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Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Dave Killingsworth
Artists: Moray Rhoda, Mark Rust, BD Judkins, Brad Linder, Andora Cidonia, Mortis Logan, Joel Lopez
Publisher: SolarFlare Games 
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


tl;dr: Clunky and punishing, but with a TON of replayability and fun art. Fans of Munchkin mechanics will love this co-op take on them.

Getting to the Game: The rulebook is fifteen pages long and packed with 8-point font. My recommendation is that if you don't care about playing the game EXACTLY correct for your first run, get through what a turn looks like and what your action options are, then just start playing. Use the rulebook as a reference guide for your first game. It'll be more fun then trying to understand the many edge cases outlined in the book. That said, it's very thematic, with redacted text and Easter eggs for the watchful. There's also misprinted clarification pictures and spelling errors, so... be patient. 

Setting up the game is easy, taking almost no time at all. Once you've built the "forest" correctly based on the number of characters you're playing with, you drop your standees on the edge and immediately get into the game. 

Playing the Game: The narrative successor to 2016's Nightmare Forest: Dead Run, you and your fearless gang find yourself heading back into the woods to stop an alien invasion. Completely clear the forest of aliens, and you'll win. Take too long, or lose even one of your teammates, and it's Kodos for President. 

Each player has a dice pool based on their character level. Kill aliens to gain experience, and you can get more dice to dole out more punishment. Once you encounter an alien in the forest, you're locked in combat with it and can't run away until one of you is dead. Combat itself is easy enough; you roll dice from your pool, hoping to come up with enough hits to kill your opponent in one shot. Fail to do enough damage, and the alien counterattacks you and completely heals. Run out of dice in your pool, and you're done for the round. In an easy game, you and the friends you brought with you only have nine rounds to completely eradicate the alien threat, so time and dice are precious resources. 

Anything can happen in the woods, though: alien gear caches can be found and broken open for precious weapons, powerful allies can be discovered and convinced to join your cause, and you can always scrounge for random tools that you can wield against the horde. I mentioned Munchkin up above because this game feels spiritually similar. You have cards that represent tools and weapons, and they can help you defeat hidden baddies represented by cards. The difference here is that you attack with dice, so randomness is an issue. If you get lucky, you'll make quick work of the lower-level aliens and parlay that experience into higher levels, and everything will go smooth. If you fail to roll the dice well, though, you'll find yourself bemoaning the cute little blob in front of you who just won't let you pass through no fault of your own.

Artwork and Components: The artwork on the cards is fun, and there's a LOT of it. You could play a dozen games of Alien Invasion and still not see all the alien cards. The overall visual feel is very good and contributes nicely to the campy fun of beating up aliens whilst slamming energy drinks. Each of the game's six characters are varied enough that it's not confusing who is who, and putting punchouts into standees to represent your team in the forest feels good. (One note here: In our second game, the bottom of one of the characters peeled in half trying to get it into the base. If you play this game a lot, consider leaving the characters in their bases and finding a different storage solution for them.)

The components are equally solid. The game comes with fourteen custom dice, which isn't enough in most games for every player to have all the dice they need all at once. You'll want to come up with a way to track how many dice are in your pool without actually using the dice themselves. Short of including over 40 custom dice in each game box, I would have preferred some kind of tracker so I know what I have left to spend in the turn.

Wounds are represented by removing acrylic health tokens from your character card, and these look great. I always prefer a different feel to constant waves of cardboard, so this addition is especially nice and welcome. 

The Good: Once you've overcome the rulebook enough to know what's happening, the gameplay is fun, fast, and hectic. The loss of a single character means game over, so there's plenty of depth in trying to keep many plates spinning while watching the round timer slowly click down. This instant-end mechanic also tends to cut games that are snowballing out of control short, which I actually appreciate. No one wants to keep playing a game they can see is hopeless.

The Bad: For me, the rulebook is a huge issue. There are problems with rules not being clear, including setup for 3-4 players. There are rules that are explained to death, and then all of a sudden there's a footnote with an edge case that invalidates what you were just told. Movement through the forest is unnecessarily complicated, and there's a crafting mechanic for your weapons that isn't worth the complexity it takes to do it. And this isn't even a comprehensive list of the elements that my group had issues with. The nice thing about this game is that once you've got it in your bones, the gameplay is actually pretty fun. You just have to come to terms with the fact that it's going to be hard to get going, which kills people's enthusiasm for a new game.

Score: Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion is very replayable, fun to both play and look at, and challenging enough to keep you coming back. It's more complex than it needs to be, though, and that's a big deal for me. I give this game a rating of Needs a Universal Translator.

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About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion Review Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion Review Reviewed by The Madjai on November 27, 2017 Rating: 5

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