Aeon Trespass: Odyssey


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Review: Aeon Trespass: Odyssey: After Cycle 1

June 6, 2023 by lawnor Cult of Games Member

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I finally finished Cycle 1 last night, so I thought I’d come back with my thought and impressions.

Thoughts and Opinions

So how did it actually play?  The learn was steep and slow.  It’s a huge game with a lot going on so I spent a lot of time going back to the rulebooks to look stuff up and asking questions on the Discord where they’re super helpful (Thanks guys).  The game also takes a while to sink its teeth in.

To begin with, you fight a monster, then move a handful of map tiles, then fight another monster when you’re told to.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  This is the game loop.  You don’t really feel in control, or like you’re making choices, and the map feels like it’s just a pretty version of what could just be a random events table.  However, as you progress the story the map itself becomes far more relevant, and your choices more engaging and meaningful.  It just took a while to get there.  It didn’t help that to begin with I could get one game loop done across a day, maybe 2.  I did not have the practise or knowledge to progress with enough speed to get to the meat with any pace.  I was enjoying the game, but it needed a little something more.  I was also distracted by trying to hit hobby goals for the Spring Cleaning Hobby Challenge.

Once that was out of the way and I could embrace ATO and got in the middle of the story I was hooked!  I hit a point where I needed to get to certain places and get stuff done before deadlines, while being chased by the Persuer, who was beating me every time.  Meanwhile my Argo Fate was threatening to end the campaign, and I had no idea how many Doom tokens it would take to kill me (There are 4 story cards in C1, but only 3 Doom Cards.  DO NOT run out of Doom cards!).  There is the right amount of tension and pressure and I could see my next goal constantly just a few map tiles away, but then a story would trigger a surprise fight, and the Peruser would catch up to me and what looked like 20 minutes of sailing would turn in to a day’s worth of combat, and a cascade of story events.

The combat was really interesting.  I love the AI and Body part deck escalation mechanic (As you wound the monster you remove the weaker parts and attacks and add in tougher ones, increasing the threat), and that as the fight goes on you also become more dangerous.

The Trauma decks for damage to heroes is really nice 99% of the time too.  I love how being hit can do good or bad things.  However, I think it swings too hard sometimes.  It is possible to lose a hero on the monsters first attack before you get to do anything.  You can draw a card that says “You just die”.  no roll.  No draw an Obol (the most dangerous of Trauma cards.  50/50 death chance, but you might turn in to a god for 2 rounds before dying).  You do need to have been hit for 4 Danger though, and there are technically items that let you discard them to draw again, but they’re taking up a slot you want better armour in and they’re rubbish otherwise.

This happened on my final boss fight.  Round 1 my heavy hitter died before I got to do anything.  I knew I couldn’t win after that, so I reset the fight and started again and had much more luck.  He still died, but he got in a few hits first, and got to add two more ticks to his Evolving weapon (No idea what it’ll become, but curious to see.  It’s 6 of 9 ticks now and claims to be a Cycle 2 item, but the game told me to have it).

There is a mechanic in the game to allow resets like this.  You can earn “Tears of Sisyphus”.  I think I found about 5 across the whole Cycle.  Consume one to reset a fight without consequences.  I can do that anyway.  I’ll create a save state in a campaign game by taking pics of everything.  I hate feeling like I’ve lost 40+ hours of work because something unpredictable happened and now I’ve lost too much or something I cannot replace.  I’m tempted to house rule that the Tears can be used to redraw from any Trauma deck, but you have to put the last card back in and shuffle first.  With their rarity I won’t use them lightly and using them on Obols would be a waste.  Titans are usually a consumable resource.  I don’t mind losing one or two in a fight, but there are key fights or key moments where it matters a whole lot more.  There were times I started fights planning on losing everyone, but I wanted to go in to get what resources I could before dying.

The Trauma deck can swing the other way though.  you can be on the brink of a full wipe, get hit bad, draw a card and suddenly you’ve got an interrupt attack, or your knocked down guy gets to stand up and do things he wasn’t going to be able to, or you just turn in to a god for two rounds and fry the monster with lightning.

The game has a lot of unlockable secret information in it.  This is great.  You’re exploring and discovering things.  Some things are only relevant during certain story stages.  other stuff you need the tech to understand.  Great.  However, there are times this doesn’t feel good.  In Cycle 1 there are a few map tiles with icons that look like a bull’s head on top of a tower.  This icon does not appear in the map tiles section, or the icon reference section.  Does that mean it’s secret information to unlock, or does that mean I’m not looking in the right section of the book?  Who knows? (Google knew in the end. It was secret information I hadn’t unlocked yet).

Another thing it does is give you notes to write down that might only last for one fight or might last forever.  It might give you an Affliction or a Boon, which are not listed or defined in the rule book.  You just have to trust that when they become relevant the game will tell you, because there’s nothing to look up.  Sometimes it gets it wrong.  I had a Boon at one point, and nothing triggered it.  I found out many fights later that it meant I should have attacked before the monster, but the game didn’t tell me that at the time.  I hope that future products contain a reference sheet of information that is secret so you can tell it’s secret.  I hope it also contains page references for if you need to look it up anyway (For example, I knew I’d seen that bull tower symbol before, and I couldn’t remember if I had been told what it meant).

I’ll freely admit that some of the above problems might be a Me thing.  I was playing solo and there’s a lot to keep track of.  Maybe I had been told more things and they just got lost in the confusion of it all?

The game takes up A LOT of space.  Mine takes up a dining table, a desk, a 2×4 on top of a chest of drawers, and 4 small shelves. It’s a sprawling mess.  it is not a game you want to be packing up between sessions either if you don’t have to.  You could, and I’m sure there are things the space deprived could to (Like putting the battle board on top of the map and swapping the map minis for tokens).  Just know what you’re getting yourself in to, space wise.

Value for Money?

I’ve spent around £370 on this game so far, throughout the life of the first Kickstarter, with a whole lot more going in to the second (Which ends tomorrow!).  That’s a lot of money for a board game.  I’ve a simple metric to help me feel better about spending money on big boy toys: Does it cost less than time at the cinema?  If so, it’s earned its keep and proven its value.  Around £10 buys around 2 hours at the cinema, or at least it seemed to when I came up with this a few years back.  So If I can get an hour’s worth of fun from something for every £5 it cost, It’s broken even and it’s worth it’s price.

So how is ATO doing?  Cycle 1 has provided 74.5 hours of fun, and I’ve still got the Onwards Odyssey stuff to do before I start Cycle 2.  £370 sets the bar at 74 hours to break even.  I’ve crossed that line after 1 of the 5 cycles, and I’m pretty sure the Mnestis Theatre will add another cycle or two’s worth of fun to the game, now I’ve unlocked it.

Assuming 5 cycles provides 5 times the amount of enjoyment, I’ll have got £1,862.5 worth of value from this, or have paid about £1 per hour of fun.

C1 Final Thoughts

So is it worth it?  I think so.  I’m really enjoying it and I’m looking forward to starting Cycle 2 after a short (??) Diablo 4 break (It’s been out for 11 hours right now).  Just know what you’re getting yourself in to.  It’s huge, and can be slow to get in to, but once you’re there it’s really worth it.  A lot of the story plays out like a Fighting Fantasy book so consider if you and your group want to sit there and have one of those read to you for chunks of the game.  I don’t know how well that would work in a group.  I also don’t think it’s a game you’re going to want to play through a second time.  The campaign is already 350+ hours long, and I suspect a second playthrough would not be significantly different to a first.  With this much playtime, does that really matter?  The models are high quality pre-assembled plastics.  While some of the better ones I've seen, per-assembled still comes with issues for painters wanting to remove mold lines and get their brushes in hard-to-reach places.

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