I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I am allergic to exercise. Whenever I do it, I get a shortness of breath, my heart rate increases, I sweat and my skin goes red and blotchy. If that is not an allergic reaction, I do not know what is. I say this to put it in perspective that I only run a couple of times a year, almost always for a train. So imagine my surprise when I was queuing for entry into the UK Games Expo 2023 halls to find myself running to the Hachette stall to buy a copy of After Us.
I’m glad I did, because it was sold out in about 12 minutes. Selling out super quickly on Saturday too. Why? Well, Hachette had only managed to get a small sample shipped over with the variant Big Ben box art, and if there is one thing that will get people going, it is making something super hard to buy. No wonder humans are wiped out and monkeys take over the world by 2083! So was it worth me breaking a sweat for? Well it meant I could get my copy signed, but that in itself doesn’t make a good game. So, read on and find out…
Unfurl the central board and place level one and level two monkey cards on the relevant places face down. Give everyone a player board in their preferred colour, score and rage token and a shuffled deck of starter cards. Pile up the resources and you are ready to go ape! It’s so easy even a chimpanzee could do it!
Don’t be fooled by the appearance and the post-apocalyptic theme, this is a racing game through and through. The first player to get to 80 or more points is the winner. You do this by building and refining your deck of cards. In this regard it really reminds me of one of my favourite games: A Quest for El Dorado.
Player’s will draw four cards from their deck and arrange them in a row in front of them in any order. Any icons completely enclosed in a frame will activate. Incomplete frames will not. Frames activate from left to right across each row in order from top to bottom. The top row grants resources and the other rows offers ways to convert or spend them on victory points. All of this is done simultaneously.
Then players will choose a monkey token. This will give a bonus and allow player’s to swap resources for that specific type of monkey. Level one primates cost three resources of the same type, level two cost six. Specific resources are required for three of the four primates and this will inevitably affect which token you choose. Additional cards are drawn blind from the relevant stack and added to the top of your draw pile, thus guaranteeing inclusion in your next hand of four cards.
At this point you can also exchange two matching resources to activate an opponent’s monkey power but not to buy another card.
The only element I haven’t mentioned is rage, this can be collected on player’s boards and you can spend four rage to remove a card from your hand, thus thinning your deck. The discarded card also gives a one off bonus as it leaves your deck too.
Each game there are three random tiles drawn that offer bonuses for cashing in your energy tokens. These are always worth paying attention to, as they can really help.
You will rinse and repeat this until someone hits the magic 80 points and wins the game.
There is a solo variant included. I took a glance at the rules and I must say I am rather tempted to give it a whirl sometime. The solitaire gameplay lends itself to it anyway. Although it looks pretty tough to win solo.
What it’s like
The simultaneous play allows for this filler game to seat six players quite smoothly. While you can easily overthink the frames, for me they sort of naturally slot together depending on what you are hoping for. There will always be some that don’t activate, but I tend to concentrate on gathering victory points as well as new cards as often as possible.
Drawing your cards blind adds a little luck that some may not enjoy. I don’t mind this randomiser at all. Games of After Us are generally quite tight, but you need to get points as often as you can so that there is no runaway winner. My first game ended in a tie and when consulting the rulebook I read the dreaded phrase: ‘in the event of a tie, players share the victory’. Ooof.
One thing that you will find with After Us is that this is a very solitary game. You are only focussed on your own cards and gathering and spending your own resources. The only time you care what your opponents have done is when you look at where they are on the scoreboard. You will occasionally activate a bonus from their choice of monkey too. Interaction isn’t just low, it is non-existent, and that will bother some as much as it will please others.
There is also a little bit of repetition as you go through the motions of arranging your frames and gathering and spending resources. This may hinder its long term replayability.
If you can embrace the brisk race of the game, it delivers plenty to think about and entertain. As it also plays up to six people I can see it hitting the table often.
Vincent Dutrait is quickly becoming my favourite board game illustrator. I loved his artwork on Tenpenny Parks, Canopy, Tribes of the Wind, the updated Lost Cities and Heat. Needless to say I love the artwork and presentation of this game too.
The player boards with their individual and characterful primates interacting with the post-apocalyptic scenes are brilliant. The card art, although repetitive, is equally awesome. The backs of the cards also deserve a special mention as you look at these a lot and they are fantastic!
The rulebook is really good, although this is a game that I already love to teach as it is so smooth. Inside the box are nice carboard dividers, it could be better, but equally it does the job without adding more plastic into the world!
The wooden resource tokens are good and the cardboard energy tokens are fine too. I really love the aesthetics of this game, it is a joy to look at!
What the kids thought
Max (8): I like how it is quite fast. Using rage to get bonuses when discarding cards is fun. The artwork is great too!
George (12): I like saving up for the better cards which gave better rewards. I enjoyed arranging the four cards to get the best out of them too. The artwork is really cool. My favourite monkey is definitely the Mandrill.
Harrison (15): I think the game is really fun and I am really enjoying playing it. I like putting the cards together to make the perfect tableau and I like the balance between using the resources to get vp or spending them on a new card.
Final thoughts on After Us
My brain and After Us just clicks. I’m not sure if it is the programming of matching the frames, but it all just falls into place when I play. As a result my games don’t cause me to do a lot of head scratching and my win/loss ratio is healthy! Regardless of that, I do thoroughly enjoy playing this one as the logic involved is something I enjoy.
Was the UKGE hype deserved? Probably not, this was built on limited supply and demand. However, it certainly got the attention as a result, so good luck to the PR people! That’s not to say that After Us isn’t good, it really is. I have thoroughly enjoyed every single play. This deck-building race is oodles of fun and it is well worth checking out if you get the chance!
The artwork and components go a long way in setting some of the appeal, but the game play is solid beneath that too. Creating adjoining bonuses with the four cards each round is a really interesting and fresh approach to deck building.
Number of players: 1 to 6
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 12+
Playing Time: 50 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minutes
Designers: Florian Sirieix
Publisher: Hachette Board Games UK / Catch Up Games
After Us offers a lovely filler game for up to six people. The deck building race is great fun. Constantly attempting to optimise your cards and hand to score points is an interesting challenge that I thoroughly enjoy.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Beautiful Vincent Dutrait artwork
- Puzzle of arranging cards
- Plays up to six people
- Quick play time
- No tie-breaker
- Some repetition
- Very solo/solitaire experience
Buy After Us
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