Board Game Review

Primeval Fisticuffs (Beasts Edge of Extinction)

Survival of the fittest is a term thrown around a lot when considering evolution. Only the most suited, most adapted creatures survived. Everything before that was progress. It makes you question how some animals are the peak of evolution however… I mean, most suited and most intimidating can be worlds apart! The blobfish for example is a sorry looking soul, but it fits its environment and thrives. And pigeons are an embarrassment to the mighty dinosaurs… Beasts Edge of Extinction, created and published by Riftway Games, takes you back to when creatures were still fighting for that place in the ecosystem. And fighting is the operative word. They looked terrifying and their aggression matched it! This is a take-that, player elimination game for 2-6 players that takes between 15 and 45 minutes to play.

In a Nutshell

Beasts Age of Extinction filled the take-that, player elimination holes in our shelves really well. It presents as accessible and plays quickly, with little downtime at all. There’s always risk of feeling redundant when eliminated in any player elimination game, it’s part and parcel of the mechanic! However, the gameplay forces an end through the events and an encouragement for bloodlust. We were never out of tune with the game and eagerly awaited the next set up so we could get straight back to primeval fisticuffs!

Gameplay

To setup Beasts Edge of Extinction, all decks need organising respectively and separating. The players each choose a beast to play as and attach a clip to it, setting its health to 20. Finally, players collect three resource cards and the colour dice associated to their beast. All resource cards are laid on the table and visible to all players. Voila! Setup complete.

Routine

The sequence of the game is even easier to grasp. First you decide who the first player is, then you draw an event card. Event cards are always drawn at the start of a round and are resolved immediately, if needs be. The players take turns to do two actions. They can scavenge and take a card from the resource deck, attack a player, eat food, play an upgrade card, trade, or play a lure. Resource cards are your primary focus for play and allow you to do everything beyond attacking. Some resource cards need to be resolved immediately and never end well!

Eating food heals a player X amount and any amount of food can be consumed for one action. A player can trade resources with another for an action, too, but only if it is an agreed trade. Lure cards affect other players negatively and are in place of an attack. Also, if you lure, you cannot attack (and vice versa). Upgrade cards allow you to improve your beast’s defence or attack bonuses.

Attacking and Asymmetry

Attacking another player is the easiest way to show dominance, and the best way to reduce their health. To attack, the attacking and defending players roll their dice and compare values. Should the attacking value be higher, the defence loses that much health. Matching or being lower results in a failed attack. This is where the upgrade cards come in. Attacking is altered by a beast’s bonus values. Defence bonuses bolster defence rolls and attack bonuses do the same for attack rolls. Defence values can be innate, but upgrades can be used too. The final part to know is that each beast is unique in both their bonuses and their special ability. This ability is a one time use action that does not cost and can be used out of turn. These can be make or break in some situations! When a player’s health is reduced to zero, that player is out of the game. Whoever is the last beast standing is crowned king of the beasts!

How It Handles

Beasts Edge of Extinction is a take-that card game, through and through. It has everything you would want in a full aggression experience. You play cards to deliberately cause damage, and any acts of hesitation are either for big plays or through ignorance. We found ourselves craving blood, destruction and mass damage throughout! No mercy was offered, despite the lovely atmosphere of a games night.

You’re Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

In Beasts Edge of Extinction, each beast is unique in both their ability and their stats. No two’s starting stats are the same, and being weak to fire and suffering from a fire based card is not a good combination. We found it to be incredibly important to spend time, not only surviving, but thriving. The only way to thrive of course is to adapt. Spend time upgrading, get hench, roll through the blows. An early big hit can be tanked to some degree, a late game one will be game over without defence.

We got to a point where we had a plethora of upgrades attached to us, but we never felt over powered. The chaos of a dice roll to determine one’s attack value balanced that out. Which is ironic, as dice as an offence basis usually throws a game into turmoil! It’s a delicate, but well executed situation. That said, it was also infuriating when we were tanked but still lost because we rolled nothing but ones!

We also found our abilities were balanced enough to make us valuable, but to also not put favour on one beast. The Titanoboa’s sneakiness of sending an attack somewhere else was awesome, but so was the Cuckoo’s ability to abuse dodo cards. These were all single time use, so we managed them sensibly, but it was often out of convenience than a big plan. The game forced you to roll with the punches and work as tactically as you could. A poor choice of use would be a waste!

Feeling Resourceful?

The resource cards come in a variety of flavours: from the superbly helpful to the useless… Situationally, of course. How you manage your hand will affect your game outcome. If you’re in a final fight to the death, you’re unlikely to want to have no food, but you won’t want to pick some up either. One hit point may not swing it in your favour if it means sacrificing an attack opportunity. In the same way, early game you won’t want stocks of food, you’ll want upgrades! That said, how these will be used will be, again, situational.

Cheap shots are always worth it, but a big play can cause some real damage! Dodos are the most common resource cards, and also the most adaptable. They can be used to swap for another resource, be used to take a hit, can be eaten, and some can even be used to buff attacks! The issue? They’re also the most affected by event cards. Managing one’s cards is almost as tricky as managing your health. Luckily the two go hand in hand more often that you’d think, you just need the cards in the first place.

Keeping It Eventful

The event cards in Beasts Edge of Extinction are ridiculously hard hitting. These can be almost as deadly as your opposition, and more often that not will be the turning point of a game. You’ll often spend a lot of time trying to make sure you survive an event instead of attacking. What’s more is how the events impact you personally. As previously mentioned, those unique stats of yours will either end you or save you. I started my first game 7 hit points down due to a fear of the cold and a big hitting event. It can’t be controlled, but it’s a good demonstration of how powerful they are!

Ancient Aesthetics?

The game is illustrated wonderfully. There’s not much else to comment on there. You’re never left questioning what a card does based on its visuals, and they’re all visually appeasing. What’s more is how cards are unique based on what they do. Sure, every dodo card is the same, but you only need glance at a card to identify its purpose, reducing thinking time. Sounds small, but it streamlined our play and enhanced our experience with more exposure to the game.

More To Come?

Beasts Edge of Extinction has the one thing all player elimination games have. Player elimination. Shocking, right? It’s not long lived in this game, and we have always kept interested in the outcome. However, we’re experienced gamers. We can appreciate the value of the end game outcome and how it all turns out! Because of Beasts Edge of Extinction’s ease of access, it will appeal to more casual players – some of whom may have zero time to wait for a game to finish. An expansion to this game is upcoming to Kickstarter early this year. One that will remove the feeling of removal. Although it adds something else to fear… Fear the dodos. This is something that even we, as the experienced gamers we claim to be, are excited for.