Board/Card Game of the Year 2015 Runner Up: XenoShyft

By Dave Neumann 23 Dec 2015 0
Pleasant dreams Pleasant dreams

Of all the games that came out in 2015, XenoShyft was the most surprising. Not only was it released without much fanfare from Cool Mini or Not, a company known for making plastic miniatures and not digital anything, but the first time I played it I was completely underwhelmed. The surprise, therefore, is that it ended up being one of my favorite games and definitely the best board game port of 2015.

XenoShyft is a cooperative game that replicates the tower defense genre, but with a healthy dose of board game mechanisms such as card drafting and deckbuilding. Played over nine rounds, the goal is to defend your base from the alien swarm known as The Hive by buying troops and equipping them with all the best experimental equipment that NorTec, the corporation you're defending, can buy.

What makes the game work is the puzzle like nature of the combat phase in which you line up your troops and equipment and then unveil which alien horrors are attacking the base. This portion of the game is wonderfully puzzley, with aliens each having special abilities that you need to mitigate as much as possible. Best of all, it's incredibly hard. There's a taste of Galaxy Trucker where, regardless of your best plans, you might not be prepared for what's coming and everything just falls apart.

When the game first launched, it was beset with a clunky UI that made the game not only hard to play, but hard to understand. Since it's July release, however, Cool Mini or Not has updated XenoShyft nine times with major upgrades to the interface as well as introducing expansion packs that add variety both in your offensive capabilities as well as the alien swarm. The result is a game that controls, while not perfectly, more than adequately and an amount of variability that keeps each game of XenoShyft feeling fresh.

XenoShyft might not have the bells and whistles of other board game ports, but it more than makes up for it with its gameplay. Each game is tense and exciting, with just enough strategy and brain burning puzzliness to push it above standard Ameritrash fare. Now, excuse me, I still haven't checked out the NorTec Elite expansion.

To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.
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