In the time where I still played computergames, there was a certain type of mission that I always truly hated. I can tell you that many a controller almost died, when I let out my anger on that helpless piece of machinery. The type of missions that I am talking about, is the ones where you had to defend a base from a couple of waves of enemies. Usually there was a timer, and you saw that one advancing in agonizing slowness, while the health of your base dropped faster than you could even blink. Aagh, I get frustrated by even thinking about it. But we all know that anger can lead to the Dark Side (yes Master Yoda), so I’m pretty glad I don’t play computergames anymore. No, these days I am back to oldschool gaming. You know, those games that don’t use computers or controllers, otherwise also known as boardgames. Last year I purchased the excellent card/boardgame Xenoshyft Dreadmire. In this game for 1-5 players you have to defend your base from being overrun by alien enemies. Wait, what? Erm….that can’t be right? Can it?
This being a cardgame it is probably not going to come as a really big surprise that this game contains cards. And a lot of them as well. You will find close to 400 cards in this box, that feature the different types of enemies, troops, weapons and other stuff that you are going to be dealing with in this game. But these aren’t just any normal types of cards. No, you will find that the illustrations on these are serious works of art. The vile enemies that you will face in this game are absolutely disgusting and horrid creatures. And the illustrations that depict them are truly the stuff of nightmares. Also included are a couple of cardboard boards, on which you will place the cards as well as the troops to defend your base (more on that below). Rounding out the game are a couple of plastic tokens that you use to keep track of health and powers, and a rules booklet. (Well, duh …you do want to learn this game don’t you?). The rulebook is written very clearly and gives enough examples to learn you the game in basically no time at all. And if you have trouble remembering a rule, you can find it quite easily during gameplay. Besides the rather dull boards, the components are top notch, and awesome to look at.
This game is being described as a strategic base defense deck builder. That is quite a mouthful isn’t it? But it is not as hard as it sounds. This game takes place in a science fiction universe where the Nortec Corporation is trying to recover the very precious resource called Xenosathem. This being the ultimate energy source that powers weapons and basically provides unlimited power, it is a highly coveted commodity. But it also has a nasty side effect: it turns the indigenous lifeforms into horrifying monsters. Of course this doesn’t stop a greedy corporation from wasting precious human lives in order to recover this stuff. And that’s where you, the players come in. This game simulates one of those mining operations, where you have to defend the Nortec base from being overrun in a series of nine game rounds.
Everyone starts of with a set of basic lowlevel cards. Some of these cards can be used to buy new troops and weapons in order to make your deck of cards more powerful. And that’s where the word deckbuilder comes into play. When everybody has bought their cards the “fun” begins. The troops and weapons you have purchased are placed on a player’s lane, and will be your first and only line of defense against the horrible creatures that are trying to destroy your base. Of course there is a limit to the number of troops and weapons you can place, and as such players have to think strategically what they are going to be using. When everything is placed, the enemies enter an opposing lane. There are three waves of enemies that players need to survive, and each wave consists of three rounds. So in other words players need to overcome nine rounds in order to win the game.
Each wave you can buy more powerful stuff, but the enemies also become stronger. After the enemies are placed combat begins. Enemies deal their damage to troops first, but when there are no troops left, the base gets damaged instead. The base has a certain amount of damage it can take, and when it’s down to zero, it’s game over. So that in a nutshell is how this game gets played. Pretty simple huh?
This game is quite easy to learn. Especially if somebody is around that has played the game before and can teach it to other players. But even if you play the game by yourself, it’s relatively easy to get the hang of it. It’s the winning part though, that is an entirely different matter. This game is brutal. I have played it solo for about 7 or 8 times now, and I have not won the game even once. The closest I got was to round 8. Even when I played the game together with other players, that was the highest result that I have so far managed to achieve. There is a luck factor in this game as well (some combinations of enemies are just so powerful that no matter how well you prepare, you can’t really do anything about it), but it also comes down to thinking a lot. And that’s what I really like about it. Figuring out certain combinations of cards that really work well and manage to achieve great results is just one of the fun things this game has in store for you.
Well, what can I say this game is awesome. Even though it is incredibly tough, and victory has still eluded me so far, I have had a truly fun time playing this game. The cards look amazing, and the mechanics of this deckbuilder work really well. Not only that, it provides a good challenge, and because of the sheer amount of cards included no two games are ever the same. This is a game for people who love science fiction, and also enjoy to use their brains in order to beat a game, and not just luck.
I give Xenoshyft Dreadmire a 9 out of 10 score.