Spiel 2014 Preview: Abyss

Posted by James (admin) on August 13th, 2014

Abyss game set-upBruno Cathala has a been a busy guy this year as Abyss is yet another game co-designed by him – this time with Charles Chevallier.

The goal of the game is to be crowned King of Abyss by having the most Influence Points (IPs) at the end of the game.  Abyss is a stunning-looking, fantasy world set deep beneath the sea.  During their turn, a player can do one of 3 actions: Explore, Request Support from the Council, or Recruit a Lord.

If the current player chooses the Explore action, they draw a card (could be an ally or a monster) and place it on the exploration track.  If it’s an ally, each player in turn has a chance to buy the ally with pearls (giving them to the current player).  Each player can only buy one ally during the current player’s turn, and each ally purchased increases the price of the next one.  If no other player buys the ally, the current player can choose to take it for free.  If the card is a monster, the current player can either immediately defeat it (earning various items based on how high the threat level is), or leave it on the exploration track which raises the threat level (which increases the gains from defeating a future monster).  If the current player did not take the ally, or defeat the monster, they draw another card and repeat the process.  When a player does take the ally or defeat the monster (and they must do that if the exploration track is full), their Exploration action ends and all the cards on the exploration track are placed in face-down stacks according to their type (in the Council area of the board).

If a player chooses the ‘Request Support from the Council’ action, they take one stack of face-down allies (that have built up from unpurchased exploration cards).  The ‘Recruit a Lord’ action allows a player to buy one of the face-up Lords in the Court area and the cost is paid by discarding the required mix of ally cards (although they do get to keep the weakest).

If a player has 3 or more keys, they must purchase one of the location tiles.  There’s a nice minor game mechanic here which is that, if a player doesn’t purchase from the face-up locations, they can draw 1-4 locations and purchase from those; however, those not purchased are added to the face-up locations – so, the bigger selection you have, the more choices you’re giving your opponents.

Abyss game components

The game ends when a player recruits their 7th Lord, or there aren’t enough Lords to refill the Court spaces.  Players add up their IPs which are based on the locations they control (which earn IPs based on other elements), Lords they have recruited, the most influential ally from each race they have, and monsters they have defeated.

Abyss sounds like a relatively straight-forwards game but with a continual flow of tough choices which have several factors within them.  Do you buy an ally to help you (and/or deny an opponent) plus increase ally prices for your opponents?  Or, do you wait hoping a better ally appears, or maybe hope/risk no-one buys it so you can get it for free using the Council action?  Defeating monsters is interesting too as do you take the gains, or let it ride and hope another monster comes up for better gains?

The game mechanic of offering an ally for purchase to other players reminds me a bit of the enjoyable Packet Row, and I’m sure there’s another game that I’ve played with that sort of system too, but I just can’t quite recall which one.  (Anyone got any suggestions to jog my memory?)

It seems like there will be little downtime as players are involved during many of their opponents’ turns, and this should add the benefit that players are more aware of what each other are doing which, in turn, should create more competition over items.

You need allies and defeated monsters to gain Lords and locations, but the actual combination of allies, locations, and Lords is very important to score well too, so players need to work out what will have synergy when scoring.  For example, Lords are worth IPs, give you keys and have special abilities, but they cost a mix/number of allies which could be worth IPs in other ways.

Abyss box

The game’s very impressive artwork has garnered a lot of attention and it should create a proper connection between the game and the theme.  (I’m not a person who buys into a game solely because the cover or artwork looks nice – I spent too long working in the video games industry to fall for that – so I’m pleased that the game itself sounds entertaining and the artwork is a bonus on top.)

You can read the game details on Asmodee’s website using this link: bga.me/abyss  The rules may only be on BGG at the moment.

For more Spiel 2014 previews, check out my Spiel 2014 Previews page which lists the games on my radar with links to their previews too.


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