Soldier: Psh… “Commander, do you copy?”
Commander: Psh. . . “Roger that soldier, what is your status?”
Soldier: “Not good Commander. We must have dug too deep. Most of our troops are down and we are fighting these aliens bugs everywhere! We were able to secure the premiter but we can see the bugs are gearing up for another wave. We need back up NOW! They are coming and there is no. . . “ psh psh sizzle. . . .
Commander: “10-4, sorry soldier missed your last comment. What did you say?”
Soldier: static. . . . .
Commander: “Soldier! Soldier! Are you there? Ah crap, everyone let’s gear up! Looks like we have opened a hive of alien bugs! Someone call our transport, we need to get out of here ASAP”
Xenoshyft: Onslaught is a cooperative deckbuilding game where you are protecting your base on a foreign planet from an onslaught of alien bugs that get increasingly more difficult as the waves of aliens try and destroy your base.
If you would like to see a playthrough of the game, please check out my YouTube channel: One Stop Co-op Shop:
Similar to many deckbuilders, the game has a phase where you buy cards and a phase where you play cards. After you have fought vigorously (and very likely in vain) against the alien Horde, draw back up to 6 cards, and move to the next round. You will try and survive for 9 rounds (in 3 different Waves, all with increasingly difficult aliens but also better troops to recruit).
CMON who published Xenoshyft: Onslaught is normally known for their exceptionally good minni’s, however this game has no minni’s! Instead they must have taken this expertise in minni’s and exchanged it for art because the art is FANTASTIC! CMON produced realistic art, but it is futuristic enough that it works quite well for the game. The alien art is my favorite. This art however is not for kids as it can be portrayed as a little scary.
The components of this game however are a different story. If you kickstarted the game and received the cardboard lanes and mat you are very lucky. The retail version that uses some sort of laminated paper gets the job done, but does not scream $50 dollar game value to me.
The damage counters are glorified bingo chips that are two different colors. I also found in the later rounds you start running out of them. . . The box is also not set up to hold all the cards sleeved. If you are like me, every deckbuilder is sleeved due to the constant shuffling of cards. So I had to go about making my own insert as well.
I will say the base health counter is sweet! It has a sweet picture on it, and I like the spinning wheels for the heath tracker.
Everything about this game is survival, and this game makes you feel the theme through some of the awesome mechanics I will elaborate on below. When I play this I feel as though I am in the midst of this tense battle of survival against the aliens. Do know that when you play, you will feel much more like a Commander, not an actual Soldier as you will be placing soldier’s on your board that you know are not going to live through the next round. But such is the life during a war. Sacrifices must be made for the greater good!
Gameplay Mechanics: 7/10
In my opinion, the way your deck progresses through the game as well as the troops available for purchase is probably the coolest part of this game.
At the beginning of the game, you only have one troop available for purchase, and that is the Ranger who is a 2 ATK 3 HP troop. However, all items (there will be 9 items available) are able to be purchased at any time. Once you move from Wave 1 to Wave 2 (Round 4 starts Wave 2) you can purchase 3 additional Troops. Three more troops are available in Wave 3. I like that you are not able to just to go out and buy the best troops right away, you have to survive long enough to have them become available.
Now normally, when you purchase cards in a deckbuilder, they go to your discard pile and you have to wait to shuffle your deck so you can actually draw them. Well in Xenoshyft, you aint got time for that! Instead any cards you purchase goes to your hand and is immediately available.
Also instead of having to waste precious buying power on cards that give you MORE buying power the game gives you a single Xenozanthem card each round you simply add to your hand. You then are only buying cards that you can use THIS ROUND which provides a more tactical experience than some other deckbuilders. You must decide with the Xenosanthem you have, what you can purchase to provide an immediate benefit, but then it will be placed in your deck, and so you have to make a determination if it will mesh with your other cards once you shuffle your deck.
You know how annoying it is when you are deep into a deckbuilder game and you draw a hand of starting cards?! You just couldn’t get rid of them as there were no “destroy” cards you could buy (I find this is especially true in co-op deckbuilders). Xenoshyft takes care of that! After wave 2, all of your 1 Xenosanthem cards can be burned in groups of 3 for a single 3 Xenosanthem card! In Wave 3, all 3 Xenosanthem cards can be burned in pairs of 2 for a single 6 Xenosanthem card. This is an instant progression in your deck that just happens and you don’t have to spend precious time trying to destroy those pesky starter cards.
The beginner troop Militia and the level 1 troop Ranger also have a way to be upgraded. You can burn these cards from your hand to decrease the cost of one Troop by 1 Xenosanthem! Awesome!! Now not only am I making my deck stronger by getting rid of the basic troops, but I get a benefit for it (and trust me you are going to need that benefit if you want to survive)! I think of it thematically as your Militia or Rangers have learned more skills and have become a stronger, better troop. The troops you burned then are the ones that didn’t survive. . .
So with everyone starting with the same starting cards, how do you differentiate yourself from another player? Insert Division cards! There are 6-8 Divisions (more if you get the expansions) that players can choose from, and they all add 2 unique cards to your starter deck. Also your Division will provide you with a specific ability(ies) that can be used once per round. This provides players with a simple way to differentiate themselves as well as to specialize in a certain type of card (Weapons, Armor etc.).
Linear Attack Line
When I think of how other cooperative deckbuilders have you attack an enemy, there is usually a pool of enemies that any player can attack with any cards played that round. Xenoshyft however uses these boards where you attack in a straight line against the aliens. When you are playing your cards, you are placing troops and items on your combat lane. You then seed the combat lane with 4 alien cards facedown, and then you reveal the rightmost alien and it will fight your leftmost troop (with some exceptions). You will do this until either all the aliens are destroyed, or all of your troops are killed. If all your troops are killed and there are aliens left on your combat board, they directly attack the base with their ATK value and then are discarded (presumably, the base defense took them out). For me this was a unique mechanic in a deckbuilder and I really appreciated the additional decision that needed to be made on where to place troops etc.
No longer was I just deciding what to buy, and what order to play cards, instead I am trying to determine orders of troops, where to place items, what to keep in hand for instant abilities etc. I can even place cards on my teammate’s lane!
There are two aspects of cooperation that I really like in this game:
1. Placing cards on other player’s lane: I love how I can buy an item or a troop, and give him to a teammate to place on their board. If I place a troop or equipment on a troop in their lane, that card has effectively become theirs as they will now place it in their discard pile when that troop is killed. I love how I am permanently helping out my teammate!
2. Play cards during teammates turn: When your teammate is going through their combat lane, you are free to play any instant cards in your hand to help them. You also can use abilities of troops you have in your lane for your teammates benefit (as long as their effect allows you too). I always appreciate co-op games that allows players to play cards during other player’s turns as it emphasizes the co-op aspect of the game.
If Only. . .
When I have won this game, I have won with taking almost no base damage at all (or only base damage in the first round). When I lose, it is almost ALWAYS in round 7 and I can almost predict it every time because of how the cards have played out. A lot of times when I lose, it feels like it is simply because of the luck of the cards, and what items were available instead of because of my tactical decisions. Although I love the anticipation and fear that a boss could come out at any moment, I am beginning to appreciate why in the new Xenoshyft game they are planning on only having a boss come out in the final round of each Wave. This provides some more predictability and stability to the game.
9 rounds does not seem too long right? Well, when you are playing solo I find the length to be perfect. I can make quick decisions and move on. Playing with others though, this game can last a long time. Get 4 players going and it could last over 2 hours! I wish they had an accelerated game where you play maybe 5 rounds?
For whatever reason Xenoshyft is one of the first co-op games I played where there was this competitive connotation underlying the game. Since you will go through your combat lane one at a time so that other players can help you if need be, we found that people were almost competing on how much they could survive on their own instead of soliciting help from other players. Now for some this could be a positive thing! For our group though, it just did not work. We would prefer to play a competitive game vs. a cooperative game with a competitive vibe.
Playing solo this vibe goes away completely. Also, being that I have played this with many different people, there were some groups where this vibe was not there at all. So this can really depend upon the people you are playing with!
This game says for up to 4 people. . . and I disagree. With 4 people the game drags on and on! If you have no instant cards, or no cards you can use on your Combat lane to help your fellow teammates, you are just sitting there, and sitting there waiting for your turn. We tried one game where we all ran through our combat lines at the same time and it worked pretty well. People would just yell out when they needed help. However, playing this way made me think we were just playing solitaire. . . Anyhow, I would put the player count at 1-3 at the most!
Play Again Factor: 6.25/10
There are only about 10-12 different alien types in each Wave encounter deck. This means in one game you will have seen the vast majority of the aliens. Also if you have the retail version you will use the same troops every game. The difference then comes with the item cards, divisions, and the random set up of the encounter decks.
I will say when I finally won this game (took 4 tries I think) I didn’t play the game again for almost a month. But, now I am coming back to it and am trying different divisions, and of course different items. I would say as deckbuilders go, this game has less of a “play it again” factor due to the limited number of cards that change per game.
Weight and Player Type: Medium, Gamer
This game is more geared towards gamers. Deciding upon what items to purchase vs. troops etc. and all the extensive card reading on each card makes this a heavier game. I played this with my sister who is not a gamer and she did NOT like it at all (could of also been because we got annihilated in round 4). Understanding how the deck upgrades, how the cards go to hand and are used right away, and even understanding the basic benefits of burning weaker troop cards for stronger ones was not an easy concept.
Also – the aliens can be really cruel and you can feel like you have the perfect strategy, only to have it be destroyed by some crazy reveal effect. For the nongamers, this difficulty made for an unenjoyable experience.
Final Thoughts: 7.25/10
To be honest I would say my favorite way to play this game is solo. I don’t mind getting my butt kicked by alien bugs and I enjoy playing 2 different divisions and seeing how certain items work against the alien Horde. The 2 player game is also good, but if you are looking for a deckbuilder for 4 people you may want to look elsewhere. The art and really cool deckbuilding mechanic is the reason I am keeping this in my collection! Plus, I did kickstart Xenoshyft: Dreadmire and I cannot wait to get that to the table to see if the revised rules make for a better game.
- Last edited Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:33 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Nov 17, 2016 5:32 am
Definitely a great review and I agree with most of your analysis. This is one of those games with SO much potential that it doesn't seem to realize. I've posted on this before but I can't get it out of my head so here is a brief summary.
WAY too much of the enemy "strategy" simply comes from reveal effects. This not only is a mechanic that our troops don't share access to (they have none since they don't "reveal") but most of the game simply becomes figuring out to stop reveal effects and drives all strategy to a singular point of focus.
Instead, the developers should at LEAST give the players the ability to move their troops around within a lane at will between enemy reveals (or at least 1x for free). This would actually add another element to the game that would be very unique for a deckbuilder (make physical positioning even MORE strategic).
In addition, how about giving the enemies and troops "group" abilities based on the characters around them to boost an attack/defense? How cool would that be? That way you could get rid of some of the lame enemy "reveals" and instead give them a boost based on the random order they are drawn in.
Again, this would also force the players to focus more on soldier placement and order.
I would love to have a round table discussion with the developers of this game as I still believe it could be one of the best and most unique deckbuilders on the market.
Great comments! I agree the "reveal" effect is what gives the aliens such an advantage in this game. I believe in the Dreadmire version of the game (coming out soon) they got rid of the reveal effect. Who knows this may have been the reason!
Your idea about allowing you to re-arrange troops is a great one. I tend to think that is why the designers created the Paratrooper as you are allowed to make adjustments to your lane by "inserting" said Paratrooper anywhere in your lane. However having only 1 troop with this ability (and they have wimpy health so die quickly) does not make up for the difficult and infuriating reveal effects.
Your idea of giving troops group abilities based on what troops are adjacent is such a cool idea!! I can only hope in Dreadmire they thought of this! If not, it gives them a good expansion idea
Have you tried designing a game I like these ideas a ton and would be fun to even try "house-ruling" some abilities etc.