Maximum Apocalypse review by Rosemary

Board Game Gumbo is pleased to present a review of Maximum Apocalypse by Rosemary Harris. Rosemary was one of the original members of our Gumbo game nights in Lafayette before moving to the Crescent City. She taught me Maximum Apocalypse at one of our game nights at And Books II, and with the success of the recent Legendary Kickstarter, I asked her to write up her thoughts and experiences from playing the main game. You can reach Rosemary on Twitter at @dreamdragonmage. Enough blather, here’s Rosemary!

Maximum Apocalypse is a scenario-driven tile-laying survival game for one to six players, designed by Mike Gnade and published by Rock Manor Games. The base game comes with twelve different scenarios to play, where players will face one of four main enemies: zombies, aliens, nuclear wasteland, and robots. The base game’s success has led to numerous expansions and even a big box and miniatures project that just successfully funded on Kickstarter, where pre-orders are still going on.

SET UP:

Set up is simple for most scenarios. Players choose a scenario, then pick the enemy that they want to fight during the game. The scenario lays out the number of tiles, monster cards, boss cards, ambush cards, and special cards (like cure or medicine) to add to the respective decks. The amount added to make the decks will vary depending on the story difficulty. Players will also get a survivor standee (minis in the newest Kickstarter version) and its corresponding deck.

When the players are ready to play, the scenario will direct them to the tiles that are needed to build out the particular map the players will explore. The tiles are pulled, shuffled and randomly placed on the table in any pattern that players choose. Of course, some of the tiles have placement rules so that the story of the scenario makes sense, but since the rest of the tiles are randomly drawn and placed differently every time, each play of even the same scenario has a different feel on every play.

GAME PLAY:

Your mission is simple: Complete the objectives found in the scenario and survive the onslaught of horrible monsters while doing it!

On each turn, players will go through five steps:

  • Spawn monsters, using dice and tokens
  • Take four actions
  • Increase hunger level by one
  • Activate monsters
  • Check the win conditions

Each step moves quickly. To spawn monsters, players will roll dice, and assign monsters to the various tiles based on the outcome. Then, players will utilize their four actions to move around the tiles, scavenge the decks related to those tiles for equipment, food, and weapons, and attack monsters. Hunger will increase each turn, and if not managed (by playing special cards or eating food), it will cause damage each round.

Finally, the monsters turn to activate and do damage on the players, but if they survive, the players will check the current game state and equipment cards against the win condition of the scenario. If not yet met, play starts again with spawning more monsters.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT MAXIMUM APOCALYPSE:

The key to this game is the scavenge mechanic. Players simply have to scavenge to survive. The game comes with three decks that have different things in them depending on type. The green deck has mostly food and equipment for survival like medicine, flashlights and backpacks to carry things. The blue deck has less food and medication than the green deck, but gives players the chance to find more utility items and some ammo. Finally, the red deck is all about fighting. Players will mostly find ammo and combat items like knives and guns, backpacks and more gas with little food.

In terms of mechanics, the colors on the deck connect to the locations on the tiles. Some tiles will even have more than one color. For instance, players may land on a gas station with green and red markings, giving them the option to draw from either of those decks to scavenge for supplies.

The game uses a token system to keep track of the items you find and keep. This also comes into play should a player die during the game. If a player dies, a token will be used to show where their stuff was dropped, which of course, leads to the tried-and-true debate as to whether to go back through the swarm of enemies that just finished off your friend on the tile to go back and get the stuff.

This brings in the hand limit, which forces players to consider getting backpacks. These can be very handy for carrying gas and other items like a flashlight. The hand limit also went to your own deck which carried equipment for your character and action cards so the sooner you could get supply cards out of your hand the better. Though you had to manage your player deck another way you could die was if you ran out of the player deck cards.

The unique character decks are another one of the interesting things I liked about the game. Each survivor (and thus each player in the game) comes with their own deck with equipment, weapons, armor and action cards that give you special actions during the game that are specific to the character.

My favorite decks so far are the hunter and the sniper. The hunter has so much less worry from the the hunger track. She can literally hunt for food on her own square, and her attempts to scavenge usually came with good weapons. Playing the sniper on the board is like playing a ghost. When you are suited up, even with zombies spawn on your tile, you are practically invisible to them so long as you do not move. And I love the range — with the sniper, I could shoot the baddies from two to three tiles away with the sniper rifle. Plus, the deck is loaded with great action cards. But there are more good characters in the base game. The vet and his dog shared a health pool and good team tactics. There was a minor issue with the rules to how they worked too but these were fixed in later printings of the rules.

What about the presentation? The art was great. There is a gritty comic book style to it. The tokens are well made, and the initial rule book was good, except for a few rules that they have fixed since the original rule book came out.

Another one of my favorite parts of the game are the action cards. Each different player deck had different action cards tailored to their player character. These were very thematic: for instance, the doctor heals players using an injection, the sniper has weapons, the hunter has traps, and the fireman comes with a charge ability. Those were cards that you could play on your turn taking one of your actions.

Finally, the randomized set up is something that I really liked about the game. Even if you played the exact same story again, the places that you have to go will be in different locations. This can increase (or decrease) the level of complexity to the scenario depending on if the tile you need is all the way across the board from where you start, or perhaps all of the tiles will be near each other.

There is a lot of replayability built in right from the set up. And of course, if you are a competitive player and you lose a scenario in spectacular fashion, the fact that the scenario will be randomly built will make you want to try again to beat it right then and there, if you have the time in your game night, that is.

The only thing I did not enjoy about Maximum Apocalypse was that the harder the scenario was, the heavier the set up was. Other than set up issues, and the initial stumbles with the rule book that have all been cleared up in later printings, I have enjoyed my plays of Maximum Apocalypse.

— Rosemary Harris @dragondreammage

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