After The Virus
Bulbous, bobble-headed zombies are coming for your sweet, sweet, bulbous, bobble-headed brain. Don't let the cheeky cover art dissuade you, After the Virus is actually a tense and challenging cooperative deck builder and I'm here to tell you it's excellent. So excellent in fact that I found myself playing the solo game late into a work night; and I'm the responsible type.
The game accommodates 1 to 3 players, which in itself is unusual and for me, part of its initial draw. My wife isn't much of a gamer, so any time I see a relatively simple coop, I'm willing to give it a second look. Considering how good the solo game is though, if you struggle to find anyone for game night, After the Virus is there to keep you company in its pallid, dead clutches. It's only weird if you make it weird, mmmkay.
Bulbous, bobble-headed zombies are coming for your sweet, sweet, bulbous, bobble-headed brain. Don't let the cheeky cover art dissuade you, After the Virus is actually a tense and challenging cooperative deck builder.
In the game each player chooses one of the four characters. Although the 3 decks in the game are identical, each players starts with a different set of 10 cards. For instance, Ruth, the elderly pub owner, has no cards that allow her to run from zombies, but she does have a hefty shotgun, some traps and a watering hole where she can heal wounds. Robert on the other hand is a nomadic drifter with a Machete and an angry Doberman. The different characters feel totally unique, each with their own techniques for defeating the zombie horde.
Every time players have to reshuffle their deck, they are getting back all the cards they acquired or used in prior turns. Unfortunately they're also filling up their deck with a new wave of zombies. Each reshuffle the zombie wave goes up a level. By turn 8 you're adding 8 new zombie cards into your deck provided you survive that long. If you've ever drawn a mit full of curses in Dominion you'll recognize this is an ugly prospect. The difference in After the Virus is that these curses bite.
Photo by David Donaldson, used with permission
Most deck builders reward thinning out your deck. In After the Virus you may think you're being efficient laying out a pile of sweet traps and weapons until you realize each one is one less card getting in the way of you drawing a new zombie when you reshuffle. On the other hand, without prepared traps, weapons, or training cards, you're a sitting duck. There's a real tug of war here that I love.
The game has 16 different missions to vary your objectives.
The game also has 16 different missions to vary your objectives. The missions are ordered like a story, but there's no restriction on what sequence you play them. Each one will force you to approach the game differently, making certain cards priorities in one game and forgettable in another.
Did I mention how great this game is solo... I did? Are you sure?
The Tried and True
A deck builder like Dominion rewards efficiency by slimming your deck of cards that would otherwise clog up your hand each turn. In Dominion the way to play your hand is fairly straightforward, even if the way to optimally construct your deck isn't. In After the Virus, it's not clear how to play your hand since you have so many more options available. Do I scout, do I save survivors, ready a weapon, run from a zombie or deliberately take a wound in order to do something else?
ln After the Virus, it's not clear how to play your hand since you have so many more options available. Do I scout, do I save survivors, ready a weapon, run from a zombie or deliberately take a wound in order to do something else?
After the Virus rewards slimming your deck by how efficiently you eradicate zombies. But it's almost always valuable to add cards to your deck in order to spread out how often you encounter an enemy. This is because each reshuffle you increase the wave marker which measures how many new zombie cards get added to your deck. The issue is that the deeper you go down the zombie pile, the stronger the zombies become. So if you can keep killing weak zombies and sending them back to the top of the deck, you buy yourself time before the stronger foes appear.
From the Box After The Virus (2017) 1–3 Players, ages 10+ Playing Time: 30 - 90 minutes
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Artist: Daniel Fryxelius
Published by: FryxGames
Buy your copy of After the Virus at Board Game Bliss
Who Needs Theme Anyway?
The art in After the Virus is polarizing. On the one hand the player characters and zombies look goofy with their enlarged heads? It makes me wonder: is being eaten by a zombie a lesser fate than always falling over because your center of balance is non-existant.
I jest and after a couple plays you completely forget about this element of the artwork. On the flip side, I quite like the gritty and thematic weapon and location art.
Photo by David Donaldson, used with permission
Personally I would have preferred a darker, Walking Dead vibe, but I understand the game's appearance may have been softened to help it appeal to a wider demographic.
Where the theme shines is
how seamlessly it integrates with the mechanics.
The sense that the zombie horde is overwhelming
your best efforts is palpable.
Where the theme shines is how seamlessly it integrates with the mechanics. The sense that the zombie horde is overwhelming your best efforts is palpable.
Ironically, although After the Virus is a coop, if someone was asking for a great cooperative game, it wouldn't necessarily spring to mind. This isn't an indictment of the game but simply a comment that the cooperative element isn't what makes this game shine. Instead if someone asked for a great deck builder, hands down I would tell them to purchase After the Virus. It has more player interaction than Mystic Vale, more interesting turn management than Dominion, and better integrates its theme into its mechanics than most of the deck builders I've tried. The fact that it's a coop is simply a bonus.
If someone asked for a great deck builder,
hands down I would tell them to purchase After the Virus.
In conclusion I have no choice but to give After the Virus a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
About Our Guest Contributor David Donaldson
David is the author of the sci-fi thriller We Follow the Dying Light, released November 2017 and available on all major online retailers. The sequel In the Starless Dark is scheduled for release May 2019.
Formally educated in economics, finance and business management, David also has significant experience writing non-fiction. For several years he authored the website the Dismal Scientist. In addition to writing, David has self-published two board games 'Frontier Tycoons' and 'Mice in the Middle' both slated for reproduction in 2019. He continues to lend his creativity to his personal and professional life. Originally from the Canadian East Coast he now lives with his family in Toronto.
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Check out our Geeky Goodies interview with David about his book, We Follow the Dying Light.
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