Review: XenoShyft: Onslaught

Designer:  Keren Philosophales, Michael Shinall
Year: 2015
Publisher:  Cool Mini Or Not
Players: 1-4
Game Type: Co-operative, Deck Building

In XenoShyft: Onslaught, a strategic base defense deck-builder, players take on the role of the NorTec Military, charged with defending their base against the onslaught of the alien "Hive".  

XenoShyft: Onslaught combines classic deck-building and resource management with fast-paced combat and unique "base defense" elements. As the game progresses, each player builds up their deck of Troop, Equipment, and Item cards, which they will in turn use to defend the base against incoming enemies in deadly combat.  

XenoShyft: Onslaught is a game of tactical decisions and survival horror — and survival is never guaranteed.

What is in the box.
An average setup time is roughly 10-20 minutes. You need to get everything sorted, there are some mini decks to divide up, your deck, and then setting up the play area. The box insert is nice though, so future plays can setup faster. I just suggest taking the time to put it away in order for the next play.

Solo play setup, with my custom play mat.
XenoShyft is a fun, but hard as hell, Sci-Fi deck building game. There is a good deal of strategy in what you do with your deck in order to even come close to making it to and through the final 3 attack waves.

Players will start off with 10 common cards, typical deck building style where you can purchase and attack. Also, depending on what random starting Division you choose you'll get 2 extra cards for your deck, that can help with attack, health or armor. This also plays into the starting resource items available to purchase at the start of the game, as you put the rest of that resource deck into what you can purchase (9 total). Once everyone takes their extra resources to complete their decks, you fill in the remaining resources spots from the Item Tracker deck.

Players will shuffle their decks and then draw six cards. You will purchase cards with your available Xenosathem, and add cards directly into your hand, NOT your discard pile. In Co-Op play, you work together with your team on your purchases. Maybe something is better for someone else based on their Division, they can purchase weapons for cheaper costs, etc. You can also purchase soldiers based on what Wave/Round you are on, again going into your hand, not your discard pile. Any Xenosathem not spent will then be placed into your discard pile. 

Once everyone has purchased you move onto the deployment phase. Here you place your soldiers from left to right into the Troop Zone. The leftmost soldier card will be the only card attacking, so plan accordingly. Cards may have the ability to help attack or shield. Also some of the Enemy cards may attack the last in your line (rightmost card), so you have to plan for that too. Any weapons or armor need to be attached to your troops when you put them into play.

Once everyone is deployed you move onto the Combat Phase. Draw 4 Hive cards, and place them facedown from right to left in the Enemy Zone. In player order, you will deal with your attacks. Finishing off all 4 Hive cards before moving onto the next player. This is where more players may slow this game down. You will flip the rightmost Hive card faceup and deal with it. Then move on down the line. Some cards may move the enemy to the back of the line, they may enhance the rest of the enemy cards to have more armor or attack, or you may get screwed and they take over your soldiers and then that soldier gets added to their line and attacks you! If you run out of soldiers all remaining attack/hit points go to the base. Your base will start at 15 hit points per player (2 players 30, 3 players 45, 4 players 60). Once that base is gone, the bugs have won. It will happen more than you expect. Now players can help other players when they fight. Remember though, each player will deal with all of their Hive cards before play moves to the next player. Also depending on how many players are playing, their are bosses for each Hive Wave deck (1 or 2), and they are hard to beat if you get them early.

Once everyone is done fighting you cleanup. Any remaining soldiers you have stay in your lanes, but you can rearrange them. Shift their order in line, rearrange any weapons or armor left etc. Then everyone draws another 6 cards, the Wave trackers moves up to the next round, everyone gets 1 Xenosathem card for that wave (1, 3 or 6), and it all starts again.

Players will do this for 9 rounds. I'm not going to lie, you will be lucky to make it to Round/Wave 8. The Hive is hard to beat.

For me personally, solo is the ONLY way to play this game, and it is why I LOVE this game so much. I don't need to waste my time watching someone else play. I need to devote so much time to figuring out what I am doing that I don't want to waste any of it on someone else. HAHA, that sounds mean.

For solo it's all the same setup, and my starting base Hit Points are 15. The Resource decks are rarely going to run out and need to be replaced. You will just not buy much of the same thing. So your starting 9 decks, are what you need to work with. So if you only get 1 gun and 8 damn armor and medical cards it's going to be a rough ride. I allow myself 2 mulligans if that happens, so I can draw 2 new items, but if they come as a disadvantage again, or well... let's kill some bugs.

Starting deck on the left, with the 2 other cards you will add depending on which NorTec division you randomly choose.
THIS GAME IS HARD TO BEAT! In 5 plays, I've made it to wave 9 two times, and won only once. I think I messed something up on my win, but I won damn it! When you get to that point you get up and dance like a mad man/woman because it is a victory for the ages. I can see where people might not want to play this based on that difficulty, but to me that is where it is all at. I have to think so much about what I am doing and how I manage my deck to even come close to making it to the end. Which again goes into why I want to only play this solo, 2 person max. I would not get this game out for 3 or 4 people. I'd be screaming at how long it takes to get back to me, when I am just waiting to kill more damn bugs. I LOVE this game, it is one of my 3 go to games when I have time to play it. Solo time seems to average 30-45 minutes, of pure hell as I get annihilated time and time again. For me this is a must own.

4.5 out of 5 Solo's

* Hard to beat!
* Beautiful artwork
* Good replay value solo.

* Hard to beat!
* More than 2 players could take too long.
* Everything has a slippery gloss finish. Mats in box and cards.

Game Soundtrack Sponsored by Metal Blade Records: 

Evocation - “The Shadow Archetype”
Dan Royer Dan Royer Author