Published by: TMG
# of Players: 3 to 6
Downfall is one of the first reviews that I have ever been able to compare the deluxe and retail components because the retail components are also in the deluxe box. Downfall being a 4X game, you can expect to have a lot of components and there are plenty. The deluxe version weighs approximately 10 and a half pounds. The retail version is not much lighter. Inside you will a large amount of cardboard in both editions. The deluxe version will have you using only half of it due to wooden and plastic components added for the deluxe version. The plastic components are the airships and faction leader. Wooden components are the survivor and command tokens. First the airships are all the same image but the big base allows for carrying the survivors and goods tokens. The wooden tokens are were TMG took a nuke to my pet peeve, the evil known as stickers. Downfall deluxe contains 156 tokens that need to have stickers on the front and back. I timed how long it took me to sticker everything and it came to roughly 4 and a half hours. Part of me wants to go on a rant about stickers, but I am sure most of you either despise stickers or love them and have at least experienced it in one game. The player boards in the deluxe version are the same punch board cardboard that is used for retail components. The retail version gets a card stock player board. Downfall has you playing cards as your actions. These cards are very colorful and explain nicely what you get to do during your turn. The only other issue is that this not a color blind friendly game at all. Even I had trouble telling the purple and red apart on the wood tokens and player cards. (Each faction color is displayed on the left side of the card) Also the hex tile pieces have some terrain that is pretty easy to confuse, especially if you have stuff on the hex. Which is the majority of the time and will cover the whole hex even though there are up to 3 areas on a single hex, meaning 3 separate locations to place your tokens in that are not in the same area. While the hex tiles are similar in size to Eclipse or other 4X games, they were nowhere close to being big enough for seeing the terrain type with all your tokens on it. TMG offers a Map Pack that are huge hexes, but I feel like the game should have come with them due to the issues of playing without them. That was a complaint I heard from everyone each time I played. The rule book is good at explaining everything in detail with examples and pictures. In my opinion, I would forgo the deluxe version and get the retail version with the map tile upgrade pack. Probably the best use of money for the best experience and the best way to avoid the dreaded stickers. If you love all TMG deluxe games for your collection, good for you but I would still get the map pack to really enjoy this game.
Downfall is a 4X game that is played on a map consisting of map hexes that may be face up or face down. Each turn players will have 4 cards in their hand that have various actions on them. Each player will pick one card and reveal at the same time. They will then perform their action and pass the other 3 cards to the next player on their left. They will draw back up to 4 and keep playing till 30 Winter cards have been drawn. Each will total up their victory points and the player with the highest amount wins the game.
Each player will start the game with a faction deck matching the color they chose. Each faction deck is the same minus a different faction leader card. Each player will also have a player board as shown above, tokens and a technology deck that is the same for each person. The map will be laid out with face down hex tiles except for starting areas for each player, which will each contain 4 face up hexes. Players will select starting locations and everyone but the first player will have a hex in hand that they can switch out one of their face up hex areas with this hex from your hand. The remaining hex will then be discarded from the game. Players will each have to place 1 deadzone marker in their territory. The hex with the deadzone is not inhabitable and can not be traveled through. Basically it contains so much radiation, you will become Spock at the end of Star Trek 2: Wraith of Khan except there is no sequel for your Spock. During event rounds, players will have their unstored goods destroyed, then feed their people (1 food per survivor). The last 2 steps of an event round are Fallout and Conflict. Fallout will have you spread 1 radiation token to each adjacent hex next to a deadzone token. Once a hex gets 3 radiation tokens, the hex becomes a new deadzone. As you can imagine, if you do not get radiation under control, you will have a big problem on your hand with how fast tiles become deadzones. I will explain how to combat this later in this section. The last step is Conflict. If there are no conflicts meaning 2 factions with stuff that have battle strength on them, all players will earn points for peace. If any 2 players on the board share a location on a hex (remember a hex can have up to 3 locations) with tokens that have battle strength, the players will total up their battle strength and the player with the most wins. The winning player will earn 2 victory points and will be able to remove 1 of the other players survivors or convert 1 of their airships, bunkers or outposts into one of their own. The winning player then chooses an adjacent location that the player could relocate to and place the all of their units there. They may not be moved into another factions space or a deadzone. If there are no other locations to move the player to, then they stay at that location. If the conflict was fought over a water location, have taken over their airship and they have no location to retreat to, they will die and sink to the bottom of Davy Jone's locker.
There are 6 main actions you can take with various cards in the game. The leader cards will contain one of the main actions but in an upgraded way that benefits the player using it. If someone else plays a leader card, there is a owner bonus that you as the faction owner of that leader will be able to take. So while you may want to keep the card to use, it is not the end of the world as you will gain some benefit from someone else using it. The 6 main actions are Gather, Regrow, Reinforce, Build, Command, and Research/War. The Gather action will allow you to turn 1 raw material in a location for each survivor in that same location into a gathered resource. These gathered resources are the only ones that can be used to feed, build, research, and upgrade in your faction. This is obviously a very important action to have throughout the game. The next action is Regrow. Regrow allows you to add a raw food to any water or plains location that you have a survivor at. You will then excavate a resource of that location type for each survivor you have on that location. If this is a water or plains area, you will excavate a second food token at that location. The first being from the regrow step of the action. Remember all of these resources are place on the raw side of the token and will need to be gathered before you can use them. Reinforce allows a player to chose 1 of 4 different actions for each bunker they control. Choice A will let you add a survivor to that location. Choice B will let you add a raw stone, metal, or oil token in that location. Choice C will let you move up one spot on the Culture Track (explained later in this section) and take any benefits from moving to that spot on the track. Finally you can choose Choice D, which is all 3 and gain 1 victory point. While you might be saying, hey I would always do that. You will not always want another survivor to feed. This could be very important if you the game is getting close to one of the event spaces on the round track.
The Build action lets you build as many things as you want as long as you pay the gathered resources that you control. You can only have 1 bunker and outpost per location. You may also spend 2 oil or 3 of any gathered resource to remove 1 radiation token in that location or an adjacent location. This is the only way to remove radiation and is very important to do so when possible. Each radiation that is removed will earn you 1 space on the environmental track. You will then gain any victory points that you moved on or through on that track. The command action lets you place 1 command token on any space. This token will add 1 to your your overall battle strength for that location. You may place it in a location you do not have units in, but it will not be of benefit till you have units in that location. Command tokens can not be moved once placed. You will then use 2 movement points on separate units (airship or survivors). Survivors move 1 space per movement point and airships can move 2 per movement point. Each airship can carry 2 survivors and drop/pick them up during the airships movement. Finally you can spend as many oil as you want to gain 1 command token or 1 movement point for each oil spent. The last action is the Research/War action. This action gives you 2 options, research a new technology (paying it's resource cost) or resolving all conflicts you are currently involved in.
There is a track board that has 4 different tracks that individually tracked on it. There is the victory point track that tracks your victory points that will determine the winner. The Environmental track that players can move up on for getting rid of radiation. This track will grant victory points along the way. The Culture track will advance using the Reinforce action choice D. The bonus on this track will be in the form of actions or victory points. At the end of the game, players will earn victory points depending who is farthest along both tracks compared to other players. You start the game with unequipped survivors. These type of survivors will do the gathering and excavating. During the build action you can upgrade them to equipped survivors. They can no longer gather and excavate, but radiation protection and battle strength. Radiation strength is important, if at the end of any round, if units are located on a location that does not have equal or more radiation protection compared to the amount of radiation tokens on the location, the units on that location die and you lose a victory point per unit removed from the board. Anytime a unit is removed from the board, you lose a victory point per unit.
The last track is the event track. The token on this track will move one space each time a winter card is drawn. The player will discard the winter card once it has been drawn and draw a new card. If that is also a winter card, you will move the event token again, discard and draw another new card. This track will have spaces that cause Fallout, Events and random event cards. There are 3 spaces for a random event card that is chosen randomly and placed face down on each space. There are 33 random event cards in the game. These cards can be good, bad or a little of both. Some are resolved right away and some have lasting effects for the rest of the game. Once you get to the last event space on the event track, you will finish that round and then score the game.
Downfall had parts I enjoyed and parts I hated. I enjoyed the theme and how it was used during the game. 4X games do not have you usually feeding you units. I also enjoyed the way the deadzones and radiation worked. This reminded me of the outbreaks in Pandemic and how crazy they can get. I absolutely loathed the 4 hours plus of stickering the game. It seriously took longer than playing the game. I feel that the oversized map pack is required to play. The 2 or 3 location hexes got so clustered by just one person that you could not make out the location type or what you all have on the location. I found the cardboard tokens of the airship and survivors just as nice as the deluxe wooden tokens and plastic airships. There is a bit of luck in what locations you are near. If you are short on food locations, you will be hurting very fast. If you are low on oil locations, you will need to get away from the radiation very early on. While strategy wise, I do not enjoy that randomness. Theme wise it makes sense that it is unknown or that you are forced to leave the safety of your starting location to seek out what you need. I loved the card drafting aspect and how it made you come up with plan a and plan b for round of play. What I did not like is the randomness of the winter cards. If each player ends up drawing their winter cards super early, it can really affect how the rest of the game plays out and also affect the enjoyment of that game. Thinking you are safe because there are 5 spaces to the next event and suddenly 2 people draw 2 of their winter cards and another person 1 can really hurt, especially during early game when you have had no time to play. While it balances out by eventually no winter cards left till everyone has to reshuffle their deck, that early hit can just be no fun at all. Scoring was fairly typical of a 4X game and the length was fairly average for this type of game. Some of the games had very little to no conflict, while others had a good amount of conflict. The actual conflicts didn't feel real big as it is just totaling up battle strengths. I prefer having dice or cards to just add that little extra chance to a game and that feeling that the little guy can occasionally hit the bullseye and win the fight. The technologies were all very good and you really want them all. You have to be careful that everyone finishes the round before grabbing the new rounds cards. There were a few times that people ended up somehow mixing up cards or not moving cards to the next player due to rushing or confusion. Downfall was okay to me. I do not really want to play it again as I prefer other 4X games, but for those that love post-apocalyptic themes will enjoy it. The theme is actually pulled off very nicely in the gameplay which does not happen very often in 4X games. If you love all 4X games then you love this one for the theme and the card drafting that I do not think has ever been done before in a 4X game. For me, I usually go for the fancy deluxe version from TMG, but for Downfall I say go for the regular. No stickers meant the difference for me.
Taco gives Downfall a rating of...
+Theme works will with gameplay
+Card drafting mechanic
-Stickers in deluxe version
-Hexes were too crowed and feel you need to upgrade to large map pack
-Winters and tiles are very random and can make for a bad gameplay
-Conflicts seemed bland