Beneath Nexus is a card driven dungeon crawl that seats 4 to 6 players. The idea is to take what can sometimes be a long drawn out experience and turn it into a fast paced, card activated adventure. Players will choose from six adventurers to go through three encounters. The first two encounters will be at a random location chosen from ten large cards. The third encounter will be against the Blight Lord. The Blight Lord is the final boss, if you will, and he or she is able to affect the players and the game as it goes. Through the first two encounters you are able to use spells from a general boss spell deck (in this case 20 cards), and in the final encounter you are able to use spells from an additional 10 cards that relate specifically to the chosen boss. Each boss card has two sides, one with spells and stats to support the first two encounters and the other side for the final encounter. Each hero will have a deck of 12 ability cards to draw from and use along with the abilities on their character card.
Once characters have been chosen along with the Boss Lord, the first encounter site is chosen, and the instructions followed. These instructions tell how many monsters are drawn, or how players can avoid damage through discards and such. You may even have to draw a new location, or have monsters come out each turn of the encounter. The players want to not only get through the encounter quickly, but suffer the least amount of harm, as they only start with 12 health each. If a character goes to zero health during an encounter, they are knocked out and unable to play for the rest of that encounter. If any one team member survives, the rest return with 6 health for the next encounter. If all players are knocked out in a round then the Boss Lord wins. If the heroes are successful in an encounter, they get to draw treasure cards equal to the number of heroes plus one. Each hero selects one treasure and the remaining one is discarded. However, there are cursed treasures and if they turn up they must be taken by a player.
It is important for the Heroes to monitor their health loss, as they want to make sure they are strong enough for the Boss Lord encounter at the end. The Boss Lord’s final level of difficulty is determined by the number of Heroes in the game. In our game I was The Sphinx, and received seven hit points for each player, since there were three adventurers I had 21 health (7 for each adventurer, times 3). If you can beat the Boss Lord with at least one adventurer left standing then the party wins. In our game, Vairin, the Battle Cleric, was down to 2 hit points, Bataar, the Eagle Archer ,was down to 1 hit point, and Lunja the Tribemother, was also down to 2 hit points when they beat The Sphinx in an eleventh hour victory. It really came down to each choice, as one character sacrificed themselves to allow a fellow Hero the opportunity to play the winning card.
Who might like this game?
If you like dungeon crawls, or games driven through card choices at every turn, you will like this game. If you are familiar with Magic: The Gathering, or Sentinels of the Multiverse, then this game will seem familiar to you. People who have enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons and Dungeon World are likely to feel at home with this game as well.
We loved the amount of choices, and that it was a game where everyone needed to be involved. One major blunder can really make a difference as your choices do matter. The randomness comes in the cards drawn, but is mitigated by strategy that the players can form, not only due to their character card speeds (Fastest going first, Fast going second, Slow going third, and Slowest going fourth and ties allowing players to choose) but also innate character abilities on their characters cards that cannot be removed. You must determine which cards to play as there are actions, reactions, and passives (ongoing effects) because your key card could be stopped, or made to be discarded, but could otherwise get through for devastating effect. This is a game where cooperative play is key, Heroes need to be aware of the team’s best interests and try to coordinate what they do in order to keep the whole team strong.
What else can we say about the game?
What a beautiful game that is easy to jump into. The setup and learning curve did not take long in either case, and that only made a great game better. The cards, the look and feel, along with the play for a prototype was amazing. I would say of the prototypes I have been tasked to review, this is the best one yet. I love the fact there is a great deal of decision making, because I felt what I was doing was really important.
In the prototype rulebook, the wording for going through only 3 encounters could have been more clear. There needs to be a picture chart, detailing what each part of the card is, laid out with directional lines describing what these parts are called and what they do (at least a quick summary for quick play). Two of the Blight Lord General Spell deck cards were unclear, that summon guardian was only meant for the Blight Lord. In the set up instructions it duplicates the instruction for shuffling the monster deck. There could be clearer instructions that the cursed treasure is a part of the regular treasure. It is unclear to why there are two card back designs with the location cards. The rules do not state that this is a clear designation for the two decks of five to be separate. It is not clear if the discards get reshuffled when a character has gone through their deck in an encounter (we played that they do). It is unclear if the heroes go back to full health after an encounter (we played that they did not). It is unclear if the Blight Lord counts as a monster in the final encounter, because it is not stated (we played that the Blight Lord does count as a monster for the use of cards).
The Game Story
It was thousands of years ago there was a city by the name of Nexus. This city was built around a well, and this well had magical powers beneath the ground. Over time Nexus would be home to incredible wealth and great power. Tribes across the land would flock to the city to worship and learn from the mysterious magic that was discovered below the ground around the well. As the city grew, more and more power was drawn from this well, arcane power, that after providing knowledge and might, it would provide something terrifying, blight.
You as heroes, seek to destroy the evil creatures and the Blight Lord that has been called forth from the well. The party will hopefully recover powerful artifacts that will aid them through there encounters with the monsters and help them defeat the Blight Lord. Some of these relics will increase their abilities, while others will serve as powerful equipment that can be used by the heroes. Ultimately the party will succeed or fail by the cards they have and the choices they make with them.
Beneath Nexus is currently live on Kickstarter, go check it out.