Review – Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos from Quantuum Magic B.V.

Review –  Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos from Quantuum Magic B.V.

This is a game for 2-4 players, aged 12+

Designer – Patrick Ruedisueli

Art – Peter Coolen, Erik de Brouwer

Many thanks to Quantummm Magic B.V. for a review copy of this game

Last year, at the UK Games Expo, I had the opportunity to meet up with Patrick Ruedisueli, the designer behind Existenz. Patrick had sent me an earlier copy of Existenz the collectible card game to have a look at and as I wasn’t familiar with collectible card game mechanics, I struggled to learn it. I liked the look of the game but I just couldn’t get my head around the rules. We exchanged emails and had a couple of skype conversations and I expressed my view that I thought the game just wasn’t accessible for noobs like me.

Interestingly enough, Patrick and colleagues came to Expo to show their prototype of their new take on their game. An entry level version with 4 complete card decks, updated artwork and components. And it all looked fantastic. The guys really took feedback on board and had decided on a different approach. This new version was aimed at introducing people to Existence: On the Ruins of Chaos in a much more user-friendly package. No need to buy extra booster packs (although you can if you want), much cleaner and understandable rulebook, etc.

Here is the video demo from Expo which got us all excited to see the finished version –

And having received the finished article, I was very pleased to play it and tell you what I think about it.

Unboxing

Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos comes with –

Rulebook

A Quick reference sheet

Gameboard – well laid out, showing the Existenz world and regulated by a movement network consisting of dots for movement and placement

4 complete, ready to play card decks, each representing a distinct Race faction (50 cards each + 1 Life base card) – the Arnunnian Alliance, Undead Legion, Pirate Confederacy and Red Barbarian Brotherhood.

Flux Cards – are non-permanent (use them and discsrd) and represent the magicical formulae that has short term effects. Play them, use them, dicard them.

Catalyst Cards – represent stable rituals of arcane power that have longer term effects. Can be used to target a friendly or non-friendly Summon.

Energy crystal card – the core currency of the game used to activate effects or abilities

Summon cards – representing your forces. All have attack power, defense, speed for movement and Attack Range

4 sets of playing pieces – representing summons cards which are powerful constructs or warriors (Life Base, Dragon, Vessel, Army, Berserker, Beast)

Counters – help you keep track of certain specific conditions during play

 

 

The first thing that I noticed was that this is a quality production. The art is very evocative of a chaotic sci-fi/fantasy universe and it just fantastic. The board, representing the chaotic world being traveled and fought across, is gorgeous. The cards are well made, beautifully illustrated, easy to read, even with a fair amount of information. The playing pieces are reasonable, perhaps the weakest element as they are made from hard cardstock. The look good and work fun, needing a minimal effort to put them together.

The best part for me, and this is great news for noobies to this type of game like me, is the rulebook. I have to say, that of all the rule books that I have ever read through, the rulebook for this game is top drawer, best in class. Very simply, all game companies need to take a look at the standard of these rules as this is what board game rules should be like. They are well written, easy to understand, extremely visual with a number of wonderful illustrations and many examples. It is a learning document which takes you through the process in a straightforward, easy to follow journey. It was an absolute pleasure to read through.

Patrick and team have put in a lot of effort to get this right, unlike some larger game publishers who consistently produce sloppy rulebooks (I’m looking at you FFG). I was concerned that Existenz:On the Ruins of Chaos wasn’t ready for Essen 2011, and Patrick told me that they were really trying to get everything right. And from where I sit, the rules say it was worth the wait. My experience of learning this version, compared to the CCG version was like night and day, literally.

Gameplay

The setting of the game is in a world where a dangerous experiment involving unstable component X-6-10-Z (Existenz, geddit???) resulted in the Chaos virus, causing strange mutations and destroying most forms of technology. You play as one of the 4 mutated factions fighting for dominance and survival. You can play as individuals or a teams of 2 players each.

There are 6 Game zones

Deck – from where you draw your cards

Hand – you start with 7 and this is you maximum hand size

Stack – this is a mutually shared, temporary zone where actions like combat are resolved

Play – where permanent cards are played and built up to help you take stronger actions over the course of the game

Discard – cards go here when destroyed, sacrificed, discarded, canceled or prevented

Removed – some cards may be permanently removed from the game

You start with your hand of 7 cards and then place your Life Base piece on a starting dot

 

Objectives – there are 3 ways to win

Escape Victory – Be the first to move your life base to one of the end dots

Destruction Victory – Destroy the enemy life base

Depletion Victory – When your opponent has no cards left in their deck to draw, they are eliminated from the game

 

Game process

Reactivation phase – all cards that were activated in the previous turn (turned 45 degrees) are turned upright for use in the new turn

Draw phase – Draw 1 card from your deck

Action phase – you can take the following actions in any order:

– Place one energy crystal into play

– Cast any number of summons, catalysts and fluxes

– Move and/or attack with your summons

– Activate effects and abilities (having spent the appropriate crystals)

During your action phase, your opponent may respond to your actions by using fluxes or activation effects and abilities

End phase – Your opponent has priority. All players may cast fluxes and activate effects and abilities. When all players pass, your turn ends.

 

The rules, as I said above, are very good and the process moves nicely. Within a few turns you should be pretty comfortable. The turns don’t take long at all as you are limited in terms of what cards you have available to activate. Its all about making the most effective use of crystals to have the best impact. Do I move my life base? Activate a supporting summon? And where do I bring them in?

The movement is challenging as you can only move and attack in one direction and the movement grid is rather circular making it tough to get summons in position, but thats part of the challenge.

The 9o minutes suggested playing time is about right. You have a number of decisions to make and once you understand the importance of using crystals to activate, you will both be frustrated  due the limited number of crystals you have in play, and happy as you find you will do some useful things although never as much as you need to. This makes for a tense game. The Stack mechanism is pretty intuitive as its really a matter of choosing what to commit early to the Stack and what to hold back as once the players involved in the Stack pass, each card is resolved in the reverse of the order played, so timing makes a difference.

The theme is very strong with this one as all the cards have interesting flavour text and art and are clearly laid out, so they are easy to use. The rules clearly describe the aspects of the cards and it all comes together nicely once you’ve played a few early turns.

I found the whole process pretty easy to pick up thanks to the excellent rules.

Did it work for me?

Playing Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos has been a great start to 2012 for me. I am really pleased with the quality of the production and delighted that Patrick and team took on board feedback and responded with what I consider to be a rather brilliant game which is suitable for those like me who are new to CCG mechanics, but not forcing you into a never ending money trap of having to purchase never ending booster packs. You certainly can if you want to build and tailor your decks, as more is promised. The Existenz website has loads of supporting resources as well.

It looks and feels great, the background theme is well done, built on the back of the original CCG. The rules are very clear, easy to learn and you can get into the thick of the action nicely. The choices in types of victory, individual and team play,  and the variety of choices dependant on the draw of cards (yes, random, but it works very well) make for a tense experience with a reasonable amount of thinking things through without getting bogged down in analysis paralysis. Loads of replayability with the 4 decks and single or team play. This game is really fun to play.

If you are a MtG player or play other Collectible Card games, you should have no problem playing. Or if you are new to the genre, you will find a brilliant hybrid betweeen CCG’s and board games. I prefer not having just to focus on the deck but that the deck is a means to a much greater end, conducting maneuver and warfare across the board. A terrific CCG/board game hybrid.

Simply put, Existenz:On the Ruins of Chaos is a class act!

 

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 9 out of 10

Family friendly – I would say no, this is for gamers really

 

For more information go to – http://www.x610z.com/home

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