Monday, November 23, 2015

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.


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.


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


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.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome review! I just discovered your blog and it is wonderful! I recently got into solo board gaming as I have been wanting to get into board games for years, but there are not many people around here who are into them. This blog as really helped me find some really great games. Thanks for all of your posts!