The world as we know it is gone. We now live in a post-nuclear-apocalyptic world and have retreated to the subways in Russia for safety. If that sounds somewhat familiar to you, then you’ve probably played the Metro 2033 video game. It’s a gritty world where radiated monsters attack and bullets are not only a lifesaving necessity, but also the world’s new currency.
Today, we are going to be diving into Metro 2033: Breakthrough. Published by Hobbyworld International (Viceroy, Spyfall), Metro 2033: Breakthrough is a card game that puts players in the role of a faction leader, trying to acquire supplies, discover new locations, and even fight off monsters. With a good theme, interesting artwork, and cards with multiple uses, we’ve got a lot to talk about here, so let’s get to the good stuff.
Metro 2033: Breakthrough is a set collection and hand management card game for 2-5 players that takes about 45 minutes to play. Metro 2033: Breakthrough plays well with any number of players.
In Metro 2033: Breakthrough, players each take on the role of a faction leader, trying to survive by any means necessary. The goal of the game is to be the first player to acquire all ten of your faction tokens (players start with only 5).
Faction tokens are used almost as workers during the game. They allow players to play cards from their hands and then into their tableau, inching them closer to victory. During the game, players will be acquiring resource cards, which can be used to complete quests, earning them rewards in the form of more faction tokens and the ability to play cards for free.
Players must also divide their time between collecting resources and preparing for monster attacks, which can destroy a lot of a player’s hard work. Once a player has gained 10 factions tokens, they win!
Metro 2033: Breakthrough, being a card game, doesn’t have much in the way of components. The main thing you get with the game are 133 cards of various types. There are 6 different types of cards in Metro 2033 Breakthrough: Faction (each player starts with one), station (these are quests to complete), resource (used to complete quests), threat (monsters that attack), caravan (refreshes the market) and heroes (unique cards to protect and help you).
I’m a big fan when it comes to the artwork in Metro 2033: Breakthrough. I found it to be highly thematic and really enjoyed it during the game. I should note that the review copy we received had the card titles still in Russian (the game is debuting in English later this year), however the game is completely language independent so we were able to play it with no issues.
How to Play:
Each player starts the game with a faction card, 5 faction tokens (I call them workers) and a hand of 5 cards.
Metro 2033: Breakthrough is played over a number of rounds, which each player taking turns in a clockwise manner from the start player.
On a player’s turn they can take one of three possible actions:
- Play a card from your hand, paying its cost by spending the appropriate number of faction tokens.
- Discard a card from your hand, returning the appropriate number of faction tokens back to your available supply.
- Discard 3 cards from your hand without effect.
In either case, at the end of your turn, you draw back up to 5 cards.
The main thing you will be trying to accomplish during your turn is completing quests. These are in the form of Station cards. Each station cards has a cost to play in faction tokens. Once you’ve played it into your tableau, it’s considered an active quest. Not only does it give you a goal to work on, but it will also give you a discount when playing resources of a matching type. So if your station has a food icon, any food resources cost one less token to play.
To complete a station quest, you must have a specific number of resources in your play area. Once a player has enough resources, they can discard them and complete the quest. This gives the player another faction token (sometimes two) from the supply to be used during the game. Players also have the option of saving that station card by placing a faction token on it. While the token remains on the card, players can now play the matching resource type for free (no faction token cost, but still takes your action for the turn).
The other cards of note are monster cards. These can be played in two ways. The first way is as a monster. First, a player gets to recall some workers back to their active pool. After that, the monster attacks. This affects all players (including the one that played it). Players can try and defend against the monster by using previously played defensive cards. Any player that fails to defend must suffer the consequences on the card (usually a loss of resources or station cards). However, if a player does defeat a monster, they are allowed to play a card from their hand for free, which can be a great bonus.
Monsters can also be played as a defensive card, but this has the user faction token cost.
Players will continue to take turns in this manner until one player has acquired their 10th faction token. The game ends immediately with that player being the winner.
That’s a high level overview of how to play Metro 2033: Breakthrough. If you want to know the full rules, you can download a PDF of the rulebook here.
With licensed games, they can usually go one of two routes. The can be a steaming pile of poop looking to make a quick buck (World War Z) or they can be a great fan experience (Firefly) that does the source material justice. While I’m not super familiar with the Metro 2033 video games (although I hear they are fun), I am happy to report that Hobby World has put together a solid little game here.
The game experience was overall an enjoyable one, which is helped by the fact that it contains one of my favorite mechanics for card games: cards with multiple uses. Many cards in Metro 2033: Breakthrough can be used in one of two ways (resources or defense). This creates some hard decisions in the game as players must decide whether they want to work towards their goal or protect against a possible monster attack. And since many of the card draws are from a face up market, you can sometimes tell when a player is getting ready to drop a monster on the group.
Speaking of the monsters, that was fairly clever how it was done. When you use a monster to attack, not only do you get to recall many of your faction workers, but you also have the potential of harming your opponents (although possibly yourself if you are careless). The neat thing is that, if you can time it right, beating a monster lets you play any card for free from your hand. This can allow you to not only hurt your opponents and gain your workers back, but also play that expensive card you’ve been holding on to. It was a creative little mechanic that I enjoyed quite a bit.
I’m a big fan when it comes to the theme in Metro 2033: Breakthrough. That’s mostly because I’m always a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic theme. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the theme is fairly light in this game when it comes to how it ties into the mechanics. There are a few neat points where they tried to tie the theme to the game and the rule book even explains these for you. For example, recalling your workers when you play a monster card is supposed to represent you calling your men back to defend your base. But overall, I never really got the feeling that I was trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic subway system. If you are looking for a deep Metro 2033 experience, you might be a tad disappointed.
I found that, for the most part, player scaling in Metro 2033: Breakthrough plays well at all the player counts. This is partially because player interaction is mostly kept to a minimum. Other than the monster cards and taking a card your opponent might have wanted, there isn’t many other ways to interact with your fellow players.
For this reason, the game plays as well with 2 players as it does with 5. I should note that when you get up to 5 players, while there can be much more interaction as more monsters will get played, but the downtime between turns also gets to be a bit much. I think the sweet spot is probably around 2-3 players.
Lastly, one thing I wish there were more of in Metro 2033: Breakthrough were special cards. For the most part, the resource cards and station cards all feel really similar. By the end of the game, you can start to feel like you’ve been doing the same thing over and over. Some cards to change things up or give you some unique abilities would have been a nice breath of fresh air for the game. Perhaps that’s something for Hobby World to consider if they do an expansion.
For the most part I think that Hobby World did a successful job in creating a game that should appeal to Metro 2033 fans. While the theme is somewhat light, the artwork and the game play still has the potential to draw you in. Players must not only manage the use of their faction tokens, but what cards they play will also have an effect on their overall strategy.
If I had a big criticism of the game, it would be that it can start to drag on at the higher player counts. Between the downtime between turns, and the more frequent monster attacks mucking up your faction, the game takes a bit longer than I’d like.
Even still, I ended up enjoying Metro 2033: Breakthrough much more than I expected and plan on keeping my copy in my collection. The artwork is great, the mechanics solid, and I don’t have too many other games like it right now. If you’re looking for a creative and easy to learn post-apocalyptic card game, than give Metro 2033: Breakthrough a look.
If you’d like to get a copy of Metro 2033: Breakthrough, it’s currently not available in English, but will be debuting at the Essen Spiel Game Fair later this year.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid card game with some great art that players can jump into quickly, however the cards could use a bit more variety.
• Downtime at higher player counts a bit much
• Cards could use a bit more variety