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And here it comes. Apocalypse. But it does not appear as we have imagined it so many times, with great pomp and rush. It sits quietly all around us. But we can not see the terrible monsters even if they are standing next to us and stretch their claws. We can thank the paradigm – an agreement, that hid them from our eyes many years ago. Originally, it was meant to protect us, so we do not see, what we did not want to see. But now everything is turning against us, when nine villains revolt and mobilize their forces to rule our world.
Apocrypha Adventure Card Game will stand players among the few selected “saints”, who can see through paradigm rules. They are able to see both realities merge and know, what is happening on the other side. But the forces of evil see them in return as well. This is how the story evolves according to designer Mike Selinker (Pathfinder ACG), who made his entire creation under Lone Shark Games. He did not do it alone, but with assistance of 2500 fans, who gathered over $ 300,000. And resulting box arrives on the European continent thanks to Esdevium Games. We received Box One with the subtitle The World, but two more will come soon (The Flesh and The Devil).
The box is big (I mean BIG) and dark enough to radiate the horror dark atmosphere. This is definitely needed, because this is not going to be a light fantasy or some sunshine children story. There are two scenarios in the box – written in storybook. In addition to two brochures and there are lots of cards in the box, together with some cardboard figures, plastic pedestals for them and a bag of dice. Still, almost six hundred cards are the main content.
At the beginning of the game, players must find their character among the cards that belong to individual heroes and take them. In addition, each hero also has his starting card deck, which is based on four characteristics of that particular character. These are matters of the body, soul, mind, and anger, and there are numbers printed in their colored icons on the sides of the card, telling players how well the hero is versed in that particular skill (number of dice in the game).
Each chosen scenario has not only its own story, but also a specific preparation process. Generally, however, everything revolves around a few locations, so-called nexuses. Their number is determined by the number of teammates in the game. Each place will receive several cards to be explored, which may consist of threats, fate or gifts. And here, between these cards, a few bad guys are being shuffled up at the beginning of the game. And players will search for them to progress in the whole match. In addition, there are structure cards defining rules of the actual game and its ending. Players must also prepare their clock (this is a deck, whose cards count down time to complete the task). Players then only draw a good starting hand of cards from their hero deck (which at the same time represents their life), place their figure on the designated starting nexus and the story can begin.
Most of the game will players spend by exploring nexuses. At the beginning of each round, however, they first reveal a new card from the clock deck. They usually pick it up into their hand, because it’s an omen. Then they can really start searching the location, they are in. Player simply has to sacrifice a single omen card, reveal card that is on top of the deck and has to deal with it consequences. This usually means trying to pass a skill check. It will test one of the four features, that characters have (and which we have already mentioned). The target card, whether item or threat, determines the properties necessary for its acquisition (defeat).
However, they can boost their chances by supporting other players or by playing cards. In the end, however, he must always roll a number of dice depending on his abilities. And from this number, player can only select three, whose sum must be at least equal to target value. Player can get some rerolls from support cards or keyword match.
In the event of success, active hero takes the card, otherwise he is penalized. Often, a set of special rules is also linked to exploration, which can force players to bury a card (can not be used throughout rest of the game) or discard it (these energy points can be healed back) in case of failure. And because the cards in the hero’s deck are his life force, this is always bad news. Encounter can also be avoided, if it is possible.
Eventually, the player can explore again, if he still has some cards to spend for it. And it will often be good to do this, because heroes are trying to find someone or something, that is running away from them.
Some effects (or playing last card in the location) will bring a chance to seal that place. This is also often victory condition, that mentions all available locations. At the end of his round, hero can move to another location and then pass his turn to another player. Battle with invisible enemies continues until the moment, when one of the final conditions is fulfilled. As a team, players will win or lose. In this case, their hero gets one card of death, which he places in one of eight positions around his hero’s card (blocking space for an upgrade). On the contrary, new successes will bring a hero so-called fragments of memories, that will be placed near hero card to give him some special powers for upcoming games.
Apocrypha: Adventure Card Game is an atmospheric horror delight. An introduction to each scenario and its course only enhances the experience. The location crawling mechanism really makes sense, and that’s really great about it. The preparation or building of the deck is not exaggerated, and yet the player feels he is improving his hero. With the course of the game, new cards will be offered to offer better action options.
Where Apocrypha gains further plus points is true cooperation. Heroes support each other, they can pass over items or stand against danger together in one location. All this needs to be conceived and planned, although many moments can not be predicted. There is a large portion of coincidence that determines order of cards in nexus decks (and other stacks of cards), but especially in dice. However, their chances can be well influenced by possibility to reroll or increasing the number of rolled dice before the confrontation itself.
There are plenty of missions in the box, that do not even have to be played in printed order. It depends only on players, how they want to experience the stories. In total, there are two campaigns that are not binding and do not connect with one another that strictly. But the game is not easy and you have to count not only with victory, but also with defeat from time to time. It hurts, but because of the length of one game is around sixty minutes, it’s not as vital as other co-operative games, where defeat can also mean a ruined evening.
Scenarios can be played solo as well. And although the rules count with it and even a player can assist in his own efforts (which is a bit against the experience and atmosphere), its definitely better with two or three players. For them, number of nexuses in the game is always well adapted, while with each turn the time is running out, so a higher number of players does not mean a change in difficulty. Only a better distribution of strength, because each hero is unique.
Game is quite complex, as the rulebook thickness (34 pages) suggests. It’s not complicated, but it’s pretty much some tiny details and possibilities, that’s ultimately due to different types of cards. Fortunately, designer thought about it and for each new player, there is a separate deck, which the newcomers will use to test out a simplified scenario with help of a series of instructions and gradual revealing of mechanisms. And that’s good, because rule book itself is pretty unfortunate.
We have met with the belief, that despite the similarity, it is not entirely certain, that you will like this, if you like Pathfinder, Apocrypha will excite you much more. It is more dynamic. But it lacks amount of focus on RPG elements – there is no equipment or sketchbooks with skills. This is where Apocrypha went through another change and improves your characters in interesting way with fragment cards, memories from previous scenarios. But this principle does not have to be perfect for someone, and it’s probably the most notable negativity in the gameplay itself.
Apocrypha is a great game for adventure lovers, who like horror setting. In the campaign games, this haunted field is a bit deserted, though the game now changes with new version of Mansions of Madness. Unfortunately, someone is not able to crawl cards in random order in locations and roll dice just for fun. And these are the elements, you will most of the time do in Apocrypha. It is these players, who will not grow to like this game and they will be the main opponents of Apocrypha. But much more players will grow to love it!
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+ horror game
+ two campaigns
+ interesting preparation of each scenario
+ possibility of co-operation between heroes
+ you never know, where encounters wait
+ tense game
+ game time is not unnecessarily long
Mínusy | Cons
- luck and dice decide about a lot of things
- rule book
- compared to Pathfinder, its missing a significant character development