By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
I may have strolled past an Archon Games booth in conventions past, but I discovered their game Nexus Infernum at Gen Con this year. Archon currently sticks to one genre and does it well, which I can most accurately describe as the “black metal” of tabletop gaming. According to a quick online search, Nexus Infernum has been around since 2019 but is not yet available in mass production. The game itself was developed by Adam Watts, Petras Vaznelis, and Diha, of which I had the pleasure of playing their demo run by Adam himself. I don’t care as much for in which category of mechanics a game falls, but rather the answer to the question, “is it fun?” Archon calls it a “necromantic resource management brawler.” As for my answer to my question, allow me to extrapolate.
The premise of the game is: you and up to four others are necromancers striving to “ascend through blasphemy.” Allured by the power it provides through dark arcane energy, you command your skeletal minions into the Nexus Infernum (a series of six portals where the veil between our realm and the realm of darkness is quite thin) to collect and channel this energy, allowing you to make unholy pacts with demons of the abyss and collect “blasphemy points.” The first player to thirteen points achieves their goal to become the most powerful necromancer in the realm!
So how does it work? Each player’s turn goes through the same routine: first rolling a couple of dice to manifest some energy at a random portal and again to attempt to summon a skeleton at a random portal. In specific order, the player then commands a skeleton to a desired portal, aggresses against enemy skeletons if so desired, and finally channels energy from the portal into your collection. Each of the four steps (summon, command, aggress, channel) can be extended to more skeletons by spending collected energy and can be upgraded up to two tiers by using collected energy to make pacts with demons. Pacts are made by collecting two of the same type of demon cards, turning them in for blasphemy points and the aforementioned upgrades. Lastly, you can also spend an increased amount of arcane energy to receive a demonic patron, which offers a boost to your blasphemy points and can also provide certain boons for your endeavors.
It’s all very dark in theme, and it may not be one to introduce to your youngest kid, but no matter your qualms, I wouldn’t necessarily call it satanic. Of course, if you’re into hanging out with the prince of darkness in your free time, we’re not here to judge. Yes, there is imagery and vocabulary that lean in that direction, but I personally equate them more to the fantasy-style demons and necromancy you might encounter in a D&D game rather than some kind of biblical blasphemy. The lines are somewhat blurred, especially if you branch out to their previous release, Eschaton, but hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.
As for my impressions, I really enjoyed the game the few times I’ve been able to play it so far, and it’s pretty much just as fun with two players as it is with a full group of five. Let’s stop for a moment to talk about the box, though. I’m sorry, Archon, but minus two points for the packaging. Everything fits well when you first open the box and haven’t punched out all the tokens yet, but once you have and try to fit everything in, there is no convenient way whatsoever to arrange everything so the lid can even sit properly. I had to come up with my own solution; I glued the bases on the skeletons, put them in one of the provided bags, and stored them underneath the box’s insert. This way, I could fit everything else in the few designated spots of the insert for...whatever they were supposed to be designated. Some of you may not care much about how the game is packaged and stored, but I value games that go the extra mile to develop a solid box design. Honestly, this was the main downside to the game for me, though. Another little dent in its quality-of-life is that some cards aren’t entirely clear on their intentions, but seeing as how you’re making pacts with demons if I need to make a ruling, I tend to lean on the side of more mayhem. Those things aside, it’s light on complexity, flows very well, and is a nice change of pace from other more involved tabletop games. I give it a 7/10.
Again, Nexus Infernum is designed for 2-5 players; Archon claims the game runs 45-90 minutes, and for once, I believe that’s an accurate estimate. It’s not available to ship yet, but you can place preorders on their website. MSRP is $60 and is expected to ship this winter.