Judge Dredd The Curse Earth is a tabletop card game by Osprey Games. Cursed Earth is based on their The Lost Expedition game engine and uses the famous Judge characters from 2000AD as its focus. The original game design was by Peer Sylvester and the cards in Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth feature art by veteran 2000AD artists, Rufus Dayglo and Dan Cornwell.
Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth has three modes of play, but the narrative is the same across all three. Three Judges are racing against three perps to find Max Normal, the carrier of a virus who has fled into the irradiated wasteland of the Cursed Earth. In co-op mode, 2, 3 or 4 players take on the role of the team of Judges, they act as a team and each player doesn't represent an individual Judge. They try to beat the perps to the end, whilst battling against the perils of the wasteland. In Solo mode, the task is the same with some slight modifications to the draw mechanic. In VS mode, one player takes on the role of the Judges, the other the Perps and they battle head to head along different routes of challenges.
In Cursed Earth, the goal is to get to Max Normal first. The Max Normal card is shuffled into a deck of Location Cards, which have to be worked through to get to him. If the Perps are under AI control, they advance to the next location at the end of the round. The Judges can only advance through card text throughout the game. In a normal game, there are 10 Location Cards plus the Max Normal card. Max is shuffled into the last 2 Location Cards, so a game will be between 9 and 11 Location cards.
There are three character cards each for the Judges and the Perps and each faction has one of each specialism type, Survival, Diplomacy and PSI. These types are just to control which Exploration cards affect each character, and the cards don't have any physical stats themselves, other than their artwork.
A game round is divided into two phases, the Dawn and Dusk phase. Players draw a number of Encounter Cards into their hands, and these are played onto the table during the phases. During the Dawn phase, once the cards cards are placed they are positioned into number order (the number in the black Judge shield on the card) and during the Dusk phase, cards are placed in the order they are played and remain that way.
The Encounter Cards have a number of challenges to meet on them and the different coloured boxes represent different levels of requirement. Yellow boxes represent compulsory actions, Red are choices and only one of the boxes is actioned, Blue are optional. Each box has a number of symbols that must be dealt with in order from left to right.
Examples of Encounter Cards are the Helltrek Breakdown, which players can either gain a Diplomacy expertise that can be spent at a later time and the Perps will advance, or they can spend a Survival expertise. This card represents the Judges stopping to help out those in need, slowing their advance, or having to battle the wilderness. Another example is the Abandoned Bunker, where players can either spend a Survival expertise and advance to the next location card, or they can gain an Ammunition or a Ration.
In Solo and Co-op mode, Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth is hard. The odds are against your team from the start and a poor draw of cards can make winning impossible, there is sometimes no option to win. But the games are quick enough that you can smash straight back into it and have another go. On average, players are going to be dealing with a lot of the deck before they get to Max Normal, so every choice matters and not taking the advance option can really hamper the team's chances at winning.
Games can be made easier by removing Location Cards at the start of the game. The Cadet difficulty level for your first few games suggests removing 3 (rather than 2) to make a 10 card deck, meaning that it will be 8 to 10 Location cards long, but it's up to you if you want to remove more (or add more if you're feeling particularly Dredd-like).
The VS mode is just as brutal, but there's always a winner, usually the player who didn't lose as much. VS mode is where we've had the most fun with Cursed Earth, with both players able to mock the other or cry when their luck changes. It's great that the game does provide such solid solo, co-op and VS modes and it works well in all three, even if it is difficult at times.
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If you enjoy challenging games, then this is for you. If you're a fan of Dredd and the worlds of 2000AD, then there's a huge amount of flavour in Cursed Earth, and some great nods to other parts of the universe. Expanding the game should be relatively straight-forward with the addition of new cards (for which some promo cards are already available) and the game box can carry twice as many cards as you get. The components are great, most of which are the incredible art cards used throughout play, but the addition of the Justice Department Field Ration Box for storing the tokens is inspired.
The Bottom Line:
Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth is a challenging game, and if you don't mind that, then this is for you. If you like to always win then you may have issues. Either way, if you're a fan of Judge Dredd or 2000AD, then there's a lot to love here, even beyond the artwork. Osprey have done a great job of making Cursed Earth feel like Dredd, especially if you want to explore an environment away from the Mega Cities. The artwork is fantastic and the box is the perfect size for a travel game. The game works well in all three of it's modes, meaning it's a great game to have around, as it can meet the solo player's needs, just as well as a group's.
Get this game if:
You're a Judge Dredd or 2000AD fan and you love the artwork.
You want a game that works solo, as well as cooperatively or VS.
You love challenging games.
Avoid this game if:
You don't like challenging games.
You always like to win.
This copy of Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth was provided by Asmodee UK / Osprey Games.
Are you a Judge Dredd fan? What do you think of the artwork? Have you played Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth or The Lost Exploration? Have you played both? What do you think about games offereing different modes of play for different player numbers? How do you feel about games with high difficulty ratings? Let us know in the comments below.
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