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Review: Apophis:: Destroy the Asteroid or Die

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« on: October 12, 2017, 10:00:06 PM »

Review: Apophis:: Destroy the Asteroid or Die

by kataclysm

Apophis is a difficult name to remember. This excellent real-time co-op should, in fact, be called "Destroy the Asteroid or Die," because death is what faces your motley crew if you fail to build enough rocketships of high-enough quality to get rid of this looming catastrophe in the 15 minutes you're given.

What You Need to Play:
Pyramids, 15 altogether
A D6 6
A timer/phone/stopwatch that goes to 15 minutes
5 objects to use as deflection counters. I used the gray volcano caps because it's what was available, but you could use paperclips, buttons, etc.
A deck of 52 cards, 13 of each color. The rules suggest using a poker deck, but it's easier to use a deck that has the pyramid colors built in (don't worry about the numbers). Uno, Hanabi, Coloretto... take your pick. I still use a mix of Blink and Phase 10 cards because that's what was lying around when I needed to make the deck.

Now, you just do the initial setup:

...and deal out 3 cards to each player. (4 cards for a 2-player game)

See the pyramids on the cards in the middle of the table? They're actually rocketship parts.

Yellow = [BGCOLOR=#FFFF00]Fuel[/BGCOLOR]. It helps your rocket get off the ground.
Blue = [BGCOLOR=#0066FF]Navigation[/BGCOLOR]. It helps your rocket actually reach the asteroid.
Red = [BGCOLOR=RED]Nuclear Warhead[/BGCOLOR]. It does the actual damage to the asteroid. You could reach the asteroid with plenty of blue, but if you don't have enough red warheads, you won't hurt the thing at all.
Green = [BGCOLOR=#00CC00]Deflection[/BGCOLOR]. This alters the asteroid's course so that it veers away from Earth and goes for some other sucker of a planet instead.

The goal is to create a rocketship that will get off the ground, reach the asteroid, and then either damage or deflect the asteroid (or both) in a single trip. Three successful damage missions or 5 successful deflection missions will solve your asteroid problem, so your team will be making a minimum of three rocketships in the course of the game.

On your turn, you will usually either
1) Spend cards to add a pyramid to the rocket, or
2) Draw two cards.

Each rocketship is made up of pyramids in the four colors. To start building one, you simply spend cards of a particular color on your turn. So if you wanted to build a ship with a large (3-pip) yellow pyramid, you would discard three yellow cards on your turn and then pluck that piece from its yellow card, placing it on the table. Congratulations. You've got a rocket that can lift off and do nothing else. The next player might decide to add a medium blue pyramid so that the rocket can actually reach its target, and will spend two blue cards, taking the blue pyramid from the supply and stacking it on top of the yellow. Your rocketship looks like this now:

Which is great. Now you can lift off and get to the asteroid. But as yet lack the capacity to damage the hulking death-rock. The next player has three red cards, and wanted to add a large, 3-pip red pyramid to blast that asteroid, but since there's a medium at the top of the ship now and she knows you can't stack a large on top of a medium, the best she can do is spend only two cards and build a medium red pyramid. Now the rocket can actually hurt the asteroid. (Note: she could have scrapped the ship, an action available to any player on her turn instead of building or drawing. Scrapping involves disassembling the ship and returning the parts to their cards. But she thought this rocket still had a chance.)

The next player may draw cards or play more parts,you get the idea. It doesn't matter what order the different colors are in,you could have yellow-green-red-green-yellow-red-blue,as long as bigg never goes on small. But the time comes when someone decides this baby is ready to launch. To initiate a launch, your team needs to collectively spend one card of each color. The cards could all come from one person, or one from each, or any combo. When you've initiated launch, there's some checking to be done. And you'd better do it quickly, because the clock is still running.

[BGCOLOR=#FFFF00]Fuel Check[/BGCOLOR] First, does the rocket have enough fuel even to launch? Count the total pips in the rocket and make sure the yellow pips make up at least 25% of these. If not, scrap the rocket by putting all the pyramids back onto their colored cards and get started building a better rocket. If the launch is successful, move on to Navigation.

[BGCOLOR=#0066FF]Navigation Check[/BGCOLOR] Look at the pips on the asteroid: 3, 2, or 1 depending on the asteroid's current size. Let's say it's a size 3. Add that 3 to the number of pips' worth of blue navigation pyramids on your rocket. Finally, roll a D6 and add its value to the total. Is the total more than 7? If not, scrap the rocket. If so, move on to Nuclear Damage.

[BGCOLOR=RED]Nuclear Damage Check[/BGCOLOR] To determine if your rocket damages the asteroid, take the number of pips' worth of red pyramids on the rocket and roll a D6. Add them. Is the total more than 7? If not, you didn't damage the asteroid. Go on to the Deflection check. If so, remove the outer-most pyramid of the asteroid and add a deflection counter to the table near it.

[BGCOLOR=#00CC00]Deflection Check[/BGCOLOR]: Maybe you damaged the asteroid with the warheads and maybe you didn't. But you still have a chance to deflect it. Add all the pips' worth of green pyramids on your rocket and roll a D6. Add the numbers. Is the total more than 7? If not, you didn't deflect the asteroid this time. Scrap the rocket. If so, add a deflection counter to the table. Now scrap the rocket and start all over.

To make the mission success/fail checks easier, I made this super awesome professional high-tech player aid:

After the launch checks, be they successful or failed, keep building ship after ship until you've gotten rid of the asteroid or until the timer rings and all life on Earth is wiped out.

I'm a fan of Apophis due to its pacing (one action per turn), its intuitive actions and its simple yet logically thought-out rules (e.g. the navigation is easier to do when the asteroid is bigger because a bigger target really would be easier to hit. Get it?). The die rolls add suspense to the game and allow your team to take dicey risks, like neglecting to add deflection pyramids at all ("Who needs those? We'll blast it for sure!") or any navigation pyramids ("The asteroid's big. We'll just roll a 4!"). But the die rolls don't control the game entirely: the rules work equally well for the risk-averse team, because if they build a perfect rocket of all large-size pyramids, a die-roll of 1 will still result in success for every category. I like the multiple paths to victory (deflection vs. destruction), and the feeling of cooperation and desperation you have when playing the game. It's just a lot of frantic fun with a fitting theme. And an obscure name.
Source: Review: Apophis:: Destroy the Asteroid or Die

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