Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
In the realms of card games, invariably there is some sort of mental complexity scale. On one end is something like Go Fish and on the other end are games like Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, and Bridge. Finding a game that suits players on the Go Fish end, but also intrigues more hardcore players can be challenging, especially for an evening with more than 2 players.
Dropping onto this scale is a card game with a mystical theme and a play style that could suit fans of Magic without burning the brains of new players. Endogenesis is a competitive card game for 2 to 5 players that takes about 20 minutes per player. It works well enough with 2 players, but with 4 players or two teams, can be equally enjoyable.
Players in Endogenesis are cosmic beings who have traveled across an “infant realm” searching for “answers to questions still unknown”. When these beings encounter each other, it appears there is conflict and the stage for a magical battle game is set. The players are competing with one another for “prisms”, tokens which act as a victory point. A player who earns 3 of these wins the game. Along the way, players can focus on powering up abilities and dealing doom to other players as follows.
Players begin with a hand of cards and a health tracker which starts at 3 life points. Cards in hand comes from the Realm of Knowledge cards. Each turn, two of these are drawn. Players also start with 3 “shards”, which are upgrade tokens.
During a turn, if there is no monster in play, the active player draws from the Realm of Chaos deck until a monster appears. This monster becomes the foil against which the players may battle to gain prisms, more shards, or other bonuses. After a monster makes an appearance, the player begins the main part of their turn.
At this step, the player can play skill cards until they have a maximum of 3 in play. These skills provide attack, defense, and healing abilities. They are powered by discarding other cards in hand for Energy. For example, a powerful skill card might provide 3 energy while a weak skill card provides 1. The choice about whether to use a card for energy or as a skill is pervasive throughout each turn.
Skills a player have put into play can also be buffed by allocating shards to the skill. However, shards are additionally valuable because they can be used to permanently increase a player’s maximum life points. Shards are awarded from killing monsters, but also from defeating other players (don’t worry, the other players come back).
So, the general pattern of the game is one in which players will be battling each other with mystical skills, while at the same time whittling away damage on monsters. Players can take the tack of focusing attacks on the monster or they can opt to attack other players repeatedly to increase their shards in the short run. Either way, at some point players will want to take down some monsters to gain prisms.
Other cards in play are as follows. Artifacts provide instant effects and are acquired in the Realm of Knowledge. Wonders are a reward for boosting life points and provide powerful single use abilities. Classes are permanent bonus effects rewarded for acquiring a specific set of skills. Additionally, in the Chaos deck are one off events (positive and negative) and distortions which modify player abilities.
The best audience for Endogenesis are Magic players with an extended range of family or friends who may feel like they want to experience what advanced card games are all about without needing to delve into the collectible nature of the hobby. Endogenesis does a great job of giving a full experience package in a relatively small size. The combos and abilities to discover are ripe for expansion, and the theme provides a decent vehicle of intrigue.
The other noteworthy aspect of the game is the mystical art accompanying the cards. The dark backgrounds and strong positive colors reminded this writer of the cosmic sequences from Samurai Jack. It’s got a quasi-anime feel and the abilities are mostly named after some sort of other-worldly powers.
There has also considerable attention focused on the rulebook. It’s accessible and straightforward which provides competitive card game newbs easy understanding of terms of concepts. Even though the components presented were prototype level, the rules only need a couple more pages of card explanations to be ready for production.
Gamers looking for a warm up card game for the evening, a trash-talk beer and pretzels combat game, or a (mostly) family-friendly version of similar competitive card games, Endogenesis falls right into scope. It’s got an interesting, epic theme and a very flat learning curve. Depending on how long players want a game to go, it’s also got pretty easy scaling for game length. If these options are in line with your needs, check out Endogenesis, which is now in funding on Kickstarter.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.