Humanity vanished in the blink of an eye, they called it the great calamity. Nature reclaimed the world and the animal folks learned to talk and adapt, claiming the human world and its plethora of wondrous contraptions for their own.
In Aftermath players take on the roles of four Goodfurs, the heroes of Abigail Lane setting out on their first real adventure, to bring back food and supplies for their colony. Ringr, Whisper, Grumple and Meziah each have different goals and different outlooks on life but must learn to work together to survive.
Aftermath is an Adventure Book game from the master of storybook games Jerry Hawthorne and Plaid Hat Games. Each adventure takes place on the pages of the book as the players explore the world of Aftermath. Each page will either have a random encounter or a mission, but as players revisit areas of the world, they change depending on the mission that the heroes are undertaking or events that have happened previously.
The game comes with a variety of tuck boxes and tracking dials for players to keep track of their evolving world. New enemies and adventures will come from the Discovery Deck, while completed missions will be sent to the banished box. Meanwhile the players colony will be tracked on the colony board, keeping track of their morale, population and discovered clues.
Turns in Aftermath are simple, draw five cards, play the cards to do actions. This replaces but is analogous to the dice mechanism in Stuffed Fables or Comanauts, but with a little more control over the luck factor. All cards can be used to move, Green cards are used for dexterity and ranged combat, red for strength and melee combat, blue for resistance and yellow for intelligence and conversation. White cards give players access to their special abilities and black cards trigger enemy activations.
You can take any number of actions as long as you have the cards to do so and cards can be chained together, following colour or number, to increase the power of an action. If there are enemies in play they will activate after your turn, only if there is a black card per enemy in play in the display. Otherwise a surge, or generally negative event, happens once 4 black cards are in the display.
Play continues in this fashion until the heroes win and complete their mission or they meet a fail condition, usually all four heroes being defeated. When a mission is complete, win or lose the heroes return to the colony where they must feed their people, uncover new story, face colony events and build new colony structures potentially completing their campaign goals. When all four heroes complete their campaign goals the heroes win the campaign.
Aftermath plays like any other Jerry Hawthorne game, sometimes the rules are a little woolly, sometimes the luck of the draw just means you have a sub par turn where you can't progress the story or get whaled on by enemies, but the story crafting is always engaging, the writing is wonderful and the world building is always fun, creative and heartwarming.
But what Aftermath brings to the table, that makes it stand out from the previous storybook games is a true campaign experience. Mice and Mystics has a campaign but not really, the story is linked but it is on rails, you’re going to go through the same experience each campaign. In Aftermath you have an open world to explore, you can face missions in any order, you can unlock your campaign bonuses in any order. Each page has multiple encounters that can be found there, but only if you draw a specific encounter card, so it always feels like there is more of the world to be seen and that you won’t always encounter the same things over and over…
There are consequences to your choices in Aftermath, enemies that you only encounter because you scouted a specific area or failed to negotiate with a specific character. It has an epic scope that hasn’t really been done in a family weight storybook adventure game before, but ultimately it doesn’t fulfill its promise because of business reasons.
Plaid Hat clearly intended to support this one with regular releases and with its open world nature it is easy to see how the game would have been plug and play, new heroes, side missions and enemies could easily be slotted in with no adjustments at all. Even the way that the storybook is written is future proofed to allow for expanded content. However when Plaid Hat Games parted ways with Asmodee they lost Aftermath in the divorce and now that promise feels curtailed.
The story and the adventure of Aftermath is not diminished, the world building is wonderful but it’s sad to know that so much more was planned but is now very unlikely to ever be realised. All that said, if you are looking for a dungeon crawl experience to play with the family it would be hard for me not to recommend Aftermath and it would make a great next step for those that enjoyed Stuffed Fables.
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