This After The Virus review was made after playing the game about 30 times.
What is After The Virus?
After The Virus is a cooperative deck building game in which you go on missions to fight zombies, save people, and complete objectives. The game was designed by Jacob Fryxelius (Terraforming Mars) and is published by FryxGames.
After The Virus Gameplay
In After The Virus, each player gets an identical deck of cards that has 40 player cards and some zombies. At the beginning of the game, each player gets a character board and their cards are separated into three decks: the starting deck, which is slightly different for each character; the zombie pile, which has zombie cards in order from strength 1 to strength 4; and the Area deck, which contains other cards that you can buy throughout the game.
Each game you’ll pick one of the 16 missions to play. You can play the missions in order as a campaign or you can just pick one that you want to play as a one-off game. The mission description lists the unique rules for that mission and your goals.
Each turn has two phases:
- Draw Phase – You draw five cards each turn. If you need to draw a card and no cards are left in your deck, you increase your Wave number, add zombies to your deck equal to the new Wave number, shuffle the deck, and continue drawing. Whenever you draw zombies, you immediately place them in front of you and will need to deal with them that turn.
- Action Phase – Everyone takes their actions simultaneously by playing the cards in their hands. The cards can be events, weapons, traps, medical equipment, people, and other stuff that can help you kill zombies and complete your missions. When you play a non-event card (event cards have instant effects), it goes sideways in front of you and you’ll usually have to spend other cards to “prepare” it. You can also search through the Area deck for cards, which can then be bought by spending more cards. You’re usually focusing on your own area, but you can also use your cards to kill/discard other players’ zombies and to heal them. Any zombie cards that you’re unable to get rid of will attack you, give you a wound, and then go back to the zombie pile.
A key part of this game is getting more cards into your deck to limit the number of zombies you draw each turn. That means you not only want to buy more cards, you also want to use your cards so they help you out and quickly go back into your discard pile.
You’ll beat After the Virus if you’re able to accomplish the mission’s goal, which often includes saving a certain number of survivors. You’ll lose if any character gets three wounds or if you’ve failed to complete the mission’s goal in time.
- After the Virus has excellent flow. Everyone takes their turns simultaneously and the zombies don’t get their own turns, so you’re pretty much always doing something from the beginning of the game until the end. That does two great things: it makes the game fly by (even during the longer missions) and it keeps the tension high.
- There are plenty of tough decisions to make thanks to the multi-use cards. You want to play your best cards every time, but sometimes you have to use them to activate other cards or to get a much-needed card from the Area deck. There are some easy decisions, but most rounds you do need to spend some time thinking over your options, which is great.
- Another huge upside of the multi-use cards is that you never have any wasted cards. In a lot of deck building games, you’ll have some unused money and/or abilities that you can’t afford to play during a round, but in After the Virus you can always do something with your cards.
- The deck building is legitimately fun. What’s great is that you have to build your deck differently each game based on the situations you get into and the mission that you’re playing. When you lose, you’ll usually pick up on something that you can do to make your deck better during your next attempt.
- This game has great replay value. Not only are there plenty of missions, each character’s starting deck radically changes how you approach the missions. Plus, you never know what you’re going to find when you scout.
- Another reason this game works so well is because just about everything you do makes thematic sense. For example, the zombie cards can go into your discard pile, representing them following you. You can then bring along a guide, who will help you run away from the zombies and remove them from your discard pile. So cool.
- I also like that there are missions of different lengths. I usually play this as a filler game at the beginning of game nights, so it’s great that about half of the missions only take 15-25 minutes.
- The art suits the goofy zombie theme perfectly.
- Some missions do seem nearly impossible with certain character combinations. On the one hand, I don’t mind that because I know that it will feel great if I someday do beat those missions with those characters. But on the other hand, I wish that I could go into every mission knowing that I didn’t need a massive amount of luck to win.
- Some rules aren’t very clear or are just a little odd. It always seems to take people some time to realize exactly how weapons and ammo work, but what really trips them up is the fact that zombies are sometimes discarded and sometimes sent back to the zombie pile. One or two more visual examples in the rulebook would have helped clear up some of that confusion.
- You really have to sleeve these cards. They aren’t the best quality and will probably get marked up after two or three games if they aren’t sleeved. I prefer not to sleeve cards, but I felt like I had to with these.
- I do wish the three player decks were different colors just to make it perfectly clear whose cards are whose in case the cards get mixed up.
I really don’t have any major issues with After The Virus. It’s a unique cooperative deck building game that has been one of my go-to filler games for a while now. I’m not usually a big fan of zombie games, but this one just works for me on so many levels. It’s thematic, I love the multi-use cards, it’s very challenging, and it has plenty of replayability. I do think it’s a great solo game, but I’ve actually had more fun playing it as a co-op.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys playing cooperative deck building games. If you also happen to like zombie-themed games, there’s a good chance you’ll end up being a big fan of this one.