Hungry for Power: Animus Review

Animus Review

The multiverse, an infinite number of universes existing simultaneously. A universe of universes. Infinite, and soon to be yours. You have spent eons selecting your fighters and watching your foes. You have plans within plans and eyes and ears observing events throughout the infinite expanse. And now you are ready to strike. Gather your fighters and claim what is yours and yours.

None shall stand in your way.

  • # of Players: 2
  • Ages: 12+
  • Playtime: 15 Mins
  • Designer: Ed Rodriguez
  • Publisher: Nightstalker Games

Overview

Animus is a card drafting and fighting game for two players. Players take on the roles of entities seeking to seize control over the multiverse. To do so they recruit a force of nine fighters to use in battle against their foe.

Positives

  • Gameplay is fast
  • Rules are straightforward and easily grasped
  • A good variety of characters does give the game the feeling of multiple realities
  • Playtime is fast

Negatives

  • The theme and backstory are not consistent with game mechanics
  • The entities are unimpressive

Gameplay

Animus begins with each player drafting nine fighters from a randomly selected pool of eighteen. Players shuffle these nine cards together to form their deck. Three cards are then drawn as a starting hand.

There are six phases during each turn of animus: Start Turn, Tactical 1, Combat, Tactical 2, Reset, and End. The combat and tactical phases are the most important, while the other three phases (Start, Reset, and End) typically come into play when a character’s ability is triggered.

The Combat Phase is where players will spend the bulk of their time. Players may attack any opposing fighters they wish, as long as they have a fighter in range. Each fighter may attack once per turn, and each fighter is strong against a certain type of fighter and is also weak against a certain type of fighter.  Combat consists of each player rolling a die, then adding the result to their fighter’s melee or ranged skill, whichever is appropriate. Players then compare the final skill value. The fighter with the highest value wins and the loser takes one point of damage. It takes Three points of damage to defeat a fighter.  If a fighter has an advantage against an opponent, the player rolls an extra die and selects the one they want to use.

During the Tactical phases, players can deploy troops, use a character’s tactical ability (if any), and, once per turn, switch positions of two of their fighters.

The first player to have ten character levels, as represented by values on the fighters’ cards, in their discard pile loses.

My Analysis

Gameplay

The actual gameplay of animus is pretty straightforward. Deploy, move, look for advantages, avoid disadvantages and so on. Where it gets tricky is deciding when and where to deploy your fighters. All fighters have an ability, and many of them are reusable… However, some of the most beneficial and powerful have only one use. For example:
Project 16: This character has an instant kill ability that can either remove one of your opponent’s more troublesome fighters (in a mutually assured destruction move) or can force your opponent’s discard pile over 10 points.

Fabiola Francois: If your fighters are getting hammered, and you have more than a few cards in your discard pile, this card can help give you some breathing room by preventing further losses

Tenley Kerrigan: Need to get a vulnerable asset out of harm’s way? Or perhaps a fighter you have in a support position would be very useful in melee combat this round? Tenley can take care of that for you.

This means timing is of the utmost importance, and if done wrong can be the end of your campaign. This, of course, makes for a challenging game.

My Verdict

While Animus has good mechanics and gameplay, I do have an issue with the game. This issue is less about the game’s mechanics and more about how the theme and backstory integrate with these mechanics.

When I am watching a movie, reading a piece of fiction, or playing a game (board game or video game), I am often evaluating the story and theme. What drives the story? Why do the characters react the way they do? Are they behaving appropriately for the story and universe they inhabit? Does the story/world/theme make sense? Or put simply, is the story consistent? Few things will ruin an experience, for me, faster than inconsistency. Sadly, in the case of Animus, the story is inconsistent with the mechanics.

Animus is a game about extremely powerful, universe ruling entities battling it out for control of infinite universes. You would think the powers they bring to the table would be a little more impressive than the abilities of the fighters they command.

Additionally, there are, in the backstory, rivalries, and team-ups that are not borne out in any way in the game. As an example, one of the rivalries is so volatile that planets are routinely destroyed when the two parties involved meet. However, no explanation is offered, in game, for why two planet destroying sorceresses, who despise one another, would happily work together in the service of an entity that each could easily defeat by themselves.

This inconsistency between theme and fiction of the game makes suspension of disbelief very hard, at least for me. This, in turn, makes engagement with the game difficult, and this is unfortunate because otherwise, Animus is a well put together game.

Animus is a fast, and light game, and If backstory and theme are not important to you, or if they are just added flavor, then I think you will like it. However, if you are bothered by inconsistencies between the fiction of a game and its mechanics, this game will probably make you cringe.

Have something to add? A dissenting opinion? A suggestion? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this game to review.

Recommendations

If Animus sounds like the kind of game you would enjoy, or if you want to check out a game with a more consistent story/mechanic integration, I would suggest checking out Runes of Mayhem, a tactical combat game that is similar to Animus. Click Here for my review for Runes of Mayhem.

If you are looking for a tactical solo experience, Sojourn by Wyvern Gaming is well worth your consideration. Take a look at the review here.

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