So I started writing this story…

I haven’t blogged in what feels like decades. Not that I was ever a prolific-come-wit-it writer, other than a few short stories and a half-baked cyberpunk novel that was more a love letter to my newfound fiction obsession in high school.


So I started writing a story, fueled by ennui, crime comics, insomnia and consultations with a few oracles. So far, with a little nudge from a few Storymatic cards and a couple handfuls of GameMaster’s Apprentice, I’ve managed to sketch out a good lot of plot ahead of time using Trello, and have started posting the story bit by bit on twitter. See here:

I’m sure thousands of writers must have done this by now, but I’ve not read any #twitterfiction myself, nor heard tell of it in all my countless hours reading and writing little fortune cookie letters in bottles.

But so, why post on twitter vs this blog, or a new one?

There’s more than one reason; there’s the immediacy of the medium and likelihood of it being read, the temporal and temporary nature of the tweetstream fire hose that ensures the story will certainly be buried at some point in archives, never to be seen again – like a living thing that’s reached its end. There’s also the increased likelihood that I’ll continue writing in the first place, as it’s less of a time investment and I can just publish piecemeal, at my leisure, waiting in a doctor’s office or wherever else. I can wake from fitful slumber and drop a doozy of a bombshell on the story, or let it stifle a while if I’m being lazy or depressed.

But probably the main reason to post to twitter is the fact that the writing is constrained by necessity. Twitter may soon increase its character count limit beyond 140, but it’s working fine for me so far. I’ve engaged in endless banter threads on the service for years, and since their API improved tweets tend to load up in proper sequential order, so you can stitch together a cohesive narrative or dialogue across this linked list.

Every creative person who’s developed a workflow or who successfully pushes out quality work knows that constraint is the sensible mother of invention, while imagination is the playful, careless father, encouraging his child to think outside the box the mother has so carefully and lovingly maintained since birth. “Go play in the street, kiddo. Use sticks for swords and guns, magic wands, conductor’s batons, just try to have fun“.

So my writing is becoming more concise. I’m having to say more with fewer words, and it’s a fun challenge that I feel is actually benefiting my writing: I seem to be using a lot less filler text than my mind learned to subconsciously sneak into writing in my school days when grades depended partially on volume, an odd thing to me.

Strangely – almost paradoxically – my mind is whipping up lots of [at least halfway decent] poetic metaphors; bolder, balder and brighter descriptions of situations. I’m not concentrating on describing a scene like a script with impersonal stage directions, which I was wont to do in my past attempts at fiction.

I like to think I’m growing as a writer somewhat quickly. Time and any actual readers will tell. But I’ve been meaning to come back to writing (both fiction and blogging) for years, and simply for breaking through my erstwhile eternal block I am proud.

Please, if you’re much of a reader, a writer or just cuckoo for twitter, do have a look at what I’ve written so far. I have a lot planned, and right now the trick I’ve yet to fully ideate is how exactly to drop into flashbacks, philosophize through the mind of another or drop clues to mysteries that should not be fully revealed too early in the story.

I’m not sure how long this story will end up, but I imagine I have at least several weeks’ worth of a dozen or so tweets per day if I keep at it and the overall story doesn’t shift tectonically.

It’s a story about a man’s struggles with identity, with the law, with friendships and with his personal demons.

It’s called Last Snow, and you can read it here.


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Posted in Gamed Fiction

Whitehack review part the first

Been reading a tiny bit of Whitehack  most days for the last few weeks. Reading and rereading to make sure I understand everything.

It’s a funny thing, and I wonder how many other “the printed word is sacrosanct and I should never edit/mark up post-publication (excepting typos and correcting things that have already been clarified in errata)” fellows I have with me on this.

But, for the first time in history – including public school books already littered with definitively bad graffiti, doodles and actually useful markup like clarifying dates of historical battles – history and memorization of non-languages/grammar/game/tech knowledge that isn’t very intuitive to me – I’ve begun marking up Whitehack in pen.

I’m not sure if it’s because I picked up the notebook edition (with more blank “journal pages” than actual rules), or because in conversation with Issac regarding the wilful, chiseled-in-stone print-only nature of the game (it’s not available as pdf), I will not be sharing publicly my rules notes outline (which I keep in a plaintext wiki on my phone that syncs to desktop for even easier manipulation).

The rules are actually quite lite and intuitive once you get a feel for the many ways this game is different from D20, or any other RPG system I’ve read.

There are overlapping elements, sure: 

  • initiative stays the same through an encounter after determining order at the beginning of combat.
  • there aren’t exactly ”major/minor/free” actions, but there is something similar
  • attack is kinda similar, rolling a D20
  •  to hit, you must roll *over* the opponent’s AC – sweet, no THAC0! – but simultaneously roll *equal or under* your own skill in use. They call this “rolling high under” and seems like it’ll work well. Haven’t seen it in practice yet, though.

But there’s plenty that’s very different, too:

  •  Only 3 basic classes, but these generally cover the gamut of what one would want to add to a fantasy game. This edition also introduces some new classes, like playing as non-humanoid creatures. Each class uses “slots” for expanding a character’s repertoire, vaguely simila to feats but always class-specific
  •  Xp can be obtained by killing baddies, finishing questsor snagging treasure (conveniently, 1gp is equivalent to 1xp which is nice)
  • there are many “story game” style fields to fill in during character creation, and these provide excellent source material to guide the GM where he thinks the players might want to go

I haven’t finished reading it, but I’ll post a second review soon. Really want to use this for solo and group both!

Meantime, check the link:

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The Plant

Some folks may have heard of Jason Morningstar’s little title, The Plant. Some may have even played through it. I had come across it before, but it wasn’t until Gnome Stew guru Martin Ralya posted to Google Plus about his play through that I really checked it out.

Tonight I finished my own journal for my play through, do here it is. Warning that it’s not necessarily for timid or easily upset readers, so please avoid if you’re one of those.

Feel free to critique or thumb it up or down, whatever. I realize the tense changes throughout, and the writing is a bit scattered and frantic in places, but pauses in others. I think this is the nature of the game.

While generally I understood the rules, I can’t say I fully understood the phrase “if you have either of the edge letters”… Which would’ve led to crucially different outcome if I interpreted it differently. By my understanding, this phrase means the left or right edges. I mean, you need to have at least one of the edges to have gotten onto the card… Anyway, that quibble aside, here is my journal:

Read more ›

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I’ve backed a fair number of Kickstarter game projects at this point, and this one was interesting for a few reasons: it only cost $5 (!?) to jump in, the product came in an envelope rather than a box, and my experiences post-campaign were harrowing but my patience rewarded.

Province is a “micro” (buzz word du jour) euro-style resource management and worker placement game for two players. It’s simple, quick and compact (easily fits in most pockets) and yet has reasonable depth and a small, entertaining range of meaningful choices to make. The theme, as with most euros, is light and thin, but the graphics on the components are just about perfect. Seriously, the design here is absolutely top notch. I really appreciate when components have iconography and layout choices that act as easily understood mnemonics for rules. This is one of those games, and after you’ve played it once the graphics will remind you of anything you forget. They’re also cute, if that’s something that matters to you. Totally fam-friendly.

It’s a good choice for introducing players to some of the concepts without drowning them in the deep end. It also has replayability via the limited depth and the random selection of goals each game (think Kingdom Builder but with a much less dramatic, swingy affect on play). It also plays quickly (30 mins or less), which means it could end up becoming a lunchtime staple if I ever corral my coworkers into gaming! The components are good quality punchboard. It’s not quite FFG but it’s a lot better than another recent acquisition of mine, MageStorm, which normally costs quite a lot more than Province.

Just to be clear, once it drops in stores Province will come in a box, not a bag-and-envelope.

On to the game summary, them a score breakdown:

Goal: the goal, as with so many other games, is simply to have the most victory points when the game ends. Building structures before your opponent and achieving goals are the two ways of gaining victory points. The game ends when any of three conditions have been met: a player builds 7 structures, all structure types have been built, or all 5 goals have been achieved.

Components: the cutest little board I’ve ever seen; 7 structure tokens colored red (and another 7 blue) for each player; 3 red sailor worker tokens, 3 blue; 3 green shared workers; a camper worker (brown) and a villager worker (orange); two ship tokens; a lender token; 9 gem-shaped goal tokens; 10 silver coins, 3 gold coins, and one platinum coin; a labor tracker; and some unnamed crown token I assume is to designate current player.

Game turns are quick and consist of two phases. The first is where you rotate workers around the rondel in the center of the board. This reminds me of the bowls of power in Terra Mystica, though Province’s mechanic is simpler and easier to grasp. You start with 3 green workers, which are shared by both players. Part of the strategy involves deciding whether to shift all available workers or to leave some unmoved, which changes the available resources on your opponent’s following turn. Certain goals also involve trying to shift workers to particular “pads”, such as the goal of generating 4 labor in one turn. Of the three pads, two generate labor, the other money. Labor and money are the two resources of the game.

The second phase is where you spend resources to build structures and power other actions. Structures cost a mixture of money and labor, and each structure provides an ongoing benefit. The simplest examples are the camp, which provides an additional worker available to anyone who has built the camp; the mill provides you with one free labor at the beginning of your turn. Some structures can only be built if a precursor structure exists, such as the village (which depends on the camp) or the smithy (which depends on the mill).

Beyond these initial functions, the harbor and the lender add more interesting capabilities (the harbor randomly provides either money, labor, or the ability to hire a sailor who works just for you; the lender allows you to “borrow” the functionality of an opponent’s structure for the cost of 3 money to the lender at a later time)

The game plays very quickly and is enjoyable strategically (medium depth), with little downtime between turns and an interesting selection of random goals every game. It’s definitely gateway material but interesting enough to hold the attention of experienced players as a warmup or segue game.

4 stars out of 5. 5 stars for the visuals alone. Get this game!

Will post photos here tomorrow at some point, I plan on getting in another couple games then!

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The Last of Us

Have started playing. Just played the opening scene up to the “20 years later” scrawl.

Very visceral, very emotional so far without being over sentimental. Feels like the folds from Two Souls/Heavy Rain had something to do with this. CG looks top notch, just sub realism. Very emotional death scene within the first fifteen minutes leaves me hoping that not all the drama comes in the form of death…

Stay tuned.

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This is the second game I’ve purchased designed by Carl Chudyk, the first being the amazing Innovation. I’ll surely be giving that game a review before too long, but for now let’s focus on Impulse.

A fairly generic space-centric science fiction glaze is all the fluff you’ll get with this game, though there are some interestingly-named races their differences are extremely slight. Certain races start with given abilities others do not, but you’ll rarely hold onto your starting abilities long anyhow.

impulse box cover

The objective is to be the first to reach 20 points, which can themselves be obtained several ways.

Some off those ways are:

  • Trading a card. You get as many points as the card has icons
  • refining minerals. This eliminates the card from your mineral pile, so you won’t benefit from it any more, but you will get some number of points (varies per action card)
  • battle
  • sector core patrol
  • visiting sector core with a fleet of carriers

Setup consists of laying out the cards to form the space sector, at the center of which is placed the valuable Sector Core card. Given the number of players (Impulse can accommodate 2-6) their starting position on this “board” are fixed. Each player takes a race card and a color of rocket ship tokens, placing one of them on the score board at 0. After drawing an initial hand of 5 cards, each player must pick up his home card and decide from among all of these which will remain as his face-up home card after all. Then each player places 2 carrier ships and 1 cruiser ship on his home card. The cruisers “patrol” the “gates” between adjacent locations. Carriers “occupy” the locations themselves.

Think of carriers as your civilian ships and cruisers as your military muscle. Fleets can basically be reorganized on the fly, consisting of one or more ships.

Each player’s turn consists of:

  1. adding a card to the impulse
  2. using one of your two techs (either the starting abilities or those you’ve researched your way into)
  3. Running through the entire impulse and making use of those actions that are useful
  4. Running through the player’s entire Plan (basically a non-shared version of the impulse), though this may be delayed if the plan has fewer than 4 cards in it
  5. Scoring points for cruisers patrolling the sector core
  6. Drawing two cards and trimming the impulse down to 3 cards

Impulse is basically a 4X packaged into the smallest of analog formats. It’s because of this, as well as some rather interesting design choices – Chudyk seems keen on innovative and even initially unintuitive design, though it usually has a way of burning a hole through the clouds of confusion that initially settle in- that this game is definitely a gamer’s game, rather than a gateway game. I say this because, unlike the previously-mentioned Innovation, Impulse has a lot of meat to sink one’s teeth into.

One of the complexities/odd choices in Impulse is the multipurposing of cards as any of several tools in the game. Initially they are formed into an interesting hex grid board of play. The reverse sides are revealed through exploration, likewise being added to the explorer’s hand and one card replaced face up on the board, as with setup. Card actions are activated in numerous ways, such as landing on them with a fleet of carriers, or executing them from the impulse or plan.

In addition to being used as a board and as queues of actions via impulse and plans, cards may also be mined and used as minerals. These cards simply contribute a number of icons (in one of four colors) which thereafter boost actions taken using corresponding colored cards.

Combat only occurs when two or more fleets of cruisers wind up at the same gate. It works like so:

  1. First the defender lays out a number of face down cards from his hand as “reinforcements”. The attacker lays down reinforcements similarly face down
  2. These cards are revealed. Any invalid/bluff cards are returned to their player’s hands, while the others remain. In order to be a valid card, it must match another card from the impulse, the player’s plan, our his techs. It must match both in “size” (the number of icons on the card) as well as color.
  3. An additional card is drawn for each cruiser in the fight and added to the reinforcements. These new cards are not required to match anything.
  4. The number of icons on each side is totaled, and the loser’s ships are destroyed

The winner of a combat receives points equal to the number of destroyed enemy ships + 1.

Cruisers passing through territory occupied by enemy carriers (but no cruisers) simply obliterate them without a fight.

Innovation is chock-full of options on every turn, which can easily lead to analysis paralysis in non-strategic or neophyte players.

The box says 30-60 mins, but to me that figure seems unrealistic for average players. I’d give it 90 mins for your first game and be glad if you’re done at that mark.

For gamers steeped in strategic play and ready to take tactical advantage of the varying terrain and the whims of other players on the impulse, this game is great. 5 out of 5 easily. For middling gamers or newbies, you might want to find you fun elsewhere.

Here’s a race card with several minerals accumulated, two replacement techs and a plan forming:


Here’s a few race cards to compare, as well as the pile of rocketships in the box:


Finally, here’s a potential mid-sized play scenario in a two player game, where both races have spread out significantly from their originating locations on either edge of the board. Red seems to be in control of the sector core for now…


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The Missing

So Terri (that’d be my wife) and I are starting a two-payer, GM-less roleplaying game we’re calling The Missing. It’s powered by Fate Accelerated and Mythic GME and it’s going to be awesome.

It stars Terri and myself as Jamie and Jim Jenkins, (yes, we realize James and Jamie is cheesy, but look around you, there’s plenty of couples with worse name combos) a couple of private investigators in downtown Miami in the mid 80s. Plenty of cocaine, Cubans, partying and beach scenes abound. Specifically, we deal in missing persons cases.

We both have interesting histories.

Jamie would have been a felon if charging minors as adults was a more common thing back then. Plenty of B&Es, strong-arm robberies, vandalism and GTAs on her own and among her gangland peers. She cleaned up and made good after her father passed, ending up as a star police officer for years with Miami PD. She wanted to help individuals, though, wanted to be more directly involved in their lives and so started her own detective agency. Her knowledge of police codes and procedures is legendary, and she has an uncanny ability to tell truth from lies.

Jim’s father was a cop, and he always wanted to follow in his footsteps, but never quite made it thanks to a booze problem, along with a few other chemical cocktails. Jim fell in with the wrong side of the law after his father’s death and his mother’s gambling addiction landed them deep in debt. She has since been placed in a home and is essentially a vegetable. That doesn’t mean Jim is free of the $70k+ debts she worked up, and he has more than occasional run-ins with the goons who inherited him through the bookies his mother dealt with. Jim has tons of contacts on both sides of the law, from his father’s days, from his failed attempt at joining up himself, and from years of running numbers for bookies in a hopeless attempt to pay back his mother’s debt as a teenager. As a child, he had an obsession with becoming a stage magician, and got pretty damned good at sleight of hand. He still occasionally makes use of it to this day, palming a piece of evidence from a crime scene or distracting an authority figure while Jamie does some gray deed or other. He even taught himself some minor escape artist tricks, and could manage to break out of common police cuffs if need be.

The case the Jenkins find themselves investigating currently is a young kid by the name of Brandon Talton, an EE student at MIT. He was in Miami on Spring Break, partying it up with a handful of similar brainiacs. Thing is, one morning the rest of his friends were packing up to head back to Boston, and Brandon was nowhere to be found. His family reported him missing to the police, and the Jenkins made sure to insert themselves into the story as soon as Jamie heard the report come through on her scanner.

So that’s things so far, I’ll likely post additional details here as we actually engage in play. Which should hopefully happen in the next few days. I intend to mainly focus on the fiction, but will also include bits of Fate or Mythic mechanical details (aspect lists, invocations and compels, random events or modified scenes thanks to Mythic, etc)

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Lunchtime Microgames

My latest obsession (ok, one of a few) in gaming seems to be that of what I’m deeming “lunchtime microgames”. These are quick games – typically also of diminutive size, frequently card games – which can most importantly be played in less time than a typical lunch break.

While I’ve yet to motivate my coworkers into playing any of these games, the day soon shall pass. The first round of games to enter into this true lunchtime schedule will likely include Skittykitts and Lost Legacy: The Starship. These two games are fairly similar in terms of tiny deck size, and a bit of backstabbery goes a long way. I’d say Lost Legacy has a lot more seriousness in tone, though…

Swish is another good contender, since it takes about 10 seconds to teach and can be over in 5 minutes. Battle Line is almost certain to make the cut, though we will likely need to play with a timer to avoid analysis paralysis during an actual lunch break. Falling is GREAT fun with enough players, though they need to trust in the all-knowing referee… Great Dalmuti, Gloom (perhaps, I’m not sure it’s quick enough)

I think once my copy of Province comes in, that could really be great. Not sure I have any other compact/fast worker placement games, though.

BattleCon would be really cool, but explaining it might take more than one lunch time. Gameplay would be fast enough. Lunch Money could be cool. It’s got some of the street brawl flavor of BattleCon without the complexity, though plenty of meanness. And disturbing photos of children.

Noir: Killer vs Inspector could be a lot of fun for a 2-player game, and it’s got replayability for sure. Especially with the alternate games.

Castellan could be fun, but I haven’t tried the game myself yet!

Any press your luck game would do, starting with the obvious Zombie Dice, working up through Dungeon Roll and Ninja Dice. Definitely not enough time for Elder Sign.

Fluxx or We Didn’t Playtest This At All might be fun, but they may also just put people off gaming entirely. Unless there was beer.

Scrabble Slam! could be a nice simple time killer, unless I was playing people who hate those with decent vocabularies…

Tsuro could be good, again if we imposed a time limit on turns.

Does anyone else engage in this? If so, what suggestions have you got? Comments are welcome!

As a reference, my collection (though a few have not yet shipped…) is here: Thynctank BGG Game Listing

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NuGames to Review

Lots of small – and not so small – new games to review I’ve obtained over the last 8 or so months.

Quick run-down of names but nothing more, and in no particular order: Hanabi, Castellan, Ogre Pocket, Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan, Rivals for Catan, Impulse, Boss Monster, Myth, Septikon, Swish, Battle Line, Innovation, Lost Legacy, Agricola, Lost Valley, Urbanization, A Duel Betwixt Us, Terra Mystica, and surely scores more I’ve owned a while but never put up a proper review for.

Most of the above I’ve either only played briefly or played so few times as to only have a vague feel as to how they’ll hold up long-term, but I have enjoyed several of them.

On the out-going front, I’ve got copies of Incredibrawl and Boss Fight if anyone is interested…

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Space Hulk: Death Angel

This review has been a long time coming. I’ve has this game for quite a while, and have played over a dozen sessions, both solo and with teammates. Death Angel was one of the first few games I picked up since getting back into board gaming. It was one of several by FFG which convinced me that this company not only had legs, it knew how to use them!

Death Angel is a card game for 1-6 players, themed after Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k universe, and Space Hulk in particular. Space Marines (Earth’s – no, Terra’s – mightiest warriors, bred for battle and armed and armored to the teeth) board gigantic derelict ships – space hulks – teeming with xenos they must eliminate or send back to the depths of space before these ships reach Terra. For the Emperor!

The game is played with normal sized cards (thankfully!) of varying types: Combat Teams and their corresponding Tactics cards, Genestealers (and their big-bad equivalents, Brood Lords), Locations (that define the terrain layout, number of Genestealers in the area and sometimes have special effects), Terrains (which determine the likelihood of Genestealers spawning and occasionally have special effects) and Event cards (which usually have special effects, cause Genestealers to spawn and maneuver). There is one special six-sided die and 12 support tokens, which we’ll get into in a bit. It’s a coop game, so everyone works together and you all succeed as a team or die trying. Each player gets one or more 2-man squads (designated both by color and an icon, which is nice as some of the teams have very similar coloring) which he is responsible for. In a 1-player game you get three teams. No need to memorize this, however, as the Void Lock cards – special Location cards where you enter the ship – indicate how many players get how many marines.

The die

The die has the numbers 0 through 5 on it (instead of 1 through 6), half of which also have a skull icon. The die is rolled for both attack actions and in defense against Genestealer attacks, as well as other special circumstances as indicated on various cards.

Support tokens

These tokens are normally spent to improve odds, allowing a re-roll after a failed attack or defense – unless the poor marine was attacked from behind, in which case he’s out of luck. Other frequent uses are as counters on various cards – such as the Door terrain – to scale a given effect as needed. The Door, for instance, allows you to blow the hatch and kick several Genestealers out into space – as many as you have support tokens piled on the Door – before traveling on to a new Location.


Setting up involves finding the matching Void Lock for the number of players involved, randomly determining which additional locations the troops will be traveling to, and building the Formation, a single column of all the troops in random order, facing predetermined directions: the top half faces left, the bottom right. Facing is important in Death Angel. Terrain cards are set out on either side of the Formation according to the current Location, which to begin with is the Void Lock. Then the blip piles are created, small stacks of Genestealers that represent all the possible threats in the current Location for either side of the Formation. Lastly, an Event card is turned over to determine initially-spawned Genestealers, which are pulled from the blip piles and placed on corresponding Terrain cards.


There are no individual turns as such. Instead players take actions simultaneously, planning their strategies together and resolving actions together. Each round consists of four phases:

  1. Choose actions
  2. Resolve actions
  3. Genestealers attack
  4. Event

Choosing actions

Each player must choose one Tactic card from those available for each of the teams he’s responsible for. There are 3 Tactics available to begin with, but every turn after the first you only have access to two of the three, as the previous round’s card is unavailable. For the given Tactic, both [surviving] members of the squad get to take action, and given they are in separate positions in the Formation and may be facing different directions, there is much strategy here.

The three Tactics (shared by all teams) are Support, Move & Activate, and Attack. Each of these has predetermined effects:

  • Support adds a support token to a marine, even those not in your squad.
  • Move & Activate allows a marine to [optionally] shift up or down in the Formation, [optionally] changing facing, and [optionally] activating a terrain card that has an Activate option, such as a Door.
  • Attack – who would have guessed – attacks a swarm of Genestealers. That is, a pile of bad guys on the same side of the Formation as the acting marine is facing. Rolling a skull results in one dead Genestealer, otherwise nothing happens.

Resolve actions

Each Tactic card has a numeric value indicating its priority, with lower numbers going first. If you have expansions adding new troops to the roster, some duplication in numbers is possible, so non-letter numbers go first. (For example, 4 goes before 4B)

Each card is resolved entirely before continuing to the next card. Usually the common effect occurs (the standard action as described above) and then any special effects occur. Sometimes a card will explicitly state that an alternate effect occurs in place of the standard effect, such as a special attack.

Support actions happen first, then Move & Activate, then Attack. Be sure to plan accordingly.

Genestealers attack

After all teams have acted for the current round, any surviving Genestealer swarms attack the marines they are positioned next to, from left to right and top to bottom. The defending marine needs to roll higher than the number of Genestealers that are attacking him, so a swarm of five or more is literally impossible to defend against by normal means. If the marine fails this roll, he dies. Yes, it’s quite a vicious game, which is why teamwork and careful choice of tactics is necessary. If the marine was attacked from in front (meaning he is facing his attacker) he may spend a support token to re-roll.

Dead marines

Any time a marine dies, the Formation collapses, with the smaller half sliding up into the larger half. Through this transformation it is possible for multiple swarms to combine, as well as multiple Terrains to stack up in the same position.


After Genestealers attack, the top card from the Event deck is drawn. First the special effect occurs. If it includes the keyword “Instinct”, the player must make a decision without the rest of the group seeing the card first, which can lead to mistakes in strategy if the table has sub-optimal communication/awareness/familiarity with the game.

After any special effect, the acting player (this role rotates around the table and serves little additional purpose) must spawn new Genestealers at positions corresponding to the colors on the Event card: green is least likely to spawn, red most so.

After spawning new xenos, the acting player may have to move some of the Genestealers around based on icons on the Event card and the Genestealer cards themselves. Once this is completed, the next round begins.


If, at the end of any phase, either of the blip piles is empty, the marines travel to the next Location. (Unless they’re already at the final Location) this involves emptying the remaining blip pile if there is one, flipping over the new Location, changing out the Terrain cards to match the icons indicated on the new Location, and performing any On Enter effects for the new Location, if any. The next phase begins as normal.


Win conditions vary based on the final Location. Sometimes sending the ship back into deep space is enough, other times you must battle the Brood Lords, which are harder to defend against and move twice as often as other Genestealers. They can only be killed after all other Genestealers in their swarm are dead.


The game is over if all marines die. This will happen more often than not. Get used to it. Embrace it. Let it drive you into a Dark Side rage that makes you want nothing more than to kill every last Genestealer. Next game!

Wrap up

If you’re not ok with TPK and individual player elimination, this one may not be for you. If, however, your group likes a challenge, likes to argue about the merits of one tactical choice versus another, it might be right up your alley. It can be tense, fast-paced and cathartic with the right bunch of people. It can also take forever and a day with those less inclined. It must be noted, though, that it plays most excellently as a solo game. It’s probably still my favorite, though Elder Sign is next on the list. I also really want to try some of the solo games from Victory Point Games, I enjoy their silly random two-player dungeon delver Loot and Scoot a good bit, even if it is a bit simple.

This game would be amazing for mobile devices, particularly with online coop. For now it’s just a dream.

5 out of 5


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