Sunday, September 09, 2012

Anima: Shadow of Omega

The next random game from my collection is one I have had a few years, Anima: Shadow of Omega.  The reason for the somewhat odd name is that Anima is not just a card game.  In fact, there are three card games currently available, a tabletop role-playing game, and a tactical miniatures game all bearing the "Anima" label.  All of the above mentioned products are published by Fantasy Flight Games in North America, but all were developed by Edge Entertainment in Europe, which interestingly enough publishes for the European market a lot of games developed by Fantasy Flight in the States.

But what is Anima?  Basically, the series of products are all fantasy adventure games using the trappings and themes of Japanese console RPGs.  This means epic quests, romances between major characters, betrayals, crazy monsters, crazy magical effects, etc. from a story standpoint.  From an art standpoint I can see the resemblance to some characters from Japanese console RPGs, but the European nature of the artists tends to come through in the fact that the characters, while sometimes wearing some crazy looking armor or clothing, all have standard human proportions and don't have the "cartoony" look that many Japanese manga-inspired artists use in console RPGs.  So while the overall themes and look match up to the subject material, visually there is enough of a difference to let you know that Anima is its own animal.

In the card game "Shadow of Omega," which is the first of the three Anima card games, two to five players recruit heroes into their party and try to defeat the evil boss character Omega.  (I should note here that there have been two editions of the game, and I own the first one.  I understand that some rules were tweaked in the revised edition in relation to the boss fight at the end.)  There are actually three different ways to do this, and each game one of the three ways is randomly selected as a 'final mission' card which describes how to defeat Omega.  One mission might have you fighting Omega straight up in a very tough combat, while another mission has you using your Speed rating to sneak past Omega and steal an Orb from him without him noticing.  So there is some variety to each game played.  Another way that variety is introduced is in the use of missions.  At the beginning of the game each player is dealt two random mission cards.  At least one of those missions must be completed before a player can take on Omega in the final mission to win the game, and sometimes it is advantageous to complete both of your missions first.

That being mentioned, the heart of the game is in the characters and the locations.  The game starts with each player getting one character card at random, and the characters range from the archetypical warrior and magic-user to beastmasters and summoners and rangers and paladins and what not.  If you played electronic RPGs you will recognize the character types.  Characters all have a combat and speed rating; as well as having the potential to use Ki, Magic, and/or Trickery advantage cards.  Some characters will have a special ability as well.  During play your party of characters can visit location cards and try to accomplish things, like recruiting new characters (you can have a maximum of four characters in your party, and good luck trying win with less than that number), undertaking missions, having special encounters, or drawing Advantage cards.  You will most likely have to draw encounter cards when at a location, and some of those encounters can be really nasty (like if you meet Omega, who just kills one of your characters no matter what and then you lose your turn), but some can be helpful, from granting you extra Advantage cards to getting new characters for free.

Each player starts the game with three Advantage cards, and can hold up to five in their hands during the game.  These cards range from mean tricks to play on other players, to cards that aid in combat, to items that help you fight.  Most of the cards are keyed to either Magic, Trickery, or Ki, and therefore require a character with that ability to use.  Proper use of the Advantage cards is often key to winning, as one or two combat cards can really swing a combat in your favor.

Anima: Shadow of Omega doesn't have a high ranking on, but I like the game.  It doesn't take too long to play, and I enjoy the general RPG trappings in an entertaining adventure game.  Because much of the game is dependent on card draws and die rolls, it can be frustrating if you have bad luck.  There is enough skill in card play and hand management, though, that I still have fun with it.  I will also note that while I have never played any of the other Anima card games, they are supposed to integrate with each other so that if you had all of the sets you could play a big game with lots of variety in it.  I'll have to try that some day.

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