This Aftermath review was made after playing through one campaign. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Aftermath?
Aftermath is a cooperative, post-apocalyptic, adventure board game in which you play as rodents who are trying to find a way to survive in a human-less world. This is a campaign game, so you’ll play through a series of missions until you either lose or complete all of your goals.
The four main characters in Aftermath have personal goals and you’ll be attempting to complete all of those goals as you play through the game’s missions. On top of that, you need find food and other supplies so your colony can survive.
Just like in the other Adventure Book Games, each mission is played on a series of maps in the game’s spiral bound book, and next to each map is a page of unique rules and story text. Whenever you reach scavenge spots, points of interest, or pretty much any other marked spot on a map, you’ll read those entries in the adventure book.
Each game you’ll choose one of your available main missions to play as well as a side mission. The main mission cards tell you where you need to end up to complete the missions and where to go in the adventure book once you succeed or fail. You use the Downtown Travel Map sheet to track your movements around the city.
Throughout each mission you’ll be generating encounters by drawing encounter cards. This will usually lead to groups of animals showing up at your location. If the situation is safe, you can communicate with them and potentially add them to your colony. If the situation is hostile, they’ll try to fight you.
Most of the actions you take in Aftermath (fighting, scavenging, etc.) require you to perform skill tests. You’ll have five cards in your hand each turn and you’ll use those cards to move and to perform those skill tests. You first have to play the symbol/color of the action, and then you can add more cards that either match the symbol or the number on the first card. You can also use bonuses from items and abilities that your character has. Finally, you’ll roll the white resolution die and if you meet or exceed the difficulty value of the test, you’ll succeed. When fighting you’ll also have to roll the black resolution die, which makes the tests tougher.
The game will sometimes instruct you to get cards from the Discovery deck. These could be new missions, new enemies, new encounters, or other cards that will be available for the rest of the campaign.
The Campaign Dashboard tracks how much time each mission takes, your colony’s population and morale, as well as the food, scrap, and clues that you find along the way. You need food to feed your colony and you need the scrap to fix the items that you find and to build upgrades for your colony.
After you finish a mission, the adventure book will walk you through the Colony Phase. This is when you feed your colony, potentially build new colony structures, and maybe gain some new abilities for your characters. Not having enough food to feed your entire colony makes your morale go down, and spending too much time on a mission can result in events (usually negative) taking place.
The only way to fail a mission is if every character has zero health remaining at the same time. If your colony’s population or morale track ever reaches zero, you instantly lose the campaign. You’ll beat the campaign if you complete the four characters’ goals.
- In my opinion, this card-based action system is so much better than the dice system used in Stuffed Fables and Comanauts. The card draws themselves are random, of course, but the system feels a lot less random since you know the cards’ values ahead of time and you can use them in different ways. Plus, you have more “wilds” in this game, giving you even more flexibility.
- I really like that you get to choose the missions you go on throughout the Aftermath campaign. It makes you feel like you have some control over how the story plays out.
- That post-mission Colony Phase does the job of getting players excited to play more missions. Every time we built new colony upgrades or got new abilities for our rodents, we wanted to get right back into the game to test everything out and to see where the story went.
- The Encounter system was a great idea and adds some unpredictability to each mission. You do see some of the maps multiple times per campaign, but since you never know which encounters you’ll get, you can’t know how things are going to play out. Sometimes the only way to read certain story entries is if you draw specific encounters, which is just really cool.
- The Discovery deck is also great. It has a bunch of surprises and it expands the world (and your options) as you play.
- As expected, the writing in Aftermath is fantastic. As you progress through the campaign you learn more about the animals in the city and you even find out about some of the humans who used to live there. There are sweet moments, sad moments, and some pretty dark moments, all of which help to pull you into this unique post-apocalyptic world.
- One of the issues I had with the first two Adventure Book Games was that they were a bit too easy, so I was pretty excited when I first realized that this one wouldn’t be such a cakewalk. It’s not a super challenging game by any means, but there are plenty of tense moments and you definitely can lose. The threat of drawing the Calamity card, which usually activates a nasty effect, also keeps the tension level pretty high.
- The whole game has a really nice look to it. The miniatures are fantastic, the maps look great, and that box cover is one of the best I’ve seen.
- Setup and teardown is surprisingly simple. The game comes with tuck boxes to store the characters’ cards, the colony’s cards, and any banished cards, so you don’t have to search around for what you need each game. The Campaign Dashboard is also great since it keeps track of the most important info and you just keep all of the dials where they are at the end of your mission.
- The Aftermath rulebook could be a lot better. Most of the rules are there and in the adventure book, but there aren’t many gameplay examples (only one, I think) and I was still a bit confused once I had read through the rulebook. I have a feeling that people who are new to these Adventure Book Games will feel even more lost going into their first missions. This FAQ definitely helps, though, and the designer has answered everyone’s rules questions over at BGG.
- The downside of being able to choose your own mission order is that you don’t get the most satisfying ending to the campaign’s story. The game ends when you complete all four characters’ goals, so the ending you get for that last mission you played is the ending you’ll get for the campaign. It works, but I think a “Go here if you’ve completed the campaign” page would have worked better.
- I like that there are group tasks and that you can share cards with other players, but I wish there were more cooperative actions. For example, it’d be great if you could gain bonuses when you share a space with other characters.
- Some of the maps’ spaces are pretty tiny and can’t fit multiple miniatures very well. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s still kind of annoying.
Aftermath is easily my favorite Adventure Book Game so far. I enjoyed the Comanauts story the most and Stuffed Fables is still the best one for kids, but Aftermath’s gameplay is by far the best, in my opinion, and it looks the best on the table.
The rulebook could be better and I do wish that there were more ways for the characters to cooperate, but on the overall my group (three players) had a great time playing through the Aftermath campaign. We even completely messed up at one point and forgot to grab a mission card that we needed from the Discovery deck, which added about three hours to the campaign. It was just loads of fun helping our characters get stronger, finding food and scrap for our colony, building new colony structures, and interacting with this unique world.
If you like storytelling games, you’ll probably love Aftermath. If you enjoyed Stuffed Fables and/or Comanauts, definitely check this one out. This is also the first game in the series that I think works equally well as a family board game (no idea why it’s labeled 14+) and as a game that a group of adults can play together. Yeah, so I’d recommend Aftermath to pretty much everyone except for those who don’t like campaign games.
Update: Aftermath made it onto the best adventure board games list!