Board Game Reviews

APOKALYPSIS by Raven Distribution Review

Theme and What is it?

The Day of Judgment is finally approaching. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have risen from Hell to reap the souls of the damned, while Lucifer spreads his Wings of Darkness and the Great Beast devours the last chimes of Time. In the meantime, Archangel Michael fights to save the pious souls and make them join the ranks of the Angels. Taking Part in the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, will you succeed in corrupting the most souls before the end of the world?

Apokalypsis is a biblical-themed tactical/strategic card game for 3 to 6 players. It is based on the contents of the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse of John, the last book of the New Testament.

As one of six Fallen Angels (Asmodeo, Adramelech, Baal, Beelzebuub, Lilith and Moloch), players will strive, before the Apocalypse strikes, to reap or steal the highest number of souls through the services of the Four Horsemen and smart card combos. They need to be faster than the Beast – who masters Time – and clever enough to take advantage of the movements of Lucifer. Moreover, they also compete with Archangel Michael, who could win the game saving more souls than those corrupted by the Fallen Angels.

A deep game characterized by a strong theme which emerges even in some of the mechanics, Apokalypsis will challenge your strategy and memory skills, while fostering you to think about the Destiny of Mankind. And remember… tempus fugit.

I had the opportunity to chat with Andrea Vitagliano, one of the three authors of the game, about the ideas behind the creation of Apokalypsis and the choice of the theme. “The Irregulars [the group formed by the authors] usually implement a very collaborative creation process for their games; therefore, after a couple of brainstorming sessions, it’s very difficult to say who among us proposed a specific idea or suggested a particular mechanic” said Andrea. “We started working on Apokalypsis in 2012 within the frame of the renowned Lucca Comics&Games event. Every year they organize a contest rewarding the Best Unreleased Game; the theme of the contest for 2012 was, quite appropriately, ‘The End of the World’, due to the approaching of the date mentioned in the famous Maya prophecy. Sometimes The Irregulars like to work with specific design constraints; therefore, we decided to accept this challenge and took part in the contest, reinterpreting the theme from a biblical point of view… just because we wanted to march to a different drummer. Gianni Negrini has a History degree and he took care of the cultural, religious and historical background of the game. Then, the three of us worked together on the mechanics. Double-sided cards are something we really like and we often use them in our games. If I recall correctly, Jacopo and Gianni had the idea of the ‘clock’. Even the choice of the numbers of Apokalypsis – 12 Wings, 66 Souls, 12 Noble Souls – is the result of an accurate Numerology study made by us all together. This game is really the fruit of cooperation among the authors.”

Gameplay Mechanics

Apokalypsis doesn’t have a real board; it is created with the cards during the setting of the game. Rather appropriately, the 12 Wings cards are laid down on the table as to form a clock alternating a Wing of Darkness and a Wing of Light. Throughout the game, the cards of Lucifer, the Great Beast and Archangel Michael will move along the clock in different ways to symbolize the passing of Time. Each Wing has an immediate effect on it, described both in words and with a clear icon.

Each player receives a Fallen Angel card and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of the same color. Near the board we place also the Limbo card, the Heavenly Throne card, the Chimes deck (Events and Deadly Sins) and the Souls deck. The six Wings tokens (three blue Wings of Light and three red Wings of Darkness) are at the players’ disposal.

Apokalypsis plays over turns. In each turn the players choose one of their Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Death, Famine, Pestilence or War) and apply their effects. Every Horseman card has two pieces of info on it: at the top, it specifies the movements of Lucifer and Archangel Michael along the clock of Time; at the bottom, it says how many Wings tokens of each color the player must use in his turn. Lucifer always moves; Michael moves only if the Horsemen of Death or Pestilence are played. Lucifer turns every wing he touches moving on the clock into a Wing of Darkness; Michael turns every wing he touches moving on the clock into a Wing of Light.

Once the player receives the tokens, he has to activate the corresponding Wings on the clock. He can choose any Wing card of the same color of the token and apply its effects immediately. When a Wing card is activated, it is flipped over. Remembering which effect is hidden on the other side of a Wing card is crucial here. If a player didn’t pass the turn and chose to play a Horseman, he can also play Chimes card. Then the Horseman is discarded in a personal pile and can’t be used a second time until he is picked up again in the hand.

Devoured souls are piled under the Limbo card. Pious souls are piled under the Heavenly Throne card. Reaped souls are piled under the players’ Fallen Angels cards. If a reaped soul is a Noble Soul card, its effects are activated immediately. Every time a Chime card is drafted, the Great Beast moves around the clock.

The game is over when (1) the Great Beast completely moves around the clock twice, or (2) the Souls deck is empty, or (3) Lucifer, Archangel Michael and the Beast are aligned on the same Wing card during the second turn around the clock of the Beast. If one of these three conditions takes place, players count the Souls piled under their Fallen Angel card. The player with the most souls is the winner. However, if Archangel Michael managed to save more pious souls (players count also the Souls cards under the Heavenly Throne), Michael is the winner and all players lose: the Day of the Apocalypse comes and finally Good wins over Evil.

Initial Impressions

At the beginning, I must admit I was hesitant about trying this game. I wasn’t sure about the religious theme, but at the same time I was attracted by the beautiful art on the cards. Then I decided to read the rulebook, and surprisingly I found out that Apokalypsis is a heavily tactical card game where making the best combos and trying to take advantage of the moves of the other players represent the main engine… and that is definitely my thing.

Game after game, I realized how perfectly the mechanics blend with the theme of this title and the Story behind it. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons I suggest jumping into a game to see how Apokalypsis plays out before developing any biases against it.

Game Build Quality

Since Apokalypsis is a pure card game, components are limited to the six plastic Wings tokens and… cards. Lots of cards. 160 big and beautifully drawn cards.

The square and not too big box is easy to carry around. The paper insert is nicely made, but quite useless, since the tokens have their own zip lock bag and cards can be sleeved (I recommend it) and put in separate zip lock bags, too.

The best thing about the components is undeniably the rulebook. It’s clear, with a lot of pictures and examples. I especially like the use of different colors and typos (italic, bold, underlines text) to make some parts of the rules more evident and easier to remember. The particular thing about the rulebook is the short compendium at the end of it. As the authors stress openly, the theme is rather deep and they didn’t want the game to become shallow and dull. That’s why they reported a brief description of the Apocalypse of John, its protagonists, the Fallen Angels and the content of each chapter of the book. I really think players should take a few minutes before playing Apokalypsis for the first time to approach this controversial theme and have a more thorough experience of the game.

Artistic Direction

Alan D’Amico, the artist of this game, did a beautiful job with the illustrations on the cards. They are depicted in the form of stained-glass windows, like those in the dark gothic cathedrals. The bright colors and the multi-faceted images are just wonderful. Everything is perfectly in line with the theme and the overall feeling of the game.

Fun Factor

Apokalypsis is a very challenging game where players need to think their moves ahead (strategy), but at the same time be flexible and change their minds effectively to adapt to the actions of the other players (tactics). I didn’t have fun while playing the first two games. I started to really enjoy Apokalypsis on my third game, when I was aware of what I was doing and which of the Four Horsemen was the best in a specific situation, and I remembered all the possible effects of the double-sided 12 Wings to choose them wisely. At the beginning I was playing rather randomly, but then the depth of the game came all out.

I love the idea of having more Chimes cards to mix in order to modify the game a bit. This possibility makes Apokalypsis even more fun and competitive if you’re playing with expert gamers.

Andrea Vitagliano underlined the highly interactive aspect of this game: “Players stand in the way of one another continuously, stealing souls and attacking their opponents directly. Being the villains is always more fun than playing the good guys. Moreover, they have a common enemy, that is Archangel Michael, to keep at bay, and this means sometimes competition makes way for collaboration.”

Age Range & Weight

The suggested age range for Apokalypsis is 13+ and I agree with it. The theme is quite controversial and I wouldn’t approach it with younger kids. Although the rules are rather simple, the decisions made each turn by the players are not. It takes a while to fully appreciate the mechanics and learn to make the best use of them.

Andrea Vitagliano agreed with the choice of the publisher concerning the age range. “We are talking about Fallen Angels who reap souls evoking the Great Beast of the Apocalypse here. The theme is not suitable for everybody, let alone little children. The mechanics are not easy to master, either. I would play Apokalypsis only with older kids who are into tactical games and are not easily impressionable.”

Average time for a game is estimated around 45 minutes. I find it appropriate playing in three and four players. However, since the end of the game comes when the Souls deck is empty or when the Beast completes its second turn around the clock, I believe even in six players the average time is more or less the same, because the deck will run out faster and the Beast will move faster as well.

Apokalypsis can be defined as a filler game, according to the time estimate and the number of decisions involved. However, I find it heavier than other board games characterized by a lot of components and rules. After all, the Apocalypse is coming and doing the right thing has never been so important.

Conclusions

I must admit I enjoyed Apokalypsis despite the theme. I think the card clock is a brilliant idea and it reminds you constantly of the importance of Time. The Action Point Allowance System (choosing how to move Lucifer and Michael and deciding how many Darkness/Light actions to take) and the Hand Management are two of my favorite mechanics in a board game… without forgetting the possibility to make very strong combos and get an advantage over my opponents.

I love the art on the cards. The gothic mood blends perfectly with the theme and the mechanics. And I appreciated the historical work made by the authors with the extra info at the end of the rulebook. These things give you the idea of how much authors care about their games.

 

I wouldn’t play Apokalypsis with occasional players, but only because I wouldn’t want to discourage them with the deep theme and the mix of mechanics. With the right group of friends, this is a very fun game, and I really wish there was a specific set of rules to enjoy the game also in two players, maybe with different effects on the cards.

Even if there are only 12 Wings cards and some might argue that 24 effects are too few to provide a fun experience in the long run, I believe replay value is guaranteed by the different Chimes cards that can be mixed in the deck to give more variety to the game.

Apokalypsis is an all-Italian game. I don’t want to sound patriotic here, but I believe The Irregulars did really a great job on this one. Card games lovers will undoubtedly find it intriguing. Raven Distribution Italy is a reliable publisher and I like the fact they decided to bet on such an original game.

A huge thank you to Andrea Vitagliano for his collaboration and comments.

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Val Carcaiso

Val Carcaiso

“Cogito, Ergo Ludo.”
Board game addict. Curious traveler. Avid reader. Country music lover.
Val Carcaiso

Latest posts by Val Carcaiso (see all)

“Cogito, Ergo Ludo.” Board game addict. Curious traveler. Avid reader. Country music lover.

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