My Kickstarter copy of Aeon’s End: Outcasts arrived just yesterday (September 3rd, 2020). For those of you who don’t know, Aeon’s End: Outcasts is a cooperative deck-builder for 1-4 players. It’s set in a fantasy universe with spell casting, gems, and artifacts. This is the fouth (!) big-box stand-alone expansion to the game (putting the grand total to five big box stand-alone boxes). I have kickstarted EVERY VERSION so far!! If you don’t know anything about deckbuilders or the Aeon’s End series, see my review here of Aeon’s End: War Eternal and the original Aeon’s End!!!
So, I almost didn’t back this expansion. I have to admit, I was experiencing some ennui with the Aeon’s End series. I mean, I have 4 big box expansions, and 10(?) small box expansions, plus the matte and Legacy recharge kit. Don ‘t get me wrong, I like Aeon’s End a lot (but see below), as it made the number 1 spot on my Top 10 Cooperative Deckbuilders! BUT, a lot of my Aeon’s End games sit half-played, with a lot of content still in shrink-wrap. So, I almost didn’t back this expansion … in the end, I did because … I am a completionist?
Out of the Box Experience
One of the things that Aeon’s End does better than most games: the unboxing and jumping into your first game is VERY PLEASANT! And Aeon’s End: Outcasts continues this tradition! See the picture above! The starting leaflet tells you what decks to get out, how to organize them, and how to start. I admit to some trepidation/”worries of ennui” before I opened the game, but I forgot how easy it is to get going!
The art looks great (see above) , and the newer cards are a little different. Because there are so many predecessors to this Aeon’s End, the newer cards are necessarily more complex and you have you to think a little more how to use them.
The rulebook is quite good, just like all the other versions.
In general, I had no problems with the rulebook. They showed the components, demonstrated set-up, and discussed rules clearly, just like the other Aeon’s End rulebooks. Aeons’ End: Outcasts DID show new rules by highlighting them in yellow (the most interesting new rule being curses that will clog your deck).
Solo Play and House Rules
So, to be clear, there are straight-forward solo rules to play Aeon’s End: Outcasts. They are covered very well in the book: you take the role of one mage playing through the game (with a very minor rule clarification: allies include yourself)—This is outlined on the last page of the rulebook. BUT, there is something that differs from the app! Something I HATE in the app, but the main rulebook don’t cover!
An easy way to LEARN Aeon’s End is to pick up the Handelabra implementation of Aeon’s End. It has the original game and a some extra content at the time of this writing. It’s a decent implementation, and it works pretty well. There is one rule that the APP enforces that the ruleboook doesn’t cover: In the solo game, how many turns does the solo player have per round? See the little bar at the very top row of the screen above. First off, the Nemesis (the bad guy) will always have TWO turns per round (in both the app and the board game). IN THE APP, the solo player only gets THREE other turns per round! IN THE BOARD GAME, it’s implied/deduced (because it’s not clear) that the solo player gets FOUR turns per round!!!
I kind of hate the app because of this! Often enough (it’s not uncommon), the Nemesis will get FOUR TURNS A ROW (two at the end of the round, then another two at the start of the next round) without the player doing anything!!! This can be completely devastating and random and you just lose, especially in the later game. I hate this as you just watch yourself lose.
In the board game, it’s less likely to happen (as you have FOUR plays to TWO of the Nemesis), but I have a house rule that the Nemesis can never go more than twice in a row. If he were, I just reshuffle the round deck and try again. I can enforce this house rule because I control the round deck. I have actually stopped playing the App because of this … even though I love Aeon’s End.
To be clear, although this an “expansion”, this is also a stand-alone big box game you can play WITHOUT any of the other content. Aeon’s End: Outcasts doesn’t change the rules TOO much: it mostly just adds new content (like the new monster above).
It adds new spells, artifacts, and gems (see above for some examples).
It adds new characters (like Taqren above).
Whereas both Aeon’s End and Aeon’s End: War Eternal were just standalone deckbuilders with no story, Aeon’s End: Outcasts adds a campaign (very much Aeon’s End: the New Age) with a story. There’s a little storybook (which is much better than Aeon’s End: The New Age, where the campaign was on hard to read little cards) and a bunch of envelopes to open at the end of chapters. After each chapter, new content gets revealed, and a story emerges (nothing is shown to avoid apoilers)! It’s also completely resettable! (It’s a not a legacy game).
So, although I have some Aeon’s End ennui (say that three times fast), I am glad I got this version (Aeon’s End: Outcasts). The storybook and chapters make me look forward to playing it. The new characters and cards are interesting, even though they take a little more thought than the base game (because they have to mix it up to create new content). The art is great, and the game is consistent with all the other Aeon’s Ends in terms of quality: the quality is quite high. See the discussion of high quality in my other review of Aeon’s End: War Eternal.
I think Aeon’s End: Outcasts might be the best Aeon’s End so far? The campaign gives the game direction (so it’s not just a mish-mash of 100s of cards), and the fact that’s it resettable makes it easy to bring back to the table. The new storybook also makes it easy to manage the story: the original Aeon’s End campaign game (Aeon’s End: The New Age) had the campaign text on CARDS, and it was too much/too fiddly to keep track of. If you could buy only one Aeon’s End, I’d say pick this one. If you love it, there are tons of expansions to make it bigger …