Stats at a glance
Ages: 14 +
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Alongside spells, relics, and gems, teamwork is the name of the game here if you want any chance of returning victorious.
Read our full Aeon’s End Review below.
Brief Overview of Aeon’s End
In Aeon’s End, your squad of characters is battling to save your hometown of Gravehold against the attacks of one of four possible Nemeses.
Players take their turns in a random order, working together to defeat the monster without being knocked out or Gravehorn being reduced to a pile of rubble.
There are plenty of options open to you to achieve your goal. You can cast spells, use gems and relics, and use special abilities, all while supporting your teammates on the battlefield.
Versions & Expansions
Aeon’s End: War Eternal
This is a standalone expansion that introduces four new bosses along with updating the rather tired artwork of the original.
Aeon’s End: The New Age
The New Age introduces campaign-style gameplay to Aeon’s End, known as the Expedition System. It lets you play through all the bosses, collecting and keeping items as you go. However, the Nemeses get stronger, too.
Aeon’s End: The Depths
This is a bit more of a classic expansion. The Depths adds a new Nemesis to the game, along with three breach mages, and new relics, gems, spells, and minions.
The 2nd edition of the expansion comes with updated artwork for the cards.
Aeon’s End: The Nameless
Aeon’s End: The Outer Dark
Aeon’s End: Outcasts
Aeon’s End: Legacy of Gravehold
Unboxing Aeon’s End
For a game that is largely based on cards and tokens, and with no miniatures, Aeon’s End has a BIG box. Here’s what you’ll find when you wrench it open:
- 40 life tokens
- 21 charge tokens
- 10 power tokens
- 15 Fury/husk tokens
- 2 Life Dials
- 4 player number tokens
- 87 gem, 86 spell and 30 relic cards
- 27 randomizer cards
- 4 player aid cards
- 8 player mats
- 16 breaches
- 9 turn order cards
- 4 nemesis mats
- 75 nemesis cards
- 1 manual and set-up overview
There’s a lot of card/cardboard to wade through. The general feel of everything is good quality, though, with the kind of thickness that suggests this game is intended for extensive use.
The instruction manual is large but not overweight with information. There are a lot of useful images, graphs, and spaces that make it easy to read and follow. I liked too that they include lots of useful examples of gameplay. Included is a Game Set-up sheet, as well, which was super handy for getting the game off to a swift start.
The size of the box is unnecessary for the original game. Probably double the size it needs to be, in fact. However, it’s packed with foam blocks to fill the space, I assume to give room for any expansions that you might choose to buy.
You’ll find two Life Dials in there, too, which I was really impressed with. These devices can sometimes be quite flimsy and are often condemned to not see it past one or two games if you have some excitable friends. But these are good quality.
So component-wise, all very good. But when it comes to the visuals, things take a turn for the worse. Sadly, this is where the standard of the game production really falls down. So much so, that I’ve decided to make it one of the main cons of this game. You can read my thoughts on this below.
How to Play Aeon’s End
There are four Nemeses included in the game. They all have different abilities and require different strategies to be defeated.
Winning or Losing the Game
The aim of the game is to defeat the nemesis. To do so, you must either inflict enough damage on the Nemesis to bring them down to zero life or hold out for long enough that they run out of cards or minions left in play.
Alternatively, if your whole team becomes Exhausted at the same time or Gravehold’s life gets to zero, then you lose!
Each player chooses a character, a corresponding player mat, and a player number token. Their player mat tells them how they should build their initial starting hand and deck, along with keeping all the key stats on your character throughout the game.
You then take one of each Breach – the device that lets players cast spells.
Next, you need to choose your Nemesis, which comes with its own Life Dial to track its remaining life. Make sure you read the rules on the Nemesis Card before you start the game. Each Nemesis has its own Nemesis Deck specific to them and you’ll also see that the Nemesis Cards are tiered. This allows you to build the deck so that the cards get increasingly harder throughout the game.
The order of play is randomly decided using the Turn Order Deck. In the deck, there’s a card that represents each player, along with two Nemesis cards, regardless of how many players you have in the game. On the first go, flip over a Turn Order card, the player that is revealed then takes their turn. Once they’ve finished their turn, reveal another card, and so on.
Player Turn Phases
There are three phases to a player’s turn:
Casting Phase – this is when you get to cast spells. To cast a spell, it must be placed in a Breach. If they’re in an ‘open’ Breach, then you can choose whether to play them or not. Spells in a ‘closed’ Breach must be played.
Main Phase – this is when you perform actions. You can choose to do as many of the following as many times as you like:
- Play a gem or relic card.
- Gain a card – these are bought using Aether, the currency of the game, which in various ways, such as using gems and relics. Aether only lasts for the turn on which it is acquired. Any unused Aether is given up at the end of the turn.
- Gain a charge – these fuel your abilities.
- Focus a Breach – you can only prep a spell in a ‘closed’ Breach if it has been Focused. This also brings down the cost of ‘opening’ a Breach on a future turn.
- Open a Breach – this will cost you Aether, however, it lasts for the rest of the game.
- Prep a spell to a Breach – remember, you can only prep a spell to a Breach that has been Focused or Opened. You can only have one spell prepped to a Breach at a time. Prepped spells can then be cast on your next Casting Phase.
- Resolve a “While prepped” effect.
- Resolve a “TO DISCARD: effect.
Draw Phase – discard any gems or relics played in the Main phase and replenish your hand.
Nemesis Turn Phases
The Nemesis only gets two phases:
Main Phase – resolve the effects of each minion and power card in order of which entered play first.
Draw Phase – draw cards from the Nemesis Deck. If it’s an attack card, then this must be resolved immediately. If it is a minion card or power card, put it into play. This will be its actions next turn.
If your player loses all their life, they are Exhausted. This means they stay in the game, but permanently lose one of their Breaches. Also, they are unable to gain any more life. Damage is instead dealt, in double, to Gravehold.
If all players become Exhausted, the game ends.
In Aeon’s End, Gravehold is the home that you are protecting. It has a Life Dial of its own and will take damage from your Nemesis and minions alike. The well-being of Gravehold is just as important as your own. If its Life Dial reaches zero, then it’s game over.
Your First Game of Aeon’s End
Unlike many other deck-building games, in Aeon’s End, you never shuffle your own discard pile. This is important, as it’s a feature of the game. No matter how tempting it might be – you’ll probably catch yourself going to do it automatically at least twice – resist the urge!
The fact the cards come around only so often, and you can plan for it, adds a lot to the gameplay. You will find yourself waiting it out before that killer spell comes back around. It’s another thing to feed into your strategy.
Usefully, you’re welcome to look through your discard pile to help guide your plans.
In addition, while very simple to pick up, Aeon’s End is a hard game to win. So, if you find that it’s proving too difficult (and you just like to win sometimes) you can make it a little less challenging by reducing the amount of tier two and three cards in the Nemesis Deck.
Pros & Cons
- Lots of co-operation
- Good variation
- Easy to learn
- Random elements aren’t for everyone
- I didn’t quite buy into the theme.
What I loved about Aeon’s End was the level of cooperation that is needed in order to win it. Some co-op games can feel quite siloed, with players taking individual turns and hoping it helps the overall effort.
However, in this game, there are plenty of opportunities to directly support your allies, such as healing, focusing their breaches, or giving them Charges. To come out on top, effectively supporting your companions is just as important as casting spells – wasn’t it JK Rowling who said that?
I was also impressed with the amount of replayability this game has. There are a lot of cards to play and characters to choose from. Whereas the four different Nemeses all present a very different challenge.
Lastly, despite seeming quite complex, Aeon’s End is very easy to pick up. Once you’ve run through one turn each, everything else is very self-explanatory. Someone could quite easily join a group of seasoned Aeon’s End players and be fully engaged in no time.
If anything, while the rules provided are perfectly easy to read, they almost made it seem more confusing than it was.
In terms of cons, I can’t really fault the gameplay. However, there are some people out there that simply can’t handle random elements in a game. If they’re going to win, they want it to be their fault. If they lose, they can’t bear to feel like it’s simply because of luck.
There’s only one real random element to the game – the turn order – so it’s not overwhelming, but can have a big effect on the game. If the Nemesis gets the first go before you’ve managed to knock off some minions, then you can end up taking a good deal more damage than if your card had come out first.
It’s not an issue for me. I like the excitement of these kinds of features, but it’s just worth bearing in mind for some players.
My main dislike with this game was the uninspired design and theme. I got the impression that the developers spent a long time putting together the mechanics of the game, then, two days before the deadline, someone reminded them they needed some characters, a story, and artwork to go with it.
So, while the game flows brilliantly well, I found it difficult to get an emotional buy-in when battling a Nemesis taken from Generic Fantasy Game Monsters 101. Next to the likes of Too Many Bones – the design of which I wasn’t a huge fan, but there’s no doubt the developers of the game put their heart and soul into the story – it pales in comparison.
Aeon’s End Review (TL;DR)
In Aeon’s End, your squad of characters is battling to save their hometown of Gravehold against the attacks of one of four possible Nemeses.
It’s easy to learn, with plenty of replayability and is great value for money. It’s just a shame about the lackluster implementation of the theme and artwork.
Aeon’s End is a smooth, well-put-together cooperative deck-building game that has a lot more to it than the time it will take to learn it suggests. This could be a great place to start for someone just getting into the deck-building genre, as it has enough to challenge, but isn’t so overwhelming to scare them off.
The fact your success is so heavily dependent on teamwork and considering the stats and circumstances of your teammates, it’s a great way to build some camaraderie as you battle to defeat the Nemesis.
It offers great value for money, too, simply because of the amount of gameplay you can get out of it. With multiple characters to play and enemies to battle, it’ll be a long time before you live the same adventure twice.
Despite all this though, it remains a shame that the lackluster implementation of the theme and artwork means, in the end, I just didn’t really care that much about what happened to our characters or their home. A thematic makeover really would put this up there with some of the top deck-builders around, but right now it’s just not quite got that spark.
Sorry Gravehold, we just had to put that parking lot somewhere.
Have you tried Aeon’s End? We’d love to hear what you think. Drop a comment below and tell us how you saved Gravehold.
Find more Legacy Board Games to play in our video below:
A passionate traveller as well as a gamer, Joe is trying to play board games in as many countries as possible. No surprise, two of his favourite games are travel-friendly Tiny Epic Galaxies and Coup. But when in his home town of London, Libertalia and Secret Hitler are currently top billing.