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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Thursday 14 June 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Abyss: Leviathan

Game: Abyss: Leviathan


Designer: Bruno Cathala, Charles Chevallier

Year: 2018

Abyss is a game filled with beautiful artwork that evokes a lot about an underwater world, but doesn't really add theme to this clever card game. The original game has been on our shelves for a couple of years, but has only been played perhaps three times. Every time we've enjoyed it and found that it provides a pretty rewarding experience in a short space of time. There's no real reason that it's not hit the table more often, it's just a victim of our large game collection.

When a game we enjoy has been sitting on the shelf too long, we either sit there feeling guilty, or we get hold of an expansion to give us an excuse to get a classic game back to the table, whilst still serving my addiction to play something new and enjoy a new experience. The first expansion to Abyss passed us by, but the new Leviathan expansion is our excuse for getting Abyss back to our gaming table.

In Abyss you are primarily trying to gain votes from the council, which means drawing and collecting ally cards. While taking this action you sometimes encounter monsters - this is where the Leviathan expansion takes effect. In the base game you could either fight the monster and take a reward, or you could ignore the monster, increasing the benefit for the next person who chooses to fight. In Leviathan you again get the choice to fight or ignore a monster card, but the mechanisms around this are more complex.

Leviathans exist at different locations on a track -if you choose to ignore them, you roll the dice and add another to the track. If you roll a spot that's already occupied, you'll be attacked and perhaps lose health, cards or pearls. It's up to you to weigh up the likelihood (you're rolling two dice so the number 6-8 are pretty high likelihood) and also the consequences of defeat. Otherwise you can take on the monster and you have to do damage points to it. You also have to play an ally card that matches the leviathan, which can ultimately be pretty frustrating as a lack of these cards can mean you have to ignore the monster and may not really have a choice in suffering the consequences. 

As in the base game, there are rewards for killing monsters, but it might take a few turns to do full damage, so there are intermediate rewards along the way. Additional reward tokens in the expansion give non-victory point rewards like taking a pile of allies from the council or getting pearls. Overall, these abilities felt less powerful to me than just taking some end game victory points.

To complement the inclusion of the new leviathans as monsters, there are also new lords that work well with a Leviathan strategy. There are new ally cards that allow you to manipulate your dice rolls in combat with the monsters. Plus, there is a very large and detailed mini that gives 5 points to the person who kills the most leviathans. As awesome as this mini is, it's a definite case of over production for a small box expansion.

Overall, the Leviathan expansion wasn't a game changer for me. The key reason for this was a lack of monster cards in the deck of ally cards. In a two player game, we typically only use two thirds of the deck and don't need to reshuffle, so we'll see a maximum of 9 monster cards. If some of these are ignored, then perhaps only two or three leviathans will even be fought in the game, which means it's a very small factor in your end game points. We have fallen into the trap of focussing on leviathans as a strategy and ended up frustrated that the game ends whilst you're waiting for monster cards. I imagine that in higher player count game the deck would reshuffle, increasing the instances of monsters and making ignoring them become an increasing risk.

For me, I can take or leave this expansion. It doesn't really add anything, nor does it take away from the game, it's just an alternative that doesn't fit into the insert in the base game box. It's not a bad expansion, it's not put us of the original game, and thankfully, if nothing else, it's reminded us that Abyss is a really enjoyable game that we should play more often. For anyone but the die-hard fans who are bored of seeing the same lords in the deck, I can't say I'd recommend seeking out this expansion. For the Yellow Meeple, Abyss: Leviathan gets a 5.5/10.

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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