This Maximum Apocalypse review was made after playing the game seven times.
What is Maximum Apocalypse?
Maximum Apocalypse is a cooperative post-apocalyptic survival game all about completing missions while also dealing with different types of monsters that show up. The game was designed by Mike Gnade and is published by Rock Manor Games.
Maximum Apocalypse Gameplay
To set up a game of Maximum Apocalypse, you’ll choose one of the 12 missions and then gather the map tiles and scavenge cards shown on the mission card. The map tiles are randomly laid out face-down, and you can build the map however you want to. Each mission card also has an icon showing the type of monsters that you’ll be facing (aliens, robots, zombies, or mutants in the base game).
Each player gets a survivor and that survivor’s deck of cards. Your deck will contain cards that are unique to your character, such as the fireman’s ladder, helmet, oxygen tank, and his super-powerful axe. Some cards are Instant Actions, which are played and then discarded, and others are Gear cards that are placed on the table and can be used later for their actions.
Your mission will be to complete an objective, such as collecting zombie samples or gathering supplies and taking them to your shelter. Often you’ll be scavenging for the supplies you need and then rushing back to your van.
There are three scavenge decks that you’ll need to create before you start playing. The red deck will always have the most fuel and medicine, the green deck will have the most food, and the blue deck will have a lot of ammo and other useful items. When you scavenge during the game, you’ll draw a scavenge card from the deck matching the color of your current location; for example, you’ll draw from the red deck when at the gas station and you’ll know that you’ll have a good chance to draw some fuel.
Turns are pretty simple:
- Monsters Spawn – You’ll roll two dice and see if the total matches the number on any of the revealed map tiles. If it does, you’ll either place monster tokens on those tiles or, if survivors are on any of those tiles, the monsters go in front of them.
- Draw a Card
- Take 4 Actions – You can move, draw a card from your deck, play a card, take an action on a card already in play, and scavenge. There are also some free actions, including putting fuel in your van and trading scavenge cards with other players at your location.
- Increase Hunger – If you ever reach 6 on your hunger die, you’ll flip your survivor card over and start taking hunger damage. You can eat food and play other cards to keep your hunger level down throughout the game.
- Take Damage – Monsters in front of you attack.
Your survivor will die if they run out of health or if you run out of cards in your deck. You’ll lose if every survivor dies.
You’ll win the game if you complete the mission’s objective. You’ll usually also have to collect a certain amount of fuel and make it back to your van.
- I think the post-apocalyptic survival theme comes through really well in Maximum Apocalypse. Most of the missions do a great job of making you feel pretty desperate to find what you need to find as quickly as you can before you starve or some other bad thing happens to you. Also, the tension level gets pretty high when you’re moving from location to location.
- It’s great that each character gets his or her own deck of cards. None of them are overly complicated, but each survivor certainly has a very different feel, which helps to make each player feel like they have a unique role to play.
- This is a cooperative game through and through. You can’t just go off and do your own thing without communicating with your teammates first. You might need help with a monster in front of you or you might need to borrow just a little bit of food or medicine to survive. It’s all great co-op stuff and it’s all thematic.
- Maximum Apocalypse has very good replay value even after you play through all of the missions. You really can’t predict how any game is going to go since the map tiles and all of the decks are randomized and you never know where the monsters are going to show up. Plus, you can build the map however you want to and it’s easy to increase the difficulty level of any of the missions.
- I haven’t had a chance to play a six-player game of Maximum Apocalypse yet, but I do know that it plays well at all of the other player counts. I like that all of the rules are the same regardless of player count.
- The whole game has a clean and attractive look to it.
- You will run into situations where you’re just standing still for multiple turns and drawing cards from a single scavenge deck until you find what you need. An example of this is in the Nuclear Fallout mission, which has you looking for three spare parts for your van. When we played that mission we knew that three spare parts were in the blue scavenge deck, so we mostly just stood on the first blue tile that we found and scavenged until we found the parts. That was a very boring game. (I did read that the scavenging rules were changed in one of the expansions)
- Setup is a bit of a pain. You have to find the map tiles you need and create the three scavenge decks for your mission. Teardown also takes some time if you’re putting everything back in order.
- The rulebook is fine for the most part, but you’ll probably need to look online to see how some interactions work. I recommend looking at this FAQ list before you play your first game.
I love survival games and Maximum Apocalypse is one of the best ones I’ve played. So far I’ve played four memorable games that went down to the wire, two really good games, and one dud. That’s pretty good considering that most of the co-ops I’ve played recently haven’t given me a single classic/epic experience.
If you like the post-apocalyptic theme and you prefer co-ops with a ton of player interaction, chances are you’ll have a good time with Maximum Apocalypse. It looks great on the table, most of the missions are a lot of fun to play through, all of the survivors are fun to play, and it has a ton of replay value. This one’s definitely a keeper.
Update: Maximum Apocalypse is now on the Top 40 Cooperative Board Games list!