Maximum Apocalypse is having an astounding second printing/expansion run on Kickstarter this week, so we took our recently-arrived copy, and took it for a spin. We fought Aliens, Zombies, and Mutants, and we survived! (Well not the Aliens, the Aliens got us.)
MA is a Post-Apocalyptic adventure game. You pick a hero, grab their deck, and work with the other players on the board to explore tiles, scavenge for items, and fight various apocalypse-causing baddies. But, what makes the game standout?
Custom Decks For Characters: Each playable character has their own 40 card deck that contains unique powers and items that character can use in the game. This means the strategy on each playthrough evolves based on the characters picked. Additionally, picking the right heroes for a scenario can make it significantly easier to accomplish your mission. If you have an exploration task, the Hunter with her Motorcycle and reveal special ability is the perfect pick. If you have to kill a lot of enemies, the Gunslinger is perfect. Each deck plays very differently than others.
Shifting Settings: What's brought on the Apocalypse changes based on the scenario. In the base game this includes Zombies, Mutants, Robots, and Aliens. Each of these enemies has different abilities that you'll need to be aware of to overcome. Zombies are good at hitting multiple heroes crowded together, Aliens make you Burn (mill) cards off your deck. Mutants have a lot of poison effects. Additionally, each setting a series of scenario missions that tell a simple story about the post-apocalyptic devastation. The shifting settings, encourage strategy that changes quite a bit game to game. If there's no incentive to explore or fight to win a scenario, it's better to just focus on scavenging the right cards. You can use the objective card to determine which kinds of tiles you should focus on scavenging.
What We Liked
We really enjoyed switching between character types, and pre-formulating a character strategy based on the mission's objective.
Each mission's objective did have an extensive setup time (about 10-15 minutes), but putting the map and decks together is actually kind of fun, as you can talk about what cards are in which deck and which tiles are present so you can mull over your strategy.
The artwork in the game is fun, and is reminiscent of a contemporary comic book, with good line art and good color. There's also a lot of art. There are repeated cards in all decks, but the sheer variety of monsters and player cards is impressive.
We also liked the number of Actions you can take on a turn. You always have a lot of good choices on each turn. Even if your hand is full of non-useful items, you can dig in your deck for an extra card, or dig through the scavenge piles for an always-useful can of food.
What Could Be Improved
By far the biggest problem with the game is the rule book which is thin, and leaves quite a bit to be puzzled out by the players as they stumble through their first couple of games. Most of these rules questions can be figured out by piecing together the rules in the book with the rules on the cards, but it would have been better to have this stuff explicitly spelled out for the players. A good example of this are food items. There's a food item called "Abundance" which is never mentioned in the book. After some puzzling, we figured out that this food item must be part of the other food items since some missions would require it to be present to fill a deck. I would assume this means that Abundance should be randomly mixed in with the other food cards, but this isn't explained in the rules.
This lack of clarity extends to the cards rules as well. The Objective setup cards refer to abbreviated (or just plain different) versions of Scavenge Cards and Map Tiles. This is very confusing the first time you play because you are looking for a Tile called "Bandit" not "Bandit Camp."
A couple of the gameplay rules were a bit less than fun. Hunger acts as a timer in this game. Hunger works in Dead of Winter, but for MA it's a constant nuisance. Maximum Apocalypse plays like a quick-flowing adventure game, and it doesn't feel like it takes place over multiple days, so having to constantly scavenge for food to feed your character so they don't take massive damage is not much fun. It would have probably been better to have the timer and extra scavenge requirements built into missions. Frustratingly, sometimes the food cards only give 1 food resource that means for the cost of two actions (one to scavenge, one to use the item), you are exactly where you were next turn as you were this turn. An easy way to resolve this would be to have the minimum food on the card be three or four.
The second rule that seemed off thematically was that enemies follow you around the board, but they don't interfere with your Actions in any way. This made the monsters seem less menacing, and we would have liked their threat to be more present when they were in play.
Despite some hiccups, Maximum Apocalypse is a pretty fun game overall. There's a ton of content and lots and lots of replayability. It's definitely best with more players, so save it for a night where you have at least four to get in on the action.
Original Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mikegnade/maximum-apocalypse
Backed at: $40 level (Expansion + Base Game + Shipping)
Anticipated Delivery: May 2018, received Feb 2018 (Great job guys!)
7 - Good - usually willing to play.
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