Tonight’s game is “Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth”. Based on the Expedition System by Peer Sylvester, and illustrated by Dan Corwell and Rufus Dayglo. This game reminds me of the wilderness travel system in Zweihander, but in a Weird Wild West apocalyptic setting. The story of the game, (outlined in the rulebook’s first two pages in a mini-comic) states that you guide a team of judges as they cross the Cursed Earth in Search of Max Normal, a citizen harboring a deadly disease who has fled Mega-City One. You must cross the Cursed Earth and capture Max Normal before a group of criminals rescue him.
I’m not a comics reader, but I am a fan of the Karl Urban Judge Dredd movie, and the previous one with Stallone was okay. This game caught my interest for its price, art, and theme. The idea of playing three badass Judges from the 2000 AD comics universe sounded fun, so I decided to give it a shot.
The game just after setup.
You control three powerful soldier Judges, each with their own area of expertise. Judge Anderson specializes in PSI, Judge Giant specializes in diplomacy, and Judge Dredd specializes in survival. To progress through the adventure, you will need to track rations, ammunition and health, while managing to keep your judges healthy and (relatively) radiation free in the wastes. As you travel through the Cursed Earth, the location cards often impart additional difficulties, or grant boons while traversing through them.
Three Judges, fresh out of Mega-City One.
During your turns, you switch between adding investigation cards to the encounter from your hand and the top of the encounter deck. During the “Dawn” phase of the game, the cards are placed in sequential order, noted by the numbers in the black shield in the lower left corner of the encounter cards. Once six total cards are placed, you must resolve each card in order, referring to the symbols on the cards. At the end of the “Dawn” phase, the party expends one ration, and moves to the “Dusk” phase.
What lies in wait for my Judges: Cliff, Toxic Grounds, Foreboding, Oh my!
During the “Dusk” phase, when cards are revealed in the encounter row, they may be placed at the beginning or end of the encounter row, ignoring all numbers on the cards. Play continues until all three judges are dead, or the criminals or Judges capture Max Normal.
My three Judges, about to succumb to unrelenting combat, radiation accumulation, and starvation.
A fun way to store the game’s many chits.
As for game components, I really enjoy the “Field Ration” chit tuck box that came with the game. The game box itself has a hinge and opens like a book, so the entire box is one piece, so nothing gets lost. The cards are a standard glossy matte finish, so they show fingerprints well, but they are oversized and showcase the art quite well. There are a wide array of different locations and zany encounters in the Cursed Earth, which really colors in the flavor of the setting well. The game mechanics are displayed on the cards in the form of a series of symbols, which are decoded in the book. The symbols are fairly intuitive once you get to know them, so props to the graphic designer.
The rule book itself has a cute little mini-comic in the beginning that sets up the game with a bit of world building, which I really enjoy. The front cover shows the contents of the box, and themselves outline different modes of play from 1-4 players.
The Cursed Earth has doomed this expedition.
This game is unrelenting in its difficulty, but tempered by its enjoyable art style and theme. I got a chance to try it out in 2 player mode with Adam Rose, before the lockdown, and we both agreed it was tough, maybe even too tough. Single player mode wasn’t any easier, with my Judges all dead within a few days out of Mega-City One. The game depicts the Cursed Earth as a perilous place, filled with dinosaurs, criminals, pre-apocalypse bunkers, giants, irradiated swamps, dust storms, volcanoes, and tornadoes.
I’d recommend this game for board game super-pros (obviously not me, based on my record in these reviews thus far!) or fans of Judge Dredd/2000 AD comics. I imagine The Cursed Earth’s steep difficulty curve can provide a fair amount of entertainment, if you’re willing to weather defeat, and put the work in to master this game. If you are interested in Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, you can find it here
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