bring a great risk. Inside the package, player will explore through a good set of cards. At the head of the adventure there are eight heroes from which each player can choose his one representation at the beginning of the game. For their character, they also receive a starting number of ten hearts, one order token and a set of cards prescribed for his hero (prepared in set order into drawing deck). Everyone also gets their set of square cards (breaches), that have to be rotated according to the icons on the hero card – some will be open at start, others closed, but even their rotation matters.
In the middle of the table things start to happen. First of all, there will be a stronghold life indicator that bears name Gravehold. On a pair of rotating pointers, player sets a starting value of thirty. Then cards start to fly. First, player creates order deck, in which they add their character cards (more if there are fewer players) and shuffle them with two nemesis cards.
There are also another cards in the box, in larger numbers of each type. There is more than 300 cards in play. And players will draw (or choose) a set of three gems, four spells and two relics. Nine card types create a square and purchasing offer. Individual cards have a value in their top right corner, that has to be paid during purchase action and at the bottom, there is a text-based ability of the card. So while played cards with gems add money to players pocket in his turn, relics are played instantly for effect, and spells are the main way of the attack (using breaches).
Then other side of the battle, nemesis deck, is last thing to get ready for playing. Players must first select one of the four nemesis to fight. Each has its starting level of life, that players set on the second two-wheeled display. Afterwards, they build nemesis deck consisting of nine cards specific for that particular enemy and another two dozen universal threat cards. They are put in order according to their level from one to three (each of them is shuffled separately).
The course of each round is determined by randomly drawn cards from the shuffled deck. Each player gets his turn and the same goes for monsters (nemesis has two order cards in the deck!). Individual round begins with five cards in hand, which (except for the first round) are always drawn at the end of previous turn. In the main phase, an active player can always choose, which action to use. It is neither limited in order not rate. Players can then play their gem cards and buy cards from joint bid. Likewise, players can spend two ether tokens (currency) to charge one part of the hero’s ability. Once its fully charged, he may use it.
Eventually, action focus will turn to breaches. You can either focus it or open it again by playing its price given in the amount of ether. While focusing means turning the card 90 degrees clockwise (and thus reducing cost of future opening), opening directly means turning the card around to show a lit up side.
All focused breaches (in the current round) can now be used to play spell card from hand. It does not cost anything, but it’s just preparing spells. Scheduled attacks will only take place on start of the next turn of the same player. At the end of each turn, new cards are drawn from deck (up to five in hand, although there is no maximal limit, if player holds more) and any unspent earnings are lost. When the draw deck gets empty, he does not mix the discard pile, but only turns it around and can immediately use it. Cards from the hand can never be discarded, even those that remain in hand at the end of the round. They can only be used and then moved to discard pile at the end of turn.
Once the nemesis card is drawn from order deck, time has come for evil to counterattack. From the nemesis deck, player reveals one card and either evaluates its effect (attack card) or places it on the table (monster), adding some life and power tokens on it. But the monster will not attack immediately. It gets active only at the beginning of one of the upcoming turns of evil – namely, when it gathers power to attack. Each nemesis turn, one power token is thrown away from monster card and only when there are no more left, they evaluate their skills – attacking hero, fortress or hurting players differently. This hit gradually reduces the number of lives of heroes and Gravehold.
The whole match revolves around unleash effect. This is often triggered by various moments in the game, and as a result, nemesis (its specific ability) is always activated. Common task of the heroes is to go through all the pitfalls and destroy all the enemies including the main one. Only then can they win as a team. On the contrary, defeat is waiting for them, when number of lives drops to zero or their stronghold is destroyed (pointer drops again to zero).
Aeon’s End is an awesome (and probably the best) cooperative deckbuilding game out there. The game is very addictive and contains a number of interesting and unprecedented concepts. The first one, in which you make an inconsistent mistake from time to time (we are perfectly marked by other deckbuilding games) is prohibition on shuffling your discard pile before reuse. That’s a mistake. In this game (except for some exceptions) cards are not shuffled at all! So players always have a clear idea of what cards will come to their hand next time. This makes the process much more tactical and the overall impression is much better.
And, of course, it is all cooperative, so participants have to coordinate their efforts well. Sometimes it is not the easiest thing to do, because where there is no randomness in drawing cards of your deck, luck of the whole turn order is determined by chance.
Second absolutely vital element of the whole match is ability to plan attacks in advance. But the player never knows exactly when his turn comes next. There are many things to change in between. Spells are usually activated later, because their specific usage (to cast or not to cast) determined by player only in future turn, when they are evaluated. Box offers an interesting offer of cards, that guarantee a different experience for each game. This box has a little fewer options (compared to the original Kickstarter version). Fortunately, there are several expansions on the market, that we will maybe focus in some future article.
Individual nemesis are really different. It may be thanks to the fact, that each of them has its own set of cards. They work closely with ability of that creature and support each other. This makes the game always different. There are a total of four large nemesis in the box, against which players can test their skills.
An interesting mechanism is also breaches themselves. Players are gradually focusing them, but magic cards can be placed there at any time. The spell lying next to closed rift must be evaluated immediately at the next turn, while open crack lets player choose and wait for upcoming rounds. These are other interesting choices, especially if we repeat different costs of opening the cracks by the number of focus points.
The difficulty of this game is easily adjustable. Not only by choosing different monster, but above all by changing number of lives and sizes of the nemesis deck. Each monster also has its expert variant described directly on the card. This makes replayability really good even with this limited package without Kickstart exclusivities. Basic difficulty of the battle is set very well and victory is never quite certain.
Number of players in the game is influencing number of cards in the enemy deck. Thanks to it, it’s really great with two or three players. In four, however, course will slow down significantly. Overall, however, according to the number of players, the focus on game concepts changes. In higher numbers, players do not have enough time to build their own decks and need to collaborate more. But it is also excellent for solo game.
Game is really cooperative and card loving players must support each other in their efforts. It is really one of the central points of gameplay. The only problem with this can be presence of an alpha player with tendency to suggest actions for other players. Processing then puts the game clearly into the fantasy genre, with all the cards having clear graphics and being nice to look at.
Aeon’s End is amazing cooperative experience. In the game, you buy cards and build your own deck, which is purely about tactics. Even the drawing! The point is obvious, when you buy new card, because the order in discard deck does not change (no shuffling). And here comes planning and thinking that is absolutely crucial for success. Aeon’s End is definitely one of best cooperative card games you can get!
Aeon's End is a deckbuilding that provides a true cooperative touch. Drawing card packages are fixed in order, so players can plan ahead and calculate their cards. This makes the game much more tactical than similar card games. This also works great in a lower number of players and because of the number of cards, experience is always different. Aeon's End is another rebirth of deckbuilding games.