What is this game about?
After the Virus, designed by Jacob Fryxelius and published by FryxGames, is a cooperative deck building game about surviving wave after wave of zombies. There are several different missions to complete within the game, starting with some easier ones (haha) and ending with brutally difficult challenges. You can either play each mission as a one-off or enjoy them in order as an overarching storyline. Although the game comes with four characters, only up to three players can play at a time.
In most deck builders, you look to cull your deck and repeatedly draw the most powerful cards. In After the Virus, however, you want your deck to be as big as possible. This is because every element of the game is contained in that deck—including the zombies who attack you in increasingly large numbers. Each time you have to reshuffle your deck, you have to shuffle a new and larger horde of zombies into it. In fact, if you don't shuffle well and draw a whole bunch of zombies at once, you can lose the game immediately. While you can afford to take two zombie wounds and still survive, if you take a third, it's game over for you.
Even though you want your discard pile to stay full of exciting zombie-killing equipment (or at least some survivor cards), you'll also want to thin your deck and put cards in your tableau, then pay even more cards to prepare them. The weapons, equipment, and other goodies that you set aside this way are necessary to help you deal with the challenges ahead. Whatever you do, you'll need to prevent too many zombies from clogging up each individual hand, then spewing into your tableau and overwhelming whatever defenses you've managed to put up.
How does it play solo?
After the Virus is a game for one to three players, and it plays very well solo. In fact, I have only ever played it single-handed and have had no problems whatsoever. When cooperating with others, the main difference is that you end up taking on more zombies, because players can help each other with zombie problems and will have to keep an eye on threats to each other as well as to themselves.
I did not expect to enjoy After the Virus as much as I do. Frankly, I hate the art style—those bobble heads are not doing it for me. But I'm glad I didn't judge this game by its cover. After the Virus is endlessly tense, riveting, and a good bit of fun. The fact that you can use cards in multiple ways—as themselves, as currency to acquire or prepare other cards, as discards that allow you to scout for even more cards—leads to some very interesting decisions, every single hand. It also means that no card ever truly goes to waste, because if you don't want a card for its action and don't have enough cards to pay for something, you can still scout. I love deck builders that never have wasted cards because there is always something you can do.
The intensity of the waves of zombies flooding your deck is also something I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to. It is true that you can sometimes get an absolutely terrible draw, even to the point where you can instantly lose the game on an early turn through no "fault" of your own. While this can feel unfair, the game is so fun and snappy that it really doesn't bother me, and actually just adds to the tension of it all as I draw up each round. Even if you get good draws, After the Virus is a brutally difficult game, especially in later missions, and you should expect to lose. Brutally. Repeatedly.
After the Virus is also a surprisingly small game, but trust me, there is a lot of game in there. You can get a copy for less than $20 on Amazon, and the box is maybe 8 x 8 inches—small enough to slide into a backpack or messenger bag. Setup is incredibly quick, and you can be playing in moments. And the game plays quickly—especially if you lose. Again. While After the Virus' small footprint is mostly a blessing, however, it is also a bit of a curse. Expect to see the same cards over and over again, because each player has the same deck to work with (although each character has different starting cards) and that deck isn't overly large.
Do I recommend it?
Yes! If you like zombies, deck builders, and games that are fast-playing and intense, then After the Virus is a great choice. At its price point, you will definitely get your money's worth out of it.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.
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