Collapse: the end-of-the-world deck builder

Collapse cards

Regular readers will know I try and pay attention to Kickstarter, and a few months ago I ran across a game which looked very promising: Collapse.

As a backer on Kickstarter I got access to a print & play version of the game, and spent time – quite a long time, there are lots of cards! – putting it together. As you can see, it looked really good.

But what’s the point of spending so much quality time with card, glue and a printer unless you get stuck in and play it? So we did.

At this point I should point out I don’t normally review PNP versions of games – they may not be the final versions which will be available to buy in shops, for instance, and therefore not a true reflection of the game. However, I was keen on reviewing this one so contacted the game’s designer, Jordan Goddard, who kindly gave me his approval.

What is Collapse?

It’s a deckbuilder, with a theme I’ve not come across before – end of the world survival.

Being from the UK, we don’t really have what you guys in the States call preppers. But thanks to shows like The Walking Dead the idea of preparing for the end of the world is gaining traction over here.

Collapse takes this theme and runs with it. Players select a disaster scenario for each game, with options including biological, natural and financial. I love the way financial disaster is included, this brings the game bang up-to-date.

The point of the game is then to survive.

Gameplay

The game plays with two to four people, who each take a homestead they must then defend, fortify and stock with supplies.

The deck includes four main types of cards: the first being resources such as weapons, ammunition, food, cash, tools, supplies which you acquire from a central play area.

These cards give players abilities, allowing them to take actions such as drawing an extra card, playing an extra card, or storing food or ammunition to help thin out your hand so only the really useful, powerful cards are in play.

Then we have money. Like any deckbuilder, you need cash if you want to buy items. You begin the game with certain amount of cash then acquire more as the game goes on.

There are also fortification cards, which allow you to add barbed wire, bomb shelters and so on to your homestead, helping it survive the end of the world a little longer.

Finally there are event cards. The deck is seeded with these pesky cards at the start of the game, with actions governed by the scenario you’ve chosen at the start (nuclear, financial etc). Each time one is drawn from the resource deck which replenishes the central play area, they immediately affect the game. Half the fun is seeing what these cards do, so I won’t spoil the surprise.

The aim of the game is survival, and cards will give players a certain number of months for which they can survive during the collapse of society. So standard food cards will count for one month when the game ends, bomb shelters add further months, etc.

Is it good with two players?

The theme really appeals to me, and is kept up well throughout the game. A great deal of time has been put into deciding what would be useful in an end of the world scenario – backpacks, transport, gas masks, even a hammer – and I can just imagine the design process now: ‘Hey, how useful is a hammer? Should a Geiger counter be in there?’

As a deckbuilder this just works, and works well. I would say it works on a level that’s more true to its theme than some of the better known deckbuilders that are out there.

Collecting items to extend your survival makes sense here as part of a deckbuilding mechanism, and I can see it’s got great potential for expansions and ways for players to interact a little more. I’m crossing my fingers that the game does well enough to allow Jordan to build on the world he’s created here. For instance, further ways to attack your opponents homesteads and take their hard-earned supplies, or new scenarios and event cards.

I’ve played two-player and three-player games of Collapse and both worked well. It’s fast-paced with very little downtime, and as with any deck builder you’re always busy planning ahead and hoping the card you really need that’s currently available will stay that way. This one’s recommended.

Further information

Take a look at the game’s official page, here.

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