Bystrice nad Pernstejnem
For many years we know, we are not alone in the universe. We were contacted by a foreign intelligence, who started helped us. But then it happened. Something told on us! Somewhere from deep space roared an ark. Like bloodhounds, they swept through our land in the incessant quest to hunt down and kill their enemies. The one, that helped us to save our planet in previous years. Now we silently stay inside our houses and hope that it all goes away. But the threat will not disappear by itself. Will we fight for our allies or do we let them stand alone?
Trilogy about encounter with an alien civilization ends with a big finale. Small cooperative games were aimed at one location, but we must not delay our eyes any further and start thinking globally. Just for that is there a game LEVEL 7 [INVASION] from Will Schoonover. Like two games before (LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] – review and LEVEL 7 [OMEGA PROTOCOL] – review), this novelty for 2014 can not have a different publisher, than Privateer Press.
Large square box will convince you with its weight already, that this is no little game, but it contains really big and challenging conflict. Already on the lid, we see enemy ships hovering above the earthly city and fleeing people on the land. Picture like something taken from Transformers or Avengers (which would indicate name of the enemy race – Hydra, but has nothing to do with it, really). But this time, its all a little different.
Enemies look a bit upside down, so in first moment you silently listen, before opening the lid. But no “exterminate” can be heared and you can breath in a sigh of relief. Inside the box is a large game board of the world divided into colored sections of human coalition. Large space in the box is also occupied by player boards. Each of the coalition has its countries printed, starting resources, terror level of population, but especially four vacancies, where players must attach round indicators.
Large part of the components consists of cards, that represent events or territory statuses, but especially offensive cards of dropships and player helpers to fight them – technology. In the box, players will also find dice (with symbols +, -, and =) and a stack of tokens (after punching them out along with circular indicators). They represent research, finance and damage. Finally, at the bottom of the packaging, lie miniatures themselves – figures of human troops, together enemy drop ships and soldiers.
At the beginning of the game, players place board on the table and inhabit it with token of Cronos project and especially alien ships. Each participant chooses his coalition of states, takes proper board, its technology and other cards. Speaking of players, each has his own continent, turns the dials to zero and places research tokens on the appropriate places. Then, everyone receives also four million US dollars. Technologies are sorted into one deck based on their level and troops are deployed on their starting territory (their number is determined by level of control printed on board).
Match itself is then divided into rounds, where players always have option to go to black market and hire some mercenaries. Preparation for attack continues, because next step is to send troops into battle and it is usually at the cost of one million per unit. In first round, players do not add any new units, because they already have used all their available control points (ceiling for number of soldiers).
Next step to success in development phase is improving technology. Here, player can advance for payment to next technological step, so that he reveals next card from the sorted package technology instead of the actual one. Price is to be paid not only in money, but also in materials and mainly in research points obtained on the player´s territories. Likewise, they can financially support project Cronos, which is their only chance to truly save humanity. Only at the end of this phase, gamers will go to war.
At the beginning, there are no surprises. Players can move their troops on the board, always moving to neighboring areas and even across the sea, if they are connected to transport. Later in the game, number of movement points may increase with improved technology. Player, which has doctor Cronos on his territory, it may also move him.
As a result of movements of defense, this is then right time to make something unexpected happen. Players head to bring fear to their land with revelations of new event card, which always offers two variants. At this point, each player draws one card, silently reads texts and choose one of two possible options, without advise from his comrades. Under pressure, commanders must make quick and independent decisions. Individual events may relate to all or just some of the continents, but they always evaluate them together from shuffled decks (players put their card in one of two destinations – alpha and bravo, according to selected action). Besides selected options, there is one line with new enemy units listed in the box. This text in the middle tells players, how many units have appeared along with their locations.
Wherever people and aliens meet on the board, battle occurs. It is decided by dice together with power of the coalition, that is compared with power of Hydra (gradually increasing, as there is place dedicated for placing card of alien power) and attacker is determined (= stronger). One roll of the dice will determine, which party loses a unit (defender, attacker or both). This is repeated until there is only one party left in the conflict. For each defeated enemy dropship, player receives point of adaptation and after accumulating a dozen of those, he gets one card, that will help him in battle.
After the fighting, players can check, which territories are controlled by the enemy and bring the entire continent penalty to their income. Occupated territory needs to have at least as many enemy miniatures, as is defense of that territory. Even aliens have ability to move, but only a unit, that is located in an area with the highest concentration of foreigners.
Player then wait for final phase of the round, which will increase their level of terror, if there are any hostile units on their territory (each increasingly worsens mood of the population and hence lowers production). Commanders then pay food demands of their soldiers and finally all dropships fulfill its purpose: unit appears in their place and ships disappear. However, new ones arrive at random places, which is determined by newly revealed card.
All that fighting may end up in two results. Hydra invasion from outer space is successful, if enemies defeated all the coalition, they run out of destruction cards or if the project fails Cronos and its habitat is under full control of the enemy. Players on the contrary win and save all the people, when they succeed in financing last phase of the project Cronos. Among the winners can count on every player, who has still some military power left.
LEVEL 7 [INVASION] defends Earth against trash from the universe. And its doing it in a very interesting way, which successfully evokes battle raging on the planet. Its theme and treatment very well evokes mood of cosmic computer game X-COM, which will we soon have a chance to thoroughly test.
Game is quite complex at first sight nad second as well. It contains a number of things, that you need to monitor and edit in a predetermined order. There are really high demands on players in terms of handling. In addition, there are more complex concepts, such as MIC representing overall status of the individual coalitions.
Game successfully transferr despair of humanity and will survive to its visitors. But to do all this, it uses too much passive time. Large part of each turn, players simply spend “only” playing intruder, instead for taking their own actions and efforts for their extermination.
Conversely, action phases itself abound with interesting options. For example, very dropships work exactly as you would expect and do not leave mess behind, but new units. Dice fights are easy to grasp. Controlled by luck, but full of tension.
Whole concept of working together against enemy is enriched with semi-cooperative element. Players can even win with lives of all people holding on to the last thread, worried, that it will break. This is precisely the moment, when the game is decided. But this is also reason, why difficulty is so very high. And players can decide to give up on others and faith of the whole planet in their personal favor.
Biggest problem is with number of players. Whenever you want to play in fewer than five, you get into a situation, that some players must control more continents. And the game still does not restrict power of possible betrayal. It is then clear, that LEVEL 7 [INVASION] is hardly playable in smaller numbers and always has to be approached as a purely cooperative game without players using their options to trip others.
Another fundamental problem, that goes hand in hand with complexity of the game, is game time. Two hours stated on the box are really utopian and you fail to reach them. Unfortunately, length is not sufficiently compensated by the depth of experience, although we enjoy the battle, it can get a little influent from time to time.
Visual impression this time reigns over all in absolute sovereignty. All those indicators and dials give you a feeling, that you really are sitting at the table and deciding war and future of inhabitants of our small planet.
LEVEL 7 [INVASION] offers possibility to avert apocalypse, that arrived (as so often) from space. It makes an interesting way through all the options, it is fun and very complex. Game can also seize a long time and it certainly will not do shame, when you invite four other friends for an evening battle. Beware, however, for playing it in a lower number can spoil the impression of an otherwise interesting match. LEVEL 7 [INVASION] is far from perfect, but it does not prevent the game from being interesting.
Original review posted on DeskoveHry.com with more pictures:
You can find more our reviews not only on our site, but also on DeskoveHry.com GeekList: