Dale Yu: Review of After Us

After Us

  • Designer: Florian Sirieix
  • Publisher: Catch Up Games (dist. By Pandasaurus)
  • Players: 1-6
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Pandasaurus

From the publisher: “2083. Humankind died out decades ago, leaving behind mere vestiges of its time on Earth. As time went by, nature reclaimed land all over. In this resurgent world, apes have kept evolving. They’ve been gathering in tribes, growing, mastering human items, and advancing in their quest for knowledge. As the leader of such a tribe, you need to guide it towards collective intelligence. After Us is a deck-building and resource management game featuring an original and intuitive combo system in which players are each leading a tribe of apes. Starting only with tamarins, they combine their cards each turn to collect resources and gather victory points, attracting new apes into their tribe along the way: powerful gorillas, resourceful orangutans, versatile chimpanzees, and wise mandrills. The first player to obtain 80 points prevails in the race to collective intelligence — and wins the game.“

In this game, you start with a player board and an 8-card deck of Tamarins.  Four actions discs start facedown on the appropriate space of your board.  You can place a marker on the startin space of your Rage marker on your board; the other marker goes on the score track on the main board. There are 8 other decks of cards, 2 levels each of Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Mandrills and Orangutans, which are shuffled and placed on the appropriate spots of the main board – which you have obviously placed in the center of the table at some point.  There are seven possible objects (artifacts) of which you choose three to play with in this game – either doing so at random or picking a particular set you want.  Each object has a unique special ability on it, and the card gives you a reminder when it can be used during each round.  The four types of resources – energy, flowers, fruits and grains are all in the supply.

The game is played in a number of rounds, each with the same three phases.  The game ends immediately at the end of any phase if one player has 80 or more points.

Phase 1: Assembling the Tribe

Each player draws the top 4 cards from their deck and then arranges them in a single line under their player board.  If you do not have enough cards to draw, then draw all that you can, shuflle your discard pile into a new deck, and then finish drawing to four.  The primate cards all have three rows of frames at the bottom, some of which will be fully enclosed on a single card and others which have open sides at the card borders. There is some colorful background art on the top half and a Rage bonus found in the upper right corner.

Once all players have arranged their cards, they are then resolved, starting at the upper left of the top row, going across to the end, then the middle row, and finally the bottom row.  Each completed frame is activated, and you must take the entire effect or pass on the entire activated box.  Simply ignore any unclosed frames – they do not activate! In general, the top row provides resources, the middle row generates victory points (often in exchange for resources), and the bottom row provides special abilities – which are based on the card type.  

  • Tamarins – really don’t have anything special as they are your starting cards
  • Gorillas – they generate rage points. You can spend 4 Rage to remove a card from your Primate Assembly (and the entire game), thinning your deck as well as giving you a one-time Rage bonus as shown in the upper right corner of the card.
  • Orangutans – they generate energy which is a resource that can be used to activate the three special objects
  • Mandrills – they have many more ways to generate victory points than the other species
  • Chimpanzees – they allow you to re-activate a completed frame in your Primate Assembly.  

All players resolve their Assembly simultaneously (there is no competition or interaction between the Assemblies) – always going left to right, top to bottom.  When all players have finished resolving their cards, the phase ends.

Phase 2: Attracting New Apes

Each player secretly and simultaneously chooses one of their 4 action markers.  When revealed, each player then takes the special action as shown on the top of their chosen disc (2 VP, 2 energy, 2 rage or reactivate a single frame).  Additionally, you may spend 2 matching resources to copy the special action on one of your neighbor’s action token.  You may only do this once per round.  Each player then can purchase a card of the type shown on the bottom of their chosen marker – costs for each type of card seen on the central board.  If you choose to buy a card, it goes on the top of your draw stack.

Phase 3: Resting

All players discard the cards in their Primate Assembly into their discard piles.  Now repeat unless the game is over..

Game end – again, the game ends after any phase where a player has 80 or more points.  The player with the most points wins.  If there is a tie at 80+ at the end of the phase, they both win; there is no tiebreaker.  There is also an edge case that ends the game – if there aren’t enough cards available to meet the demand for a particular type of ape in Phase 2, the game ends at the end of that phase, and the player with the most points wins.

The rules also include a single sheet of solo rules where you play against an automa called the King of the Apes – which is a race to 80 points against that automa.

My thoughts on the game

When I first saw the game in a short demo at SPIEL 2022, I was immediately interested in the game. I really liked the idea of the puzzle each turn of trying to figure out how to best organize your four cards to generate the necessary actions.  In addition, there is an overarching puzzle of how to construct your deck to try to set up needed actions and combos on your cards.  It’s not quite a deck-building game (IMHO) as you only know the type of card you are adding in Phase 2, you don’t get to see the actions in the frames until you pay for it…  

You can often guess at what might be on it as each of the species has a different shared focus; but there is a bit of suspense each turn as you add a card to the top of your draw pile.  Given that you are going to get to play the newly acquired card on your very next turn, you sometimes can try to buy a card to provide a specific thing you need on the next turn – or sometimes you stick to your long-term plan and simply add the type of card you need to get the desired composition of your overall deck of apes.

The objects can definitely change how you want to approach each game.  I have found that my most successful strategies figure out a way to incorporate the bonus(es) of at least one object into their overall plan.  Of course, in order to use them, you’ll need to have Orangutan cards in your deck to generate that energy.  If you’re willing to avoid the objects, you would then be able to focus on the other three types of cards, and I’ve certainly lost to strategies that have eschewed energy and objects.  But I have found that I really enjoy adding the capabilities of the objects into the overall optimization puzzle of After Us.

The artwork is done by the uber-recognizable Vincent Dutrait.  For many of you veterans, you can probably already visualize the overall art direction and illustration quality by just learning who the artist is.  The individual card art is beautiful and colorful – though there isn’t much variety as each type of ape only has a single piece of background art for all the cards in that deck.  The rest of the bits work.  Wooden resource bits for the most part with cardboard tokens for the energy batteries.  The art of the objects really helps sell the dystopian, post-apocalyptic setting of the game.

The solo game is decent; you play against an automa that simply gains resources and points based on which cards are flipped up.  This is a clever system because the regular game relies upon the skill of the player to best arrange the cards in the Primate Assembly.  This system takes that subjective part out of the hands of the player and automates it – tamarins provide immediate resources, apes provide points automatically, etc.  The player otherwise plays their regular game, and it’s simply a matter of seeing if you can get to the target score before the automa.  There really aren’t any difficulty settings, though if you are consistently successful, I suppose you could simply raise your target score to win to make it more difficult.  I have only tried it once, and I found it to be difficult enough.

For those of you looking for a nice puzzle-y game, this will likely be up your alley.  You have both short term and long term plans to execute here.  If you’re looking for a game with interaction with your opponents; you best look elsewhere.  After Us brings players to the same table, but they are each pretty much ensconced in their own world.  The players can minimally interact with their neighbors by spending resources to copy the bonus action on an action tile; but otherwise, this is simultaneous solitaire.  I have no issue with that type of game, but I know that others actively dislike this style – so it merits mention here.

Our games have played quickly – coming in closer to 30-40 minutes now that we are familiar with the rules and the overall flow of the game.  Many of the early turns can be played fluidly with each player finishing their solitaire activity of the entire turn and then waiting for the others to finish (to see if they need/want to cooperate with the action tile actions).  In the endgame, you’ll have to go through one phase at a time as the game will end at the end of any phase when someone breaks the 80 barrier.

So far, I have really enjoyed my plays of After Us; the different components really seem to hit my sweet spot.  The puzzle of figuring out the optimal Primate Assembly is a fun challenge every turn, the (albeit blind) deckbuilding aspect is intriguing, and I do generally like being left alone in my own space in games.  This is a game that looks to be headed for a space in the permanent collection.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. John P
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…




About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply