We were kindly gifted Exodus Choose Your Own Adventure Card Game by Half Monster Games for review. This game is centered around the Xenohunters Universe that was created by Half Monster Games for their game Xenohunters. The world is a harsh, unrelenting sci-fi epic where an all female crew of mercenaries. Aliens who consume living beings to birth their own kind are hunted down and in Exodus you immerse yourself in a narrative in this universe. The game is extremely simple, requiring only the ability to read and a small amount of table space. Being that the game is very simple, there is little to say about the game while avoiding spoilers for the campaign. The name comes packed in a small, very glossy box with artwork reminiscent of Alien and Stargate immediately plunging you into the theme.
Setup for the game is by far one of the simplest we have ever seen. The game comes with a How to Play card, 12 inventory cards and Exodus cards numbered from 1 to 121. You separate all three types of cards, read the how to play card and set aside your inventory cards, only using them when instructed to do so. The How to Play card basically lets you know how the game works. You simply read Exodus Card 1 and go from there. The cards will tell you the narrative of what happens and where you are, then you are presented with a choice. To start the game you start on a planet named Gallery having been forced to leave the planet due to the Myceen and Phaedra destroying the colony beyond any chance of reconstruction. You are then presented with the decision of where you would like to go. You can go to Dendron, Vindar, or Theresa- an abandoned vacation planet, an ancient frozen temple-laced planet or the home for the Human Defence Initiative respectively. You will then take the card that is listed after your decision is made.
From here the game can take many branching paths that will lead you to discovery, mutation, weapons, unexpected wealth or death. One of the very unique things about Exodus is that you can play this game with many people. While this is true of most choose your own adventure style games, this game is short and concise to the point that should your teammates choose a different path they can simply take the cards and be on their own adventure. Maybe you wanted to find solace on the frozen temple planet Vindar while your friend seeks revenge with the Human Defence Initiative. You can each take your respective card and pave your own path. This is an interesting mechanic as you can see how your “life” would have played out if you had made different decisions. Perhaps your teammates found more information on why these other beings invaded or you are captured and abandon all hope while you await death.
The decision making tree is varied and there are 121 cards that will take you to many places. There are however, a few points where expansions are needed. We felt a little cheated when we got to an interesting point and the card simply read “Congratulations, you have reached the end of the storyline!” and went on to say the rest of the story will be finished in the future. While this did offer more possibilities in the future and we encountered other stories that ended with death, the cliffhanger storylines seemed to end abruptly just as they were picking up pace leaving us more disappointed than meeting a grim fate.
Stories also have a varied amount of cards that will lead to a conclusion. On our first playthrough we met our demise after about 6 cards, which made us wonder how long the game really was. On other playthroughs we had longer lives and there was even the possibility of hurtling your ship into oblivion ending the game as a sort of martyr. Gameplay is a little closed and sometimes offers no decisions on cards, simply extending the game by forcing your character to make a specific decision on your behalf. While this is not unusual for choose your own adventure titles it makes you question how much of a choice you really have. Some of the decisions you make are based on dialogue and do not really feel like you’re making a decision on anything other than your choice of words. Sometimes you have to make a guess as to what that decision will lead to, not knowing what you really chose. Does staying, hunting or making tools lead you in a specific direction? This is not inherently a bad thing but it does leave to moments of “is this what I want to do?” instead of “this sounds like a better option.”
Another thing to note about this game is that if you are unfamiliar with the game Xenohunters, you will have a bit of a tough time following the plot and characters/races. The lore is dispersed as you read and you are offered no introduction to the universe anywhere in the game. You are actually given absolutely no information as to who your character is or was, making it a bit odd as you have no reference as to what your goals are. The game opens with a very large open environment but then immediately feels closed off shortly after making your first few decisions.
Language Barrier Playability: Not recommended to play with a language barrier. Reading every single card, translating all the flavor text, dialogue, decisions and inventory will become exhausting quickly.
Replayability: Very replayable in terms of how many decisions are possible. After randomly meeting your death or getting to an abrupt stopping point with no closure you may not replay this often.
Artwork: Very well done and reminiscent of science fiction space horror from classic movies and television shows. The cards are a little repetitive and although there are 121 cards in the Exodus deck, there are only 7 unique backgrounds and images used.
Quality: Good. The cards are large, textured and well made. The box is not the greatest in terms of construction. The lid is loose and wobbles, if flipped the box will open and spill cards everywhere.
Strategy: Not applicable for this game.
Instruction Manual: While not a manual, the “How to Play” card does a very good job of teaching you how the game works.
Organization: The cards fit very well into the box and will stay, provided the box is not flipped.