It’s the end times. Armageddon is almost here and the Dark One will only choose a single cult of followers to his Chosen in the emptiness that follows The End. Eschaton puts you in the lead of one of those cults trying to amass power, land, dark power. Customize your cult and spread your forces through the land like a plague to attract the attention of the Dark One and earn his favor. The rest will be swept clean with the rest of existence.
Eschaton is an open-market deck builder and area control game where players are customizing their forces and trying to control various areas on the board for extra points and bonuses. Similar to other deck builders, players start the game with the same deck of cards that are used to purchase more cards from the market which are then eventually shuffled back into the players’ decks to fine-tune their style of play.
The play area of Eschaton contains several key items:
- Realm Map – Central to gameplay. This is where players will amass their forces and wage war over the various areas of the world.
- Conclave – 14 unique stacks of cards available for purchase. These contain Cultists, Power Cards, and Curse and Plague tokens.
- Arcana Deck – A deck of allies and dark powers that can only be obtained through the Divination attribute of cards.
- Event Deck – A semi-randomised deck of Event cards, Omen cards, and an Armageddon card that are revealed each round.
- Player Area – An area for each player’s deck, discard pile, Sacrificial Pyre, active Auras, and a pool of 25 cubes.
Each round players will take turns playing cards from their hand and resolving their stats to perform various actions. Each Cultist has 4 stats:
- Zeal – Additional cards that may be drawn from your deck.
- Divination – The number of cards that may be drawn from the Arcana Deck. Keep one and return the rest to the bottom of the Arcana Deck.
- Influence – Currency used to purchase cards from the Conclave.
- Aggression – The number of cubes that can be either added to the board, moved on the board, or to attack other cubes.
In traditional deck builder fashion, any cards purchased will be placed in a player’s discard pile and reshuffled to form a draw deck once the player’s current draw deck is empty. Players can also permanently remove cards from play by placing them on their Sacrificial Pyre. Other cards are permanent when played and can only be removed through a few different actions in the game.
Throughout the game players decks will get more powerful, Auras will be put into play, armies will clash, Plagues and Curses will be purchased and played, and random events will occur between rounds. Once the Armageddon Card is drawn the game comes to a close and the players add up their scores. The player with the most cubes in an area will score the points for that area. Some cards in the players’ decks are also worth points and are added up. There are also bonuses that can be earned and added in. The player with the highest score wins the Dark One’s favor and is spared his wrath.
For all the details on the rules, card types, powers, etc… check out Eschaton’s full ruleset.
The first thing that stands out with Eschaton is its dark, yet striking, gothic art style. The game is mostly blacks, greys, and tans with just hints of muted colors contained in its raw art style. The graphic design of the board, all the way down to the iconography, is filled with the same rough and coarse style and seamless blends in to form a cohesive, emotional look. The game’s box is almost pure black, though manages to stand out in a crowd.
The actual quality of all Eschaton’s components is top notch. Stiff cards, sturdy boards, and wooden cubes make up the entirety of the game.
Eschaton was the game of the show for me while at PAX Unplugged 2017. I was immediately drawn to their booth, as it seemed to just suck in all the light around it with all the black draped all over the place. Archon’s tables were full the entire weekend and I was finally able to sit down and get a game in early Sunday morning. The game’s mix of deck building in area control isn’t new but works beautifully along with its event deck, Plagues, Curses, and Auras.
The open market, something I’m not normally a fan of in deck builders, is wonderfully accented by the Arcana Deck and the potential it holds for players who maximise their Divination. The ability to keep drawing cards by upping Zeal is satisfying in many ways, and it’s not impossible for players to draw 8-12 cards on their turn, allowing for some amazing combos and massive army movements.
I was lucky enough to take a copy of Eschaton home with me, as I believe Archon sold out of the stock they brought to the show. It’s certainly up there as one of my favorite deck builders. Definitely in my top 5. The theme may be a huge turn off for some, but takes the game to the next level for those who can appreciate the beauty in the darkness and how well put together the entire experience is. Come for the visual style. Stay for the awesome gameplay.
A copy of Eschaton was provided free for review by Archon Games
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.