Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth has been designed by Peer Sylvester and produced by Osprey Games, who created The Lost Expedition. It is a survival card game played solo, co-operatively or as two-player head to head.
In The Cursed Earth you play as the three judges; Dredd, Anderson and Giant. You must race against the perps; Satellat, Mean Machine and The Disciple to be the first to find Max Normal, who has fled Mega City One and is harbouring a deadly disease. However, each step of the way there are a number of encounters you must successfully navigate, ensuring you are able to maintain your health, ammunition, rations and keep the radiation levels at bay so that at least one of the judges is alive when you reach the end game card and find Max Normal.
The cards are amazing, the artwork is classic 2000 AD Judge Dredd so come with a health warning – as comics go these would be T+. The size and quality of the cards is great, and the box comes as most Osprey Games do, with a book style opening. Your health, ammo, ration and radiation chits and two wooden meeples all get packed up in the Justice Department field ration box, which improves the overall look of the box and contents.
Playing Judge Dredd
To set-up a standard co-operative game shuffle all the encounter cards and deal four cards out, or six for solo or two-player. Decide the level of difficulty you want to play and select the appropriate number of location cards, shuffling the end card into the bottom three.
Draw the first three and place the judge meeple on the first card and give the Perps a head start by placing the meeple on the third location. Take the judge cards and place five health tokens on each and place four ammo tokens and three rations that the team will share. Decide who the first player is and chief judge, set the time marker to dawn and you are ready.
Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth takes place in phases or investigations; one at dawn and one at dusk. At the end of each phase you need to eat and at the end of the dusk phase, the Perps get to move on one location as well.
Each phase, players play encounter cards 2-3 each (depending on player numbers) creating a row of six cards. During the dawn, investigation cards are then placed in numerical order before resolving at dusk. They are resolved in the order they are played, providing a level of strategy as players need to work out when and where to place the cards depending on the actions depicted in each card in their hand.
Card actions are in three key groups:
- Yellow – Immediate, compulsory events.
- Red – Compulsory choices, you must pick one of the options available.
- Blue – Optional.
There are several different types of action, often costing health, food or ammo tokens to complete, depleting your resources. You can also move your characters further down the location line of cards, or the Perps, whenever you need to you draw the next location card and resolve any specific location actions accordingly. This provides an additional level of gameplay that was not included in The Lost Expedition.
Actions make sense of the encounter so you may encounter a character and be required to fight or run, but tither action will require spending valuable resources and as such most cards have a negative impact. There are some rounds you feel like you barely survive, and you will need to work closely with your team mates to manage the team resources. Remembering you cannot discuss which cards are in your hand until they are in play, makes choosing cards difficult as you can only judge from what is already in play.
Some cards do provide opportunity to regain resources and move the judge meeple forwards and are so welcome when they appear! Beware those cards that include the radiation that is prevalent on the cursed earth as these require you to pick a judge to receive a radiation marker. When a judge has no health left or has more radiation than health, they die and their card is flipped.
Play continues until either the Perps get to the Max Normal location, all your judges die, in-which case you lose, or your judge meeple moves onto the final card and the judges win, finding Max Normal before the Perps.
Each Judge has a specific skill. These are illustrated on the card and include survival and diplomacy. Some encounter cards will provide you with knowledge in one of these areas. These cards are then stored in the team area. When knowledge of a particular type is required you can either spend one of the collected encounters, if you have any, or lose one health from the appropriate judge or two health from a different judge. Another new skill is the PSI skill of Judge Anderson. PSI allows you to add encounter cards to the row, the way you do depends on the game mode you are playing.
Final Thoughts on Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth
Judge Dredd is simple to play, once you get your head around the various icons, but like most co-op games is difficult to win. The apparent constant stream of encounters that reduce your resources, rarely allowing them to be restocked, fits well with the cursed earth theme.
The dusk round where you get a little more control on card placement allows players to use a little more strategy, placing a skip or swap ability carefully can reduce the damage taken by encounters later in a round. Communication at this point is vital, although you cannot discuss your cards, planning how to mitigate disaster and replenish resources is key to keeping at least one judge alive to give you a chance of finding Max Normal before the Perps.
To increase replay-ability, there are a number of additional games modes including a solo variant and a competitive mode. You can also use the Perp cards in a shootout in Chief Judge difficulty mode.
Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth is a step up from The Lost Expedition, building on a great co-operative survival game but adding a couple of additional options and mechanics that increase the difficulty and fits the theme. The artwork and card size make this a great looking game on the table and is a steal at this price.
So, what are you waiting for? Join Judge Dredd, gather your resources, check your ammo and step out into the cursed earth to beat the Perps and find Max Normal.