Like some people, I have begun to grow weary of the post-apocalyptic genre. It’s not that I don’t like it; I love to bring out Dead of Winter at tabletop night, I read the Walking Dead comics, watch both Walking Dead TV series, and enjoy me some Fallout.
I just feel the genre has been saturated, to the point everything feels like a “rip-off” of something else. Consider the number of TV shows, movies, comics, video games, board games, and even RPGs that cover the concept.
I’m glad to say, not only is this game an excellent addition to the genre, I think I had more fun in a shorter time than many others.
Maximum Apocalypse is a cooperative scenario-based game where players attempt to navigate a post-apocalyptic town. They must survive not only monsters but also food and environmental dangers, as they try to reach their goal.
Players choose their “apocalypse,” with zombies the easiest and robots or aliens the most difficult. Each type has specific scenarios, often played in sequential order, to tell a story; these scenarios inform you what map tiles to use, what equipment can be found, what your mission is, and any special rules.
Gameplay in Maximum Apocalypse is easy and smooth. Each round a player checks for more monsters, takes four actions (no more, no less), and then deals with hunger and active creatures.
Survivors can use actions to move, scavenge, or attack, as well as play or use cards. This limitation means you need to pick carefully; do you take time looking for precious resources or spend your turn fighting off whatever has been attracted by your activities?Randomized map tiles add an unknown, as exploring them means you never know what you’ll encounter. Some activate upon reveal, others whenever you enter them, and others if you leave or end your turn there.
You might walk into an open field, where monsters await you (and more show up if you linger), or instead discover a stream that’s hard to cross. Players can also find gas stations, hospitals, or police stations that often provide equipment and the opportunity to forage for further items.
Scavenging is often an essential part of the mission, especially fuel so you can drive away after completing your first goal. Depending on what tiles you’re on, however, you’re limited to scavenging from certain decks (created for that specific scenario); it’s easier to find food in a grocery store and gear at the shopping mall.
Play continues until the mission is completed or all survivors are gone. The latter can occur if someone takes too much damage, starves to death, or runs out of cards in their deck.
There are six different survivors to choose from, each of which comes with their own unique deck that plays to specific strengths (like Red Dragon Inn). Players can pick a character that equals their play style or choose those they think would work best in that scenario.
You could be the surgeon, skilled at healing or providing stimulants; maybe you prefer the hunter, excellent at sneaking, scavenging, and striking from afar. The tough firefighter, the clever mechanic, the deadly gunslinger, and the veteran and their trusty dog, round out the initial list.
Character cards provide a Health stat, a Stealth rating, and a unique ability. This simple format allows the game to run on 2D6, dice that are rolled for everything from sneaking past monsters to determining if (and where) more monsters arrive.
One aspect of Maximum Apocalypse I enjoy is the randomness and replayability. Each game your map will be different (even with the scenarios using specific tiles and cards) and your character choices affect your tactics.
With three different scenarios and four different apocalypse types, each of increasing difficulty, this game provides some decent play time. Also, they’ve already released one expansion (with a single, unique scenario and two new survivors) and another expansion on the way (with two new apocalypse types).
Another thing I enjoyed about Maximum Apocalypse was the relatively quick set-up and take-down. Unlike games like Dead of Winter or Last Night on Earth, there are fewer parts and scenarios are easily started.
Part of this ease of use is the compact nature; this game comes in a long card-sized box, rather than the full-size game boxes that clutter our shelves. Rock Manor Games even provided card dividers, to allow you to efficiently separate survivor decks, monster types, city tiles, and equipment.
Our crew found this game an excellent choice for small and large groups. The difficulty scales with players, as the more people at the table, the more chances monsters will appear. Maximum Apocalypse’s cooperative nature also allows a solo mode, which is always a bonus.
Although the post-apocalypse genre may currently be saturated, I’m glad to say that this game isn’t “one too many”. If anything, it’s smooth gameplay, different styles, randomization, and compact nature make it one of my favorites.
Maximum Apocalypse is on shelves now, along with its Kaiju Rising expansion. 1-6 players, 45-90 minutes, Ages 13+.
I give Maximum Apocalypse a vital 4.5 fuel tanks out of 5.
(We’d like to thank Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie for recommending the game!)