When you say mines, everyone will imagine peaceful place somewhere deep in the ground covered in rock. But to bet his peaceful, you must not be on a planet flying through the enemy’s territory. It then raises all your alarms, when you see a random patrol and then hell breaks loose. Well, that’s what happened to us. And so now I stand in my mech suit near entrance to the mine and I can distinctively hear tense silence interrupted by a rhythmic drilling. Everybody knows they’re coming.
And the box definitely does not suggest, that this should be a card game. Its a really big package, which is more than half empty. This is to provide you with a vacancy for purchased expansions and more enemies to defeat. Meanwhile, you will have to accept, that one compartment hiding under soldiers on the lid will remain free. This makes it harder to store cards that tend to travel back and forth. In the middle there are two compartments where you can hide the remaining components, but also some separated cards (starting decks for example).
At the beginning of the game, however, a team of players will place two thic paper boards in the middle – one with nine positions for randomly chosen items and the other with spaces for defenders. But there is another board with a counter, that indicates state of your base. Its initial defense depends on the number of players in the game. However, before setup of the board and cards itself, each player takes his own two boards each with four card spaces (one blue board for the Nortec army and red for the attackers). In case of the basic box, enemy is called The Brood.
To do this, however, everyone will also choose one of their divisions, where they’re located in the mines. According to his identity, player can do some more specific reinforcements for his crew, adding two cards to six xenosathema and four militia starting cards. Divisions allow players to take some stronger items to start with. Players will take item placeholders, shuffle them and randomly spread them on the item board to make starting item offer. These positions then get real item decks. Then, defending troops are divided into three waves on the main board and at the beginning of each line, players will place a currency card (already mentioned xenosathem) and prepare deck of enemies. Injury and skills tokens are places aside.
Each player shuffles a set of his dozen cards and takes top six of them in hand. In the next rounds, this is just the moment, when players draw back to have six cards again. Whenever anyone draws up all the cards in his draw pile, he can shuffle his discard pile and creates a new supply. At the start of each turn, all players will receive one raw material card. Phase of the game (active wave – one, two or three) will decide about its value.
Then follows a purchase phase, that everyone is doing at the same time. Players can acquire items and soldiers, whichever they may need for their defense. For these cards, player has to pay purchase price (shown in the upper right corner of each card) with xenosathem cards and then he can add it to his or her hand! No discard pile, hand, so he can immediately use it! At the beginning, it is not possible to buy all the cards, but only those that are in higher or equal line of currently running wave of the game. Upon payment, raw materials card is moved to discard pile, so he may use it again in the future.
Attack is coming, so it’s time to prepare defense soldier row. Players can use cards from their hand and place them on any blue board spot (with the letter N), even on one of the teammates boards. Soldiers can be also equipped with items. By placing the card in front of another player, former owner gives it up. When all players played cards they wanted, they could arbitrarily rearrange them in their defensive line from left to right. The soldier located to the left is the first in line, when enemy arrives.
This happens in a few moments, because phase of the enemy immediately follows. Each base should have some defense, because all participants will receive three or four cards of attackers. In the last wave, strong bosses will also join attack, shuffled into the enemy deck. Everyone gets their number of attackers and randomly places them on the attack board with a picture down. The identity of the raiders still remains unknown.
Gradually, player reveals first enemy card in his line, after evaluating the potential surprise effect, they are allowed to attack him and deal as many injuries as is the attacking strength of the unit. At the same time, however, they also get hit and they have to tally their wounded score with help of tokens. Both sides attack each other several times until one of them falls. Solider or enemy is eliminated and is another player’s defense turn. Army men move to discard pile after they have fallen. If there are no more raiders, the base has successfully defended itself. If its the other way around (there are no defenders to hold the onslaught), other players have the option to repel this attack (by using one-time hand cards, which can also be played during a fight). And if attackers survive even this, then joint base will suffer some damage.
At the end of each round, players can remove some fighters from their defenses (prepare free spaces to replace wounded soldiers), throw away any number of cards from their hand, and add new item in offer in case some deck gets depleted. The wave indicator moves forward. After every third round, the enemy regroups and sends stronger fighters. At the same time, however, players are also given the opportunity to recruit better soldiers. The game continues until the players‘ base is destroyed or until players have withstood a complete set of attacks (nine).
Xenoshyft: Dreadmire is an excellent purely cooperative game based on deckbuilding. Several attempts to let players cooperate with this mechanism have already been done (like Thunderstone), but this is by far the most successful of them.
The actual building of the package is not as essential as cooperation and good planning in here. Players must jointly prepare defenses for all entries into the base. They can play cards, not just in front of them, but in front of any teammate. That’s exactly what needs real cooperation. Although the players will not be doing this much, because they will lose this card and give it to other player. It will not leave the game and remain in the team, but after discarding it, it will go into the package of his new owner.
Attacks are hard to predict and can not be planned, but players can prepare for unexpected situations with the help of item cards. Some of them can be played as support (instant cards) and to cope at least with some part of randomness. Draw decides what monsters will attack which players, so there is just a little bit of luck, and your defensive formation might collapse under the enemy force.
News, that Dreadmire brings (in addition to balance) is weather. It is bound purely to a new faction of invaders. At the beginning of each round, one new weather card from a shuffled deck is revealed, and it will trigger some effects depends on current weather conditions. This makes the game even more exciting. Cards of divisions, items and soldiers all have different texts, that give players special abilities. And these need to be very well used, because there can not be enough possibilities to defend!
Number of base points is grading difficulty of the game for different number of players. It can be further adjusted by the number of enemies. And a little more emphasis on planning provides a variant, where identity of the first enemy is already known. Players can prepare at least a bit, which greatly reduces the feeling of helplessness from accidental draw. Game is expandable in both ways – defender and attacker side, so we will see, what designers will prepare for us in the future.
The more players, the more attacks can penetrate in, and the more the starting points are needed to cover. The overall impression of collaboration increases with the number of participants in the game. However, at the same time, total game time is stretched and with the maximum number of four players, it can reach twice the declared 60 minutes. This also means, that its great in two, three (slightly over an hour) and works even as a solitaire.
Xenoshyft: Dreadmire plays very successfully on the cooperative string of all who like science fiction games. It is theme itself, leading you into a science fiction world, that is not typical for deckbuilding or cooperative games altogether. The game is pleasantly difficult and it offers a great selection of troops and cooperation in organization of defense. Xenoshyft: Dreadmire still provides fun, even when you have lost all love for deckbuilding.
Xenoshyft: Dreadmire is an excellent card coop game. Players must jointly defend their base from the raid and do that long enough so the whole mine can evacuate. One wave of enemies comes after another and they are not just any enemies. They come in packs and even with some strong generals in their midst. Over time, even their number increases. The game is exciting and puts great emphasis on co-operation, as players can be very helpful to each other. It's all fun, variable, and unfortunately also random. Xenoshyft: Dreadmire is a game that has great potential, and it will be even better, when there is some expansion. But even now with basic box, it's a great game.