Review: Cool Mini or Not’s XenoShyft Dreadmire

Review: Cool Mini or Not’s XenoShyft Dreadmire

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Number of Players: 1-4 (6 with expansion)
Time: 1.5-2 hours (faster if you blow through it)
Game Type: Onslaught Management/Deck Builder/Cooperative
Gamer Type: Advanced
Complexity: 8
Ages: 16+
XenoShyft Dreadmire (XSD) is one of those games that you have for when you and serious friends want a serious challenge. The game becomes more complex and difficult the more players you have, so starting with a 2-player game can be effective to ensure your best chance of victory. But if you want maximum challenge, make sure to bring your whole crew to defend the base as you wait for help. The first game of XSD was an epic battle where our soldiers were just too exhausted at the end for us to cross the finish line, but it is a game that brings you back looking for more; now lets take a look at why.


You are defending a base in space. How cool is that? Well, it turns out in the case of XSD, it is pretty cool. Each player is from a different department, which allows you special abilities and access to weapons at a reduced price. The “interdepartmental cooperation” aspect of this game is a nice change on the “clan” or “nation” basis of many games and it also seems to make the most sense for the game. Vicious aliens are attacking the base. Why? We do not know, but knowing us humans, we probably stuck our nose somewhere that it did not belong. (5.5 of 10)


The artwork for the game is MTG quality. Which means in most cases the game would not be great. However, this is not one of those games that just spent their budget on a set of cool cards; the cards accentuate a very intricate gaming environment. The boards, box, and cards all add to the feeling of the game. It does have a dark “Alien” type feel – with power low and morale even lower – but that is the feeling the XSD designers built into the game, and it works. The box is a thick medium box, so it is a little higher than most boxes in the category, but holds all the parts well. (6.5 of 10).


The game uses cards as randomizers. This is a dual-randomization system, with the monster cards and the deck you build being randomized. Once again, it works. While Euro gamers may not like this, chaos is a reality in many situations, and randomization creates chaos. The battle system is well designed, though it can seem harsh – fighting aliens on a distant planet likely falls into the “harsh” category. The “lanes” system for the onslaught battle is manageable and the system (both players and the game) manipulate the lines quite well to make it a useful mechanic. Overall 7 of 10 for mechanics.


In this game, you are playing defense all game – there is no way you and your team can avoid defensive strategy. Offense is represented quite well in the concept because you can build up your units to have the highest possible power, which can be effective early-mid game. Towards the end, alien abilities tend to negate high power without support, so you have to watch that. Rush is difficult to do in this; the only real rush we found was card rush, in which you buy lots of cheap cards then mill them to get better cards. It was effective but of the four main strategies, it was the least effective. Engine building was not as effective as I expected, which made it more challenging. As the alien complexity changes towards the end, planning for what you are going to get can be difficult and you may have an engine for the wrong operation. Overall, however, very strong strategy here, especially for a cooperative game (7 of 10).


The lane system in this game is quite novel. The story line is aliens v. humans, so it is old hat, but they are doing it in a new way. Likewise, most of the cards have mechanics that we have seen before, but put together in a new away. There are other games on the market with the same feel, but this is a good little game and it is worth having. 5.5 of 10.


XSD is a solid game that is a little more complex than a lot of the games on the market. It is in that narrow space between a good game and a very good game. The expansion could up some of the areas of development, but the base game is still very solid. With a score of 31.5, this game is just on the bubble of being a great game. I am excited to see what the expansion looks like and how the market reacts to this game that has been around for a while, but still has not entered its golden age.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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