3012

11 Jan

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In theory, the first two games I plan to review would have been better off being reviewed in December.  However, between work, holiday, and stocking up for the Apocalypse…it didn’t work out quite as planned.  Now, however, the time is right.  Today, I begin my IT CAME FROM THE BASEMENT adventure with a look at a game set in the future…but has its basis in the recent Mayan apocalypse that didn’t happen.  So, that means the game doesn’t exist…right?

3012 by Cryptozoic Entertainment

3012 takes place a millennium (that’s 1000 years…thanks public education!) after the Apocalypse.  Humanity has devolved even further than Honey Boo Boo.  Players take the role of the leader of one of five animal themed clans.  Through a series of encounters, and occasionally banding together with rival clans, one clan will eventually rise to dominance!

3012 is a deck-building game with some interesting mechanical twists.  Unfortunately, while it is interesting mechanically, there are some issues with the game that make it difficult to recommend in the current gaming landscape.  

The Unboxing

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The first thing I notice is that for a deck building game…there aren’t a lot of cards in the box.  In fact, there are only 228 cards included in the base game.  120 of those form the two action decks, 48 form four encounter decks,  and 20 cards each for the ally and weapon decks you will be able to buy during the game.  Each player starts with the 4 scout cards for their tribe in their hand.  Each player also starts with the oversized leader card for their tribe in front of them.

For as few cards as this game has, it has an unusually large board.  This board may overwhelm some kitchen tables.  Except for the honor track, all the board does is act as a place holder for the various decks.  I’m sure the more resourceful out there can find much more manageable ways to have the same functionality.

You also get a few small tokens and a 6-sider.

How does it look?

Very post-apocalypticy.  The art on many of the character cards looks like it was done in watercolor.  Sadly, this gives the cards a washed-out and muddy look.  The art on the action and encounter cards is noticeably sharper and more colorful.   Unfortunately, when the game is all laid out for play, it just looks kind of blah.  It’s dark and depressing.  I’ve had trouble getting people to play the game, just because they don’t like the look of the game set up.

How do I win?

Encounter cards have a renown value.  If you lead a successful battle against an encounter, you get the card in your deck. The game ends once one player’s leader has gotten to Level 5.  The player that has the most renown points in their deck at that time is the winner.

Sounds good, how do you play?

3012 has a five-step turn.  1. Replenish 2. Assembly 3. Combat 4. Acquisition 5. End.  Let’s take a look at each step.

1. Replenish Phase

Simply make sure you have 4 cards in your hand.  If not, draw up to that point.  Got it?  Good.

2. Assembly Phase

The Assembly Phase is a very short one, but it is probably the most unique aspect to 3012.  Obviously, if you only have 4 cards in your hand, that allows you very few options on your turn.  3012 alleviates that by giving you access to two random action cards each turn.  The 120 action cards, as we stated before are split into two decks.  I like to think of them as the “cheap” and “expensive” decks.  All the cards in the cheap deck are going to cost 2 or 3 gold, the other deck had cards costing 4 or more gold.  In the Assembly Phase, you simply flip the top card of each of those deck over.  Those two cards are now part of your hand for this turn!

3. Combat Phase

So, now you have 6 cards in your hand…it’s clobberin’ time!  The Combat Phase is subdivided into three phases, that must be done in a certain order.   If I were slightly better with MS Paint, I would draw you a flowchart to explain the combat phase.  Thankfully, it isn’t too difficult.

First, you have to decide if you want to compete in combat at all.  With the 6 cards at your disposal, as well as your leader’s power (equal to his experience level, which we will explain later) you decide if you want to battle.  If you do, you choose how difficult of an encounter you want to deal with, and keep going through the combat phase.  Each encounter deck has a set power range (similar to the end of year enemy deck in Kingsburg).  Level 1 encounters are power 4-6, level 2 are 7-9 and so on.  If you decide not to battle, you go straight to Acquisition…do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

So, you want to battle, huh?  Once you decide to battle, but before you see how powerful the encounter card you chose is, your opponents get to decide if they want to help fight the evil at your side, or fight with the bad guy…trying to take you down!  Each opponent, going around the table is allowed to add exactly one Scout to either side of the battle.  It’s kind of like asking for allies in Cosmic Encounter, only at a really REALLY basic level.

Once all that is decided, you flip up the Encounter card, deal with any special text it may contain, and then show your hand of cards and find out if you win or not.   If you win, hooray!  You, and any opponent that allied with you, split the experience points value evenly (rounded up).  This is how your leader gets stronger, and how the game moves towards the end.  You then take the encounter card into your discard pile as the renown value on those cards in your deck is your score at the end of the game.  Those on the losing side get squat.  Now, if you lose an encounter you started…not only do you lose the battle, but the opposing players that sided with the encounter card split the experience between them!  AND you lose all gold token you’ve stashed up throughout the game.  Losing an encounter, especially late in the game, can be devastating.  Once you’re done licking your wounds, you move to Acquisition Phase.

4. Acquisition Phase

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This is probably the part of the game that makes the least amount of sense.  You have just finished battle.  Now, you are allowed to buy the stuff you used in that battle.  Not only that, but you can use the gold value on an action card to help buy itself!

Any face up cards on the board are fair game for purchase at this time, and you can buy as many of them as you’d like.  Just as a note… the Scouts in your hand have no intrinsic combat value, except in assisting or defending other tribes in combat, so you need to look into weapons and ally cards as early as you can get them.

You are even allowed (as long as you have 1 gold token available) to put one of the action cards you used this turn on layaway!  If you choose not to use all your available gold, you may gain one bonus gold token for use on a later turn.  If you do not buy (or reserve) both of the action cards that you used on your turn, your opponents are allowed to place them on layaway themselves (as long as they have a token).  You can never have more than one card on layawa…sorry, “in reserve” at a time.

5. End Phase

Much like any other deck builder, you discard everything you played this turn, and draw four cards.

There’s a turn of 3012!

What do you think?

I like aspects of the game.  I like the ability to choose sides on combat when it isn’t your turn.  That helps mediate some of the down time.  I think the action decks are used in very unique ways.  I absolutely love the idea of reserving a card until you can afford it later in the game.  How many times have you wanted a card, but you have to let it go because of one pesky gold piece?  Kudos for a unique way of partially solving that problem.

On the other hand, 3012 is a slow game to get started.  Unless you get some amazing action card draws, you will be spending several turns just buying action cards, and saving up gold tokens until you can finally buy some ally cards.   Then you have to wait to draw them.   Once you can put together a decent attack, then the game picks up and gets a good head of steam going before it stops rather suddenly.  Also, as the game progresses, and the decks get larger, the opportunities to interact with other players lessens as you stop drawing Scouts every turn.  This is unfortunate, as that aspect of the game is a real strength.

There’s also just not much variety in the game at this point.  I understand the desire to extend a game’s shelf life by offering expansions, but you have to make sure the base game is engaging enough to last long enough to get to that expansion.  I think that may by 3012’s biggest failing.  It needs another 100 cards that help add more personality and unique abilities for each of the clans.   At this time, it’s just missing that special spark.

Final Thought

3012 is going to get overlooked almost completely, possibly even by the company that released it.  This was the second of no less than four deck builders Cryptozoic themselves are releasing between late 2011 and early 2013.  That’s not to mention all the other deck building games that other companies are going to put out there.

3012 does have some interesting aspects to it.  It is far more interactive than most deck builders.   It has several unique elements that are refreshing in the deck building genre.  I think it’s worth a play or two, and if an expansion does indeed come out, I will pick it up.  I just don’t see it grabbing a very wide audience in an already crowded scene.

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