Review – Aeon’s End

Front Cover

 

Designer Kevin RIley

Artist Gong Studios

Publisher Indie Boards & Cards

Category Cooperative, Deckbuilding

Length 60 minutes

Release Date 2016

Player Count 1-4

Aeon’s End is a deck-building, boss-fighting fantasy game. If you’ve ever played Clank! and thought, “This is great, but I wish we could all be working together to defeat that dragon instead of just stealing its gold!” then this game is for you. Even if you’ve never had that thought, read on to find out why Aeon’s End currently boasts 15 (!) expansions.

Note: this review is based off the 1st edition of the game. The 2nd edition features artwork and component upgrades, but also some misprints on nemesis cards.

Aeon’s End is a cooperative game in which players play as mages trying to defend the city of Gravehold against different nemeses. Players must monitor their own health and Gravehold’s health because if everyone becomes exhausted (i.e. their health reaches 0) or if Gravehold’s health reaches 0, the players lose. 

Players’ mage boards will tell them what sort of powers their mage has, what their starting deck is, and what breaches are open for them to cast spells to. (A player can’t just play a card and immediately cast a spell; first, they have to prep it, then it can be cast on their next turn). On players’ turns, they will first choose if they want to cast any spells they had prepped on previous turns. Then they can play any of the 5 cards from their hand, in any order. Players can prep spells to breaches, play relics, or use gem cards for spending money. They can also spend money on opening more breaches, gaining a charge for their mage-specific power, or buying cards from the market. 

There are a few things that separate Aeon’s End from other deck-builders like Dominion or Clank! First, players do not shuffle their decks unless a card tells them to. This is wonderful because not only do players not have to waste time constantly shuffling their decks, but they can also predict what cards will come into their hand. Second, players do not have to play all 5 of their cards. This mechanic also allows them to manipulate their hands, which is very helpful because some spells are more powerful if they’re cast with other spells, and some gem cards grant more when paired with other gem cards. Third, players can discard their played cards in any order, which, because of the first 2 points, allows players to pair certain powerful cards together. 

The hand manipulation is exciting and leads to some fun decisions: do I play this really powerful card now, or do I wait so I can play 2 of them and double their power later? Do I discard this card first so I can access it sooner or will I need some other card sooner? 

The decisions Aeon’s End presents help bolster its replay value, as does the randomized market deck. There will always be 3 gems, 2 relics, and 4 spells in the market deck, but these change from game to game. Analyzing the market and figuring out which mage should buy what cards is a blast, and it feels fresh every time because there’s always a different set of cards to choose from.

Adding to the replay value, the base game of Aeon’s End includes 8 mages and 4 nemeses: Rageborne, Carapus Queen, Prince of Gluttons, and Crooked Mask. The mages all include different boards with mage-specific special abilities and starting decks. The nemeses also have their own separate boards and decks. Even though each nemesis shares from the randomized basic deck, each one feels different to play against. Rageborne attacks players directly, Carapus Queen sends her little bugs everywhere, Prince of Gluttons drains the market deck, and Crooked Mask clogs up players’ hands with his tempting, one-off power cards. And that’s just a general overview. 

Something that separates Aeon’s End from many other board games is its randomized turn order deck. Say 2 mages are taking on a nemesis. The turn order deck will consist of 2 player 1 cards, 2 player 2 cards, and 2 nemesis cards. What this means is that, especially during the first few cards, players have no idea whose turn it will be, which creates wonderful tension and leads to even more decisions: Do I go hard on this turn because I may not get another turn for a while? What do you do if the nemesis goes twice in a row and totally ravages Gravehold? It’s thematic and it captures the defending-an-underground-city-against-crazy-monsters vibe perfectly. 

The components for Aeon’s End are good. The Gravehold and nemesis counters work and feature the game’s lovely artwork. The artwork itself isn’t too flashy, but it’s simplicity represents the game well; after all, a band of friendly neighborhood mages are trying to use what skills they have to protect Gravehold. Another reason I love the artwork is that it’s not exploitative or revealing when it comes to male and female characters. I very much appreciate the modest and realistic nature of the clothing on these mages. 

Now for some downsides. As in the case with other deck-builders like Dominion and Clank!, Aeon’s End takes some time to set up, sometimes up ~10 minutes. The game comes packages in a way that helps you get set up and playing quickly, but after that you’ll need to figure out how to set up the game for yourself. Another downside is that, while the game says it’s 1-4 players, it’s most enjoyable with 1-2 players. Playing 4 players is manageable if players are okay with longer wait times, but 3 players was the worst to me because someone often becomes overpowered while the other players play a minor, supporting role (the turn order deck consists of 3 player cards and a wild card that usually ends up going to the same player over and over because “they have all the good spells”). The cardstock is fine, but not the best, and for the amount of shuffling that needs to be done, enthusiastic players may want to consider sleeves. 

As far as deck-builders go, Aeon’s End is fantastic. As far as cooperative games go, Aeon’s End is once again fantastic. There is some randomness in the market deck and the turn order cards, so it may not appeal to the number-crunching maximizers out there, but the randomness fits the game well. If you like deck builders or want a fantasy cooperative game where you and your buddies can beat up on some baddies without a dungeon master, look no further than Aeon’s End

The Bottom Line

If you like deck builders or want a fantasy cooperative game where you and your buddies can beat up on some baddies without a dungeon master, look no further than Aeon’s End.

 

8

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.