Florian Sirieix's After Us could almost be roped in as part of the Planet of the Apes franchise. It's a game that's set after the extinction of the human race where Simians are rebuilding civilisation. It's an intriguing theme, made all the more interesting by Vincent Dutrait's fabulous artwork, but the theme is only a very thin veneer: you could imagine this game re-themed in any of a hundred different ways without in any way affecting game play.
In After Us, players are racing to be the first to score 80 points. All the cards in the game show icons representing the game's various resources and/or allowing resources to be swapped for other resources or points. Some of these icons will be in self-contained boxes but most will be in incomplete boxes that need to be completed by joining up with a card to the left or right.
The 1-6 players each start off with similar draw decks of eight Tamarin cards. You draw four and 'assemble your tribe' by arranging them in a line in any way you choose: you'll generate resources and sometimes points according to what's shown in your line-up of cards but you only score for completed boxes, so there's some juggling to do to optimise your haul. Once everyone has completed all the actions in their 'primate assembly', they select one of four ape species: Orangutans, Mandrills, Gorillas or Chimpanzees. You get a corresponding resource or action and you can spend specific resources to buy a card from that species and place it on top of your draw pile.
Alongside being a puzzle game, After Us then is a deck builder but unlike most deck builders, you don't know precisely what cards you are adding to your deck - only the category and so that card's emphasis. That's because the ape decks are all face down. Mandrills mostly allow players to swap resources for victory points; Orangutans mostly give your energy, which can be used to power up objects for their special effects; Gorillas give you rage, which allows you to cull cards - both to thin less powerful cards and to gain the bonus that cards give you when culled; and Chimpanzees give you the ability to activate boxes more than once.
One of the joys of After Us is that there's almost no downtime because everyone simultaneously draws their cards, builds their assembly and works through the array to take their resources. That makes for a brisk game. You're always focused on your own assembly so this game is a classic example of multiplayer solitaire; the only interaction is in the option players have to pay two resources to mimic the ape choices taken by the players to their immediate left and right. If your taste is for 'take that' games where you are attacking your neighbours, then this isn't the game for you: clearly the Simians who come After Us aren't duplicating human frailties and follies! Instead this is a game where you can concentrate on building your own resource and points-generating engine without worrying about neighbours tossing a spanner in the works.
The simultaneous play also means that player count doesn't materially extend the playing time. After Us is always satisfying to play and we've enjoyed it just as much maxed out at six players as we have with two; and our Board's Eye View plays have mostly run to no more than 40 minutes regardless of player count.
After Us is published by Catch Up Games and distributed in the UK by Hachette BoardGames.