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After The Virus» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 7.5 out of 10. So close to being Great ... but not quite there. rss

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Ian K
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Ah, zombies; that staple monster archetype of modern horror. I've lost count of the number of zombie movies, TV shows, tabletop games, video games, role-playing games, paintball games, t-shirts, backpacks, action figures, posters, novels and comics there are. There's so many that I wonder who can really tell them apart any more? Which is the one with that guy from that thing? Oh, they've just announced another game to tie in with that zombie radio show. Yay.

Given the market saturation these shambling corpses have achieved, it can be hard to find the motivation to try yet another such game for all but the biggest of big zombie fans. So, as in all zombie fiction, the strong die with the weak because the sheer number of zombies is just too many. After The Virus feels like one of those. A victim of its theme or rather a victim of the over abundance of its theme. A co-op zombie tabletop game; like Zombicide or Zpocalypse or Dead Of Winter or Dark Darker Darkest or Dead Panic or Last Night On Earth … and those are just the ones on my shelves; Cthulhu knows how many more you've got on yours!

So why should you give After The Virus any more of your time or energy than you gave to countless other co-op zombie games? Well …


Synopsis

After The Virus is a co-operative deck building game where you start with a small deck of cards and use them to buy more cards to add to your deck. These new cards are then used to buy even more cards which are then also added in. Slowly, you build up a deck capable of withstanding the zombie hordes which is a good thing as the zombie hordes are also slowly building up and you only have the one flamethrower …

Can you and your friends all survive long enough to complete the mission objectives for the current game? If yes, try the next mission. If no, join the club.


Gameplay

Each player starts with an identical deck of cards, known as the “Area Deck”, and then also gets a unique character. Using your unique character, you slowly reveal cards from your Area Deck to buy into your personal deck and it is this personal deck which you use to fight the zombies. Given that each player's Area Deck is identical, it is theoretically possible for players to end up with very similar decks and this is the first, and probably biggest, complaint I have about the game; lack of variety.

Technically, each unique character has a different starting configuration for their personal decks but once all players start revealing a few cards from their Area Decks, they're quickly going to be revealing a lot of the same cards and they will all of course want to buy the mini-guns and the motorcycles that come up. Soon, the unique starting decks are diluted and most players usually end up playing the game with pretty much the same style and tactics. Occasionally you might be able to put something different together but this will be a rarity. Despite the myriad of options the deck-building mechanic usually offers, the fact that each player has access to the an identical pool of cards rapidly reduces the variety. Players end up with an identical mini-gun and a flamethrower and a dog and a car. If the game instead gave each character a unique Area Deck, or even did what most deck builders do and had a common pool that all players bought from so that each purchase you made affected the other players' options, this would have done a lot to make the game more varied and as such much more playable than it already is.

Because the complaint about lack of variety aside, this is a pretty decent game.

The mechanics are simple, the rules are straightforward (although not always clear, more on that under Presentation), the game moves along at a fair pace and you don't spend ages waiting for your turn. All players act together every turn and can help each other deal with zombies and while that's a small sentence to write it is a big deal in terms of gameplay. Too many co-operative games end up being a group of individuals all working towards the same goal with not much interaction beyond table talk and tactics conversations. But in After The Virus if your opponent gets a bit of bad luck and is suddenly surrounded by zombies, the other player(s) can use their cards to kill them off to save their friend. It might seem like a small thing but when you've played as many co-operative games as I have where the limit of co-operation with your friend is cheering them on, it's nice to have a game which you genuinely work together.

So what are you hoping to achieve with all this zombie slaughter? Well the game comes with a number of scenarios with different Goals and in order to play you must pick one to tackle and go for it. It might come with special rules and set-up instructions but these aren't drastically different from game to game and often you end up in another “set collection” race against time before the zombies overwhelm you. Again, the lack of variety here is disappointing. More distinctive scenarios, or even a way to play without scenarios, would have helped a lot.

But as previously mentioned, the biggest complaint is the lack of variety. Provided you're OK with that and appreciate that once you've completed every scenario you are unlikely to return to the game very much if at all, then you could play lot worse games than this one.


Presentation

I always say that if the game's presentation – the art, the rulebook, etc. – doesn't get in the way of the gameplay then I have no problems to report for this section.

However …
The rulebook isn't well written. It's ambiguous in places and poorly worded in others. You might need to re-read several sentences to understand them properly and even then there are some grey areas that really needed tighter editing and proof reading.

That aside, I know some people say the art is ugly but I don't. I think it's fine. It's not the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel but what were you expecting? All good as far as I'm concerned.

Shame about that rulebook, though.


Summary

7.5 out of 10. It's a shame about that rulebook and the lack of variety in the cards and scenarios. A little bit more uniqueness would have been needed to push my score higher. But as it stands, it's still a good game. It could have been great, though …




Note: I have learned from bitter experience with this site that I need to stress that all reviews – including this one – are entirely matters of opinion. I am not claiming that anything I have said in this review is fact, it is all entirely my opinion and I am sure that many others have different opinions. If you wish to reply with yours, I welcome it. I enjoy discussion but will not respond kindly to aggressive replies.





EDIT:: One day later ... I'm adding a new feature to all my reviews; a rough statistical breakdown of my ratings as sometimes I give a game what I think is a good score and some people still think I'm dissing it.
So I thought I might as well go back through all my past reviews and add this info to each of them, too.
My average rating across all the games I've rated on BGG is 5.9. A score of 7.5 out of 10 puts this game in the top 11% of all the games I've rated.
 
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Lee Fisher
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I have to disagree. Each characters starting setup requires very different tactics. Generally you only scout a small portion of the deck so the deck building also has a lot of variability in my opinion. And desirable cards vary a lot depending on the scenario.
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v b
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lfisher wrote:
I have to disagree. Each characters starting setup requires very different tactics. Generally you only scout a small portion of the deck so the deck building also has a lot of variability in my opinion. And desirable cards vary a lot depending on the scenario.
+1
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Ian K
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lfisher wrote:
Each characters starting setup requires very different tactics.
I do agree with this up to a point but I think it's a stretch to include the word "very". However, as I mentioned in the review:

Stenun wrote:
Soon, the unique starting decks are diluted
And the more diluted they become, the more their uniqueness starts to fade and they start to resemble each other.

Even if a unique Area Deck per character is asking too much, a larger Area Deck might have helped. You start with 9 out of the 40 cards so it's inevitable that there's going to be some crossover and that only increases as all players' decks grow. And the more crossover, the less variety.
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