Beneath Nexus is an asymmetrical, card-based dungeon crawler that was successfully funded on Kickstarter back in August of 2016. I was first introduced to the game at PAX Unplugged 2017 when I received an email from Silverclutch Games on the last day of the show asking me to come check it out. I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful artwork on the box, and the overall quality feel it had in my hands. Luckily, I went home with the game and its mini booster pack expansion.
Being a one-vs-many game, Beneath Nexus has several players taking the role of heroes while one player controls one of 4 different Blight Lords seeking to destroy the heroes before they can complete 2 dungeons and destroy the Blight Lord once and for all. Everything is card-based, including the Dungeons.
At that start of the game, one player chooses a Blight Lord while the rest choose a Hero and uses a blue Gem Card to set their health the Hero’s listed value. 3 Dungeon Cards are drawn at random and placed face-down in the middle of the table. Each Hero takes their specific deck of Hero Ability Cards, while the Blight Lord gets a standard Blight Lord Spell deck with extra cards shuffled into depending on which Blight Lord was chosen. The Monster Deck and Relic Deck are shuffled and placed within reach of the Blight Lord. The game starts with the Heroes drawing a hand of 3 Hero Ability Cards and choosing one of the face-down Dungeon cards to attempt first. The Dungeon is setup according to the instructions on the card which usually says how Monster Cards are added and lists any special conditions/rules the Dungeon has. The Blight Lord draws a number of Blight Lord Spell Cards equal to the number of players plus 2 and play begins.
The Blight Lord is up first and make take as many actions on their turn as there are Heroes. Actions that can be taken are listed with green gems on the Blight Lord’s card, any Monster Cards in play, or from cards in the Blight Lord’s hand. Grey gems on any card indicated a passive ability that is automatically activated when its conditions are met. Yellow gems are reaction actions that can only be taken by the Blight Lord in reaction to a Hero player’s actions, so are not used during the Blight Lord’s turn. Once the Blight Lord has finished their turn they draw up to their maximum hand size.
Once the Blight Lord has taken their turn each Hero gets 1 action taken in the order of how fast each Hero is. If any Hero has the same speed, the players must come to a decision on who goes first. Hero actions work similarly to Blight Lord actions. They have green gem actions listed on their Hero Card, their Hero Ability Cards, any Relics they may earn from completed Dungeons. The same rules apply to grey gem and yellow gem actions. If a Hero plays a Hero Ability Card they may draw a new one from their deck. If there are none left to draw then the Hero shuffles their discard pile to form a new draw deck. Once each Hero has taken an action a new round starts with the Blight Lord.
To defeat a Dungeon Heroes generally have to defeat all the Monsters that reside in it. There are certain exceptions to this rule which will be listed on specific Dungeon Cards. Once a Dungeon is defeated a certain number of Relic Cards are drawn and divvied up to the Heroes and they choose a new Dungeon. If the Heroes have defeated 2 Dungeons they then face the Blight Lord who flips their card over, sets a certain amount of Health Gems depending on the number of players, and gains abilities for each Health Gem they have. The Heroes win the game if they can defeat the Blight Lord.
What happens when a Hero dies, though? They lose any Relics they’ve acquired, discard their hand of cards, and are out of the game for the current Dungeon. If the Dungeon is defeated they come back into the game with a new hand of cards and 6 health. If all the Heroes are killed in a Dungeon the Blight Lord wins.
For full details on the rules of Beneath Nexus, check the game’s rulebook.
Beneath Nexus is completely comprised of colorful, beautifully designed cards. Everything from the iconography to the artwork really brings you into the world of Nexus. The Hero Cards, Blight Lord Cards, and Dungeon Cards are oversized and laid out in a way that makes them really each to reference when needed. Each card is thick, glossy, and should hold up to a lot of play.
My two main complaints about the components are the fact that some of the iconographies for the Heroes and Blight Lord cards are very similar, making sorting the decks a bit of a pain at first. Once you’re more familiar with the cards this becomes much easier. The next complaint is about the Health Gem cards used for the Heroes, Monsters, and Blight Lord. They’re not intuitive to use and are a bit cumbersome during play. This is easy to remedy with a handful of d12 dice, but it would be nice if a better solution was presented in the box.
Beneath Nexus provides a surprising amount of depth and replayability with such a simple set of rules. It takes less than 10 minutes to set up, learn the rules, and be off to the races, a lot of the intricacies of the game coming from the cards themselves. The real shining star of the game is the asymmetry between the Heroes and the Blight Lord and how the game manages to make both sides feel satisfying to play. Not once in my plays of the game was I bummed if I had to take the role of the Blight Lord, something that’s not always the case in game’s where I have to play the “overlord” character.
My minor gripes about iconography and Health Gems aside, I’ve been very pleased with Beneath Nexus. It delivers a great, streamlined dungeon-crawl experience in an hour or less once you’ve gotten the hang of things. While initially, the price tag might seem a bit high for a box of cards that doubt is quickly vanquished when you feel the quality of everything and realize how much play you’re going to get out of the game. There’s plenty of Heroes, Blight Lords, Monsters, Relics, and Dungeons to keep things interesting with a ton of different combinations. If you’re really feeling like you need more there’s a $5.99 Myths and Monsters mini-expansion you purchase that adds 1 new Relic, 1 new Cursed Relic, and 2 cards each of 5 new Monsters.
A copy of Beneath Nexus and the Myths and Monsters expansion wa provided free for review by Silverclutch Games