Monday, November 23, 2015

XenoShyft: Onslaught

XENOSHYFT: ONSLAUGHT

by Cool Mini Or Not  &  Edge Entertainment

Published in 2015

XenoShyft: Onslaught is a strategic base defense -card game set in a grim sci-fi world where a hostile alien presence known as "the Hive" tries to overrun your base. The creatures get stronger and stronger as the onslaught progresses, but luckily the defenders are able to keep up as they also gradually gain access to more resources and better soldiers.

The game is identified as a deck-building game, but I find the deck-building element rather light.

Each player gets a 12-card deck of cards to begin with, and up to 6 cards are drawn into hand at the beginning of each round. However, in XenoShyft you place the new cards that you purchase directly into your hand, which means that you tend to have much more control over your hand of cards at any given time than in many other deck-builders.

The game is played over a series of rounds, but never more than nine of them (surviving nine rounds means victory). This means that the decks are usually re-shuffled only a couple of times during the game, which makes it difficult for me to categorize XenoShyft as a deck-building game.
But that doesn't have to be a bad thing... On the contrary, I think XenoShyft fills its own niche of strategic card games very well. 


So the game places you in a rather difficult situation: A swarm of monstrous creatures is poised to attack a human colony in a remote location, and it is up to 1-4 Division leaders to organize a defense.
The Divisions are chosen when setting the game up, and each of them give two extra cards to the starting decks of the players using them. Otherwise the starting decks would only have resources (Xenosathem-crystals) and a few weak militia-troopers in them.

The Divisions also grant special abilities that are unlocked as the game progresses.

My Division for this game is the Weapons Research.

This Division concentrates in keeping me supplied with weapons that I can give to my troops when I deploy them.

I begin the game with two MKII "Spark Jumper" assault rifles that can be used to make my troops execute important "fast attacks" against the enemies.

Each game has a selection of nine different items that are available for purchase. The Division-specific items are among these items, but otherwise they are randomly drawn. The items consist of weapons, armor, technology items and medical items.
There is a Division for each of the item types, and if you choose one of those Divisions, it often determines your item-type-of-choice for the game.

The enemies in XenoShyft come in various different forms - over 30 unique creatures. They are divided into three "Waves", and each wave is significantly more dangerous than the last.
In addition to numeric starts (Power and Health - the troops also have them), each unique creature also has a special ability that makes it more thematic.
The special abilities in creatures are perhaps the single most important factor to make XenoShyft as interesting as it is: A certain creature might be utterly deadly in some situations, but with the right troopers and items you may be able to render it nearly harmless. 
I'd also like to mention that XenoShyft: Onslaught was originally funded with a Kickstarter-campaign.
The copy I'm using here is one that has the Kickstarter-exclusive content with it - therefore some components shown here may not be included in retail versions of the game.

THE ONSLAUGHT BEGINS:

Round 1 - First wave begins:

I only have two militia troopers to begin with. I could hire a ranger or two, but I'll take my chances and spend the few resources I have to purchase some equipment for my militia: A "Vindicator" armor and a "Longshot" grenade launcher.
I also have one of my special assault rifles ready to be used.


The first group of the enemies reaches the perimeter and the combat begins. A nasty creature known as Leech engages the first soldier.
These Leeches are known to be rather weak to begin with, but they should be killed fast, since every human they kill only make them stronger.
The militia man uses his "Spark Jumper" to gain the upper hand and kills the creature before it gets to attack back.

The next creature to attack the point man is a regular Drone. Without the special advantage granted by the assault rifle, the trooper gets in close combat with the Drone - however, the "Vindicator" armor saves the man's life... for now.
The Drone is killed.

Then a Worm Host crawls up from the ground and attacks the first militia trooper.

Worm Hosts are Hive creatures that can convert their victims into zombies. The trooper dies, but at the very next moment he is seen to be standing on the other side of the battlefield, ready to throw himself at the remaining militia.

Worm hosts themselves are very fragile, and they usually are killed when they attack - that's also the case this time.
Also, the "Vindicator" armor that the trooper was wearing activated upon the attack: These armors are built with a system that deals damage to attacking enemies when their wearer dies. This time the damage is dealt to the next enemy in line, which is revelaed to be a Shieldswarm.

The Shieldswarm survives, moves behind the converted militia, and generates a protective swarm of insects around itself and the trooper.

The remaining militia faces his fallen friend in combat; they both die in the resulting skirmish.
The wounded Shieldswarm reaches the base and deals minor damage to it before it is stopped.


Round 2 - First wave continues:

Two more militia arrive, and I hire a Ranger to lead the defense. Additionally, I spend some resources to acquire a deadly Void Mine, which is then placed up front to greet the next monster that tries to cross the base perimeter.


And the next Hive creature to arrive is nothing less than one of the so-called "Boss"-creatures of the first Wave; The Overseer!

Given enough time, the Overseer would summon additional creatures as it plows through the base's defenses, but this time it's quickly blown to pieces when it encounters the Void Mine - truly, a lucky break!

After the explosion, it is the Ranger's turn to do what he can to stop as many enemies as possible. He is armed with a "Spark Jumper" -rifle, which he uses to shoot down a quickly moving Charger.
Then, another Drone appears and attacks him.
The Ranger manages to kill the Drone, but he is severely wounded in the combat.

Then, a new kind of enemy flies in to attack the troopers: A Gore Mosquito!

These monsters practice extreme vampirism. When they kill, they suck the dying body dry, bones and all... This strengthens the mosquito and makes it much harder to be killed for the next troopers.

In this case, the wounded Ranger, as well as the weak militia behind him were all too ineffective to stop the creature. The mosquito slaughtered the whole trio of them, and did not stop until it reached the base.

Luckily, the mosquito's attack is not very effective against the base...


Round 3 - First wave ends:

One Ranger and a trio of militia get into position to finish of the first wave. Two assault rifles are given to the soldiers, one for the Ranger and the other for one of the militia.
So far my defenses have not been holding very well, but luckily the base has suffered only minor damage.


The point man is attacked by another Worm Host and turned into a zombie. The Ranger steps up and fights against a Corpse Eater.

The Corpse Eaters are creatures that have a habit of fleeing when they are dealt enough damage... It has been observed that they consume dead bodies to keep their own damaged bodies battle-ready for yet another combat.
The Ranger gets slightly wounded before the Corpse Eater is deal enough damage and it does its disappearing act.

Next, the Ranger sees a Leech and kills it, almost dying himself as well. More enemies keep pouring in. Another Gore Mosquito attacks the troops, but this time the Ranger is ready with his assault rifle and kills the mosquito before it ever gets a chance to absorb anyone's life force.

The converted trooper is the next enemy in line, and it is here where the Ranger's watch ends... But the zombie is put down as well.

Only one enemy remains: The Corpse Eater that fled when the Ranger attacked it. The remaining two militia take the critter down for good.



One of the surviving troopers is promoted to a Hero!

He is now known as "The Lone Survivor".







The real onslaught begins now! The second wave brings forth enemies that are much more dangerous than anything I've seen so far, but my defenses will also become significantly more effective.


Round 4 - Second wave begins:

Another Void Mine is deployed, followed by the heroic trooper from the last round.
A regular militia and a newly hired Field Medic are also deployed, and everyone is given an advanced weapon (after all, as the head of the weapons research division, weapons are my specialty).


The first enemy of the second wave is yet another re-animated militia!
This time the reason behind the re-animation is a Brain Mantis. These little Hive creatures don't only bring men back from the dead to fight for the Hive, but they also grant the unfortunate victims enhanced strength and durability.

However, this converted troop walks right into the Void Mine and gets immediately destroyed. Let's hope the poor man stays dead this time.

Then the troops are showered with a volley of razor sharp quills, originating from a fearsome Quill Beast! The Lone Survivor takes the most of the attack, but the other soldiers behind him are also wounded. The weak militia would have died for this, if not for the Field Medic's expertise in treating wounds.

The Lone Survivor finishes the Beast off with his assault rifle before it could launch another volley of spikes.

The next enemy in line is a Flayer Centipede. The hero fights it bravely, but does not manage to kill it.
The Lone Survivor did not survive the second wave...

The hero had been given a "Vindicator" armor to make sure that when he dies, he goes out with a bang.

The armor uncovers a Prowler-creature that had been stalking in the shadows nearby. However - the blast only wounds the Prowler, and the next trooper in line is quickly killed off by the surprise attack of the vicious monster.

The Prowler retreats and takes its place behind the Flayer Centipede. A Field Medic is now the only one standing between the two monsters and the base, but the creatures are wounded and the Medic is wielding one of the "Spark Jumper"-assault rifles...
After a furious struggle, the Medic kills off both of the enemies, while also suffering lethal damage to himself.
He does not make it back to the base.


Round 5 - Second wave continues:

As the second wave continues, I only have one militia ready to fight back. I do have some Xenosathem to spend, however, so I hire another Field Medic and a Paratrooper to assist. I put the militia up front and arm him with a grenade launcher, while the Medic comes after him with an assault rifle.
The Paratrooper is not yet deployed... He can be dropped at any point during the combat.


Then, a Panic Spider attacks the militia. The Field Medic saves the trooper's life, but the spider's venom causes the victim to retreat.

The Paratrooper (armed with yet another "Spark Jumper") is deployed to kill the Spider.

Then an entity simply known as "Havoc" appears and destroys the Paratrooper.

The Havoc is also destroyed, but the next couple of Hive creatures will be driven into frenzy upon witnessing the Havoc's kill.






The militia trooper at the end of the defense line is suddenly attacked by a Shifter.
These enemies possess the ability to teleport, and they often choose the weakest troopers in line as their victims.
The militia is killed, but the grenade launcher that he uses is effective enough to prevent the Shifter from escaping its own death.

Once again a Field Medic is the last troop to stand. This time, however, he is completely taken by surprise:
A subterranean creature called Deathmaw bursts out from the ground and incapacitates the Medic before he even gets a chance to take aim with his assault rifle.
The Deathmaw reaches the base and attacks it before it's finally put down.

The base now has 2/3 left of its original durability.


Round 6 - Second wave ends:

As the second wave is drawing at its end, I deploy two militia-men with assault rifles. I also hire a Scout Sniper to offer some support for the militia. Right now my resources are quite limited, but I did manage to purchase an HPS "Rescue" armor to keep one of my soldiers alive a while longer. The "Rescue" armors can be sent out during the heat of battle to protect a trooper that has the most desperate need for it...


The rest of the wave-two enemies approach the base... Another Deathmaw pops up from the ground and takes out the first militia.
The Scout Sniper drives the Deathmaw away for now.

Then a Panic Spider attacks the second militia, causing him to flee behind the Sniper. The "Rescue" armor is sent out to stabilize the injured militia, who otherwise would have been killed by the spider's attack.

The spider then proceeds to kill the exposed Sniper, who only manages to damage the spider, but not to kill it...


The beginning of the this round has been disastrous!

All enemies still alive, and only one militia left to defend the base...




The militia finishes off the Panic Spider, but is unable to stop the rest of the second wave to attack the base!

Three creatures attack the base, but luckily none of them had an attack that would pose a serious threat to the base...

The base endures...




But then the third and final wave begins! Now the base is in such a bad shape that pretty much any one of the powerful wave-three creatures will be enough to destroy the base, should they get through my defenses.



But all is not lost.
During this last wave I will have the suit-wearing super soldiers at my disposal!





Round 7 - Third wave begins:

The trooper leading the defenses for this round will be a soldier wearing a Tesla "Volt Crasher" Arc-Suit. This suit offers great protection to its wearer, and it is capable of reflecting much of the damage it suffers back to the attacking enemies. I also have a Field Medic right behind the Arc-Suit, and a Paratrooper with an assault rifle ready to be deployed when needed.
A Void Mine is once again placed up front.


The first enemy approaches the defending troops from behind. A Deathspur! These shadowy creatures use advanced surprise tactics to get right past most defending units. This time it tries to attacks the Field Medic, but the Paratrooper is dropped in to handle the situation.
My own surprise attack was used to counter a surprise attack from the enemy... So far, so good.

The next creature is a Neurosting Scorpion - the most advanced Hive creature from the ones that use the 're-animating the dead troops' -tactic.

Unlike other similar enemies, the Neurosting Scorpion stays behind the enemy lines and re-animates each trooper that is killed while it is alive... Just one of these scorpions can turn the tide of the whole battle - I need to tread very carefully from now on.

The "Volt Crasher" suit gets ready to face the next enemy, which is a Bile Slug.
The Bile Slugs are extremely dangerous, for their attacks destroy everything they attack at, no matter how strong the target it.

The monster charges forward (triggering the Void Mine that weakens it), and attacks the suit and obliterates it, but not before the suit gets a chance to finish the creature off.
The Arc-Suit reflects some of the Bile Slug's attack force back at the next enemy in line - a Hydra.

The Neurosting Scorpion lurking behind the Hydra fails to make a zombie out of the Arc-Suit, because the Bile Slug's attack doesn't leave anything behind... At least that's good.


The Hydra engages the Field Medic, but the Medic fights it off using his "Spark Jumper".

The Neurosting Scorpion is now exposed, and so far nobody has been turned into a zombie.



Unfortunately, the Medic has to face the scorpion without the assault rifle, and us such, he is not strong enough to overpower it...
The Medic is turned into an enemy unit, and takes his place in the enemy ranks.

The only trooper left to defend the base is the Paratrooper that took out the Deathspur. He is able to kill the scorpion, but then the rest of the enemies march through...


The base gets overrun and I lose.


CONCLUSION:

7 out of 9 rounds, that's a pretty basic outcome. This time I had troubles from the very beginning, but the game has been designed so that the first wave enemies usually can't deal too much damage to the base, even if a couple of them get through. The same can't be said about the third wave: The base only has 15 health per player, and the third wave enemies tend to deal an average of 5-6 damage. Big failures like the one I experienced on my last round in this game usually end the game.

This playthrough was missing quite a lot:
I didn't use any medical items, and the only technology item I used was the Void Mine. That's mostly because of my Division, the Weapons Research, which encourages the player to invest in weapons. This is the problem with single deck XenoShyft-experiences; many (or even most) of the item cards in offer may be left untouched, making the game a bit one-sided. If I'd been playing with two decks I probably would have used the "instant" items as well, and that would have given me more strategic options to choose from, and led to a more interesting write-up.

XenoShyft: Onslaught is a relatively simple game to learn and to play. Some cards may cause situations that are less than unambiguous, but for the most part the game goes smoothly enough by just following the instructions on the cards. The multitude of different creatures offers nice surprises, and the 24 different items make it possible to use many different strategies to overcome them (although some strategies are simply better than others, given that a specific set of items is available).

The artwork in the cards of XenoShyft is nice enough; dark and thematic.
As for the other components, the playmat that can be seen in this review may not be a part of the retail version of the game. The amount of health tokens provided with the game is sometimes not enough, while the number of blue "ability tokens" is much more than what I have ever needed to use (in a solo game).
The "hero"-toopers are Kickstarter exclusive.

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING: 7+ /10

XenoShyft works quite well in solo, especially if you're up for playing with two separate decks. Playing with just one deck makes for a quicker game (about an hour).

Like I wrote earlier, I don't think XenoShyft: Onslaught is much of a deck-builder... But it is a nice, strategic card game with a strong theme, and it's definitely worth checking out for those interested to try a "base defense" -card game.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

XCOM: The Board Game

XCOM: THE BOARD GAME

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2015

XCOM: The Board Game is something that pretty much explains itself with the title. Being a very successful video game franchise, I'm sure that most gamers have heard of X-COM and know what to expect from this game - an alien invasion.

While I haven't played the new XCOM series myself (after which this board game is designed), some of the older X-COM games are very well known to me. The theme intrigued me, and I knew that Fantasy Flight Games could probably pull this kind of a game off with style - so this game was a must for me.

So what we got here is a board game where Earth is under attack by an alien menace. An organization called XCOM is mankind's best hope to fight back and defeat the attackers. The players assume roles of the four XCOM leaders, each of whom have their own responsibilities in running the organization.
The game is played on a global scale, so the board depicts the whole world.


XCOM: The Board Game requires a digital companion application - playing the game without it is not possible. This is a thing that will probably drive away some board gamers, and I can't blame them. I guess XCOM: The Board Game is more like a hybrid between a board game and a video game.
But the truth is, the app does open up some new doors. There are 5 different invasion plans that the aliens might be using, but even when playing with a plan that you just used, their actions are always unpredictable and every game is unique.

Another major thing coming with the app is a strong real-time aspect that the game has. Each game round begins with a timed phase, where the app dictates how the invasion force behaves. But in between these instructions, the app also gives the players short time windows for reacting and making decisions based on the events that are taking place on the game board.
The players need to cooperate and make quick decisions on the fly, and often the time runs out before all possible consequences can be taken into account...

Basically, the timed phase is a cooperative resource management experience under pressure. If that doesn't sound like something you would enjoy, then this game is probably not for you.

Between timed phases the players dive into somewhat more conventional board gaming experience, where dice are rolled, (more) cards are played, and the game takes on sort of a press-your-luck mechanic.

Well, how to fight back against an overwhelming alien threat?
Each player has a few assets that they begin with, related to the role that they are playing.

Commander handles the flow of credits and commands interceptors - XCOM's aerial defense.

Squad Leader has specialized soldiers that carry out important missions and defend the XCOM base against ground assaults.

Central Officer dispatches satellites for orbital defense, as well as for some logistical actions. Also the CO is tasked for handling the app...

Chief Scientist is the one that makes sure that these few assets are not the only help that the players have at their disposal. This role takes care of research, which is a vital part of the game. New technologies give the players new abilities that will be imperative for surviving the game.

The starting assets are otherwise the same in every game, but one is different based on the location of the XCOM base. In this game, the base is located in North America. This allows the commander to build some interceptors for free, but if I let the panic in North America to increase too much, I will lose this asset...


THE INVASION BEGINS:

January:

The aliens have located the XCOM base in North America, and the invasion begins! A dangerous Sectoid Commander attacks the base.


Three UFOs also appear to the skies of North America, looking to cause panic and destruction!

There are reports of a solitary UFO over South America as well.
Muton Elite joins the Sectoid in the assault against the XCOM base.

The Squad Leader sends out some troops. Reports tell of another site nearby with some alien ground activity... An Assault trooper, a Sniper and a Heavy trooper are sent to investigate.

More UFOs appear all over the world, but the Central Officer deploys his satellites to lure most of them to North America. The Commander dispatches three interceptors to meet the UFOs there.
Some UFOs remain on the orbit, but three satellites are there ready to engage them.

A third enemy, Muton, attacks the base. Only two soldiers are available to defend the base...

Other two are sent out for a special mission with a Skyranger transport aircraft. Three are on another mission and one is taking part in the officer training program.
The XCOM scientists are working hard to come up with new technology. They make a breakthrough with plasma weapons:
High precision Plasma Cannons are now ready to be fitted into interceptors - while useless against UFOs, these cannons can be used to destroy alien
ground units very efficiently.
The orbit is cleared of UFOs, but the satellites sent there are also disabled.

A furious battle takes place in the skies of North America. Two UFOs are destroyed, but so are all of the interceptors sent there.
The remaining UFOs cause destruction all over the continent, disabling many of its aerial facilities.

Meanwhile, inside the XCOM base, the two defenders kill off the lesser Muton, but are then killed themselves by the remaining aliens.
The attackers cause some damage to the base until finally the base's defensive systems manage to get rid of the creatures.

At the end of a somewhat disastrous month, some good news are delivered by the team sent to investigate the alien assault site.

With the support of two interceptors - armed with the new Plasma Cannons - the squad resolves the mission and considerably eases the panic in North America.

Also, two of the UFOs that survived the aerial combat are shot down from the ground.

The first month is over, and Credits are draining fast... XCOM has some emergency funds hidden away, but most of them were used during the first month.



February:

More UFOs are sighted over North America. Two are also spotted in Asia.

The Squad Leader sends two soldiers to Africa, to carry out an Asset Recovery -mission. Only one lesser Sectoid has been detected on the area, so the two soldiers are expected to be able to handle the situation there...

A bizarre alien creature known as Ethereal attacks the base.

More UFOs are sighted in North America, and the Commander sends out another team of three interceptors to fight them.

The Satellite Nexus is once again used to draw UFOs away from the other continents, though one is left in South America.
The Central Officer only has a limited supply of satellites with which the UFOs can be lured away from their initial targets.

The Chief Scientist and his team comes up with new technology. An Arc Thrower for the ground troopers to stun and disable aliens, and a "Firestorm" interceptor to support ordinary interceptors in aerial combat.

Orbital combat continues with a fresh trio of satellites. The satellites are destroyed again, but most of the UFOs on the orbit are also blown to bits. One remains.

Fight for the North American skies also continue, but this time XCOM is victorious. Though two interceptors are shot down, all of the UFOs are defeated.
The UFO over South America faces no opposition, and proceeds to attack targets there, causing slight panic.

One on one fight rages in the XCOM base. The Ethereal is met by an elite Support trooper, who just returned from his officer training.

Once the Ethereal begins to gain upper hand, interceptors with Plasma Cannons show up to blast the alien away. No need to play fair when the future of the whole humanity is at stake...
The trooper survives.

In Africa, at the Asset Recovery site, the Sectoid is killed, but so is one of the soldiers. The other soldier stands down to wait for reinforcements.

The second month into the invasion ends, and the emergency funds are now completely drained.
A few new soldiers are recruited, and an elite Sniper comes back from the officer training facility.



March:


Multiple UFOs appear all around the world! The attack plan of the aliens - named by the XCOM officers simply as "Occupation" -  begins to pick up pace and the time is running out for humanity...
Once again, three interceptors are sent to defend the airspace around the XCOM base and the whole North America, but the number of UFOs is increasing rapidly, and soon there will be too many for the small fleet of interceptors to handle.

The elite Support trooper is sent to Africa as a reinforcement for the agent already there. The resources are currently spread thin all across the world, and the Squad Leader decides that no more can be invested in this mission.
Still, a budget deficit causes further panic in North America... The main interceptor assembly facility is shut down.

But budget deficit or not, all the laboratories inside the XCOM base are hard at work.

The scientists there are using killed aliens and salvaged alien technology to speed up their research. They are looking for means to generate more resources, and find Elerium - the 115th element. It will provide additional power for XCOM, and power equals resources.

Also, the scientists now promise that any alien salvage material can be turned to Credits.

Orbital and aerial combat continues. The orbit is cleared, but many UFOs lower in the atmosphere survive and cause panic and destruction all around the world - most noticeably in North America.
No interceptors are destroyed, however. Maybe, as the invasion progresses, the pilots are learning to outmaneuver the UFOs better...

An Ethereal attacks the base again, but this time the base defenses are ready: A Support trooper disables the creature with an Arc Thrower, after which the elite Sniper and two interceptors with Plasma Cannons quickly destroy it.

The mission in Africa is completed, and the two soldiers return to the base with additional resources. This, combined to the new technologies, will greatly improve the otherwise poor economical situation of XCOM.



April:

UFOs continue to appear, this time mostly over Asia and Australia. The Central Officer uses the Satellite Nexus to move some of the UFOs around, but the shortage of operational satellites poses a problem again.

The aliens are abducting people in North America. The Squad Leader and the Commander give this new phenomenon a high priority and decide to send a reasonably strong team of soldiers to take care of it.
Two of these soldiers are Elite. So far the Squad Leader has managed to keep all of his Elite troopers alive.
A third elite, the Support soldier, is once again assigned to the task of defending the base.

With the new resources, this month XCOM actually comes up with a slight budget surplus, which is used to build some new interceptors to replace the ones shot down.

The research for new technology is slowing down, but a Blaster Launcher is developed. This heavy weapon will increase the firepower of Heavy troopers.

The orbital defense is a success, once again, but the aerial units suffer a dramatic loss. All interceptors are shot down by the rampaging UFOs, and North America succumbs to total chaos!

Asia and Australia are also panicking, which will affect negatively to the next month's budget... XCOM is running out of time...
A single Muton attacks the base, but the defending elite trooper easily kills it. This is very good, since the remaining interceptors with Plasma Cannons are currently at the Abduction mission site.

The Alien Abduction -mission is accomplished, but not without losses. The elite sniper is killed by an Ethereal, and a Support trooper is also lost at the site. The remaining elite Assault soldier is saved by a Revive kit, and he completes the mission with the support of Plasma Cannon fire from interceptors.
Two soldiers had been abducted by the aliens - they were rescued and recruited to XCOM.
The successful completion of this mission also brings North America back from the state of total chaos.



May:

The situation is getting unbearable!

Countless UFOs are attacking all continents of the Earth, and XCOM only has a few interceptors to send against them.

One is sent to Australia and two to Asia.
Since all resources need to be used in orbital and global defense, all research has stopped inside the XCOM base.

But there is still hope.
The combined efforts of all XCOM departments have located the heart of the alien activity. A successful assault there could end the invasion and drive the UFO fleets away.

A squad consisting of the best XCOM soldiers is sent to attempt the Final Mission... They must succeed - the defense forces can't hold the invasion back for another month.

But are they able to hold long enough to allow the assault squad to even reach their destination in time? Very soon it will be too late and the aliens will not call the invasion off even if the Final Mission succeeds...

All around the Earth, battles are fought for the survival of mankind. Orbital defense holds, but below the interceptors are hopelessly outnumbered. Each one of them is destroyed, and while they do take some UFOs with them, North America and Australia fall into total chaos.

The XCOM base is attacked by a Sectoid Commander. The two soldiers assigned to defend the base kill the creature, paying for it with their own lives.


But in the end, it's too late. With two continents in chaos, and the air supremacy lost to the invading aliens, it is discovered that nothing can save humanity anymore. XCOM fought valiantly, and got close, but this is where it ends.
The so-called Final Mission can't change the outcome anymore...


The Earth was invaded in five months.


CONCLUSION:

A close one. If I had managed to bring down a few more UFOs from Australia and Asia, there would have only been one continent (North America) lost, and this would have allowed me to at least try the Final Mission. I think I made some bad decisions with my resource management, and I also experienced a couple of really bad rolls with the dice.
Still, a nice game that was interesting to the very end.

XCOM: The Board Game is worthy of its title, I believe.
I'd say that FFG very elegantly crams in all the necessary things to make for a strong alien invasion experience, and the companion app offers some nice new tricks and mechanics. The game is very strategic, and the limited time for decision making adds a lot to the theme: The Aliens are doing the best they can to destroy you, they're not about to grant you all the time you need to carefully weigh your options...

The quality of the game is every bit as good as you'd expect from Fantasy Flight Games. The soldier miniatures are very nice, and the artwork of the game is very sci-fi. Interestingly, the tech cards (a very important part of the game) have pictures that seem like blueprints of the different technologies, rather than the actual devices that they represent.

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING:  8- /10

As a solo game, XCOM can be a handful... When the application is set to the '1 Player' mode, it gives you a little more time to make your decisions, but you are still up for a wild ride.

I personally like the rush and the pressure, but it's not for everyone. And I can admit that there are times when I simply don't want to play this game, because I'm not feeling up to it. It takes maybe about 45-60 minutes to complete the game, and afterwards I usually feel genuinely tired, as if I had just participated in a reasonably demanding math exam, or something like that.

So XCOM: The Board Game definitely works as a solo game, but it works even better with more players. After all, the game does offer the four very distinctive roles, and this gives an exceptionally strong cooperative feeling to the game.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game (English)

SPACE HULK: DEATH ANGEL - THE CARD GAME

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2010

I finally went ahead and got myself the original English version of this cool and challenging card game!

I already introduced this game in my blog some three years ago, but now - repetitive though it may be - I'm writing another story from the cramped corridors of the Space Hulk.


For a quick recap, Space Hulk: Death Angel is a light spinoff card game from the massive Space Hulk -board game.
Death Angel features a small squad of Space Marine Terminators on board of a Space Hulk called the 'Sin of Damnation'. The Space Hulk is overrun by Genestealers, and the Marines' mission is to push through a few different locations in order to reach their destination. Upon reaching their final location, the Marines have to complete the mission by doing a specific task.


Last time the mission was accomplished when my squad of Marines destroyed two Genestealer Brood Lords in their lair.

Now I have a new squad of 6 Space Marines, divided into three combat teams: Blue team, Red team and Grey team.

The Blue team consists of the squad leader Sergeant Lorenzo and his team mate Brother Deino. Lorenzo and Deino lead by example, inspiring the others to perform as best as they can in the cramped passageways of the Space Hulk.
Lorenzo also wields a power sword with which he can deliver deadly counter attacks to attacking xenos.

Brother Leon and Brother Valencio form the Red team. Eventhough Leon carries an assault cannon with unmatched firepower, both members of the Red team are also known to be very mobile warriors who are experts at using the terrain to their advantage.

The Grey team is formed by Lexicanium Calistarius, the squad Librarian, and his battle Brother Scipio.
The Grey team is stealthy and cautious, but when the combat begins, Calistarius can use his psionic powers to quickly tear apart large numbers of enemies.

The mission is just about ready to begin, but first I'm going to mention that nowdays I use a "Location Substitutions" -chart, which is an unofficial add-on for Death Angel made by a boardgamegeek.com user "haslo".
This simple and clever chart allows a player to use all of the location cards no matter how many Space Marines are in the squad. In the official rules many of the location cards would never be used when playing with only 6 Space Marines, and I find that a bit dull.
This chart can easily be found in the Files-section of the Death Angel's BGG.com page.

THE MISSION BEGINS:

The boarding torpedo docks the void lock and the squad rushes out.
Brother Scipio takes the point, followed by his team mate Lexicanium Calistarius. Two Genestealers approach from the door to Scipio's left.
The other teams follow, Brother Leon coming in last and readying his assault cannon towards the nearest ventilation duct.

The Grey team attacks the two Genestealers and kills one of them, but the other one gets close and attacks Scipio.

Genestealers are extremely dangerous xenos, and not even the thick Tactical Dreadnought Armour is enough to keep Brother Scipio alive; the squad suffers its first casualty right away!

Another Genestealer appears from the ventilation duct, but Leon easily destroys it.

After a short while, two more xenos come through the door and another pair crawls out from the ventilation duct. The monsters begin to circle around Brother Valencio...

After the rough start, the squad re-organizes and takes a more defensive approach:

Calistarius deploys a power field around the three Genestealers stalking the squad from the left - effectively locking them in place.

Valencio moves to secure the door and Sergeant Lorenzo manages to intimitade the rest of the Genestealers away - for now.

Leon turns around and trains his cannon towards the swarm held in place by Calistarius' power field.

An opportunity arises to leave the void lock and travel ahead.

The squad arrives to the main corridor. This corridor is well lit, but infested by a large number of Genestealers. Three appear to the right side of the squad.

The other three on the left side are still trapped in the power field.

The Lexicanium disperses his power field and Leon opens fire. Two of the three Genestealers are slain with the help of Brother Deino's support. Deino also kills another xeno that was engaged in a close combat with him.

One Genestealer attacks Lorenzo, and another one attacks Valencio... Both attacks come from behind of the defending Marines, but the attacks are unsuccessful and the squad suffers no more casualties.
The Genestealers often try to sneak behing the Marines, as it is considerably harder for them to defend in such situations.

Two more xenos appear from a dark corner at the right side of the formation, and another two from a door right next to Leon.
Leon is currently reloading his assault cannon and cannot attack...

Calistarius is the first one to meet the two Genestealers that try to attack the squad from behind the dark corner.

Both of the creatures are ripped apart by Calistarius' psionic powers!



The rest of the squad members re-arrange their formation and take better positions against the Genestealers that are now attacking from multiple different locations.
Brother Deino takes Leon's place at the door and scares away the two creatures from there.

Lorenzo and Valencio are attacked again, but this time the two are prepared and they easily fend off the attacking xenos.



More Genestealers crawl out from the ventilation duct, but Brother Leon has now reloaded his assault cannon. He and Valencio slay two of the monsters, but a few still remains...

Lexicanium Calistarius uses his stealth tactics to clear the route out from the main corridor. Only a few Genestealers remain between the formation and the next location.

Sergeant Lorenzo, trying to lead the squad forward, gets attacked by two Genestealers. He kills one of them with his power sword, but the other one gets past his defenses...
The squad leader goes down and the formation is now only four Terminators long.



Brother Valencio takes Lorenzo's place at the point of the formation and uses a special one-use flame attack to incinerate the rest of the Genestealers.







Valencio then leads the formation out from the main corridor and into a wreckage labyrinth of some sort. This new location is very disorienting, and the Marines immediately lose their bearings. Luckily there are no Genestealers present at the moment.

Brother Valencio finds himself in a very precarious spot; an ominous ventilation duct to his left and a volatile Promethium tank on his right side.


The back of the formation can't see any especially threatening terrains, but it would be an excellent idea to leave this labyrinth behind as quickly as possible.


It's quiet for a while. The squad uses the downtime to re-arrange their formation and to reload their weapons.
Brother Leon secures the door.

The hidden Genestealers in the labyrinth begin to draw closer, but only two make themselves seen. One appears directly behind Brother Leon.
These two Genestealers never get to attack anyone, though, as Calistarius is ready with his psionic attack... The Genestealers are destroyed.

But now more begins to appear. Two xenos appear from both sides of the formation.


Leon, Valencio and Deino open fire! Calistarius uses his stealth tactics once more to simultaneously lead the formation onward. The wreckage labyrinth is quickly left behind, and all of the Genestealers currently in sight are destroyed.

The formation arrives in the last location:
The toxin pumping station.

This is where the mission objective can be resolved. Reports show that there are a total of 14 Genestealers in this facility, and the objective is to kill them all. No more traveling forward or stalling, this is where the final fight will happen!

The squad notices that some of the machinery in the room could be used to flush out the Genestealers that are hiding in the pipes...

Some Genestealers show themselves and attack the Marines. Valencio fends off one xeno's attack, while Deino uses his intimidation to scare off the rest. Deino also tries to operate the control panel in the room, but doesn't manage to power up the machinery.

Lexicanium Calistarius attempts to attack the Genestealer fighting with Brother Valencio, but the creature is out of the psionic attack's range.


More xenos appear to the right, but Brother Leon is ready with his assault cannon.

Three enemies are obliterated by Leon's firepower.







Valencio continues his struggle with the lone Genestealer up front, but neither one manages to kill the other one.
Calistarius switches places with Deino and figures out the usage of the control panel. Four xenos are destroyed by the highly toxic materials in the facility - the right side of the formation is now cleared of the enemies.
Calistarius' stealth tactics also help him to destroy one hidden xeno from the left.

But then three more appear from the left, all the while Leon, Valencio and Deino are still reloading their weapons...
Calistarius' psionic attack is ready, but he is still facing the control panel and doesn't notice what's happening behind him.

Valencio and Leon are attacked, but the Red team won't give in. Deino takes Calistarius' place at the control panel and destroys one of the remaining Genestealers from the left side of the facility.

Calistarius is unable to attack the two Genestealers directly behind him, but he does manage to create a power field around the creatures and tie them in place.

Each one of the four remaining Marines attack!

Three xenos are destroyed, leaving only one left to attack Brother Leon. Leon blocks the attack.



One more Genestealer appears behind Brother Valencio. This one is the 14th, so the mission is very close to completion... only these two remain.

But the Marines need to reload and recharge their powers... The Genestealer next to Brother Valencio finally gets through the point man's defenses and kills him! The squad is down to three members.

The other xeno attacks Valencio's team parter Leon, but he manages to fight the enemy off, though only with great difficulties.

Calistarius uses his quick instincts and makes a surprise attack at the two remaining enemies.
One is killed.

And now all the remaining Marines have directed their weapons towards the last surviving Genestealer.
They all attack simultaneously, and the enemy has no chances of survival...
The toxin pumping station is cleared of all threats and the mission is successful - with a meagre 50% mortality rate within the Terminator Squad!

CONCLUSION:

Another victory!
I have written that Space Hulk: Death Angel is a very challenging game, and I usually do lose when I play it... But this time I scored a nice victory.

The beginning of this run demonstrated the brutality of this game: The first Marine died literally during the very first game round! And that's not even an especially rare thing to happen - the mighty Space Marines are very vulnerable in Death Angel. In fact, I gave some numbers about the death possibilities of the Marines in my first Death Angel -review, and they explain why each and every attack made by the Genestealers is too much.

Otherwise this game went rather well. I had the Grey team with me, which might be the best team in the game... Calistarius' psionic attack can be devastating, but their Support- and Move and Activate -cards are very useful as well. Looking for attack power only, Zael's flamer or Claudio's charge (from the last review) are usually better, but the Grey team works extremely well with all of their cards.

Well, so much for that! Check my previous Death Angel -review if you want to read more about this cool little game.