Some ideas are pure genius. Herschel Hoffmeyer hit gold while he was sipping his coffee and absent-mindedly fidgeted with a plastic dino toy: "What if there was a game in which You are the dino? A card game. A deck building game. A game where various dinosaur species fight and eat each other until an asteroid hits Earth and they go extinct?" Excitedly, he gulped down the rest of his beverage, kissed the plastic toy, and grabbed pen and paper. Apex Theropod was thus born.
Of course I made the above scene up, but really, what a cool idea. As for the execution, it may not be the best deck building game out there, but it certainly is one of the best. Especially for solo.
I was lucky enough to be alert when the long-out of print and going for crazy prices in the secondary market Apex Theropod was revived by Outland Entertainment. And not just revived, but also published in a Collected Edition including every expansion released for it. In the case of many other games, expansions are unnecessary but not in this one. Apex shines through the variety of the dinosaurs, it's great to be able to choose a different boss and a different player species each time, and explore the combinations. The Kickstarter gave us the chance to deluxify it with neoprene mats, and indeed they are nice to have.
I won't bother you with rules explanations, it mostly follows the typical deck building structure: you start with a basic deck consisting of hatchlings, one juvenile and a single egg, plus some tasty carcasses that work as money. As the game goes by, you will send your dinos to hunt prey and use the victims as extra currency with which to buy Evolve cards and stronger dinosaurs for your deck. At the start of each turn, an Event takes effect; sometimes beneficial but often destructive. This is also the timer in the game: the penultimate card is an asteroid and the last one Extinction. If you haven't defeated the Boss before the bitter end, you lose.
I have so far faced six Bosses, and have a few more left, but I decided to pack the game up temporarily so as not to burn out on it. I tend to get hooked on card games and play them from start to finish, and Apex is quite addictive. Sessions are fast, so you can easily play two or more back-to-back. Even though there is a fair amount of randomness pretty much in every aspect of the game - because of shuffling your personal deck, getting a different mix of Events, luck of the draw in the Apex and the Afflictions deck, and sometimes in the win condition of the Boss - be prepared to suffer some losses.
This is not to say that you don't have any control, however. You do decide what Evolve cards to boost your deck with, which dinosaurs to place in the Ambush spot and when, which prey to hunt, so you probably won't feel frustrated. For me, this was a 2021 highlight, although I still like Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game a bit more. If you prefer to not shuffle, then Aeon's End is obviously the way to go (unfortunately I didn't enjoy it). Otherwise, if you like deck building games, this one is a must-play. Grab a copy before it goes extinct again.