Aeon's End: Legacy
Building decks and characters for fun and the defense of Gravehold
The Legacy version of Aeon's End is a pretty good introduction to the base game of Aeon's End. It's a bit of a conundrum though. Because you probably don't want to commit to a legacy game if you don't know whether you'll like the game it's built on. I was fortunate enough to have a friend show me the base game first, so I knew what I was in for. But I think you can probably figure out if you'll like it by reading about the mechanics.
It's a deckbuilder with a solid fantasy/magic theme. Unlike other deckbuilders, the cards aren't shuffled, so you can predict what's coming up next. Even better, you can plan ahead which cards to discard first to set up future turns. At the start of the game, you have a deck full of weak spells and cheap gems. As you play, you spend gems to buy better gems, spells and relics. Working together with other players you use your spells to damage a nemesis as it attempts to destroy you and the city (Gravehold) you are defending.
The charm of the base game is discovering ways for your specific group of characters to defeat the nemesis you are facing. It's a puzzle that gives you a good deal of control. It's also a great example of a cooperative game in which teamwork is the key. Many of the games I've played have come to down to the turn order (which is randomized). Getting one last player turn in before the nemesis deals the fatal blow feels all the more suspenseful because of all the decisions and plans that got us to that point.
So I think you'll like the game. Aeon's End's unique contribution is that the characters you play have interesting themes and play styles. The Legacy version gives you the chance to build up a character to your liking. After each battle, you have the opportunity to customize your character just a bit so that by the end of the campaign, you've designed your own unique character. And there are rules to allow you to use that character in regular games of Aeon's End.
I'm going to go on to describe the campaign a bit. It might get mildly spoilery depending on what you enjoy being surprised by. But I think the character creation aspect of the Legacy game is more than enough reason to play it. It also teaches the system in a methodical way making it a wonderful introduction. And I enjoyed working together with friends to create a team of breach mages to fight a series of nemeses (nemisi?).
Between rounds there is a lot of bookkeeping to do. There's also a series of story cards to read. The division of labor in our group of three was that my friends set up the nemesis deck, reset the game state, organized new cards and so on, while I read the story. Personally I found the story to be functional. It does the work of setting the scene for the battles and mostly stays out of the way. Honestly, the story isn't the draw here.
The series of nemeses you face have a good variety of unique powers. They also have a deck of cards that evolve over the course of the campaign. A fairly typical situation is deciding to either take immediate consequences or put off the negative effects of a card but allowing them to be more powerful later on. It's an interesting mechanic, but it requires a solid understanding of the rules to make an intelligent decision.
On the plus side, you can usually replay a nemesis after you lose without suffering compounding effects. The game provides a few advantages to give your team a leg up the second time you play. So losing isn't the end of the campaign and you don't end up in a downward spiral. Still, I feel this aspect of the campaign requires more solid understanding of the system than other decisions you'll make along the way.
I can't talk about my least favorite bit of the game without spoiling
SpoilerChapter 5. Haze
Fiend. It doesn't sit well with me because it flaws crystals,
increases the evolution of the nemesis deck and isn't replayed whether
you win or lose. So a rational strategy is to lose quickly and avoid
evolving any cards in the nemesis deck. We lost slowly and ended up
with nothing to show for a bunch of flawed crystals and more powerful
minions. From a role-playing perspective, you want to defeat the
fiend. But from a game-play perspective, you might as well let
Gravehold or your party expire. Maybe it would have helped if there
were some reward for going for a win?
The mages we built are fun to play! I don't know if it's a tribute to the game's design or our good choices, but just about every battle felt tense. I set up my character to be a healer who focused on dealing damage to minions. For some situations, that made my character central. But when there wer no minions or need for healing, I found ways to play a supporting role. We had a balanced team that worked well together.
I decided early on to not micromanage my deck, but I picked a customization about halfway through that required me to plan what card would be on the top of my draw deck in future turns. That extra planning turned out to be enjoyable despite my trepidation. Sometimes there's pleasure in having more complexities to manage.
That said, I'm not sure I want to play my mage again anytime soon. I just have spent so many play sessions with him that the next time we played Aeon's End, I wanted a totally different character. In the end, I think our campaign was a rousing success. It was a fantastic introduction to the Aeon's End system and enjoyable on it's own.