Ryan Post – Review of Revive: Call of the Abyss

Revive: Call of the Abyss

  • Designer: Helge Meissner, Eilif Svensson, Anna Wermlund, Kristian Amundsen Østby
  • Publisher: Aporta Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 0-15 Minutes? (The expansion doesn’t add much time to the base game experience)

Played with review copy provided by publisher and base game provided by good friends

Revive was the consensus #1 game of 2022 for my Euro loving game group. I believe Revive will continue to receive love for many years, which is rare in today’s game scene. Revive as a base game has a lot to explore, especially with the advanced content. So while the game doesn’t feel like it needs an expansion, I was still eager to see what these designers had come up with for an already stellar game. Upon reading the rules, I was surprised to discover that this expansion was not in fact modular. While the rules read like and gameplay feels like 5 modules, they are all reliant on the expansion. So although I’m going to approach this review discussing each “module” as they play, do keep in mind that it would take major house rules or potential game breaking to not play it all at once (and if I dislike one module, it would be hard to recommend any of it). Also, I assume the reader has played the base game and does not need an explanation on the core gameplay of Revive. If you haven’t played Revive and are reading this, do yourself a favor and seek out a play.

“Module 1”: 4 New Factions

This is probably the biggest draw of the expansion. The base game has six factions, and this adds another four to pick from; that is a significant jump in value. However, in my reality, the game now has nine factions. One faction is going to be my big negative of the review, so let’s get that one out of the way first.

The CORDYCEPHIANS (copy faction): They can build with opponents. If an opponent steals a juicy build spot, join them! While that power is neat, all the rest is off for my tastes. Copying others’ stuff is very choice limiting at 2 players. In my 2 player game, my first tech did not apply a single instance, and my second tech to copy an ability only had 1 possible target. Both of which were out of my control to activate or make valuable; it was up to my opponent. But the more players you add, the more you have to constantly check others cards, range, and abilities. It’s the kind of faction for someone who plays a lot and with big groups, and my gaming habits don’t really apply to either of those situations. Also worth noting you cannot use this faction solo, for obvious reasons. The other 3 factions all have more juice in my opinion, so let’s turn to those.

The KAIROS (duality/timing faction): they have a day/night phase that MUST be flipped when they hibernate, and can be flipped as their ability. Their technologies are split based on what phase you are in now. For instance, if it’s night you get extra range on all actions, but if it’s day you get back free energy on populate/explore actions – which do you need? They are focused on timing your actions to maximize your rewards – a fun optimization puzzle that I’d love to explore more. One interesting element of Revive, is that a lot of the asymmetry requires you to take an action to unlock via technologies. In my play with KAIROS, I took quite a long time to get that online as I didn’t have the resources to take those actions. I eagerly would like to try them again and unlock some technology asap this time.

The OSTARIUS (restriction faction): they build gates as a tribe ability, which are open or closed, and MUST flip when you hibernate. Open gates make range easier for all, while closed gates are impassable walls (for others mostly). They are blocking routes people can take and removing good build spots. Any game with them featured, will feel like the board is evolving all game; they really warp the map and that adds yet another new experience in this expansion. Some may find them frustrating to play against; I personally don’t mind a more restrictive map. It was 2 players only, which could be their sweet spot to be fair. I will also note that my one and only art/graphical complaint in this expansion relates to their gates. We all agreed that the gate sides look flipped; the closed gate looks active, and the open gate looks inactive. Their first technology deals with closed gates so players can look to that as a reminder, but we still did not love having to reprogram our brains like that.

The GIB’WARKS (switch faction): they have small tokens that give them benefits when they use their switch. Their tribe ability can only be used if they can reset their switch, and their technologies can earn points/more tokens for their switch. So yes, they are HARD focused on the switch. I did feel the base game had much more room to explore with the switch (more on that later), so they are a welcome addition. Not the flashiest, but they settle into a sweet spot that no other faction is really focused on, and interact with one of my favorite parts of the expansion – they are probably my favorite faction of the bunch.

“Module 2”: The Devotion Track and Scyphoz Cards

This is why Call of the Abyss is not modular. It introduces a new score track, with a new type of victory point, Devotion Points. Most of the expansion elements move you on this track; so you cannot use other modules without this track, and vice versa. The devotion track has rewards as you move along just like the base game track, but it introduces a new type of reward: Scyphoz Cards. Scyphoz cards are wilds; when played they can be claimed as any color card. For the end of the game, they can also be claimed as any color card for scoring. They also provide very powerful abilities, and feel like a big moment in the game when you get to select one. I like this module quite a bit, especially the Scyphoz cards. They allow for more activation synergies and interesting play elements. For example, I had one that let me put up to 3 cards straight into my discard and get all their top resources. For one action only, I had a massive influx of potential, but then paid for it later when I had to hibernate very quickly to recover my cards. Opening new decision spaces with very little rules overhead is a nice touch.

“Module 3”: More Stuff

There are some new slot modules, new machines, and a new population tile. This type of expansion addition, I always welcome. It’s just more variety. Most of these focus on devotion points, which helps base factions still play with expansion elements (as will be the case with the next 2 modules as well). One sneaky nice element of this module is the increase in machine totals. The base game had 2 copies of most machines; now you could remove the duplicates and still have plenty of tokens to play the game.

“Module 4”: Lakes

Lakes are a new impassable terrain type that give benefits to buildings next door. Small/Large buildings give one/three devotion points respectively when built. Each time you hibernate, you get another benefit based on the lake. I appreciate that the lakes offer a quick way to get devotion points if you want them. I also like how they play with the hibernation phase, which was an element of the base game that had room to explore more. This module is not a stand out, but it works well.

“Module 5”: Journeys

I’ve saved what I think is the best, for last. Journeys are a new card type that are essentially an objective card to complete for devotion points. The top of the card shows the objective to achieve. To take a journey, you need to use your switch and discard an active citizen of the given color. You can then cash the journey in on a future turn whenever you have completed it, but your reward is based on how much you have accomplished. For instance, you could have a journey that needs 2/3/4 crates to score 2/3/4 devotion points respectively. Do you cash in the objective now to hit a reward on the track? Or do you wait until you can get even more points out of the journey? It also provides an opportunity to cull some of your starting citizens cards that don’t score at game end anyway, so long as you have one active to lose! It also now gives the switch a 3rd option, which is what I wanted most in an expansion. The switch now feels like a core part of the game, and this feels like it rounds out the base game for me. Instead of adding a ton of new action types, they just focused on deepening the possibilities with the actions already a part of the game, and I personally really appreciated that decision.

At the start of this review, I said if I disliked a module, it would make it hard to recommend the whole package, since it’s all so intertwined. I’m glad to say that I like every module. I love 3 out of 4 of the new factions. Even though I don’t like one, that’s still a lot of added value for a game that has asymmetry as a large part of it’s core experience. Scyphoz cards add splashy moments that always satisfy. Nothing in the game will make you say “oh, that’s interesting” more than picking a Scyphoz (in fact that’s a direct quote from me in game). Journeys give fun, targetable goals throughout the game; they are a very satisfying layer of strategy added to a core mechanism that needed some more options. Lakes are not a big focal point, but they are incorporated well and don’t detract from the experience. And who doesn’t love adding more variety? This isn’t the type of expansion that changes the game and converts dissenters; it’s more quality added to explore deeper what was already present. As a big fan of Revive, I’m a big fan of this expansion. As of today, this is my frontrunner for the best expansion of 2023.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Ryan P
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…
This entry was posted in Essen 2023, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply