Xenofera: Galactic Market 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 game’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


The Basics:

  • For ages 14 and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection
  • Auctioning & Bidding

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Go hunt down some great deals

Endorsements:

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

Overview

As a Royal Huntsmen, you enjoy the thrill of hunting down elusive and rare alien animals across the galaxy. These Xenofera, once captured, are worth a great deal of money to collectors. But hunting takes time and is dangerous. Instead of loading your plasma rifle and wearing layers of protective gear, you do your hunting at specialty auctions where the Xenofera can be found. While this is certainly safer than hiking through poisons swamps, you must still be on your guard. Other hunters are at the same auction, too, and only one of you will walk away with the prize!

Xenofera: Galactic Market, to be published by Puff Duck Games, will reportedly be comprised fo 36 Starting cards, six Player Guide cards, 30 Xenofera cards, 50 Resource cards, 36 Special Action cards, one Play Mat, and one “Bid Winner” marker. As this is a prepublished version of the game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. The provided illustrations are colorful and do an excellent job of further reinforcing the game’s thematic elements and overall narrative.

Arriving at the Auction

Note: Described here is the basic gameplay. Refer to the “Game Variants” section below for additional methods of play.

To set up the game, first give each player a set of six Starting cards. Every player will start with the same cards, giving no player an advantage over the other. Any Starting cards not used should be returned to the game box. Place the Play Mat in the middle of the playing area at this time.

Second, find and shuffle the Xenofera cards. Draw the first five Xenofera cards and return them to the game box without revealing what they are. These cards will not be used in the game. Place the remaining Xenofera cards face-down on the Play Mat to create the Xenofera draw deck.

Third, take the Special Action cards and organize them by type (there are nine in total, four per set). Select seven sets and place two back in the game box. At this time, the players have the option of being dealt one random Speical Action card. If this option is taken, shuffle the Speical Action cards and deal one to each player, face-down. This Special Action card is added to the player’s Starting cards. Regardless if the option is taken, take the Special Action cards and shuffle them with the Resource cards. Place this deck face-down on the Play Mat. This is the Resource draw deck.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and give them the “Bid Winner” marker.

Do I Have a Bid?

Xenfera is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. A game round is summarized here.

Step One: Set the Auction

The player with the “Bid Winner” marker draws the top card from the Xenofera draw deck, revealing it and placing it face-up in the “Current Bid” space on the Play Mat and alongside any Xenofera cards still on the auction block.

Step Two: Place Your Bid

All players now determine how badly they want the Xenofera currently on the auction block. Each player will select at least one card from their hand that indicates their bid. The selected card or cards are placed face-down in front of them, indicating that the player has placed their bid.

There are two different types of bids. These are the “value bid” and the “no bid”. With both bid types, only one copy of each Special Action can be played. Won Xenofera cards can be played in the bids for their number values.

A value bid is completed by playing any number of cards with a number value and any and optional accompanying Special Action cards. Special Action cards cannot be played alone and must always accompany a value bid higher than zero.

The no bid is completed by playing the “No Bid” card and with any number of Special Action cards that can only be played with a no bid.

If a player ever incorrectly plays cards per the two different bid types rules noted above (for example, playing a no bid action with a value bid), their bid is considered forfeit for this round.

Once all players have placed their bid, all bids are simultaneously revealed.

Step Three: Resolve Bids

Bids are resolved starting with the player in the next turn order sequence after the current player with the “Bid Winner” marker. If a “Lose” card is played, it’s resolved first. All card values are calculated, taking into account special situations where card values are changed. Timing matters here, folks.

The winner of the silent bid is the player who has the highest bid value. This player takes the Xenofera card and the “Bid Winner” marker.

Two of my favorites because I’m from Minnesota and the Liger has the best skills in magic…

If all players elect to not bid, then the round is considered a complete waste of the players’ time and no one gets the Xenofera card for this round, but the Xenofera card remains on the auction block.

If there is a tie for the highest bid, the players who are in a tie each play one more card face-down, revealing their selected card simultaneously. Additional Special Action cards are not allowed when resolving a tie. The player with the new highest value wins the bid. This process is repeated until there is only one player who has the highest bid value. If the tied players cannot resolve their tie or they elect to not play any additional cards, the round is considered similar to everyone playing a “no bid”.

Step Four: Resolve Special Actions

After the bid is resolved, it’s time to resolve any remaining Special Action cards still in play starting with the player left of the player who won the auction for the round.

Step Five: Cleanup

All played cards (including played Xenofera cards) are now discarded with the exception of the “No Bid” card, which is returned to the player’s hand.

Any player with three or fewer cards in their hand draw enough cards from the Resource draw deck to bring their hand size back up to three cards.

This completes the round. A new round now begins with step one noted above.

Sold!

The game ends when the last Xenofera card is played, bid for, and won. All players now total their remaining Xenofera cards in their hand, adding the number values together. The player with the highest total value of Xenofera cards wins the game.

Game Variants

The basic game described above can be made more difficult and strategic by adding a simple advanced rule to the gameplay. When calculating the winner, sets of Xenofera cards (who all originate from the same planet) with three or more cards earn the player an additional 10 points per Xenofera card in the set.

To liven up the game, players can include the “Fast Hand” game variant rule. When all players decide not to bid, the first player to place their hand on top of the Xenofera card currently up for auction wins the Xenofera card. However, if a player places their hand over the Xenofera card and there is a bid for it (meaning the player didn’t look at the played cards close enough – whoops) they are penalized by being kicked out of the next round in the auction!

To learn more about Xenofera: Galactic Market, visit the game’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed the game, finding it fun to play their silent bid cards and revealing them at the same time, followed by groans or cheers. According to one Child Geek, “I think all the alien animals are funny and I like how you can play actions to change the rules, but the most entertaining thing about the game is the set collecting and slapping those alien cards!” This Child Geek learned how to play the basic game and was later introduced to the two game variants, which they found to be a great deal of fun. Another Child Geek said, “This game is easy! All you have to do is play cards at the right time and beat everyone else’s score!” True and terribly oversimplified. A card played is a card lost, including those hard-won Xenofera cards, but the Child Geeks has it right. When all the votes were in, the Child Geeks gave Xenofera their full endorsement.

The Parent Geeks found the game to be light and casual fun with interesting actions to pair up with their bids. According to one Parent Geek, “There is more to this game than just playing a bid card to win the funny little alien animals. You can play as many cards as you like and you can augment your turn by adding in some fun actions. Just be sure you play the right types of actions or you’ll lose your turn.” This Parent Geek is referring to the rule that states that certain Action cards can only be played when playing certain bid types. A number of players learned the hard way that a poorly played bid costs you more than a turn as all the played cards are discarded. Another Parent Geek said, “A fun game. Casual. Fast. And it made me think. I loved it.” All the Parent Geeks voted to approve Xenofera for their family gaming table.

The Gamer Geeks enjoyed Xenofera, finding it to be a game of surprising depth, but not overly heavy or altogether difficult in its execution. Still, each bid was won not by luck, but by smart card plays, reading the table, and hand resource management. According to one Gamer Geek, “Every player starts the game with the same cards, and after that, it’s all up to you. How well you do is based on how smart your bids are. If you bid too much or too little, you won’t win. Finding that special spot in the middle is key to victory. It was fun trying to find it and every game was a new challenge.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A solid casual game of easy to learn and to follow bidding rules. I liked all the options available to me and that I could turn around and use the cards I bid on, with the penalty of losing them if I did so. Made some of my plays more difficult than expected and each outcome of the bid was entertaining to resolve.” All the elitist Gamer Geeks voted to approve Xenofera, finding it worth their time.

There are certainly more complicated bidding games available to players today and a lot of what Xenofera does has been done before. This is a game built on the success of other games, and it shows. This is not a bad thing. Xenofera is solid in both its approach to how the game should be played, depth, and strategy. The game cannot be played unless you engage it and all of our players wanted to. Each round feels rewarding, regardless if you win or lose because everything moves quickly and actions are always making each round a unique experience. This resulted in each game feeling fresh and new regardless of how certain you were that you had “played a game like this before” (which we heard a lot).

I rather enjoyed the game. The rules are, as noted by many of our players, “simple”. Simple in the sense that there is not a lot and the few that are there are easy to remember and make sense. Where the game becomes complex is in the mind of each of the players. The more cards you have, the more options are available to you, but that doesn’t make the game easier. More cards means potential higher bidding power, but should you exercise that power? Should you burn these high-value cards for the current Xenofera up for bid? Or should you keep them in reserve and play a few actions to mess with your opponents, giving you a better chance of what you hope is a high-valued Xenofera yet to be revealed? These are the kinds of questions that race through a player’s mind when they select their cards. When they are revealed, each player quickly scans the table to determined if they played wisely or not. It can be, in a word, “intense”.

Do play this quirky little bidding game when you get the chance. Perfect as a casual filler for the elitists or an entertaining game for the casual players to enjoy for the evening. All our groups enjoyed it and wanted to play it again as soon as the game was over. A true sign that this game is worth exploring at your family gaming table. Give it a shot and see if it was worth bidding your time on.

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.

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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 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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