Something for Everyone!
I have two games I would like to review, and they couldn’t be more different, except for the fact that they have relatively simple premises that won’t take up a whole post!
Otherwise both are quite different. The Game–was there ever a title that screamed “THEME-LESS” more than that–is based around emptying a deck of numbered cards, by playing them to one of four piles in ascending or descending numerical order.
After the Virus allows one to three players to take on the role of survivors of the zombie apocalypse, in a bid to set the world aright again by playing through sixteen scenarios of varying length, and generally increasing difficulty. It is from the designer of Terraforming Mars, so it has a bit of a pedigree.
Let’s look at The Game first, while we still have the braaaains to do so.
Time: 20 Minutes
Overview: Players must play at least two cards from their hands to the piles on the table. They may either play higher numbers on the piles that indicate an ascent from 1-100, or lower numbers on the piles earmarked for a descent from 100-2.
The numbers may go up or down by any interval, but cannot generally be reversed. For example, if I play a “2,” and a “3” on my turn, another player might follow up on my “3” with a “36,” but playing numbers 4-35 on that stack would become all but impossible.
The only exception to this rule is that you may play a card that differs by exactly a value of “10,” to reverse direction. So, if I wanted to retreat from “36” to “26” and from “26” to “16,” that would all be legal.
A perfect game would see all the cards played, but any game where ten or fewer cards remain un-played is deemed excellent.
Thoughts: I have played The Game solo a few times, and really enjoyed it, to my surprise. I still view it as better cooperatively. I bought it as a gateway game to introduce to a few of my friends who don’t quite share my passion for elaborate games.
The tension of what you’re going to draw and what you’re going to do with it is great fun, as is the hope and fear that comes during other people’s turns, where they don’t know specifically what you have and you can only give general information, like: “I have a really high card I want to play!”
For a filler, I have to say, I love The Game, if not its clunky name.
After the Virus
Time: 30 minutes (variable based on scenario)
I have to admit, I was deeply skeptical about the amount of content that was said to be packaged in After the Virus. With a mere forty cards per player, a few tokens, character boards, and fourteen zombie cards, there was supposed to be a full deck-builder with 16 missions!
After playing the first three scenarios several times both alone and with my wife, using different characters–I can attest that there is enough variety in the game to last for quite a while.
Each scenario, even the “long” ones I’ve played, is relatively short. You are unlikely to see a plurality–let alone a majority–of the cards in your search deck (the pool of available cards to add to your deck) during a scenario.
The zombies come at you fast and furious, each time you must reshuffle your deck to draw new cards. When reshuffling, the wave number increases, and you must add zombie cards equal to that number to your deck. When you draw zombie cards, any zombies you do not discard or destroy cause wounds.
To make matters worse, the zombie cards go up from representing individual zombies, to representing as many as four zombies each! Killing a card with three or four zombies on it is a tough feat, let alone more than one such card.
I definitely felt the survival-horror pressure, despite the cartoon-y artwork that toned down the gore. Supplies always felt limited, and the zombies felt nearly overwhelming, as I raced to control their numbers and achieve the mission objective.
As far as quick games go, I have seldom encountered one that packed so much into a little package and a short play time. Many fillers (games less than an hour in length) struggle to achieve any sort of depth, in my experience.
I don’t find myself wishing that I had played a heavier game, here. And that’s a big compliment; as is the fact that I immediately eyeball the next scenario, and think: “well, maybe just one more…”
A Fond Farewell
As I close this section out, I want to offer my appreciation to Funagain Games, who–depending on when this is published–may have already closed its online shop, which was the only place I was able to track down a copy of After the Virus. Shortly thereafter, the news broke of their closing.
See you all next time!