Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 12 June 2018

There's always a bigger fish!:- Abyss: Leviathan

Game: Abyss: Leviathan


Designer: Bruno Cathala, Charles Chevallier

Year: 2018

Leviathan is the latest expansion to the gorgeous game of underwater politics, Abyss. The expansion focuses on the monsters that threaten your underwater civilization, adding more intense fighting mechanics and bigger penalties for ignoring the threat. The expansion also adds the ability to play with a 5th player.

The stars of the show are the leviathans themselves. These hulking monsters arrive at the new border card, replacing the old monster mechanics from the base game. It probably goes without saying for an Abyss expansion, but the art on these cards is stunning, the creatures themselves seem to have been inspired by hammerheads, manta rays, goblin sharks and other deep sea creatures. On top of that some of the cards have merfolk on them giving you the sense of exactly how humongous these creatures are!

You only normally need to worry about leviathans when you go exploring (which is the way you get new ally cards for those who don't remember). Should you draw one of the monster cards then you are left with a choice: ignore it, or fight. If you ignore it then you must roll the dice, adding a new monster to the area on the border you rolled. However if there was already a leviathan there then you suffer that creature's attack, the attacks rage from having to discard to  few allies to taking wounds (worth negative points at game end) and perhaps the most dangerous: killing one of your lords! 

The scourge of the abyss is worth a good amount of points, but it's also a lovely miniature.
Alternatively you may fight the creature, to do this you must discard a card matching the creatures type (all of them are vulnerable to crabs, the military faction) and roll 1 dice. You add together the number on your dice and the number of your discarded ally, and if you did enough damage then you wound the creature, claiming some monster tokens (worth points or other goodies) and, if you killed it, the leviathan card itself. At all times the player with the most monsters killed will gain the Scourge of the Abyss statue (worth 5 points at the end of the game).

What Abyss: Leviathan adds to the base game should be very interesting, I like that there is now repercussions for running away from the monsters and I absolutely adore the scourge of the abyss statue (a seriously good mini). Unfortunately it simply feels like there aren't enough monster cards in the deck, perhaps this is a two-player issue as we only get through about 2/3rds of the ally deck each game, but there never seems to get to a point where the number of monsters gets over 2, most of the time if you choose to run away your odds of suffering a penalty are low enough that its a surprise when it happens.

The expansion also adds new ally cards that have special abilities in fights, wounds that cost you points, an extra pearl basin so you can add a 5th player and new monster tokens that offer pearls, keys and the ability to take council stacks without using a turn.

Players of the original Abyss may find that the added luck elements are an unwelcome addition. While there was always luck of the draw when exploring, in a lot of ways the fact that opponents got the first chance to buy cards meant that Abyss didn't feel that luck based. With Abyss: Leviathan you introduce dice rolling when you flee from monsters and dice rolling when you fight them, there's little more demoralizing than using a strong ally card only to roll a 1 and fail to kill a monster, only to have the next player use a weak ally but roll a 6. Abyss: Leviathan did succeed in getting Abyss back to the table for us, and I can't deny that Leviathan's system is better than the original threat track, but now the system is almost too big for what is only a minor element of the game. I did enjoy Abyss: Leviathan, but I do think that it would have been a whole lot better with double the number of monster cards in the exploration deck!


Abyss Leviathan was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £17.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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