WBG Score: 6
Player Count: 1-6
Published by: Catch Up Games
Designed by: Florian Sirieix
This is the reviewer's copy. See our review policy here
A game about humans dying out and apes taking over the planet? Andy Serkis has got to be playing one of the apes in this game right?! I’ll tell you what. Read the review, check out the pictures and if you can spot him let me know.
How to control the planet of the apes.
Give everyone their player board, tokens and starting deck of cards in their colour. Shuffle the bonus tiles and pick three at random and place them face up.
The majority of the game is going to be played simultaneously so if I reference a “turn” then assume that everyone is going to be playing at the same time. On a turn players will draw four cards from their deck and then place them in a line in front of them. You can then rearrange the cards into any order as long as they form a line. The only rule is that you can’t offset the cards. Each card is going to consist of a combination of three rows of icons in either full frames or half frames and as you rearrange the cards you’ll start to complete some of those frames. When you’re satisfied with the order of your cards you’ll then start to trigger your cards. You’ll go from top row to bottom row from left to right and you’ll only be able to use the effects of complete frames. The top row will generally consist of resources to gather and the bottom two rows will give you ways to convert them to either batteries, rage or victory points etc
When everyone’s done you’ll each choose one of your four ape tokens and place them face down. You’ll reveal them and immediately take the bonus on the token. Either, taking two batteries, two VPs, two rage or reactivating one of your frames. You can then choose to take a new card of the ape type matching the token you chose, paying the specific resource type. A level one card will cost three resources and a level two will cost six. The card you take will go on the top of your deck so you'll definitely be using it next turn. At this point you can choose to copy the ability of one of your neighbours tokens by paying two resources. You won’t get to take another card though. As long as no one has got to 80 points by the end of the round then discard your cards and go for another round.
A couple of other things. There will be three bonus cards out each game and you can spend an amount of batteries to trigger these. The card will tell you in which phase they can be played and they each do different things. Like, for example, letting you draw five cards instead of four, letting you put cards back on the top of your deck or even gaining straight up victory points. Lastly is rage. You can spend four rage to discard a card out of the game completely and help you thin your deck. When you do this the card will give you a resource or points as depicted in the rage box on the top of the card. If at the end of the round someone has got to 80 or more points they win. If more than one person has then the one with the most points wins.
Apes. Together. Strong.
I first heard of this game as stories emerged that people were running to get copies of this game at the 2023 UKGE and that the Hachette booth was selling out of copies in 20 minutes. It was like the After Us alpha male had beat its chest and the rest of its gamer tribe had come running to join its cardboard leader. That much hype tends to put me off trying a game rather than get me excited. Usually because these things rarely live up to the amount that’s been built up. So, naturally I put off trying the game for a good while, at least until everything had died down. Well that and the fact that nobody I knew near me had the game so that tends to put a hold on getting a game played.
So here we are then, February 2024 and the hype train is slowing down. So, is it any good?
Yes! To a point. The central puzzle of how you go about building your deck to try and maximise your resources and get more points is a lot of fun. Trying to order your cards to make the best possible combination for you and your game is certainly going to be your biggest source of brain burn and also frustration (but not in a bad way.) I guarantee that every time you set your cards up you’ll look down the rows and see some satisfying frames completed and you know you can get a load of resources and/or some really efficient conversions. However, you’ll also look down and see all those frames you can’t complete…..or you can complete them, but not without sacrificing something else in its stead. It’s that puzzle that will see players constantly reordering cards and muttering “yes!…….oh wait, no, maybe if I do this?” It immediately makes you answer the question, “what are your priorities?” It makes you choose what path you want to follow this time and the game lets you do that by giving you the tools you need. You’ve just got to figure out how to best make them work with the cards you’ve got each round.
How you’re going to utilise those resources that you’ve just cleverly arranged is your next choice. The cards will often tease you with ways to spend those hard earned resources on some shiny points (literally, the VP symbol is a light bulb), much in the same way you’d use Fay Wray to tease King Kong (more on the big boy later.) After all, this game is a race, it’s all about the points so why wouldn’t you get the things that you need to win the game? But just as a famous chaos mathematician once said “just because you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.” Points are good, but saving resources for more cards could be even better. That is to say that After Us is also part deck builder and if you’ve ever played a deck builder before then you’ll know that you can’t rest on the laurels of your starter deck if you want to do well. Especially if your opponents are improving their decks with better cards and thinning their deck with the game's rage system, which provides a really effective way to thin your deck. Take this from someone who constantly struggles to do this in deck builders. You’ll start off feeling proud of the amount of points you're getting but if you don’t improve your deck you’ll be left behind slipping on banana skins….or just really far behind on points
Each type of ape you add to your deck will bring something different to the party. We at WhatBoardGame don’t recommend partying with apes, they end up hanging around for way too long...
Anyway, for those still with me, Gorillas are rage focused which will help you shed cards from your deck. Mandrills are all about victory points, Orangutans have the power and will give you batteries and Chimps are the mimics and will let you reactive frames. Which route you take to victory is entirely up to you, whether or not you go for more of one type or try to get an even balance will depend entirely on your preferred play style and how your opponents are choosing to play and how / if you decide to try and counteract that. After us is, after all, a race and you want to make sure that your opponents aren’t too far ahead. The game’s called After Us, not After You!
The game does a decent job of ramping up in the same vein as most deck builders. As your deck builds the points and the resources start to flow with ease and what initially felt like your points marker barely moving soon turns into giant leaps down the track. Building a good deck can be the difference between trailing behind to get hit with the banana skin to managing to catch up and hit your opponents with the green shell….no, sorry, that’s Mario Kart
Get your hands off me!
After Us is a largely solo affair with almost no interaction between players. I could also see arguments to be made that there’s no interaction at all. Apart from the points track. For a lot of people this will be a major drawback and in this instance it’s a big drawback for me as well.
It’s similar in that respect to something like Welcome To…… or most roll and writes for that matter and it’s odd because in those games the multiplayer solitaire aspect doesn’t bother me, but in this I really feel it. I think the reason it bothers me in After Us is that this game, to me, feels like it’s crying out to have some more interaction. It's essentially a race game and to have that race component to it and not have some sort of back and forth and interaction between players feels off somehow. Even the deck building, where normally you’d get to show off to your friends this awesome deck you’ve built by playing all your flashy combos, here you keep all that to yourself other than when someone says “how did you get all those points?” and you have to walk them through it. Not because they don’t trust you, but you just want an excuse to look clever…..at least that’s why I do it anyway.
Strangely, the chaos of everyone grabbing resources, moving markers up tracks and generally getting in each other's way makes the solitary nature of the game more pronounced for me. It makes me more aware of others around the table and the fact that you are actually playing a game with other people, but you're just not talking to them and I feel like I should be. Whereas, say in a roll and write you just get lost in your own thing and acknowledge people after the game when you're comparing scores.
Speaking of scores, having those bigger point swings towards the end of the game means that it’s not easy to predict when the games are gonna end. You could easily argue that that adds some tension towards the end. But I’ve found that games often just end really abruptly. You’ll think you’ve got at least a couple of rounds before the end and then whilst you’re playing your cards you’ll look up and realise that someone’s just shot past 80 and that it, end of the game and chances are you may not be able to get near them with the cards you got and that’s it. You play out the rest of the round and it just falls flat without any of the tension.
The King of Apes
So considering the solo nature of the game I should probably talk about the solo mode. On the King's turn (which is the name of the solo AI) give him three of each resource and two batteries and then draw four cards and take certain points or resources depending on what you draw. You then take your turn which plays out the same except you take the resources from the King's supply first. The king will then take a card depending on the largest resource type he has. He will also discard cards using any rage he gets and and will spend batteries to trigger the computer bonus card if he can afford it (for this card you spend 5 batteries to score 5 points).
The solo game is pretty easy to run but man is it difficult to beat. Points for theme here because it feels like going up against King Kong, except King Kong would probably finish me off quicker than this solo mode which lulls me into a false sense of security that I’m doing well, before it absolutely decimates me. Better players than me (which is most people I’d imagine) will more than likely beat this but I think that it’s varied enough that it can present a decent challenge every time. What I like about the solo mode is that it gives you that extra crunch as you're not only trying to gather resources for your own benefit, but also to make sure that the King can’t afford a card this turn or won’t have the batteries to get those five points.
I honestly don’t know how much more replay I’ll get from After Us. The last game I played I got about half way through and I started to become aware of how I was just mechanically going through the same motions that I had done on all the previous rounds and on all the previous games and I was starting to lose interest. Which is a shame because there are some good elements to it and I know a lot of people really love it, but for me it doesn’t hit nearly as well. I’ll say as well that if any of this game sounds appealing to you then it could be well worth checking out.
I’ll happily sit down and play if a group wants to play it but for me though I’d rather play it turn based on Board Game Arena, where it seems to suit this game better or maybe pull it out as a solo game, if it's still in the collection.
Before you go! Did you spot Andy Serkis? Oh really, you didn’t? Weird, I swear I saw him, go though and have another look, or maybe go and check out some other reviews on the site In case he’s snuck in there.