Abyss: Leviathan is a two to four-player card drafting, set collection, hand management game. It comes from the talented Bruno Cathala and published by Bombyx. It features, in my opinion, some of the most gorgeous artwork in modern-day board gaming. All topped off with some fantastic gameplay elements. The ruleset is relatively simple, however, the gameplay is compelling and offers a lot of choices and decision making without the major rules overhead.
Abyss is set in an underwater city where you and your fellow players are vying for control in a game of underwater politics. You will use all of your cunning and wits to buy and win votes in the council. You will need to recruit the most influential Lords to utilise their powers and take control of territories.
Allies, Lords and Monsters
On a player's turn, they will collect allies and use them to recruit the Lords of the Abyss. Allies are collected through a very interesting card draft, where you must offer the cards in the draft to your fellow players before you get the chance to take it. When another player does take a card from the draft they pay you, not the supply. The first player to purchase a card pays one pearl, the second player two pearls and so on. Any uncollected Allies at the end of the draft will go into the city council and can be collected on future turns by any player.
The cards you draft from also contain monster cards which you can choose to fight and gain specific rewards from the monster track or continue to draw cards. If you don't fight the monster the reward increases for the next person who chooses to fight.
The Lords you can recruit may give you special powers/abilities and may also provide a key. Collect three keys and a player can take control of a territory. Losing the powers of the Lords. Once a player controls their seventh lord the end game is triggered.
A Leviathan is Coming
The news has come in from the outposts and it is not good. Terrible & fierce sea monsters have been spotted and they are heading towards the Kingdom. But, this could be a good opportunity to prove your worth and provide another route to claiming the throne.
The main addition to the base game that this expansion adds is the "border" board, on which Leviathan cards will be placed. This replaces the threat track in the core game. During the card draft ("Exploring the Depths") you still have the same choice to make when you reveal a monster; fight it or continue to explore. If you continue to explore you must add a new Leviathan card to the border.
This is done by rolling two dice and placing the card in the location depicted by the roll. If the zone is free the Leviathan is added, the monster card discarded and you continue on your way. If it is occupied by another Leviathan then you are attacked (gaining wounds, discarding allies/lords or losing pearls) and the new Leviathan card is added to the zone, replacing the current one.
Fighting a Leviathan
If you choose to fight the Leviathan you need to discard an ally from your hand that matches one of the icons displayed on the Leviathan card on the border. A d6 is rolled and your attack power is calculated by adding the value of the die and the ally discarded. Some of the new allies in the game allow you to mitigate this die roll with special abilities. If your attack power is equal to, or greater than the Leviathan's resistance then it loses one health point. If this is the Leviathan's last health point you gain a reward.
This new addition adds so much to an already great game. The draft becomes more interesting and important as you require certain allies to be able to fight the Leviathans. Do you choose to push your luck and not fight a Leviathan? Or do you risk it for some good rewards? Choosing to fight a Leviathan is not a guaranteed success. There is an element of tension when you do decide to fight. There is also competition for these as the first person to defeat a monster gains a cool looking miniature called "The Scourge of the Abyss". As soon as an opponent reaches or exceeds the number of kills of the player who holds the Scourge, they gain this for themselves. Although functionally irrelevant whoever holds the Scourge at the end of the game gains five points.
A few other additions the expansion brings is additional allies and lords, ability to play up to five players and a hand limit of 12 allies.
I have always enjoyed Abyss, from the cool artwork to the interesting draft and gameplay choices. However, Abyss: Leviathan expansion just adds so much more depth to the game without a huge amount of additional rules. I would still suggest playing a few games of the core game first but highly recommend you pick up this expansion. For me, this is the way that I want to play Abyss from now.