Board gaming has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the last fifteen years. More and more players are discovering the excitement of playing with friends and enjoying some strategic and tactical games. This growth enabled projects which were unimaginable only a decade before, with prices and levels of complexity that are often shocking to those who have never played. The dedicated board game audience continues to demand ever-higher-end games with complex systems which enable epic adventures. Aeon Trespass Odyssey is one of the most remarkable games to come out of this unique terrain.
Aeon Trespass: Odyssey was developed by Into the Unknown over a period of time. It received a lot of positive feedback from players and critics alike when it launched in 2013. I’m circling back to talk about the game now for one excellent reason; a new Kickstarter for a second printing is in its final days, representing a second chance to snag the game after it’s been hard to come by since its launch. If you’re interested, you have just a few days left. Does it make sense to invest hundreds of dollars in each pledge level?
As you pull the lid off and begin to sift through the hundreds of cards, minis, tiles, and other accessories that come with the game, it’s hard to take issue with the production values. This game is stunning when it’s laid out. From the imaginative and rich art, to the intricate detail of each miniature. Equally important, the components help sell the game’s unique premise and fictional backdrop.
The setting of the game is a twist on Greek Mythology in which all the gods are dead and the mortal heroes have to control Titans who fight against even larger monsters that now roam the ancient world. As the Argo travels the world, players take control of the Argo crew and acquire the skills they need to defeat the Primordials.
The core story is based on Greek mythology and familiar characters, but it seems that the developers of Into the Unknown have used this framework as a springboard for their own dramatic twists. Aeon Trespass: Odyssey, a story-telling game that focuses on nuanced narrative choices and character development, is a first priority. There are books worth of choices and character developments.
This lengthy campaign can be played by up to four people. Still, it’s the sort of thing that should definitively be tackled by an existing and dedicated gaming group that is looking for something new to try over the next many months. This game is better suited for groups of long-term role-playing gamers than those who just like to play board games occasionally.
If you do take the dive, have no illusions about what you’re getting into. As with any new RPG tabletop, you can expect to find a heavy rulebook that has dozens of different rules. It’s a complex game, which rewards paying attention to the details and playing with focus. If that’s a plus for you and your group, I suspect you’ll be thrilled by the interlocking systems of upgrades, the focus on discovery and exploration, and the intricate and challenging approach to combat. And while there’s a lot to learn, Into the Unknown has done an admirable job of introducing the core concepts through an in-game opening tutorial, which helps start the story and familiarize the group with the main concepts.
The focus is on the story, but the choices you make and the gameplay that surrounds it are meant to bring about combat. You’re gradually developing connections, meeting characters, and forging relationships with others in the world that each marginally increase your chances against the formidable primordials. Players chart their voyage timeline on a sheet as they make decisions and move across a growing modular board of card tiles, eventually forming a map of your team’s journey. You decide to invest in technology that could lead to the development of new weapons or tools to fight against an overwhelming force.
In battle, your Argonaut characters possess and embody massive Titans – the only creatures who stand a chance against monsters of this scale. Luck can play an important role in success and failure. While tactics, abilities, and dice rolls all have a part to play, they are ultimately what decide whether you will hit or miss. Since the monsters are huge, your main objective is often to damage or dismember the body parts of each creature. It’s an exciting and gruesome approach to combat that matches the backdrop of classic Greek mythology.
The slow, escalating conflict on both sides is my favorite part of combat. A.I. card deck dictates your enemy’s actions, and as you damage the Primordial, new tactics and abilities go into that A.I. The decks are made more powerful. Titans also grow stronger when their rage grows. As the battle progresses, it becomes increasingly destructive and violent.
While it’s possible to win, there are many ways to lose, from failing to halt the villains’ plans to having your ship destroyed, among many others. The choices you make in the story aren’t window dressing. They have a profound impact on whether you succeed or fail, and are often accompanied by painful trade-offs. The game is constantly adding new challenges, including managing faction politics or expanding your base. Hanging behind everything while you play is a sense of desperation; even when I win a scenario, it feels like I’m doing so by the skin of my teeth, barely scraping by to fight another day.
This tension may not appeal to everyone. Aeon Traspass: Odyssey is a complex game that requires a lot of time and effort to fully understand and enjoy. But if you and your group are looking for a vibrant game that is effectively an entire gaming system in its own right, and you feel you might be up for the hundreds of hours of gameplay it can offer, I suspect you’ll be very pleased. The gorgeous minis, evocative writing, and smartly balanced game mechanics make for an unforgettable adventure.
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