Ice Ice Baby
Last Aurora is a competitive race to survive the apocalyptic frozen wasteland of the near future. Expect to outwit the other players by tactically upgrading your truck and trailers, and utilising the limited space for resources and useful survivors. Players are trying to reach the ship The Aurora before it leaves, but it will move further away each round.
Along the way you will have opportunities to trade, scavenge, recruit and of course fight and loot. This is driven through a deck system which doles out the better stuff the further into the game you get.
The upgrades in Last Aurora are done with cards that tuck in neatly next to your player board. The front car will always been your cab or truck and will dictate how many trailers you can pull behind you. At the start of the game this will be a maximum of two but they won't be very space-efficient. You will also need to watch out for storage space that can only be used for one or two types of resource. You will, of course, need fuel and food but don't neglect ammo if you want to pick up some tasty loot on the way.
The other cards you will play into your tableau are survivors. You will need at least one or two but every one you gain must be housed in your convoy, represented by a meeple that takes up valuable space that could be used for fuel or other resources.
Survivor cards have number values between 1 & 3 which represents how well they can explore. In practical terms this dictates how wide the choice of cards they can take is during the explore phase. Survivors also have a unique power that activates in certain stages but only if they are still in the active part of your play area. Using them to explore puts them in the exhausted area and to get them back in the same round you will need to feed them.
Exploring will gain you a new truck or upgrade, a survivor, resources scavenged from wrecked shops, or meeting a merchant or enemy. Which ever spot you go to there will be a benefit but also potentially a penalty in the form of damage, which makes a cargo spot unusable, or radiation which removes one number from your survivors value.
Go Walk Out The Door!
The rest phase is next where survivors in the rest area move too active and the exhausted ones move to the rest area. Managing your survivors will be a key aspect of your success or failure. You will want to make sure they are in your active zone if you want to use their powers.
Your convoy will move next. Your movement value is dependant on your truck, any bonuses from uncovered cargo spaces and survivors. While you generally want to move as far as possible, radiation spots and resources might tempt you to stop short, as could the position of any enemies.
After movement enemies that are in the exploration zone will more to the third of the map that holds the furthest forward convoy. Again this might affect how far you move, depending on how damaged your vehicle is and how much ammo you have on board.
Only newly revealed enemies ambush the players, and then players get a chance to attack. This will cost ammo and is resolved through a card draw. Check the level of your chosen weapon against the relevant part of the card to see what damage you do.
This system is random but slightly more in your favour than a dice as your chances significantly improve with higher level weapons. These cards are also used to resolve enemy attacks and where exactly they hit your convoy.
Ice Flow No Where To Go
You will play until one or more players reach the Aurora or 6 rounds are over. Depending on whether players reached the Aurora or not scores will be worked out slightly differently, but being ahead of your rivals will always lead to a better result.
Reaching the Aurora is hard so the game will often end with a close but no cigar, which can be a bit of a damp squib on proceedings. The game is named after the departing ship and to not reach it but still win can feel a little hollow.
Problems don't end there, with the rule book being the biggest offender. This rulebook is flabby while at the same time not explaining everything in a fully satisfactory manner. The enemies you will face each game will always been the same (unless you pick up expansions) and come out in roughly the same order which can hurt replayability. Even using expansions only swaps these six for another six, rather than mixing it up more.
The random card draws for combat resolution will annoy some players too, but I don't mind it. It creates the same kind of excitement as dice but with a little more control. These issues aside I have a lot of love for The Last Aurora.
The components are good, and can be further upgraded with the plastic pack. The map is double sided providing another map with different challenges. Plus there is a single player mode which is great for learning the game.
Nice Nice Baby
For it's flaws Last Aurora provides a enjoyable game of struggling to survive through a good amount of meaningful and tough decisions. Do you take that extra fuel to move further or is the space better used for ammo and food. That extra survivor looks to have an excellent ability but space is already at a premium!
Then there is the race itself - do you hang back and let the others soak up enemy fire before dashing ahead? Or build a rolling convoy of death and destruction? It's these moments that more than make up for the slight faff to proceedings. Building up your convoy is a visual treat and fitting a new weapon or armoured extension looks good and is meaningful in game too.
Yes there are better games, but it's hard to think of many that feel like Aurora. With it's current expansion and the promise of more on the way it's an interesting world to visit and one I recommend more people do!