Mina's Fresh Cardboard
I don't typically post reviews for games I dislike, but I decided to make an exception for Xenon Profiteer because despite the fact that my personal preferences prevent me from enjoying it, I think it's an amazing little game!
Mina's Mini Review - Xenon Profiteer With 2
In Xenon Profiteer, players attempt to isolate the most Xenon and satisfy the most lucrative contracts to make the most points. They do this by building and paring down their decks.
The game is set up by shuffling a deck of Contract cards and revealing the top 4 cards of this deck to form the Contract line and shuffling a deck of Upgrade cards and revealing the top 4 cards of this deck to form the Upgrade line. Stacks of N, O, K, and Xe cards are also arranged in a line.
Each player receives a Central Console, 5 Bid tokens of his chosen color, 3 coins, and a System (i.e. his deck) consisting of a Feed card, a Reflux card and two packets of air, each of which consists of 1 N, 1 O, 1 K, and 1 Xe card.
On his turn a player has the option of following the sequence displayed on the top face of his Central Console card or going into Overtime and following the sequence displayed on the reverse face of his Central Console. The standard sequence is as follows:
Remove all of one type of element card from your hand, returning all these cards to the general supply. Cards are removed in the order of N, O, and K. Any Xenon left in your hand is considered to be isolated and is placed on the right-hand side of your Central Console to fulfill any existing or future Contracts.
2. Air or Wipe
Introduce 1 packet of air, adding it to your discard pile, and gain 2 coins OR wipe the Contract or Upgrade Line, keeping only cards with Bid tokens on them behind.
3. Buy or Bid
Buy a Contract card or Upgrade card from the central display OR place a Bid token on one of these cards.
Buying a card from the Contract line costs nothing and adds that card to the right-hand side of your Central Console. A player may have no more than one incomplete Contract at a time. A Contract is considered to be complete when its Xenon requirement is satisfied. Once complete, a contract provides points and possibly coins.
Buying a card from the Upgrade line costs the number of coins shown in the top left-hand corner of the card. This adds the card to your discard pile. Alternatively, it is possible to pay the higher amount shown on the bottom right corner of the card and immediately add the Upgrade to your tableau.
Bidding on a card reduces the cost of that card for you in the future by 1 coin for each of your Bid tokens on the card, forces an opponent to pay you 1 coin for each of your Bid tokens on the card if he wants to by it, and saves the card from being wiped off the board using the Wipe action.
The Overtime sequence is as follows:
1. Distill 2x
Remove 2 types of element cards from your hand following the order of removal priority (N, O, Ke).
2. Bid 2x
Place a Bid token on two different cards or place two Bid tokens on a single card.
A player may not go into Overtime twice in a row.
The game ends when a player has either 5 installed Upgrades or 5 completed Contracts. This player decides whether to take 3 bonus VP or another turn after all other players have had a final turn.
Points are awarded as follows:
1 VP per installed Upgrade
VP shown on completed Contracts
1 VP per 5 coins
1, 2 or 3 VP per installed distillation pipe, depending on how many have been installed
Played prior to review: 3x
1. Unique theme
There are few science-themed games in this world and the theme of this one is certainly unique. Do you know anything at all about the various applications and potential uses of Xenon!? Did you know that Xenon inhalation has been linked to increased production of EPO, making it a currently legal performance-enhancing drug!? I didn't know much about Xenon before I played this game, but now I do! The flavor text is informative and fun and the artwork and cool color scheme fits the heavy-duty science theme very well.
2. Very quick and very simple to play
Xenon Profiteer features a simple set of rules and can be learned and taught quite quickly, especially by veteran players. However, I think the simplicity of the rules and gameplay would make it a great introductory deck builder for players who haven't played many deck-building games or for players who find themselves teaching games to new players all the time.
3. Interesting tableau building component
I always love a good tableau-building game, so it should come as no surprise that the tableau building aspect of Xenon Profiteer is my favorite aspect of the game. The abilities that players can collect over the course of the game are all appealing and interesting and can allow a player to complete contracts with fewer Xenon, allow a player to remove all of one element type from his hand, allow a player to gain money for removing particular elements, etc. The powers can be combined to create even more powerful combos, but this isn't the easiest thing to accomplish, as only 4 upgrade cards are visible and digging for ones you want can cost you some actions.
4. Interesting set collection component
Another unique aspect of Xenon Profiteer as compared to existing deck-builders is the set collection aspect. Trying to collect all the various distillation pipes (N, O, and K) can be risky, as they are few in number, but it can also lead to big payoffs at the end, when each pipe becomes worth 3 points!
5. Interesting decisions to be made
Despite its light weight and quick playing time, Xenon Profiteer is an interesting game. Because players are basically limited to 5 Upgrades, they have to consider which Upgrades would be most beneficial to them and which would create the most effective combinations. Upgrades are also expensive, so wasting money on less useful ones probably isn't the best idea.
Players also have to make a conscious choice about whether to spend their time collecting the set-collection-like distillation pipes. Again, they take time to collect and can cost you a number of wiping actions, but they can be worth up to a total of 9 points at the end of the game.
Selecting the best Contracts also presents players with some interesting choices. Players are again limited to 5 Contracts (as completing the 5th one will trigger the end of the game), so it's important to select contracts with the best payoffs, but Contracts that provide lots of points typically provide little or no money and can take a big Xenon investment to complete, so taking them can be risky. Money is tight and important in Xenon Profiteer and as appealing as high-scoring Contracts can be, their lack of monetary gains and significant Xenon investment can set a player back. Players have to strike a fine balance in their Contract selection.
6. No required discarding
In many deck-building games, players are required to discard their entire hand at the end of each turn. Happily, that isn't the case in Xenon Profiteer. This is a welcome deviation from tradition, as it makes me feel more in control of my hand of cards and makes the game slightly more strategic than it would be otherwise.
7. Plenty of replay value, which is further enhanced by the promos
Xenon Profiteer provides players with several strategies and avenues to explore using various combinations of its many and varied upgrades. The promo cards add even more replay value to the game by giving each player a unique ability or advantage and goal.
1. Ascension-style conveyor belt card display
This won't be a negative for many people, but it is for me. I generally dislike Ascension-style conveyor belt card displays and I dislike the fact that Xenon Profiteer features not one, but two such displays. I do appreciate the fact that the changing card display isn't quite as volatile in Xenon Profiteer as it can be in Ascension or Star Realms, as players are able to place their bid tokens on desired cards to save them from being purchased by others (or at least deter others from purchasing them) or from being wiped off the board. However, that's still not enough for me. I just prefer having a static display of cards for purchase and being able to strategically plan my deck rather than tactically respond to the cards available for purchase.
2. Lots of garbage
One of my most hated aspects of deck-building games are garbage cards and garbage hands. I find sifting through piles of garbage to get to the good cards and having to trash the garbage cards to streamline my deck incredibly tedious and annoying. In Xenon Profiteer, your deck is pretty much all garbage. The point of the game is to sift through that garbage to have only Xenon remaining in your hand. But then you put it on your tableau, use it to fulfill a contract, and lose it forever, only to be forced to take more garbage into your hand and have to sift through it again in order to get more Xenon. I'm sure that many people will find this aspect of Xenon Profiteer enjoyable, interesting, refreshing, and unique, but I just find it annoying.
My preferences aside, Xenon Profiteer is an amazing little deck-building game with a fun tableau-building element, a unique theme, and smooth mechanisms that will appeal to anyone who loves deck-building games in general, anyone who hasn't played many deck-building games and is looking for something simple, but not too simple to try, and anyone who is constantly introducing games to new players.
My personal distaste for Ascension-style conveyor belt card displays means I don't love Xenon Profiteer as much as someone who does enjoy this particular mechanism would, but it is a good game.
MINA'S LOVE METER DISLIKE
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
It sounds a bit similar to Valley of the Kings: Afterlife.