Monday 10 December 2012

Review - Anima: Shadow of Omega

Here's the thing... Gradually, I am porting across all my reviews from Board Game Geek so they also appear here. Most of the time, this isn't a problem; but from time to time it means I will be publishing a review for a game I no longer have. Such is the case with Anima: Shadow of Omega, a game I really didn't enjoy and sold rather swiftly. Why is it a problem that I no longer have the game? Two words: no pictures.

So, here is a short review that I originally posted on back in August 2008, reproduced here for your reading pleasure with absolutely no pictures at all. Enjoy...

Anima: Shadow of Omega
Published by Edge Entertainment
Designed by... ah, no idea. Probably by committee
For 2-5 players, aged 10 to adult

I'm not going to lie, I bought this game because of the artwork, which is unquestionably beautiful. I've been known to do this in the past (Blue Moon, for example), but I have never been quite as disappointed with my purchase as I was with this game, which appears to be a muddled, confusing half-game with too many exceptions that break the rules.

Wow, that's quite negative... I'll start again...

This game has several aspects that make it appealing. First of all, it is not collectable. I hate collectable games. You spend a fortune trying to get enough cards/models in order to have a fair chance of winning a game, only to find your opponent has an "uber-rare-shiny-gold-win-the-game-in-the-first-turn-super-nasty"(tm) and you get completely smashed anyway. Worse still, the game goes out of production before you have a complete set.

Second, Shadow of Omega comes with everything you need to play. I hate opening a game only to find I have to borrow dice from another game, or use pennies to keep track of my health, or buy a special "extras" kit with all the other bits I need (Magic, Dungeoneer - I'm looking at you).

Third, the production value of this game is very good. The graphics are immaculate, and its all very pretty.

Unfortunately, the game is a bit of a mess.

So, what do you get for your money? You get 110 normal-sized cards which are fantastic, two dice (one white, one black), and five wooden counters. By the way, 110 cards is not nearly enough. It sounds a lot, but they all do different things: There are 20 hero cards, 10 mission cards, 3 final mission cards, 14 location cards, 29 event cards, and 34 advantage cards. This basically means you will control between one and four characters from a stock of just 20, on an "epic" adventure in one of 14 locations, trying to complete one of 13 missions (more than enough of these though). The 34 advantage cards, representing spells, skills, and weapons can be used to customise your team based on their class (warrior, spellcaster, etc), but this seems a lot of customisation when you consider there are only 29 unique hazards to be confronted, of which only 21 are actually monsters.

Okay, there are expansions available to increase the variation, and I know this is only a base set that has to cover a lot of ground, and yes, I know it is trying to do the best it can to create the feel of a customisable RPG in a card game format; but the variation just means that after one game you have pretty much seen and done everything there is to see and do.

I actually really enjoyed creating a team of hardened warriors: Gathering my recruits and equipping their skills was my favourite part of the game (but note, team members and skills are drawn randomly from the deck). Each character has a combat value and a speed value, which are used when fighting or performing missions; and they also have one or more classes that allow them to use certain skills. For example, the Dark Paladin can use Kia powers only (basically special combat techniques), but the well-read Freelancer can use Kia powers, magic cards, and trickery cards (cards that allow you to steal things or sneak into locations, etc). Interestingly, characters are also designated as male and female, and this characteristic has been incorporated into the gameplay: if you play a romance card on a male and female character, they fall in love and will fight together with a bonus until one of them dies (I don't see why this card should be limited to a male/female combination of characters, but that is a debate for another time!).

Overall, getting a good combination of characters that can perform all the different skills you have in your hand is very interesting, but having put together an ultimate fighting force, there isn't really that much to do with them. You travel to a location, maybe fight a monster, maybe draw a card, and then move on. It really is a rather bland game, and even though one of my big complaints is the lack of variety, I'm not even sure if more cards would help that much other than having more pretty artwork to look at.

As an aside, while talking about the pretty artwork, I should mention that some people have commented on "inappropriate" art. Basically, this is a high fantasy game, so there is certain archetypal imagery associated with it: There are a few pictures of female characters in very small clothes (one card features a woman waking up in bed in just her underwear), and there is a particularly violent image of an assassin stabbing someone in the back so that the point of his knife bursts out through his unfortunate victim's chest. I don't mind this sort of thing, it goes with the territory; but it is well worth noting if you intend to get this game for very young players. It should also be noted that all the heroes are human (no dwarfs, no elves), and there is an equal mix of male and female characters, so there is a refreshing mix which you don't always get in this sort of game.

Now, back to the game...

It doesn't help that the rules are badly written, and it can be very difficult to know how certain situations are resolved. It is quite common for a card game to have cards that create exceptions to the general rules of the game, but this game is crazy for it: Half the time I didn't know if I was allowed to play a card or not! In this review I haven't gone into the mechanics of the game in great detail, and I don't intend to, but I would advise anyone thinking of buying this game to read the rules beforehand to get a feel for the game. It plays about as dry as it reads, trust me.

By the way, this game has an awful endgame situation: Missions require for you to go to certain places on your turn, but which locations are currently in play is determined by all players, and in every turn, a location can be discarded from play and replaced with something else (and it is not easy to retrieve discarded places). You just try getting to a specific place when everyone else at the table is trying to stop you. You'll be lucky if you ever get there at all.

I really wanted to like this game. I like anything that attempts to create a RPG feel in a board game or card game, I love high fantasy, I enjoy building teams of adventurers and giving them customisable skills; but I just don't seem to be able to get into this game.

Overall: lovely graphics, nice box, interesting concept; but with complicated rules and certain situations that quickly sap the fun out of it.


  1. first off avoid space hulk death angels at all costs(not a review i personally love it) and most of your issues come from this the ff small box games put a full board game into a few cards and this makes some detail
    simply slip thru the cracks or become awkward and counter intuitive and uniformly the rue books are badly formatted the info is clear its just finding it and the style issues come from it being the asian interpretation of euro fantasy a reverse of the horrible 70-80 us shot kung fu movies using the tropes of a genre without understanding the sensibilities i am just now deciding if i like this particular game, just my thoughts on your thoughts

    1. Actually, I have no issue with the Fantasy Flight small box games. My review of the excellent Space Hulk: Death Angel is available on this blog -

      Death Angel does a superb job of condensing the theme and the feel of its big brother into a compact package, and I absolutely love it. Anima, on the other hand, just feels thin and bland. It's the difference between a chunky winter soup and watery gruel, really.

      Thanks for reading my review.

    2. death angel had a huge learning curve for me first game i have ever read the rules and was lost then a quick layout and a little less so then another read and a full solo game and i had it and probably played 5 games in a row my one complaint is not having it when i never had anyone to play games with i have to say after a cpl test plays anima while it comes off broader in scope and is easier to pick up seems it may have issues with the card flow gonna get in on the table with the other half(we got interrupted half in her first try at spacehulk and while she says she wasn't quite getting it she saw the potential but after a cp weeks she hasn't mentioned playing it)
      and then with 4 players tonight a vside note due to a inattentive clerk at our local bookmans(after ringing my other purchases and me seeing it sitting on the shelf behind counter he walked off to flirt with a customer then another making me wait 20 min or so i hand him back the other game im looking at and say just this one he doesn't ring it up bags it with my other stuff i almost have a moment of conscience and tell him but over hear him with a 3rd female customer say could that guy take any longer) so i got it free and the next visit i bought anima for 18 so two less than spacehulk so win either way


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