Kickstart This! #197:  Eschaton – Metal Round Marker & Fourth Printing

Designers:  Diha (Nexus Infernum), Petras Vaznelis (Nexus Infernum), Adam Watts (Deathfear, Kill Ball, Nexus Infernum)

Artists:  Tracy Burnham (Deathfear, Shindig Machine: Bits & Pieces), Diha (Nexus Infernum, Shindig Machine: Bits & Pieces), Adam Watts (Deathfear, Kill Ball, Shindig Machine)

Publisher:  Archon Games (Nexus Infernum)

Genre/Mechanisms:  area majority/influence, card drafting, card game, deck building, hand management, territory building

Funding Status:  At the time of this posting, Eschaton – Metal Round Marker & Fourth Printing is already fully-funded. Pledges currently total almost 1.5x the initial funding goal, with less than 2 days to go on the campaign.

Player Count:  2-6

Solo Mode:  no

Complexity:  medium-light

Risk:  medium-low

What It’s About:  “A strategy game driven by a deck-building mechanic,” where “players seek to lead the most favored cult in the final days before Armageddon.”

How It Works:   “In Eschaton, players are the leaders of cults engaged in a desperate struggle for the favor of the Dark One. To win, they must recruit cultists, collect relics, summon fiends, conquer territories, and fulfill omens that manifest over the course of play. The cult that has accumulated the most Favor by these means will stand triumphantly as the Dark One’s chosen.”

“A game of Eschaton will last a randomized number of rounds (typically 9-11) based on the revelation of cards from the Event Deck. Each round consists of a full rotation of turns for each player. A card from the Event Deck is revealed at the beginning of each new round except for the first.” After a player has been chosen as first player, and each player has drawn a starting hand of 5 cards, players will take turns in clockwise order.

At the start of each player’s turn, that player will place four cubes in the territory marked “The Citadel.” Then they’ll draw a new hand of five cards, with any cards beyond these five placed face down as the remainder of the player’s deck. Then the player reveals their entire hand, triggering Edicts and Auras. “Edicts are divine mandates asserted in the name of the Dark One. When an Edict is put into play, its ability is resolved immediately. Once played, it will return to the player’s discard pile unless otherwise stated on the card. Auras are mystical forces that enchant a player and provide them with a static ability that persists between rounds. When an Aura is put into play, it is placed in the space designated for that player’s Auras. The Aura takes effect immediately, providing its bonus on the turn it was played. It will continue to benefit that player for as long as it is in play.”

Additionally, for all the cultists and fiends revealed, the player adds and resolves their attribute totals in the following order: Zeal, Divination, Influence, and Aggression.

“Zeal is the dark flame that drives the cult towards victory. The total Zeal of a played hand is the number of cards a player can draw from their deck and play immediately. Additional cards with Zeal will cause additional cards to be drawn. This process continues until no further cards with Zeal are drawn, or a player’s deck is completely exhausted.”

“Divination allows a cult to channel gifts from the Dark One. The total Divination of a played hand is the number of cards a player may draw from the Arcana Deck, after which the player may choose one card to place into their Discard Pile. The remaining cards are placed at the bottom of the Arcana Deck.”

“Influence represents a cult’s ability to manipulate the Conclave. The total Influence of a played hand is the amount a player has available to spend on initiating cards or powers from the Conclave. A card’s cost is listed in the upper right corner of the card (only cards from the Conclave have a cost listed). A player can make as many initiations as they like as long as the total cost does not exceed the Influence total of their turn. Cultists initiated from the Conclave are placed into the player’s discard pile, while Powers initated go into play immediately.”

Marching, Plaguing, Cursing, and Dispeling are various Powers with an Influence cost. Marching allows the active player to take additional movement on the Realm Map. Plaguing allows the active player to wither the population in a Territory on the Realm Map. Cursing allows the active player to bestow a Curse Token to another player, which will cost them 1 Influence on their turn, until it is removed. And Dispelling allows the active player to remove a Curse Token or disenchant a rival cult’s Aura.

“Aggression represents a cult’s ability to command armies and destroy enemy forces on the Realm Map. The total Aggression of a played hand can be spent to Bolster (add cubes), Advance (move cubes), and Slaughter (destroy cubes). Bolstering, Advancing and Slaughter are done in 3 separate steps, and each cube added, moved, or destroyed costs 1 Aggression. Additionally, each cube can only be moved one Territory per turn. A cult Dominating a Territory (having the most cubes present) will score Favor points for the Territory a the end of the game.

When a player chooses not to use a card’s ability or attributes, it must be sacrificed into the Sacrificial Pyre. These cards will not return to a player’s deck, but will count as Favor at the end of the game.

Once each player has completed their turn, the round ends. As the next round begins, the turn order changes. The player seated to the left of the person who went first on the previous round takes the Round Marker, reveals the top card of the Event Marker, and becomes the new first player.

Cards drawn from the Event Deck can be an Event, Omen, or Armageddon. “Events are global effects that impact gameplay on the round they are revealed. Omens represent valuable objectives cults can strive for. Players have until the next Omen (or Armageddon) to fulfill the conditions written on the card. When the next Omen is revealed, if a single player achieves the condition, they take the Omen and place it on their Sacrificial Pyre to score 7 Favor Points at the end of the game. If more than one player achieves the condition, the Omen is disregarded and no one take it. When the Armageddon card is revealed, the final Omen is resolved. Then the world crumbles, everyone dies, and the players tally their Favor to see who has ascended to become the Dark One’s chosen.”

During End Game Scoring, players collect all cards from their Deck, Discard, and Sacrificial Pile, and score the lot: Omen Cards- 7 Points of Favor, Relic – 1 Point of Favor, Sacred Relic – 2 Points of Favor, Divine Relic – 3 Points of Favor, Territory – points as indicated, Thralls – 1 Point of Favor per Thrall, Fiends – 1 Point of Favor per Fiend. The player with the most Favor Points has won, and “shall wander the glorious oblivion by the Dark One’s side, laughing gleefully at the torment of mortals for the throes of eternity.” In the case of a tie, the Dark One’s favor is lost to all.

Comparisons:  There is one game in particular that also pairs deck-building and area control in much the same way as Eschaton, but without Eschaton’s bespoke, hand-made production quality and black-and-white art style. That game is Tyrants of the Underdark.

What Should I Pledge?:
$13 Metal Round Marker: just the new Metal Round Marker.
$45 Disciple’s Upgrade: a collection of updated components, including the updated Realm Map, Tray, Rulebook, Conclave Cards, Arcana, Playmats, and new Rules Reference Cards.
$60 Eschaton: a copy of the latest (4th printing), including all updated components.
$100 Eschaton and Sigils of Ruin: everything in the Eschaton pledge, plus the Sigils of Ruin Expansion.
$130 The Unholy Trinity: everything in the Eschaton and Sigils of Ruin pledge, plus 150 deluxe Cultist Meeples.
$200 Master of the Cults: everything in The Unholy Trinity pledge, plus the Metal Round Marker, Badge of the Dark One, and 500 Card Sleeves.
$666 Lord of Darkness: everything in the Master of the Cults pledge, plus the 14″ x 24″ Playmat, the Hand Printed Cloth Map, the Artbook, and the Unholiest Edition Wooden Box with Tokens, Dividers, and Cloth Bags.

$13 Metal Round Marker
$60 Eschaton Core Game, 4th Edition
$40 Sigils of Ruin Expansion
$30 150 Deluxe (Wooden) Cultist Meeples
$10 Badge of the Dark One Enamel Pin
$13 Pack of 100 Double Matte Sleeves (or 4 Packs for $40)
$20 Hand Printed Cloth Realm Map
$400 Unholiest Edition Wood Game Box with Tokens, Dividers, and Cloth Bags

KS Exclusives
None listed, but it doesn’t seem as though you’ll find, say, the Unholiest Edition Wood Game Box at retail, and I don’t believe Eschaton has ever been carried at retailers to-date, apart from retailers who may have ordered through the Kickstarter campaign.

All-In Total: In the continental U.S. (and assuming you’re not interested in the bespoke vanity-level rewards), you’re looking at $200 for the Master of the Cults pledge, $20 for the Hand Printed Cloth Realm Map, and at least $12 in shipping for a total of $237.

Eschaton – Metal Round Marker & Fourth Printing completes its Kickstarter on Saturday, March 28th and tentatively ships in July 2020.

Leave comment