Animus: Review

The multiverse has fractured and strange, powerful beings from across time and space have invaded our universe. Fairway takes control of a team of these beings in an attempt to take control of the universe in this review of Animus.

Animus is a two-player, card-drafting and combat game. The game involves drafting a team of nine beings and then attempting to knock out enough of your opponent’s team to win the game.

Initial Impressions

  1. The game has a lot of unique characters.  There are six unique main characters and thirty-six unique entities.  All the cards have unique art and unique powers. We were impressed with that right out of the gate.  And even though it doesn’t sound like a lot of cards, the draft to start made each game really different.
  2. The start of each game begins with a draft that went quickly.  It was reminiscent of the draft from7 Wonders Duel.
  3. Rules were quick to learn and teach. The turn sequence made sense and was quickly figured out.
  4. Combat was simple and might be too simplistic for some.

How to play

Animus is played in two phases.  First, players draft a team of beings from the multiverse.  Then, players pit these two teams against each other.  Once one player takes out ten points worth of foes, the game ends.

At the start of the game, players select one of the six characters — alternatively, players are dealt one of the six at random.  The characters are printed on oversized card.  They provide players with an unique special power.

Then, players draft their teams.  A total of 18 cards are dealt into a small pyramid of cards.  Some cards face up and others face down. If you’ve played 7 Wonders Duel, you’ve seen something similar.  Players take turns drafting one of the face up cards into their team.  Face down cards are revealed only once they’re uncovered.

In addition to unique art, favor text and title, each of these cards has a number of game-impacting attributes: an alignment, a power, a point value, and attack values (melee and range).  During combat, the melee and range values are the base attack and defense values (to which a die roll will be added).  The special power is typically available during one of several different stages during the combat sequence.  The alignment works as a rock-paper-scissors mechanism providing the player who has the advantage an extra die roll.  Finally, the point value indicates how many points a card is worth when they’re removed from the game during combat.

Once the cards have all been drafted, players will shuffle their nine cards and draw a starting hand of three cards.  The game now switches to the combat phase.

During the combat phase, players take turns performing a series of actions. On a player’s turn, they will play cards, use abilities, move cards around, attack the other player, and reset their hands.  These actions are taken through a series of phases each turn.

In Animus, each player has a series of positions in which to play cards: 1 melee slot, 2 ranged slots, and 2 support slots.  When a player plays a card, he or she takes a card from their hand and places it into any unoccupied slot — unless the melee slot is open in which case, that must be filled first.  The slot in which a card is played indicates how that card attacks, generally, and which attack value it will use in attacking and in defending.  There are a few exceptions, like when the melee attacker attacks a ranged character and vice-versa.

Combat is fairly simple.  During one of the two tactical phases, the active player can use each card to attack once per turn.  During an attack, both players will roll a die and add it to the base attack value.  The player with the higher score wins and the other player takes a damage.  If there’s a tie, both players take a damage.  A card is removed from the game if it has three damage tokens applied.

Animus also uses a RPS system to award certain cards advantages against other cards.  When this happens, the player with the advantage will roll two dice and choose the higher of the two values.

The game continues this way until one player takes out 10 points worth of foes.

On the green

The Art.  This game has really nice character art. It’s a very impressive number of unique characters in this little game. There’s a wide array of characters, races, genders, species, etc.

The special powers.  We very much liked the range of abilities the cards had. The cards accommodated a number of different play styles and none seemed over- or under-powered. Also, given that there isn’t a huge number of cards, there wasn’t a lot of time spent learning their powers.

The Draft.  We’ve definitely played our fair share of living card games or deck-construction games to know that you can spend most of your time just building the deck.  Animus deftly does away with the time consuming task while still making players feel like they’re in control.  The limited number of cards face-up, the mostly one-line powers, and the convenient “score-as-proxy-for-quality” attribute made this task quick and fun.  It also resulted in a lot of variety in starting decks.

Playing field.  The game is also structured around a simple playing field designating melee, ranged and support cards. The arrangement was orderly and kept the game moving.

RPS combat modifier.  One interesting thing is that the game implemented a rock-paper-scissors mechanism that was not so overpowered. The advantaged player merely got an extra die roll. So, it was generally worth it, but wasn’t so worth it to trump attacking from the disadvantaged position but with a stronger attack value.

Play time and learning time.  This is a very quick combat game. We had some initial reservations about how long it would take to knock out 10 points worth of characters, but the game progressed very quickly.  Likewise, the rules were quick to learn. It only took a round or two for players to find their groove.  The only sticking point were on some of the more unusual powers, but those were in the minority.

Where it comes up short

There were two things that were the subject of much discussion in our games: 1. the proximity of most cards’ attack values; 2. the die rolls.  Scrolling through the cards, it becomes clear that most every card has a 6, 7 or 8 for their attack values (both melee and ranged). This meant that almost every battle started out as just about neutral — it was hard to line up cards that were anything but even.  And in most cases, an attacker had just a +1 (or at most a +2) advantage over another character.  That’s just such a weak difference that the roll of a d6 mostly determined the results.

In the hole

Animus has beautiful art atop a quick, light combat game.  The introduction of a team drafting mechanism at the start of the game makes for a fresh, interesting start for each players.  While the combat mechanisms (die rolling and RPS mechanisms) will leave some more heavy gamers wanting more, it is a good introduction to card drafting and card dueling games. We had fun with the game and it is definitely a game that would make a good addition to a game library for anyone who enjoys card drafting games and/or combat games.

You can get the game today on The Game Crafter: Animus.

Animus is in the hole for par.

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report:

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