Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 1 to 6 players
  • Approximately 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Survive the night in an alien invested forest

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The forest that surrounds the City has been a secret battleground for the lives and welfare of the City’s occupants. You and a few other brave individuals have self-appointed yourself as defenders of the City and took it upon yourself to patrol the forest for any dangers. After defeating undead animals with a penchant for human flesh, you thought all would be quiet. You thought wrong. Strange lights are seen in they sky and the forest is once again a place of danger.

Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion, designed by Dave Killingsworth and to be published by SolarFlare Games, will reportedly be comprised of 103 Forest cards, 18 +1 Dice tokens, 6 -1 Gear tokens, 60 Wound counters, 6 Character cards, 1 Turn Counter token, 34 Gear cards, 6 Character standees, 1 Turn card, 14 dice, 6 standee bases, 12 Ability cards, and 6 Action tokens. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. The proposed artwork is excellent, giving each of the alien invaders a unique look which further enhances the game’s theme and narrative.

Mysterious Lights at Night

To setup the game, first take the Forest cards and separate them by their tier values (1 – 4). Create a pile for each tier and shuffle them, placing each pile with the Forest side face-up.

Second, create the forest by drawing seven per player. Two cards each from tiers 1, 2, and 3 (for a total of six), and one card from tier 4 (for a total of seven). Shuffle the Forest cards and then lay them out in a specified order (as shown in the rule book).

Third, have each player select 1 Character card, the matching standee, and one Action token.

Don’t mess with Amalia…

Fourth, shuffle the Character Ability cards and deal two to each player. The players must now evaluate both cards and select one to discard. Players should work together at this point to decide which abilities are kept and which are discarded. The idea is to complement each other with abilities that work together. All cards selected and owned by a player are kept face-up in front of them so the other players can see them, too.

Fifth, place the Turn card and Turn Counter token to one side and within viewing distance of all players. Set the number of turns based on the difficulty level (for example, nine of Easy and seven for Hard).

That’s it for game set up. All players should have their Action tokens set to “Active”.

Into the Woods

Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion is played in rounds and turns. The players decide which one of them goes each turn and can change the turn order whenever they like, but each player can only take a turn once per round. A typical game turn is summarized here.

Players have four different actions they can take on their turn.

Fight Aliens

This is the player’s attempt to fight the aliens and clear the forest of danger. The problem is that the aliens are hiding so there is no guarantee that the players will find the extraterrestrials when they go looking for them.

To search for an alien, the player flips over a Forest card that is adjacent to the player’s standee. Whatever is revealed is what the player encounters. This could be an alien or it could be a trap, an ally, or even gear.

If the player runs into an alien, a fight immediately ensues. Aliens don’t want to talk things over, apparently. Fights occurs once the alien is encountered, but if the fight fails to drop the alien scum, the player is not required to fight it during their next turn, but nor can they run away or take any other action.

Attacks are straight forward. The player takes a number of dice from the player’s collective dice pool and attempts to roll enough damage to destroy the alien. The higher the tier level of the Forest card, the more dangerous the possible alien.

The number of total dice available to the player is whatever is in the Dice pool. However, once the dice are used, the player cannot use them again. This makes the dice a limited resource and the player must decide if they want to use the dice now or later during their turn. Weapons can be added to the mix that improve the player’s chances in a battle. But be careful! Some weapons make noise that can attract more aliens!

Defeated aliens are removed from the Forest and added to the players’ Experience pool. Victory also returns one used die back to the Dice pool.

If the player fails to defeat the alien, the alien counterattacks. Player characters take wounds. If any player character dies, all the players lose the game. Luckily, there are a multitude of ways to avoid disintegration at alien hands/tenticals/webbing/whatever-appendage-they-have.

If a player finds an alien trap, they encounter it much like an alien and roll dice to determine damage.

They can also find survivors of the alien incursion in the woods who will join their rank and file to defeat the alien scum.

If players find gear they can equip it to help fight the aliens.

It’s also important to note that players can help each other. This is, after all, a cooperative game. If a joint attack is done, it can only include two players who combine their efforts to take down the aliens. Of course, both players must be in the same place in the forest in order to work together.

Search

A player can take a moment to stop and search for discarded alien tech and helpful inventory when they are located on a space that is not currently contested by another alien. The dice are rolled and based on the outcome, the player will find or not find some helpful gear. If the found gear is not helpful, they can always trade it to another player.

Move

Movement is all on the cards played to represent the forest. Players can move their standee up, down, left, right, or diagonal at the cost of 1 die per space moved. Players should be careful when moving as they can run into an alien ambush.

Spend Experience (level up)

Experience is combined and shared by all the players. Experience can be spent to regain health, reroll dice, and level up characters. Leveling up increases the number of dice in the Dice pool. As such, the players have more movement, can hit harder, and can do more damage.

Eat Lead, Alien Scum!

Victory goes the players if they clear the forest of all the alien scum who are walking about, but only if they do so without losing one of their own. If any player is vaporized by godforsaken alien technology, the players lose the game. Them’s the breaks. Players can also lose if they run out of turns, in which case, the alien invasion begins in full earnest.

To learn more about Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion, visit the kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had a great time with the game, exploring the forest, and kicking some alien butt. The most exciting aspect was watching them discuss openly how best to use the Dice pool. This is really where the game and the players collide. With such a limited resource, each turn becomes a visceral experience for the players where they must decide as a group how not only to best proceed, but also survive. According to one Child Geek, “I love this game. I don’t feel like I’m fighting aliens so much as I am kicking aliens!. Another Child Geek said, “The best part of the game is working with other players. Like this one time where I traded a weapon with another player just in time to take down a big bad alien bad guy!” It should be noted that the Child Geeks always played the easiest setting of the game, but even so, they worked hard for their victory. When the games were over, they eagerly gave Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion their full endorsement.

The Parent Geeks also had a good time, both with their families and with their peers. According to one Parent Geek, “The game has a lot of replayability and is a lot of fun. Each turn of the card is exciting and exploring the forest feels like a dangerous endeavour.” Another Parent Geek said, “A great cooperative game. I can play with my kids just as easily as I can play with my friends.” What the Parent Geeks liked most, both non-gamer and gamer alike, is the game’s easy to follow rules that were neither restrictive or burdensome. As one Parent Geek put it, “The game is really streamlined and easy to learn. Not to mention easy to teach to new players.” When all the games were over, the Parent Geeks had no problem fully endorsing Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion.

The Gamer Geeks were also somewhat enamored with the game, but only when they played it on the hardest setting. As one Gamer Geek put it, “The game is easy to pick up and to play, but is only worth playing when you set it at its hardest setting.” It should be noted that the Gamer Geeks played like an elite Navy Seals squad, clearing out the forest with a level of precision only the most elitists of gamers could possibly provide. It’s of little wonder that they only felt the game’s tense game play when they set it to a level that left no room for mistakes. They lost more games then they won, but that is exactly what they were expecting and enjoyed. According to one Gamer Geek, “The game reminds me of some video games I played. You have to tackle it like a squad, move in pairs, and encounter each space like it is the boss monster. Only then can you survive and win.” A few of the Gamer Geeks tried the solo version, but all agreed that working with others was the way to go. They fully endorsed Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion.

The game is fun, but also challenging. Even at its easiest entry-level, the game requires players to make some tough choices. As the game progresses, the choices become easier, but there is a lack of time to make them. This makes the entire game feel more intense, as the game clock runs out. Yes, the players might be more badass, but they have less time to enjoy their new-found awesomeness as the game progresses. This was a neat way the game developer balanced out the game play. The stronger the players get, the more risk they must take in order to win the game. You cannot play it safe in the forest. Risk taking is a must.

My favorite aspect of the game is building up resources and courage to take on higher tier levels. Since players know the “possible risk” of each Forest card, they can discuss how best to navigate the trees in hopes of surviving the night. This opens the game up to a great deal of strategy and tactics; more than I originally expected. The Gamer Geeks mentioned “squad movement”. This is an accurate description of the game if played correctly. Players must move through the forest with a great deal of intent, as random game play is simply out of the question. The entire atmosphere of the game leaves players wondering what they will encounter next and how they will ever survive. Intense moments will be abundant, as will the fun.

Do try this game when time permits. It has a great deal of replayability and brings to the table the very best elements of cooperative gaming.

This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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