End of the Line Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 12 and up (publisher suggests 14+)
  • For 3 to 5 players
  • Approximately 70 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection
  • Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Survive and outlast

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek rejected!

Overview

The world as we knew it ended with a bang, a bright light, and fire. Then all was silence. For those who survived the nuclear explosions and resulting fallout, life got real simple real fast. The only goal is to survive. Death is inevitable, but you may yet outlast your neighbors if you plan right and are ruthless.

End of the Line, designed by Seppy Yoon and published by Fight in a Box, is comprised of 25 Family meeples, 5 Home Plate cards, 5 Secret Stash screens, 21 Resource cubes, 32 Now cards, 48 Event cards, 16 Law cards, 24 Calamity cards, 5 Pass cards, 10 Family cards, 6 game boards (referred to as “lines”), 1 First Player card, and 5 Player Aid cards. The component quality is excellent. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, the boards are thick, and the meeples are cut so they represent different family members, including a dog. Good stuff.

Exiting the Fallout Shelter

To set up the game, first place the game boards in the middle of the playing area in a row. From left to right, the order should be “Black Market”, “Fuel Line”, “Ammo Line”, Food Line”, “Water Line”, and “Graveyard” game boards. Make sure to leave room between each game board to allow for card placement.

Second, shuffle the Now, Events, and Laws cards together to create the Action deck. Place the Action deck face-down and to one side of the game boards. Shuffle the Calamity cards together to create the Calamity deck and place it next to the Action deck, face-down.

Third, give each player 1 “Dad”, 1 “Mom”, 1 “Boy”, 1 “Girl”, and 1 “Dog” Family meeple of the same color. Give each player a 1 Home Plate card, 1 Pass card, and 1 Secret Stash screen that matches their meeple color.

Fourth, deal each player 4 Action cards and 2 cubes of each Resource (“Water”, “Food”, “Ammo”, and “Fuel”). All Resource cubes should be placed behind the player’s Secret Stash screens. Action cards should be kept secret until played. Place the remaining Resource cubes above their respective game board. These Resource cubes are considered in the “Bank”.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will be the first player and give them the First Player card.

Just Another Day in the Post-Apocalypse

End of the Line is played in rounds, phases, and turns. There are no set number of rounds per game. A typical game round is summarized here.

Phase 1: Calamities

The current round’s First Player flips over the top-most Calamity card and reads it out loud. The effects of the Calamity card are immediately resolved. The Calamity card also determines the order in which the game boards are resolved, as well.

During the first round of the game, the Calamity card is flipped over, but its negative effects are not resolved. Only the line order of the game boards is used.

Phase 2: Draw Cards

Starting with the First Player, each player may spend their Resource cubes to draw an Action card. One Action card is drawn for each one Resource cube of a unique type spent. The player may optionally buy an Action card with the same Resource cubes, but the cost of the Action card increases by one each time. For example, the first Action card spent would cost 1 “Water” Resource cube, the second Action card purchased with the same resource would cost 2 “Water” Resource cubes, and so on. Players cannot mix resources (1 “Fuel” and 1 “Water’ to buy a single Action card, for example). The player is welcome to purchase as many Action cards as they like, but their total hand size may not exceed 10 total cards.

This phase is skipped during the first round of the game.

Phase 3: Civil Improvements

All players now review their Law cards in their hand and determine if they want to play any. Players stack the Law cards they want to play on top of their Pass card, face-down.

Then, starting with the First Player and continuing in turn order sequence, each player reveals the topmost card on their stack. If it’s a Law card, the player immediately attaches it to one of the game boards either face-up or face-down. All face-up Law cards are considered “in play” immediately and their effects are resolved if applicable. A face-down Law card is considered temporarily out of play until it’s triggered later in the phase. After placing their Law card, the player draws 1 Action card and places it face-down at the bottom of their stack.

If the Pass card is revealed, the player’s turn is over for the phase and is skipped until the phase ends.

Note that each game board has a space for a Law card. Law cards can continue to be played to a game board even if all the slotted areas for Law cards are currently taken. There is no limit to the number of Law cards a game board can have attached to it.

Phase 4: Family Placement

Starting with the First Player, each player places one of their living Family meeples to one of the open game boards in the front-most empty spots. Laws attached to the game boards must be followed.

When playing meeples, players should keep in mind that “Dog” Family Meeples are not rewarded resources, nor is the last living human Family meeple in the game board line. However, “Dog” Family meeples can count as “last in line”, meaning all human Family meeples would collect resources!

Phase 5: Line Completion

The game board order defined by the Calamity card now determines the order in which each game board is resolved. Resolving a game board is completed in 4 steps.

Step 1: Planning

Players can play Now and Event cards at this time, but only to those game boards where they have assigned one or more of their living Family meeples. Players again stack their Now and Event cards on top of their Pass card in the same way they stacked their Law cards.

Players can also place Now cards in a Defensive Hand, which is a set of cards used at the player’s discretion.

Any cards the player does not want to play or risk is placed face-down underneath their Pass card.

Step 2: Execution

Starting with the First Player and continuing in turn order sequence, each player draws their topmost card from their stack and resolves it. A card in the stack will resolve even if that player no longer has any living Family meeples on the game board the card is associated with. Players can also play cards from their Defense Hand, but in order to do so, they must have at least one living Family meeple on the game board the card is associated with.

Step 3: Law Enforcement

After all the cards in the stacks are played (all players reveal their Pass card), the Law cards on each of the game boards are resolved. If the next Law card to be resolved is face-down, it’s flipped over and resolved. Any game board with laws that does not currently have any living Family meeples is skipped (laws don’t apply to the dead).

Step 4: Collection

Starting with the first living Family Meeple in the front-most position of each line, resources are now given. Resources are taken from the Resource “Bank” above each of the game boards and the Family meeple that collected them is returned to their Home Plate card. Each living human Family meeple collects 1 Resource cube unless the living human Family meeple is in the front, in which case they get to collect two. “Dog” Family meeples never collect resources. If a living human family meeple is the last in line, they do not collect any resources, either.

The “Black Market” game board allows players to swap Resource cubes instead of collecting them.

Phase 6: Pass First Player Card

First, count the total number of dead Family meeples in the “Graveyard”. If the total is ever equal to the total number of players, a game board line is closed. For example, in a 3-player game, a game board line would close when there are 3, 6, and 9 dead Family meeples.

Second, if the game has not yet been won or ended in disaster for everyone, the First Player card is passed to the next player in turn order sequence.

Surviving the End of the World

The game continues until only one player has any living Family meeples left. This is only determined at the end of phase 6 of each round, meaning all the players could lose their Family meeples during the round. If such is the case, none of the players win the game. If a player ever loses all their Family meeples during they game, they are out of the game.

To learn more about End of the Line, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

Oh, boy. The Child Geeks didn’t go for this game. At least, not the majority. While they all understood how the game was played, the game’s focus on destroying the Family meeples as fast as possible made their gaming experience feel stressful rather than fun. According to one Child Geek, “I don’t get this game. I have to use my family to play but the game keeps killing my family. It’s like the game doesn’t want me to play it.” Another Child Geek said, “I hate games where if you lose you have to go away.” To be fair, we always invited the eliminated players to stick around, but they never did. At least not for long. It should also be noted that the older and more experienced Child Geeks found a level of enjoyment, but not enough to suggest the game was wonderfully entertaining. In the end, the Child Geeks didn’t enjoy End of the Line and found it to be an experience they would rather not repeat. They voted to reject the game and opted to play anything else. However, the older Child Geeks loved End of the Line. This would strongly suggest that the game is best played with Child Geeks who have experience.

The Parent Geeks found the game as challenging as the Child Geeks but enjoyed it. After all, the Parent Geeks wanted a game they could sink their teeth into. Unfortunately for the Parent Geeks, this game bites back. And by bite, I really mean maul. At first, it was obvious that the Parent Geeks understood that the game was challenging them to survive. Then, slowly, it started to dawn on them that they wouldn’t. According to one Parent Geek, “Lord, this game can be really hard if you don’t watch what you are doing and what your opponents are up to.” Another Parent Geek said, “You have to be willing to sacrifice in this game and that goes completely against what you think you need to do to win. You have to make some tough choices.” What the Parent Geeks didn’t like was how the game took actions directly against the players that tipped the balance. They felt this was unnecessary as the game was already hitting them over the head repeatedly. Still, they found it entertaining, in a strange kind of way. The end result was a mixed review from the Parent Geeks.

The Gamer Geeks immediately cried foul when they learned that players were removed from the game and had to go sit on the sidelines. As one Gamer Geek put it, “When you tell me a game eliminates players, I immediately know that the game designer doesn’t give a crap about the players.” I do not agree with this statement, but it’s easy to believe that the game designer took the time to make certain all the players had a clear goal – survive however you can or else. Another Gamer Geek said, “I like many aspects of this game, but there are a few rules and game decisions that just don’t make sense. And by ‘sense’, I mean it feels like the game is purposely trying to get rid of the players.” Which is probably true. One Gamer Geek said, “Why are you picking on me?”, suggesting that this game is all about messing up other players, which it is. This is a game about surviving the apocalypse, after all, and the odds of doing so are not super great. The Gamer Geeks were split when it came time to provide their endorsement. The hardcore Gamer Geeks who enjoyed cutthroat games praised End of the Line for being a game that had the balls to spit in a player’s eye and kick them when they were down. The other half rejected the game for the very same reason.

One aspect of the game I did not enjoy was the player elimination. From a thematic perspective, it makes total sense. If you lose your family, you lose the game. The problem here is that some players can be kicked out very quickly. Especially if they are new to the game or are casual players. These poor souls can either watch the game continue to be played without interacting (no fun) or go off and do something else, which begs the question why you invited them to play the game in the first place. There is a game variant that allows players who have lost to keep playing by causing problems, but that never felt right. After all, the game was hard enough as it was. Purposely adding more obstacles in a game that was already designed to kick a player’s butt made little sense and added no additional fun. Worst of all, when the game gets down to 2 to 3 players, it starts to feel long. This means the players who are watching now get to see the game get played slower than they probably would like.

However, during other games, the meeple elimination rate was fairly even, resulting in a gradual, but well paced player elimination. This resulted in players who were removed from the game not being left out of the fun for very long. In almost all cases, the games that lasted the longest were those who had players who focused on on their own meeple survival rather than killing off opponent meeples.

Overall End of the Line is exactly the kind of game that a survivalist would enjoy. It’s all about outlasting, outliving, and outsmarting your opponent. As opponents begin to fall, the playing field becomes wider, but the obstacles continue to pile up. The game is at its easiest when you take your first turn and from there it goes downhill real fast. Which is exactly the point of the game, I think. End of the Line is a game that challenges players to make smart sacrifices. Let me state that again because I think it’s important: “smart sacrifices”. You will not survive this game. It is designed to kill off the Family meeples one by one until nothing is left. The only thing a player can hope for is to be the last one standing. Pretty bleak, admittedly, but also very challenging.

And therein is the game’s rather dark charm. The rules of survival are constantly changing and players must adapt or perish. You are always engaged in the game (until your family is dead), which keeps players leaning forward and grimacing from the very start. It’s little wonder why the Child Geeks ran in horror, the Parent Geeks had reservations, and the Gamer Geeks felt a bit gut punched. This is a not a game for everyone by any means. End of the Line is perfect for those players who know the odds are already stacked against them. The game is designed to eat their meeples, and there is nothing to save you from inevitable doom other than smart choices and lucky guesses. It’s a wild ride that will leave you feeling exhausted, slightly hollow, and a bit pissed off. But for those who win, all those negative feelings will be replaced with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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