The New Age is the fourth base game in the Aeon's End series (Indie Boards & Cards). The narrative follows on a few decades after the events of Aeon's End: Legacy. New breach mages have taken up the fight against The Nameless and protect the city of New Gravehold from their attacks. To do this, players embark on a 4-8 game expedition, with later games becoming more difficult. Will you survive the ordeal, or will the Nameless tear New Gravehold to the ground?
For more information on the Aeon's End series and how to play, be sure to read our articles on the War Eternal and Legacy base games.We also have reviews on all of the small box expansions, which you can find on the Zatu Games Blog.
Gameplay & Set-up
Gameplay remains much the same as the previous offerings, with some new tweaks and call backs. The included Expedition Mode allows players to follow a short campaign. This mode uses story cards and unlockables that introduce new mechanics and themes. Enemies become more difficult to face as you progress, but the rewards become greater in turn. Players are gradually rewarded with treasure cards after vanquishing each Nemesis. These treasures improve your deck and provide new powers to improve your odds against later bosses.
Don't be fooled though, the Nameless have their own methods for powering up. Maggoth, the game's first Nemesis, is a call back to Aeon's End's Carapace Queen. Maggoth has evolved to cover the queen's weaknesses. His spawn can hatch into flies and double their potency if left unchecked. Not only that, the swarm threatens New Gravehold at every turn, threatening to ruin the city. Though familiar to fans of the series, this evolved form does plenty to incite (and infest) its victims.
Expedition mode also allows players to create their own campaigns to play if they wish. They may do this with this game's contents or add content from any of the previous expansions as well. Though these won't have any story cards, there is nothing stopping you creating your own. Want to have Kadir and Claudia as a mother-daughter spelunking team? Or Taqren and Z'hana squaring off against the Nemesis that destroyed their family? Go for it! It also wouldn't be an Aeon's End game without a slew of new content.
Many of the latest breach mages play with abilities centred around unique breaches. Gygar's Ancient Breach improves over time so that spells cast from it deal more damage. Conversely, Taqren's Defender breach heals Gravehold for every spell cast from it. Each mage brings its own mix of unique abilities, cards and breach set ups to bring something new to the table.
The market cards also bring with them new mechanics. Attach appears on Relic cards and allows players to augment their breaches further. When a player casts a spell from a breach with an Attached relic, they get extra benefits. For example, when a player casts a spell from a breach with 'AEther Conduit', they gain one AEther. This is on top of the spell's effects, so you can leverage further advantage with the new Spell keyword. Echo triggers a spell's 'when cast' effect twice, meaning you get double duty off of your Attach cards. Even without attachments, you'll still get double the benefit from your three and four breaches.
Final Thoughts on Aeon's End: The New Age
The Expedition mode presents an interesting take on the standard Aeon's End formula. It definitely takes inspiration from Aeon's End: Legacy, in terms of its process. The same story cards that I disliked from Legacy are here, but they're more forgivable. The campaign takes about half the time of Legacy, and fewer cards makes for a sleek experience. The treasures also differentiate the experience from playing the base game. Treasure cards give you access to new customisation options and combinations. Not to mention an easier way to help newer players against the more difficult enemies. I felt the game time was perfect given the content provided, and I've only used half of the mages so far. The system also incorporates existing content in a way that keeps it relevant. I'm excited to discover the limits of the system with previous mages and Nemeses.
Unfortunately, I am again aggrieved by the lack of forethought in the production here. The already poor inserts have now had a card slot removed, and it barely holds the content from this wave as a result. I had to switch in my old War Eternal insert to fit everything in a workable way. I'm sure it's won't be the first or last I'll speak of poor inserts, but the problem needs addressing. I also once again received a disfigured nemesis dial (this time with two left hand dials). Not to mention there are also tokens missing for one of the starter characters. Yes, I can provide alternatives, but should I need to think about that when I buy a game? At the end of the day it is an replaceable part for me, but it doesn't give a good impression. I worry for those who buy into the series with this base game as their first outing. My hope is that the designers give the production a second look before the retail release.
That being said, I loved the customisation aspects of The New Age. The method of switching in new spells and gems kept things fresh, as well as the new Nemeses. The puzzle remains fluid as players try to figure out the best combinations between them. Plus, touching new design space around breaches is a logical and brilliant next step. They have perhaps devoted too much time to development rather than in production. Though, I will not balk at new options breathing new life into the system.
All in all, The New Age narrowly pips ahead of Legacy for me. Its production issues let it down, but the streamlining of its story elements is welcomed. The designers have cut a lot of the gimmicky features prevalent in Legacy, and the experience feels a lot smoother as a result. I do worry about whether the Expedition system will have legs over the long term. A lot of Aeon's End's selling point is being able to play a game in 60-90 minutes. For those invested it can be great to play several games in a row, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Having to push through a series of games might alienate newer, more casual players. I'd recommend staying away from Expedition mode with new players until they become more familiar with the game.
The New Age is definitely one for Aeon's End enthusiasts. For a newer player I'd likely still recommend Legacy over this. For the established player, New Age is a great supplement to either War Eternal or the original base game. Not first on the team sheet for me, but one that can change a game for the better in the right circumstances.