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Subject: Progresiv Gaming: After One Play . . . Xenon Profiteer rss

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Mat Thomsen
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Introduction

I recently said of deck builders, "No thanks, I'm full."

Since then, I've regretted saying it. I think it's unfair to paint an entire genre of games with the same brush. As in, "Yeah, I'm not really a fan of deck builders." What we're really saying is, "I'm tired of the ones I've played, and not particularly interested in exploring new ones." Which is completely fair.

Well, I'm glad I decided to explore this one.

I am always hesitant to suggest a game to the group that I cannot teach. I had read through the rulebook, but had not yet played. I worry about testing the other players' patience with a game they did not choose, and then also ask them to sit with me and wrestle with the rules. That was the case last night with my first play of Xenon Profiteer. Fortunately, my friend Adam is a quick digester of rules and he had the three of us up and running pretty quickly after my shaky attempt to explain the basic idea of the game. Which is . . .

The Game
In Xenon Profiteer, you are trying to distill "packets" of air and isolate the Xenon, which represents one of the currencies in the game. It is used to complete contracts, which are worth points and money - the other currency.

One of the things that had us a bit scattered as we began to set up, is the huge number of cards. BUT, we soon realized that 75 percent of them are the four basic elements which constitute an air packet: N, O, Kr, and Xe. Beyond these, there are only two types of cards in the game, contracts and upgrades, which significantly simplified set up and game play.

Each player starts with a center "console" card. What I love about this card, is how the graphic design supports and guides how your "facility's" operation expands. The left, right, and bottom sides of this card have colored tabs that match the corresponding upgrade, contract and/or pipeline. It looks fantastic and helps the players identify what upgrades they've earned as well as their opponents' operational capabilities. The top of the facility is where you put your draw deck.


photo credit: EndersGame

The heart of this game lies in two primary actions, which are improved by the various upgrades. The first is to distill. This allows you to remove ALL of your copies of whatever element card is highest in rank from your hand (these ranks are denoted on your console card). If you don't have any N, you can move onto O, if you have no N AND no O cards, you distill Kr from your hand. The goal being to isolate Xe, which will be played to your facility to fulfill a current, or future contract.

The second main action is to take air packets. This is done by taking one of each element card. This also gives you two bucks. Money is important in this game and can be quite hard to come by. It is used to buy and install upgrades. This is one of the many great features of this game. You can buy an upgrade card at a significant discount to add it to your deck in the traditional way. Then, later, when it is drawn, you can play it for its action. However, you can pay a premium to install this upgrade to your facility and have that action permanently. This makes for some great decisions. The buying of upgrades is also affected by the use of bidding tokens. These tokens not only provide their owners with a discount on the upgrade, but can provide them income AND increase the price if someone else buys the upgrade. That's when it gets juicy!

My First Play
We played a three-player game. We are all seasoned gamers, so we had a strong familiarity with deck builders. As we started to get comfortable with the flow of the game, we soon realized how awesome the various upgrade cards were. With each purchase, the other players would say enviously, "Man, that's awesome!"

A few highlights: Jason was getting cash for distilling Oxygen. Adam had extra buys, which seemed amazing. I was able to install all three pipelines, which increase your hand size. I was convinced this was a mistake because my deck was so small, that I often had fewer cards in my deck than I could hold in my hand. Of course, as the game progressed, and I was able to make some money, my upgrades helped me find the right balance.

In the end, I won by one point, which we immediately realized was due to a mistake Adam made right at the end of the game when he purchased a contract he thought was going to be worth more points than another would have been.

Presentation
This game is really nice to look at. The bright colors and clean design are attractive and practical. The card quality and overall production is excellent and consistent with the rest of the Gryphon Games bookshelf series.

This theme is awesome! We went from, "I don't know what the hell we are supposed to be doing," to, "Aw man! I wanted that Air Flow Modulator!" (not an actual card name . . . but it should be)

Final Thoughts
I really liked this game. This opened my eyes to an important realization. I'm NOT actually tired of deck builders, I'm simply tired of the talk about them. Designer TC Petty deserves a lot of credit for coming up with a fresh take on the genre. I am reminded of Trains, which took so much from the deck building Godfather Dominion, but, by adding waste and routes, showed us another dimension of deck building. Here, we have the distillation process, which asks the players to tackle the deck building process in a new way.

I can't wait to try this one again. I'm hoping I can convince my anti-deck building friends to break from their prejudices and explore this one as I did.

Thanks for reading. Please check out my blog, Progresiv Gaming
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Ralph H. Anderson
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Thanks Mat, great review! I am glad you really enjoyed the game.

I am very fond of this game myself. Once you play a few more times you will see how open this system is with many different strategies leading to victory.

Do watch for letting one player completing all three pipelines. That is extremely powerful in managing your cards plus a lot of victory points- a double whammy. This means while this threat is open, the other players need to be sure someone has the means to get to five coins before their buy round.

---------------------------------------------------------

Also (cross promotion here based on your discussion of deck builders in general) - I hope you have had a chance to try Baseball Highlights 2045. This is another extremely innovative take on deck building - actually more deck improving as your deck size must always stay the same and new cards go on top of the deck ready for the next hand.

This is a very interactive game as each card play is in response to what your opponent just played. Don't worry about the baseball theme (did I mention the robots and cyborgs?) This game is very accessible to anyone who likes great game play. Check out the many great posts about this game.

best
Ralph
For Eagle-Gryphon Games
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Mat Thomsen
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DragonCat wrote:

Thanks Mat, great review! I am glad you really enjoyed the game.

I am very fond of this game myself. Once you play a few more times you will see how open this system is with many different strategies leading to victory.

Do watch for letting one player completing all three pipelines. That is extremely powerful in managing your cards plus a lot of victory points- a double whammy. This means while this threat is open, the other players need to be sure someone has the means to get to five coins before their buy round.

---------------------------------------------------------

Also (cross promotion here based on your discussion of deck builders in general) - I hope you have had a chance to try Baseball Highlights 2045. This is another extremely innovative take on deck building - actually more deck improving as your deck size must always stay the same and new cards go on top of the deck ready for the next hand.

This is a very interactive game as each card play is in response to what your opponent just played. Don't worry about the baseball theme (did I mention the robots and cyborgs?) This game is very accessible to anyone who likes great game play. Check out the many great posts about this game.

best
Ralph
For Eagle-Gryphon Games


Thanks Ralph. We actually met at TotalCon the year you were demo-ing BH2045. FWIW, it made my top ten of 2015. HERE is that link.

Xenon Profiteer is great. I can't wait for my next play!
 
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meepleonboard
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Great review, and I'll keep an eye out for the game. I like deck builders that do something new - Core Worlds, Super Motherload, Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) - , especially when it feels as though it's a way of getting the theme across.

Happy gaming!
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TC Petty III
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Thanks for the review, Mat!

(Side note: that's exactly where I was with deck-builders. I couldn't even get into Trains! But, Orleans & some others that have now mixed up the fundamentals give me hope for the future. Thanks for sticking with it!)
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Mat Thomsen
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TheCrippledWerewolf wrote:
Thanks for the review, Mat!

(Side note: that's exactly where I was with deck-builders. I couldn't even get into Trains! But, Orleans & some others that have now mixed up the fundamentals give me hope for the future. Thanks for sticking with it!)


That's great to hear TC. Thanks!

Great game!
 
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Will Plante
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Definitely looking forward to playing even more after reading your thoughts Mat. Do you think it will play well with 2?
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Mat Thomsen
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Papa Ninja wrote:
Definitely looking forward to playing even more after reading your thoughts Mat. Do you think it will play well with 2?


I think fewer bidding tokens in the game may remove some of that tension, but we'll have to try it.

Glad to hear you're interested!
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Nisses Clan Skryre
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nickster1970 wrote:
Great review, and I'll keep an eye out for the game. I like deck builders that do something new - Core Worlds, Super Motherload, Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) - , especially when it feels as though it's a way of getting the theme across.

Happy gaming!


Can't agree more. I have all the games you mentioned and love them for exactly that reason
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