Three years ago Frosted Games released Lux ​​Aeterna, a solo game by Tony Boydell and illustrations by Alex Lee. This “trio” brought out another game for SPIEL. Again with simple rules, short playing time and exclusively playable solo, in the novelty Aleph Zero you summon the demon Baphomet and try to survive this plan if possible. The test shows how much devilish fun there is in summoning demons.

Frosted Games have a very good selection, especially for "small" solo games. Many of Button Shy's titles released in German by Frosted are aimed at solo players, including the one mentioned above Eternal Light easily meets the criteria "small and fast". With aleph zero Another game by the same author-artist duo has now appeared on Frosted, which also belongs in the "Small and Fast" category. A few things are reminiscent of the "predecessor", but there is much more new to discover than rediscovering what is known. We were able to (survive) in our test rituals how much good the devilish summoning of the demon Baphomet offers.

Demons and how to summon them

It doesn't take much to summon a demon. The handy box contains 69 cards, three damage markers and three magical power markers each, and a massive wooden tray for the Grimoire Verum. 28 of these cards make up the main deck. Twelve other cards are ailments. These are available in three different levels. The Grimoire consists of nine cards and guides you through the game. An overview of all cards and their effects can be found on the FAQ cards. Lastly, there are some blank ailment cards, promos for aleph zero and Eternal Light and a textless Baphomet card for players with style.

The ritual of preparation 

Again, the required steps are very clear. The grimoire stack is placed on the wood tray and "opened". The five levels of difficulty are shown on the first two pages. Depending on the level you choose, set aside three to five ailments. Now all you have to do is shuffle the main deck and get it ready. The ritual begins with the “sunset”.

The Grimoire Verum leads through the ritual. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Perform the ritual

The goal of the game is to summon the demon Baphomet. In order to be able to do this, one must first have summoned the three keys. Once you summon Baphomet, the game ends immediately. If there are still cards in your hand, in the draw pile or in the discard pile, you have lost the game despite the successful ritual. If you take your third damage, sacrifice a keycard or Baphomet, or take more than six hours (game turns), you also lose.

In each hour you make an indefinite number of moves. To do this, you draw five cards from your hand. You can then summon them. In order to summon a card, its cost must be paid in the form of magical power. Some cards can also be summoned for free or have special costs.
Cards in play provide various actions and abilities that can be used by discarding or sacrificing. Some effects only occur in certain situations. 

The magical power you receive is (almost) always "virtual". If you don't use it completely in one turn, you take XNUMX damage per unused magical power. A turn ends when you can't or don't want to summon any more cards from your hand. Any remaining cards in hand are discarded and five new ones are drawn. If you draw an ailment card, you must summon it immediately. 

If there are not enough cards left in the draw pile to fill the hand, the discard pile is reshuffled. This advances the hour. Depending on the hour and the difficulty chosen, a new ailment card is added to the deck. 

The impairments make the ritual more difficult and sometimes unpredictable. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The game ends when one of the defeat conditions described above is met or when you successfully summon Baphomet. In order to determine whether you have really won, an evaluation now follows. The earlier you were able to carry out the successful summoning, the more points you get. In addition, there are points for each damage marker not taken. Lose a point for each card that was in play next to the keys when Baphomet was summoned. If the sum of the points is zero or greater, you win. Depending on the number of points you reach a certain rank.  

Infobox

Number of players: 1 
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: moderate
Long-term motivation: moderate
Genre: Kennerspiel
Core Mechanics: Deck deconstruction, hand management

Author: Tony Boydell
Illustrations: Alex Lee
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Language: German
Cost: 20 Euro 

The ritual of drawing conclusions

How nice Eternal Light   aleph zero played quickly and doesn't take up too much space. The theme is well chosen and is implemented beautifully with the again very successful artwork. This time you have enough time in the game to deal with the illustrations. The rest of the game material is also really outstanding. Above all, the wooden tray for the grimoire upgrades the game extremely. The cards are "oversized" again, but are still small enough to be easy to handle. The design is very nice and clear. The symbols used have been kept to a minimum and everything important is written as text on the cards. 
The soundtrack offered on the Frosted website rounds off the gaming experience harmoniously.

There are actually no real negative points in the rules. Nevertheless, they don't really manage to show how exactly the game works and what you have to do for a successful ritual. In the first game you summon rather aimlessly and first get to know all card effects. If you are familiar with all the cards after a few rounds, it clicks quite quickly and the game runs very smoothly.

All cards that have been summoned can be used. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Especially in the first few moves it can happen that the game plays itself. Sometimes you can't summon any of the five cards in your hand. You always summon free cards.
Over time, the deck gets smaller and the decision-making space increases. You have to find the right times for all cards to sacrifice them. If you sacrifice them too early, you will lose valuable magical power and if you keep them too long, you will not be able to get rid of them in time. If the game starts to flow by the second round at the latest, the process is really nice and always offers exciting decision-making options. 

Despite the small deck, which always has the same composition, the possible decisions don't wear out that quickly. Similar to Eternal Light but also comes aleph zero eventually to the limit in terms of replay appeal. Here is aleph zero but slightly at an advantage. 

The luck factor is of course present in the game. However, one is rarely at the mercy of this. Nevertheless, there are impairments whose effects are significantly more severe than other impairments in certain situations. Due to the short playing time, you can live with it. The different levels of difficulty increase the difficulty, even if the gradation is somewhat imprecise here. So the second level (3 random ailments) can be either a very easy level one level (3 random ailments of levels 1 and 2) or a difficult level three level (3 random ailments of levels 2 and 3). Here, one card for each level of impairment would have been a slightly clearer gradation for difficulty two.

The final evaluation feels a little more satisfying than in Lux Aeterna. Even if both offer "only" a point hunt in addition to a victory condition, this is still the case aleph zero much more satisfactory. This is mainly due to the significantly higher hurdle that the game offers to achieve the scoring. Even at the most basic level, victory is in aleph zero not guaranteed. If the summoning succeeds, the scoring is similar to Friedemann Frieses Friday actually not that important. You're glad you won. The "how" is not so important.

Overall is aleph zero another successful solo game in the program of Frosted Games. It is a touch nicer to play and offers something "more" than in the long term Lux Aeterna. The once again excellent artwork makes the topic quite present and thanks to the fast and fluid gameplay, there is actually always time for this game.

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Last updated on 8.02.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API