Maximum Apocalypse: Gothic Horrors was the first big expansion for the fantastic co-operative roguelike adventure game Maximum Apocalypse by Rock Manor Games. The expansion was initially funded on Kickstarter before hitting retail, and the immense popularity of the base game ensured this latest Kickstarter venture was destined for success. It’s a modular game for 1-6 players, boasting a gorgeous art style, a variety of villains, and an array of playable characters with very different playstyles, played on a randomised map amid a vast range of apocalyptic scenarios.
Gothic Horrors – What’s in the Box?
More. Maximum Apocalypse: Gothic Horrors just adds more of everything you like in the first game. The expansion brings two new survivors to the party with the Ronin and Priest, who offer exciting playstyles that are very different – particularly in the case of the katana-wielding Ronin – to the survivors in the base game and the two mini expansions Maximum Apocalypse: Jurassic Peril and Maximum Apocalypse: Kaiju Rising.
There are two new apocalypses here in the form of Vampires – an assortment of classic monsters led by bosses Dracula and an Alpha Wolf – and Cthulhu Mythos – cultists, Eldritch monsters and the Elder Ones themselves, Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep.
The Cthulhu Mythos apocalypse brings in a new side-deck called the Insanity deck, which will see your survivors so horrified by the Lovecraftian monsters that they go a little bit crazy. An optional addition to any apocalypse is the day and night deck which adds a bit of difficulty and new features to gameplay.
Finally there are some new tokens, a bunch of new map tiles for your new apocalypses, new scavenge cards, and a spawn bag, which is an optional alternative to rolling dice.
Maximum Apocalypse is a modular game so there’s a fair amount of set-up to do, and this can be something of an obstacle to some gamers just looking to open the box and play. It doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time, but it’s something to be aware of.
Choose your apocalypse and pick the mission card from said apocalypse – each apocalypse has a number of missions for you to sink your teeth into, connected by a story told in brief text at the top of said mission cards.
Using the mission card, build your three scavenge decks – this is where you’ll find fuel for your van, food, ammunition, helpful tools like flashlights and backpacks, and even objectives in many of the missions. Beware though, you’ll also end up empty-handed on occasion – or even draw a dreaded ambush card.
Find the map tiles listed on the mission card and place the tiles according to instruction. It’s usually entirely random, so you can build a basic 5×5 grid or something more complex. Add the van tile to the outer edge of the map, face-up.
Grab the relevant monsters deck and follow any boss card instructions on the mission card.
Now it’s time to decide which of our merry band of survivors will be accepting this mission. Each deck has a survivor card to track your health, hunger, and character-specific ability. You also have a 40-strong deck of abilities and gear. Choose wisely, lest you end up out of the game within five turns (it happens, and it’s humiliating, and we don’t want to talk about it thank you kindly). Place a D6 on your card showing one to track hunger.
Add your day and night deck to the playing area, if you choose to use it.
Draw your starting hand of four cards, mulligan any cards you don’t like, and draw a monster for each player – your van is noisy and attracts aliens/zombies/vampires/Lovecraftian nightmares. Enjoy!
A turn goes through five phases that are simple to follow:
Spawn monsters: This was done with dice in the base game, but you can now use the spawn token bag if you’d prefer. It’s a little more difficult but it’s controllable difficulty. You can add more safe tokens, more ambush tokens and so on. It’s a nice change to the total randomness of dice rolls. Each map tile has a number in the top corner – if that number comes up, add a monster token or, if you are on a tile with that number, draw a monster card.
Draw a card: Take a card from the top of your facedown survivor deck. There’s a hand limit of 10 and if your survivor deck is ever empty, you’re out of options, and you die.
Take actions: You must take four actions from the following options: move orthogonally, draw a card, play a card from your hand, take actions from cards in play, or scavenge from the appropriate deck if allowed. Free actions you can take include sharing scavenge cards with players on the same tile, discarding two cards to draw another, and taking objective actions.
Increase hunger: Your D6 tracks how hungry you are, and when it goes to six, you turn your card over and begin suffering hunger damage. After a few turns of hunger damage, you starve to death. So get scavenging for food!
Take damage: Any monsters attached to you will inflict damage according to the abilities and ranges described on their card. Short range refers to the specific tile you are on, mid range refers to the specific tile you are on plus one in each orthogonal direction, and long range is not your tile but up to two tiles in any orthogonal direction.
Night/Day cycle: If playing with this optional extra, this deck triggers after every player has taken a turn, not after each player has taken a turn, as we found out to our detriment – oops.
When day passes to night, you might find a weapons cache that increases your damage next round, or you might be victim to an ambush and draw monster cards. As night turns to day, monster tokens can move around the map – even into your path.
To win the game, complete the mission objectives on the mission card. Maybe you’re finding a vaccine, maybe you’re escorting a survivor to a specific map tile. You lose the game if all players are eliminated, be that from emptying their survivor deck or succumbing to damage, or getting insanity cards in all of your gear slots.
There are hours upon hours of fun gaming in the base game, and the Maximum Apocalypse: Gothic Horrors expansion adds more hours and more fun.
It builds on things that worked so well in the base game and polishes things that were perhaps lacking. Spawning monsters for instance – while this is still randomly generated by blind-drawing tokens from a bag, you have more agency over what goes into the bag.
The Ronin and Priest survivors are fun additions and the Priest in particular is crucial for playing the Cthulhu apocalypse, because insanity cards are considered status effects and our holy man has a bunch of ways to rid those status effects. I found the Ronin to do quite poorly against the Vampire scenarios, but with more playtime I think I’d get a better handle on how she plays. The deck includes a two-sided stance card that you will flip between offensive and defensive styles, giving you access to different abilities on your cards. Knowing when to flip and why is a big part of piloting the deck.
The apocalypses are fantastic fun, really challenging, and just cool to play. A priest and a mechanic facing down a horde of vampires, werewolves, succubi and Frankenstein’s monster? Yes please.
All of the optional additions are exciting too, from the day and night deck to the spawn bag. They seem minor but they change the game plenty.
The artwork is gorgeous, the gameplay is engaging, and there is a ton of content here.