Aerion Review: A Unique Game of Strategy That Excels In Solo Play

Aerion is one of the rarer tabletop titles that actually promotes itself as a single player experience, though it also features cooperative play as well. It's also one of the most unique games I've played in recent memory, and while most games are more fun with a group, Aerion is actually quite the opposite, and truly excels as a solo experience, loaded with a variety of ways to play. It's not going to find a home in every person's collection, but it does fill a nice niche for those who appreciate what it brings to the table.

For those unfamiliar, Aerion is a card based game that puts you in the shoes of a shipbuilder, and to make that happen you'll need to combine several elements in your workshop. Players will roll dice and attempt to acquire cards from six decks, and to build a ship you'll need to buy a blueprint, a specific material, and whatever crew the ship requires, and dice rolls will be your currency.

The dice will play a big roll in the overall mechanics, as you'll need to reroll them in some cases several times to get the results you need. Each deck has a specific roll result assigned to it, like AA + BB (two pairs of numbers) or A B C D E (5 numbers in a row), and once you achieve that result you can acquire the card facing up in that deck. You can discard any number of cards in your turn to re-roll any number of dice to help get that result, but when you do that you also make it harder to get to those cards later since they now lie in the discard pile.

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(Photo: Z-Man Games)

That's really where the strategy of the game lies. I spent many a turn trying to figure out which cards would be expendable or easily brought back at a later time, and if there were enough Book Cards (which let you bring discarded cards back into play) to allow me to get to those cards later in the game. Some cards only lie in specific decks as well, making it important to pay attention to which ships you need to finish in order to win the game.

The core gameplay has a lovely rhythm to it once you get the steps down, though that might take a few sessions of trial and error. That's because some of the rules can be interpreted a few different ways, and it's easy to find yourself playing the game wrong early on, or at least, that was my experience. Even after a few games, some things didn't really click into place for me, and with a few more points in the main instructions that could likely be alleviated for others.

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(Photo: Z-Man Games)

The good news is there is an insane amount of value in the box, as not only do you get the base game but you also get 6 expansions. Each expansion can be played on their own or mixed in with the others to form a deeper or far different experience. In my time with the game, I came to love expansions 2 (The Flagship) and 6 (The Hellkite) which almost gives you a miniboss to fight as you make your way to building the ships. It ramps up the difficulty, but I found it quite fulfilling, and combining 2 and 6 together makes it a bit easier and even more rewarding.

Combined with the other expansions, you can really make this game into what you want it to be. Despite the cooperative play options, the core gameplay doesn't change much, and when it does change it actually makes things a bit more restricting on your turn, which is why I preferred playing it solo.

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(Photo: Z-Man Games)

From a visual perspective, the game is wholly unique, though I didn't love the art style overall. The good news is that all the information you need for reference is on the cards, though the visual style doesn't necessarily allow those to stand out as much as they probably need to, and overall it just wasn't my cup of tea, though that doesn't mean you won't love it.

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(Photo: Z-Man Games)

Aerion is a truly unique experience that fans looking for something different with substantial depth will greatly appreciate. If you're looking for something with a set of easy to learn mechanics, this isn't quite that, though if you're willing to give it some time and explore the other expansions, you will likely find a game that perfectly suits your style, and you don't even need other people to make it all work. For those looking for something everybody can throw down in, however, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Published By: Z-Man Games

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Designed By: Shadi Torbey

Cover and Interior Art By: Elise Plessis