So, about a year ago (November 2016), I received the Kickstarter edition of Aeon’s End. And it sat the unopened. For almost a year. *Cough*
In Mark 2017, the sequel/follow on to Aeon’s End came up on Kickstarter: Aeon’s End: War Eternal. I went ahead and backed that as well. I am a bit of a completionist, so I figured I get this as well. Even though I haven’t played the original. *Cough*
Since I was a Kickstarter on the original game, I received an Update Pack for the original game. What’s in it? I didn’t know. I hadn’t been following too closely, but I will reveal its contents below!
I finally, just a few weeks ago, busted out Aeon’s End (first) and played it (by myself and with some friends). And you know what? It was good! I like it as a solo game, and my friends really enjoyed it as a cooperative game.
Why did I wait so long to pull this out?
Aeon’s End: War Eternal
So, after enjoying the original game, I broke out the second game (War Eternal). Better everything. Wow!
One of the things both games get right is the very first game you play. There is a sheet that shows you how to play your introductory game! The cards are even all divided up into A, B, and C piles.
The game is all prepared for you and very easy to set-up for the first game. Given how many cards there are in this box (see pictures above and below), this is a very good step. In fact, I will stand up and applaud this! I was up and playing within 30 minutes.
Aeon’s End and War Eternal are cooperative deckbuilding games. All players in the game are mages working together (casting spells, using relics and gems) to defeat a big bad. It is definitely a deck-builder: it feels a lot like Dominion (the granddad of all deckbuilders) in a lot of ways: you buy gems (money) to get more to buy better spells (houses). So, if you’ve played Dominion before, you will get this game quickly. My group of friends (fairly experienced gamers) jumped right in quickly.
But the hook here: NO SHUFFLING! When you discard cards into your discard, you can (within a small set of rules) discard the cards in any order you want. So, when your main deck runs out of cards, you simply move your discard deck to the deck AND DON’T SHUFFLE! I have to admit, this was probably one of the best things about this game! I liked Dominion, but the constant shuffling really detracted from liking the game: I remember waiting and waiting for other players because they had to shuffle on their turn to get their cards (especially once you got an engine going). In Aeon’s End/War Eternal, you just flip your deck and keep drawing! Much less slowdown! And you can “choose the order” of your discard (mostly) at the end of your turn so usually you can do that at the end of your turn and not hold up the next player. It really felt like much less slowdown!
The components for Aeon’s End: War Eternal are first rate. There is a counter for the bad guys, the boards for the bad guy and the player characters are very readable and usable. Everything really pops.
The interesting thing is that the components for the original Aeon’s End aren’t as good! That’s what’s in the Update Pack: better cards.
Update Pack: What’s in the Box?
When I got the War Eternal in the mail, I also got the update box. It basically updates all the cards from the original game. I guess some people complained about the original art design from Aeon’s End, and the manufacturer responded and updated the art.
You can see above the changes. They seem all in the name of making the cards easier to read and use in the game. The original cards are physically “darker” than the new update cards. The font on the update cards is bigger (except for the theme text on the bottom is MUCH smaller, but that doesn’t effect normal gameplay: it just adds theme if you want to read the cards). And the picture is bigger because they got rid of the black borders.
I thought the original cards were fine (in fact, we played with them a few times). But, I do admit: the new update cards look nicer and are easier to play with.
Learn From Mistakes
They really did up their game for the components in War Eternal. It really looks like the manufacturer listened to their customers and fixed up a lot of things in the game. They learned from their mistakes.
First: the inside of the box (see above). In the original game (left), the player board and monster boards didn’t fit very well in the box: they sit sideways kinda fitting in the box. In the new game (right), they made a section for the boards (upper right corner of the box). Everything feels like it fits in the box better.
Second: the boards aren’t shiny! The character boards and the monsters were shiny in the original edition, and it made them harder to read. The newer version also seems a lot easier to read: the graphic design just feels better. I feel like I can read Indira’s card (bottom: War Eternal) better than Malastar (top: Aeon’s End).
Similarly, the character boards for the bad guy monsters. Rageborn is shiny and a little harder to read.
Third: the Turn Order cards are significantly improved!
Fourth: And probably the most important, *ALL* the cards were updated. A lot of cards!
In general, the War Eternal seems to have better components and cards. At the time of this writing, a second edition of Aeon’s End is coming, which is supposed to update the quality of the game to the same level as War Eternal.
The solo play game works well. You can play with just one character and learn the game. My only complaint was that the solo rules were relegated to the back page (both the Aeon’s End and War Eternal rulebooks). Since my first play of most games is almost always a solo play, I wish those would be addressed up front. But it’s a minor quibble.
The game works really well as a solo game: I had fun and only had to play one character. There is a lot going on, and I imagine playing with multiple characters would have made my first playthrough much less enjoyable.
Theme and Cooperation
Theme and COOPERATION
This game is a great cooperative game. It moves quickly, and everyone was helping each other out. In the beginning of the game, most people built their decks separately without consulting each other too much (and in fact, we ran out of diamonds because too many people tried to get that Gem). But, but the middle of the game, we were making decisions together!
- “Do I kill the minion first or take out the power?”
- “Can I use my special spell?”
- “Can you help charge me for my special spell?”
- “Can you heal me?”
- “Who should take the damage from the event?”
And in the end game, the game slowed quite a bit as every decision became important to winning the game. But not in a bad way! We were all so invested in the game, we talked! We discussed! It kind of reminded me of a basketball game … stay with me here … the last minutes of a basketball game takes forever, but it’s the most exciting part of the game! The same can be said of Aeon’s End/War Eternal! That last few turns because very exciting as we make choices.
Everyone I played with enjoyed the game. They all want to play a game. This is probably the biggest hit at the game table in some time.
Deckbuilder But Not a Deckbuilder!
So, if you’ve played Dominion, you’ll get the basics of this quickly. But there is a lot more to the game. There’s a notion spells, a notion of breaches to be focused so you can cast multiple spells, each character has a special power that has to be charged up, and there’s a big bad that has events and does bad stuff to everyone! It’s a cooperative deck builder, but it’s much more than that. And yet, it didn’t feel too overwhelming.
The one thing that was very overwhelming was building the big bad’s event deck at the start of the game. It’s quite involved with three levels of danger (1,2,3) and you to mix and match basic cards with specialty cards. It’s the one part of the game that seemed to drag: everyone had to wait for me to build the bad guy’s deck. Other than that, the game flowed well.
I shouldn’t have waited so long to open and play these games! They were fun! I even ordered an expansion (The Depths) on CoolStuffInc before I realized I already had it in the original edition of the Kickstarter! (It was hidden in the box … that I didn’t open for a year). Luckily, CoolStuffInc let me cancel that particular piece.
Aeon’s End was a great game, and so was War Eternal. They are both stand-alone games, but can be combined into one. If you find yourself interested in the game, either version will do to give you the full experience. I liked it as a solo game and my friends liked it as a cooperative deckbuilding game.
In the end, I think this is probably an 8/10 on BoardGameGeek.