The 3012 Deck-building Game takes place a thousand years after the Apocalypse we are all looking forward to this December. Deep in the Yucatan jungle, humanity has mutated, degenerated, and segregated into five clans: Jaguar, Snake, Monkey, Gar, and Bat.
As a player, you will take on the role of a tribal chieftain. Adding Allies, Weapons, and a multitude of different Action cards to your deck will coincidentally mutate your deck into a powerful monster-killing machine.
For those of you who were not lucky enough to get a demo of 3012 at a summer convention, let me explain a little bit about what makes this game different from other deck-building games. The designer, Charles Tyson, is an avid deck-building game player, but he wanted more player interaction. In too many deck-building games, you might as well take a nap while it isn't your turn. In order to get more specific, I'll need to get into some specifics. Here is the turn sequence:
- Replenish Phase
- Assembly Phase
- Combat Phase (optional)
- Acquisition Phase
- End Phase
I'll go through each part of the turn sequence step-by-step.
First up, at the start of your turn, you get to draw back up to four cards, the typical hand size. This allows you to play some Reaction cards during your opponents' turns without hurting your own turn.
Serendipity is a type of Reaction that you can play on your opponent's turn, if you need to dig for something.
It sucks when you have to agonize over playing a card out of turn knowing that your own turn will suffer, so the Replenish Phase solves that deck-building game conundrum.
There are two stacks of Action cards in the game: One with low-cost cards and one with higher cost cards. The (random) top card of each of these decks is flipped face up at the start of your turn. These are cards that you may buy during your Acquisition Phase, but more importantly, you get to play them as if you had them in your hand!
The two Action piles hold either inexpensive Actions, or powerful but pricey Actions, like the ones shown above.
These two cards are like gifts from the gods, as they can make even your very first turn of the game rather interesting, and not boring. Deck-building games have always suffered from boring starts, but the Assembly Phase can change all that.
If you choose to face an Encounter during your turn, you do it before you make any buys for the turn. You don't have to go into combat, but Encounter cards will make up 99% of the victory points in your deck (called Renown in this game). If you choose to go into combat, you choose an Encounter Level of either 1, 2, 3, or 4. That number is the number of Renown that Encounter will be worth. The Encounters have a Defense rating of 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, and 13-15 respectively. So the more Renown the card is going to be worth, the more difficult the Encounter is to take down. The Defense rating of an Encounter is how much Damage you need to generate to defeat the Encounter. Before you go into combat, you can choose to play some cards if you wish, including the “gift” cards that flipped up on top of the two Action decks. However, it is typically best if you don't give away to your opponents how strong you really are.
The Dragon Monarch sits in the lowest Encounter pile, but you're not guaranteed to face it. Sometimes you'll get another smaller Encounter like Drunken River Pirates, which only has 4 Defense.
Here's the real meat of the player interaction. When you choose to go into combat, the other players have a chance to Aid or Block you by playing a Scout card. Scout cards are the starting deck cards, so everyone has some. When players Aid you, they are helping you, but also stealing away Experience Points from your Hero. Experience Points are what you need to raise the level of your Hero. You Hero has a base Damage ability equal to your Hero level, so levels are very important for defeating Encounters. When a player Blocks you, they are adding 1 to the Defense of the Encounter. If it fails, the Blockers will gain Experience.
Here's how it all goes down: When you decide to go into combat, you don't immediately flip up the Encounter card. Instead, you just remove the top card from the stack you chose and leave it face down. No players, including you, will know exactly how tough the Encounter will be. Now the other players have to decide whether to intervene, and if they do, whether to Aid or Block. If you attempt an Encounter that is way too easy for your level, the other players will certainly Aid you, just to steal a share of the Experience Points. The XP is shared amongst all players on the winning side, rounded up. Players will have a good idea of how powerful you are by looking at your Hero level and any Damage on top of the two Action decks. If you attempt an Encounter that is way too hard, the other players will surely Block you, then split the XP for themselves.
The trick is to be a good bluffer:
- When you are attempting an Encounter that might be a little bit out of your range, you should act strong. That way, the other players will Aid you and that might be the difference between winning and losing the Encounter.
- When you are quite strong, act weak. That way, you might convince someone to Block you. When one person Blocks you, it becomes increasingly likely that more players will also Block you. Blocking is most effective when multiple players are doing it.
On the flip side, when it is your chance to intervene, sometimes you need to play the percentages. If two other players are Blocking the active player's combat and you think they are still strong, you might be better off Aiding. Splitting 2 or 3 XP with the Blockers might not be as good a reward as splitting that same amount with just the active player should he succeed. And if he does succeed despite all of the Blockers, if no one was Aiding him, he will get ALL of the XP for himself. So as you can see, there are a lot of factors to combat and a lot of interaction. You'll never want to take a nap during another player's turn.
Whether or not you go into combat, you still have a chance to spend your gold. Cards provide gold, but there are also ways to gain “hard currency” gold pieces that can be saved up to make larger purchases. There are four areas to buy cards from. There are always three Allies and three Weapons displayed on the sides of the game board (oh, did I not mention that there is an awesome board that comes with the game?), and then the two Action cards you flipped up at the start of your turn. Weapons give you Damage and sometimes Gold as well. Allies give you Gold and sometimes Damage as well. Each clan has a Weapon specialization, and if you buy Weapons that match your specialty, you will be rewarded with bonuses when you later equip them. Equipping doesn't last all game, just for the turn. If you buy an Ally of your same clan, you will also be rewarded. Sometimes it pays to buy another player's Weapon or clan just to prevent them from getting those bonuses.
After making purchases, if you did not spend all of your temporary Gold (listed on the cards you played), you gain 1 hard currency Gold. This gold piece sits on your Hero card and will allow you to “save up” to make even larger purchases in later turns.
However, there is something else innovative for a deck-building game you can do with a Gold piece: You can “Reserve” a card. If you don't buy both of the Action cards you flipped up at the start of your turn, you have a chance to put one “on layaway.”
When you can't afford to purchase an Action, you can use your leftover Gold pieces to Reserve it instead.
Take the card you want to Reserve off of its deck and place it next to your Hero, then put a Gold piece on it. Now you are holding that card to buy in the future, and you have already paid 1 Gold towards the cost. You can only hold one card in Reserve. If there is still a face-up card on an Action deck, your opponents, in clockwise order, now also have a chance to Reserve a card, even though it was your turn. Sometimes there are cards that you really want, but not just now. That is a great card to put into Reserve. Sometimes there is a card that is just too expensive for you right now. Another great candidate.
Discard the cards you played, then draw a new hand of four cards. Your turn is over and the next player starts their turn. Pretty simple.
3012 has added a great many new innovations to the deck-building genre. Couple all of that new action with killer art and a setting that evokes a primal spirit, and you are in for quite an adventure. By the time you read this, civilization might have a scant three months left before the December 2012 Armageddon. The Mayan calendar is running out … so you better run out and get yourself a copy of 3012! Hey, you can't take it with you when the apocalypse happens, after all.