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Friday, June 5, 2015

Xenoshyft Onslaught by CMON First Impressions

Our friend Rob Vilnave recently joined the team at CMON and sent me a little surprise! I received a box from CMON and thought "Oh--is this even more Zombicide I ordered at some point?" I was initially confused, but then pleasently surprised to see a cooperative deck builder centered around defending a base from bloodthirsty aliens. It was the first I'd ever heard of Xenoshyft Onslaught, but I was excited to try it out!

In XenoShyft Onslaught players take on the role of a commander in the NorTec Corporation. You're tasked with defending your division of the NorTec base as wave after wave of horrific aliens attempt to destroy the base and end NorTec's strip mining operation.

Here's a pretty cool video that just highlights the basic game play mechanics

The box! Having known nothing about the game, I definitely judged a book by its cover. Aliens meets Destiny meets Halo meets Starship Troopers? I'm intrigued. Oh! And did I mention it's cooperative? I'm definitely in!

There are two "boards" for the game. This mat shows marines that are able to be purchased by the players. Like other deck building games (Dominion, Thunderstone, Nightfall) players spend currency to add cards to their deck. Xenoshyft allows you to "trade in" spent currency from their discard pile for the next level up (i.e. you can trade in 3x 1s for 1x 3) which is a nice touch!

Along the left of the above board, you can see the wave tracker. The game lasts 9 rounds. The enemies get progressively harder, but better and better troops are available for purchase as well.
The second board features the 9 purchasable items that will be randomly generated before the game. Items range from weapons to armor to medical equipment, dropships, and more!

Finally, each player will have 2 "lanes" placed before them. One for enemies and one for their troopers. On the players' turn, they spend currency to deploy troops to their own lane which sort of acts as a meatgrinder funnel. Your troops move from right to left while enemy troops move from left to right where they meet in the grinder in the middle and fight to the death. When a troop or enemy dies, the whole line shifts to replace them. While this combat mechanic seems basic, lots of instant cards and equipment really need to be played at the right time such that some pretty interesting strategies start to develop.

The enemies, on the other hand, are face down until they're revealed. When revealed, many enemies have some nasty effect that will alter the battle. There are brain slugs that take over your troops, enemies who damage your guys out of order, and all kinds of other nastiness!

This might be a minor point for many of you, but it's huge for me. The game has wonderful internal storage!
The enemies have 3 different decks--one for each wave. The marines have their troop deck and item decks.

Here's an example of a solo game going on. You can see the items populated in the top right. The enemy lane is the red one to the left with 3 enemies face down. On the right are my troopers fighting for their life. To the right of them is the "base". Any excess damage each turn the enemies deal (if all of my guys are dead) goes to the base, and if the base reaches zero- it's game over!

The card on the bottom right represents what division I belong to. Each division has a few special bonuses- usually 2 freebie cards in their deck and a "once per turn" ability per phase. Medical, for example, gets 2 free medpacs and during wave I they can reduce the cost of one medical item by one.

As I went to explore the game mechanics I set up for "One quick solo game." Honestly, the game was a lot more fun than I expected. That isn't a knock! Deck builder games are usually sort of hit and miss for me--but I really found myself hooked. I played 5 more times solo in one sitting. It really has that "Come on, just one more time!" vibe going for it. Games take roughly half an hour, not including setup.

I've since played several times with a few more people and the result is always a great time! It's easy to learn, difficult to master. When you win, it's by the skin of your teeth, and when you lose, it's usually "If I had just one more card!".

The game isn't 100% perfect as sometimes card text is baffling. After some googling on Board Game Geek, all of my questions were answered, but the timing of some effects or when a card was and was not able to be played wasn't intuitive. I have not played with more than 2 people, so I am very curious how well the game scales--though I suspect it will work fine. You can play troops into other players' lanes, and use items on them, which makes the roles really interesting and far more important!

This is an excellent game! I plan to add it to my traveling repertoire for conventions since it's pretty easy to set up and teach. If you like cooperative games and/or deck-building games I advise you to give it a shot and see what you think!

Want to join the conversation? Please sound off in the comments below, or let us know on our forum!

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