End of the Line Review

END OF THE LINE (Fight in a Box)

The bunkers were fine at first, but those supplies didn’t last long. Your hand crank radio says what’s left of the government is doing the best they can to ration out supplies with long lines in the city. It doesn’t sound pretty out there, but what other choice do you have? It’s time to venture out and rejoin whatever semblance of society still exists.

In End of the Line players deal with worsening calamities, make brutal and unfair laws, send out their family to get resources, and then do everything possible to make sure they get what few resources are left. There may be enough for today, but with all of these people there’s no guarantee about tomorrow!

Rounds start with a newly revealed Calamity Card. This can be anything from Riots, Earthquakes, Biker Gangs, Pesky Mutants, and more (there are a number of great nerdy references), all affecting Resource supplies, Resource Lines, and the players. This card also dictates the Line Completion order for later in the round. With ever changing rules and a limited supply of Action Cards (a mix of Now, Event and Law Cards) available to keep changing them, order is critically important in End of the Line.

Second, in turn order players can trade Resources for Action Cards. The first of any one Resource buys you one Action Card, the second of that Resource costs an additional two (totaling three), the third costs an additional three, and so on.

Third (and where you start your first round in any game), players are allowed to secretly decide on Law Cards to play on the Resource Lines. Before any laws are placed, players secretly order their hand of Action Cards, placing any Law Card or bluff they want to play on top of their Pass! Card. Laws are then played in turn order until all players Pass! Cards are revealed. Face up Law Cards take effect immediately, face down cards are determined during Line Completion.

After all laws have been played, players then send their family members (a dad, mom, son, daughter, and a dog) to the Resource Lines. Again, order is key and the first family member in a Resource Line receives an additional Resource and the last in line receives none (dogs can’t collect but are counted for order). No one can stay home, because as the rules say, “everyone must go… cowards don’t eat.”

Phase 5 is where things really get nasty with Line Completion. In the order determined by the Calamity Card, Resource Lines are resolved first by having players with family members in that Line secretly and simultaneously order any Action Cards they’d like to play (in the same manner that Law Cards were set) and set aside Now Cards to use in a Defense Hand. After all Action Cards are played and resolved, Law Cards for that Line are then enforced. Finally, anyone who’s left alive can collect food.

After all Lines have been resolved, players check to see if any Resource Line is closed due to the growing number of dead (a Line closes every time an amount of dead equals the number of players). Then the First Player Card passes and a new round begins.

With a fairly long rulebook (but with very large type), it’s a quick game to pick up. The rules also include two variants with Unique Family Cards, granting players different advantages and the Vengeful Dead which allows dead players to select two Calamity Cards each round and pick which one the living will play with. With few players there’s more room for well planned deviousness and with more players there’s more fun random viciousness.

It should be noted that fighty games aren’t for every group and as the publisher’s name hints at, you could very well be opening up a “fight in a box” with End of the Line. In a single phase and with just two Action Cards, my wife had stolen all of my family’s food and then turned around and forced me to play a food for each of the three members I had in the current line – of course she had all of my food, so… they all died. However, when a game is all about ruthless self-interest it takes the surprise and (most) of the hurt out of these betrayals. It’s inevitable. To win the game, everyone else needs to die. No one’s going to look at you differently for cutting in line, kidnapping that person, or poisoning the water supply of that family who’s taking maybe just a bit too much for themselves. No one who will be around tomorrow at least. (Fight in a Box) by David C. Obenour

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