Players: 2 - 4
Game Time: 30+
• 182 Fate Cards
• 30 Wound Cards
• 4 Rev-9 Cards
• 4 Character Cards
• 20 Damage Tokens
"No fate but what we make?"
Well it has been made, and made into a card game, so what if anything makes Terminator Dark Fate, The Card Game stand out from the crowd of deck builders? Well the game, based on the popular Terminator franchise and the 2019 movie of the same name (a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day). The game is designed by River Horse Ltd (www.riverhorsegames.com) and published by ALC Studio (www.alc-studio.com). It is a co-operative deck building game for two to four players, who take on the roles of Sarah Connor, Grace, Dani Ramos, and the T-800, as they try to stop the Rev-9, a new and deadly Terminator sent from the future to kill Dani.
Players will scramble for resources and weapons so they can fend off the Terminator long enough to find some way to destroy it. Each time the Rev-9 finds you, marks an important decision - you must choose whether you will flee, or whether you will fight. You do need to work together to determine if you have enough firepower to defeat the Rev-9 as fighting it is dangerous because it allows the Rev-9 to inflict crippling wounds on your deck (your typical blocker hand-filling cards), but if you flee without doing enough damage, you know that the Rev-9 is waiting just around the corner.
In fleeing, the Rev9 may go away ... but for how long? The damage you deal to the Rev-9 counts as cards. Remove all the damage from Rev-9 and draw as many cards from the fate deck as damage removed. Shuffle Rev-9 into these cards and then place them back on top of the fate deck, to loom and cast aspersions on your decisions to draw cards...
The game also has varying levels of difficulty, which is always great for getting players back to the table. I am very much wanting to try on the hardest level to see how long it takes for us to either DIE or emerge victorious.
The game also has SOLO mode, and great optional rules like "Go on without me" (where if a player dies the others do not loose the game and any dead player continues to play but skipping their "play phase") and also the Neural Net Processor variant (in which a player can take on the roll of the Rev-9).
The artwork is great and captures the theme of Terminator Dark Fate really nicely, I just think it may have performed better if they had been able to secure a theme resembling the earlier films, because let's face it the 80s Terminator was a much better film! The card stock is inconsistent in the game and the supplied tokens for damage are OK, but something more thematic could have been done I am sure! The card stock used ranges from thin and flimsy to the same but finished with linen and I really dislike linen finish (find out why in my review of Marvel Dice Throne - www.doalg.co.uk/post/marvel-dice-throne).
So let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Replayability - if you like the theme and deck builders then it is replay able
Production Value - not bad but inconsistent as the character cards are smooth but the play cards have a linen finish (really, why?), which isn't needed.
Theme - I love Terminator and would have preferred a theme resmebling the earlier films (more iconic), but it's not terrible.
Complexity - not complex at all, it's really easy to learn.
Rules - easy to understand and digest especially if you're new to deck builders.
Uniqueness - it is not unique, there are many deck builders out in the world.
Value - excellent value when it was in print, but may be still on the second hand market now out of print (unless Riverhorse choose to re-release it).
Unfortunately the game is out of print, which is a shame as it is a great deck builder. Mr Sam, Henry and I enjoyed playing the game. Of course, the theme could be applied to any deck builder, but the addition of the looming threat of a Terminator coming back because you've failed to kill or stagger it keeps you on the edge. If you can find a copy, you will not regret it, finally Riverhorse Games (www.riverhorsegames.com) have redeemed themselves in my eyes after what they did with the Labyrinth board game (see our YouTube review to learn more - www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjzJu4p68dM)! Only reason for 4/6 rating is due to the out-of-print nature and the linen finish, if Riverhorse republish (unlikely I know) and resolve these minor issues, I could quite easily score this a 5/6 (it's not perfect). Maybe "it'll be back"
Personally I had no major issues with the general production quality of the game. While some theme elements could have been implemented better for a game of this size and complexity, the overall quality was within expectations. Additionally while linen finish cards can detract from the appearance of artwork (especially when combined with other effects such as foil and gloss) the use of a fine grade linen and silk finish here left the game's visuals unaffected.
However, I do agree with the 4/6 score. The game's unusual mechanic of fight/flee combat, which can temporarily banish the antagonist, wasn't enough to really draw me in. In my opinion, the mark of a good deck builder is that snap thrill moment where it comes together for that satisfying take-that moment. This game simply didn't have enough of that to stand out from the crowd as a lightweight deck builder. While the game was at the end of the day enjoyable, I would prefer a more immersive deck builder or a good snappy small card game. Terminator Dark Fate tries to do both theses things and just falls short of exelling at either.