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Subject: Xenon Profiteer: The Lando Calrissian deck building game. rss

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Scott Sexton
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I'd wager that most kids, when they watch Empire Strikes back, they dream of being Lando Calrissian. I mean, whats not to love? He runs a respectable tibanna gas mining operation in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. His operation is too small to draw Imperial attention, but profitable enough to fund the high roller lifestyle he enjoys. Seriously, whats not to love?

In Xenon Profiteer, you get to live that dream without fear of any sith lords showing up to crimp your style.

Elevator Pitch: Xenon Profiteer (XP) is a deck building game where players use the mechanical tropes of the deck building genre to imitate the distillation process. Players who can master the game's distillation mechanism will score points for modifying their distillery and for isolating Xenon to complete lucrative contracts.

Do yourself a favor, go watch a video about how to play this game. It is tricky to describe in words alone, so I won't even try.

Back? Good.

Here is what works:

1- Innovation. This game plays and feels like a classic deck building game but rather than resorting to the "buy/discard/repeat" formula adopted by most deck builders, the rhythm adopted by XP feels more like this: thin out your deck's garbage cards/score points/build up new cards that may or may not improve your deck's efficiency/clog up your thinned out deck and repeat. XP represents a shift in design theory for deck building games that is wonderfully new and creative.

2- Streamlined. This is a game that hums along like a finely tuned engine, even if you aren't making the best decisions. Every turn, players will feel like they are doing something to make their engine work better. Players have many choices to make, and all of them feel like they do something good. XP constantly rewards players for their choices. Its a very satisfying feed back loop (and should not be confused with points salad style of games).

3- Binary Turn mode. The first question you have every turn is whether or not you will be working "overtime". Overtime mode is an alternative turn structure that allows you to thin your deck more rapidly at the cost of not being able to earn money or acquire new cards. So each turn you have to decide which of two very different types of turns you will take. A normal turn lets you do a little bit of everything, while Overtime is a type of turn that allows you to do just two things very very well. This is a fascinating mechanic that I really hope more card games will employ.

4- The card art is awesome for what it is. Minimalist and abstract. This is a game that understands that the theme is something very different and rather than take a more literal approach to the art design, I think EGG swung for the fences by going for a visually appealing, but weird art style. I personally dig it because it gives me a sort of colorful Glory to Rome (black box) feel, but I fully expect that this will not be everyone's cup of tea.

What doesn't work?

1- The theme and art just aren't something that will scream at players who didn't but the game to start with. I love the game, but you should see people's faces when I pull this game out. Its kind of like trying to sell people on other oddball art/themed games. Concordia anybody? Like Concordia though, this is a game that will sink its claws quickly into anybody who enjoys the deck building mechanic.

2- I'm not sold on the in box expansions. They feel a bit unnecessary overall. The new contracts are something I will always integrate into my game, but everything else feels a bit uninteresting compared to the rest of the game. I will give the variable player powers a chance to grow on me, but I'm not sure I'll be keeping them for the long haul.

Conclusion: This is an awesome deck building game. Unlike most deck building games that flood the market, the game play doesn't feel recycled or re-skinned. The game design does some truly innovative things (binary turn choices, emphasis on deck distillation) that make it stand out as something special. The game's pacing feels just right and you never feel like the game ends too quickly or runs too long (a flaw many deck builders struggle with). If it weren't for the near perfect Baseball Highlights: 2045, this would be my best deck builder of 2015. As it stands, Xenon Profiteer ranks as one of my favorite games of 2015. Fans of deck building games, this is a must buy. Fans of games with refined and innovative mechanisms, this is a must buy. Anyone who cannot deal with a weird theme should take a pass on this. Anybody interested in living the Lando Calrissian dream, feel free to buy with confidence.

PS- A big shame on you to all The Dice Tower contributors who failed to mention XP in their discussion of most innovative games of 2015. My guess is almost none of them have played it. From a strictly mechanical perspective, XP's design has done some new and pretty radical stuff that I hope designers will utilize in future games.
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Nick Shaw
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Great review! Sounds like something I'd really enjoy (I was interested by the deck-deconstruction idea from the start, but only found out about the game after the kickstarter).

scottatlaw wrote:
PS- A big shame on you to all The Dice Tower contributors who failed to mention XP in their discussion of most innovative games of 2015. My guess is almost none of them have played it.

That would be my assumption too, seeing as how the game only started delivering to kickstarter backers in early-mid December. Dan King (who's technically not part of The Dice Tower anymore, but still contributes to some Dice Tower things) posted a review of it only last week, so review copies appear to be arriving now. The game doesn't appear to be widely available in retail yet either (I could get a copy from Amazon.co.uk right now, from the seller's stock of just 11 copies left, but it's not available from any UK FLGS/FOGSs yet - US may be different of course).

Perhaps it'll be mentioned more at the end of 2016?
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Jim Parkin
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First off, I had not made the connection to Lando, but now that you say it, you're absolutely right. I love Lando, and I've had a creepy, lurker attraction to everything T.C. Petty III has produced and written (granted, I've never played VivaJava et al). For all of these reasons, I've had my eye on XP after I heard of it post-Kickstarter.

scottatlaw wrote:
From a strictly mechanical perspective, XP's design has done some new and pretty radical stuff that I hope designers will utilize in future games.

I'm utterly fascinated with his revision of deck-building "tropes" (you call it like it is, and I like that). I can't wait to grab a copy and enjoy it.
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Thomas Petty
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scottatlaw wrote:

In Xenon Profiteer, you get to live that dream without fear of any sith lords showing up to crimp your style.
If a Sith Lord ever tried to crimp my hair, I'd force punch him right in the dick! Thanks for the awesome review of my deck-building-tastic deck-building deck-builder deck-build.
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Dustin Schwartz
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Glad to see you point out the innovative elements that this game brings to the genre. Kudos to T.C. for such an interesting design!
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Jim Parkin
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TheCrippledWerewolf wrote:
deck-building-tastic deck-building deck-builder deck-build.

So you know it's good!
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Scott Sexton
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TheCrippledWerewolf wrote:
scottatlaw wrote:

In Xenon Profiteer, you get to live that dream without fear of any sith lords showing up to crimp your style.
If a Sith Lord ever tried to crimp my hair, I'd force punch him right in the dick! Thanks for the awesome review of my deck-building-tastic deck-building deck-builder deck-build.

Lets look at the hard science though. Does Vader even have a dick to punch? Having received 3rd Degree burns over 99% of his body, what are the odds that the med droids wouldn't have amputated Vader's bits & pieces in an effort to avoid infection there? Castration is one of the likely unpleasant side effects of becoming more machine than man.

Just sayin'.
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Jesse Catron
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