Against the Onslaught

Hey folks,
Welcome to another game day! Something exciting for you all today, I’m taking a look at a game that I only had delivered last week, but has really captured my imagination. It’s time to go up against the alien onslaught, in Xenoshyft: Onslaught!

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

This is a kickstarter game from Cool Mini Or Not that has recently come out in retail, the campaign having ended in June last year. I missed the kickstarter, I came across it following the Blood Rage campaign, when I thought I might check out CMON’s website to see what else they’d done. A co-operative base-defense card game sounded interesting, and the rest is history.

Something that initially drew me to the game, besides the co-op thing, is the look it has. There’s almost a Warhammer 40k feel to it, with the human players (Imperial Guard?) going up against big bugs (Tyranids?) in the hope of just outlasting them. When I cracked open the game and was looking through the cards, this came across further in the top-level soldiers you can purchase – a collection of battle suits (Tau?) I actually made a first-impressions video back when I had the game delivered, check that out here:

The game is really a lot of fun, anyway. It belongs to what I’ve previously referred to as the second-generation of deck-building games, distinct from the more ‘pure deckbuilding’ of Dominion, and more akin to stuff like Marvel Legendary or Thunderstone. Actually, Thunderstone is a great comparison, because in terms of mechanics it has a very similar feel to that game.

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

You play a division of NorTec Marines, and at the start you receive a location card that you are tasked with defending. The game is set up with soldier character cards on the left, and nine items on the right – these items are chosen at random, though at least one will be dictated by the location card. They’re in stacks of five, but when a stack runs out, rather than triggering an end-game, you just replace it. You start with chump characters as well as resources – here, ‘xenostathem’, a rare mineral that you’re mining. This mineral attracts the alien fauna of the world, and the more you have, the more rabid that fauna gets.

The object of the game is basically to survive over nine rounds, which are broken into three waves. During wave one, you face comparatively easy monsters, and only have access to some troops; during wave two, you have tougher monsters, but you can now purchase better troops, and the same in wave three. You can also trade in your 1-resource xenostathem for 3-resource in wave two, and 6-resource in wave three, so that it becomes easier to get more resources in one go.

At the beginning of the turn, you draw a hand of six cards, and also one free resource from the bank. You can then buy whatever you like, and it goes into your hand immediately. This is a real game-changer for the deck-building genre, and veterans will realise just how powerful a mechanic it is. But it also makes complete sense, right? You buy stuff, so you get that stuff right now, rather than investing in it for a long-term yield – I’m buying guns and stuff, after all, not stocks and shares! You then place any soldiers you have in a lane, equipping stuff to them as you see fit.

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

The aliens then come out to play, and are dealt face-down into their lane. Combat begins by turning over the right-most alien, and damage is dealt simultaneously:

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

In the picture above, the drone deals two damage (bottom-left, the red bullets), and has two hit-points (the green plus), while the ranger deals four damage because of the card he is equipped with. So the ranger deals more than enough to kill the drone, and the special text on the weapon card allows him to deal the excess damage to another enemy in the lane. This is really useful, as you can potentially kill off enemies before they get to you. However, some enemies have a ‘reveal’ effect that triggers when they’re flipped over, and when you deal damage in this way, that effect would still trigger.

Soldier unit cards stay in place until they are destroyed, when they’re discarded and the soldier to their right moves up to face the onslaught. Aliens move in a similar manner, with the two sides coming together until one is wiped out. If the soldiers outlast the four aliens, they stay in place for the next turn; if the aliens defeat all four soldiers, however, they then deal their damage to the base, which has 15 hit points per player. If the base is reduced to 0hp, then it’s game over, man!

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

Some other things include the ability to level-up your chump cards by ‘burning’ them – which means putting them back into their starting piles. This effect usually reduces the cost of another unit card, which can be very useful! Your location card, in addition to giving you extra cards to your starting hand, also has ongoing abilities it grants, such as lowering the cost to purchase cards, or giving you free cards.

To sum up, this is a great game. I’ve played it a few times now, and have lost every time. But it’s never a bitter loss – I mean, it always feels like I need to try again and I might just actually win if I do. The lane mechanic does feel a little like Thunderstone, but I think that’s more a superficial thing, and the game as a whole definitely feels like its own thing. The buy-it-and-get-it-now mechanic really stands out for me, though, and the theme of fighting off these giant bugs is just fantastic!

This is a kickstarter game, so naturally there are exclusives that you won’t get at retail. Looking at the campaign’s page, these range from Commander cards for your marines, which seem a bit overpowered, three packs of ‘experimental items’ and three of reinforcements, which serve to add some options, and a batch of more aliens. I honestly don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much from this, I have to say – while some of these things look interesting, like that Lone Wolf ‘heroic militia’ card, I’m not going to lose sleep on the thought that I have ‘an incomplete game’, as I know a lot of completionists often feel about such things. One of the things I love about this game is just how tough it is, how I feel like I’m really slogging it through hell on this planet, and the addition of powerful unit cards like these strikes me as skewing the balance of the game.

The page also shows two mini-expansions, featuring a new location and some new items. Those look interesting – the Grafting Laboratory, in particular! Not ks exclusives, I hope they’ll be released soon for the enjoyment of all!

Buy it from amazon:
Xenoshyft: Onslaught

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