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X-Odus: Rise of the Corruption Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: X-ODUS: Rise of the Corruption


Designer: Romain Lesiuk, Yann Hilaire
Artist: Ryan Groskamp
Publisher: Bored Game Ink
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 90 - 180 min.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of X-ODUS. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: 4X Co-op and hunt-and-seek, with some pacification and trading built in. Sleek and clean sci-fi art goes a long way here.

Getting to the Game: Setup is a little onerous, with lots of cards and tiles that need to be shuffled and dispersed. Variable starting conditions based on player count lends to fine-tuning based on how many buddies you have. Each player gets their own unique ship with a specific specialty, so choose one that fits your play style: The explorer, warship, proto-ship, drone specialist, pirate ship, and battlecruiser each do their own thing really well, but don't lock you out of any actions available to others--a nice touch that allows both flexibility and asymmetry. Once everything's ready, place your ship markers on the first system tile, and choose a first player to lead you in your efforts to clean up the galaxy.


Incorrect setup for the corruption mat is depicted here. There was some confusion with the rulebook and we cleaned it up later... you'll see.

In order to win the day and save the known universe, you'll need to get very busy, very fast. You have to track down all four (three, in a three player game as pictured throughout) precursor signals, hidden throughout the systems in the stack of system tiles. Once discovered, each signal leads you on a little chase or challenge to acquire its key. Now that you have all the keys, you have to dig through the system stack to get to the bottom in order to find the main rift- the tear in space that is allowing the Avatars (not those Avatars, or even this Avatar) into our realm. Get all the keys to the rift on your ships in order to unite their power to seal it shut, and hope the avatars don't get to you first. It's a lot, and you'll be at this for a while.



Playing the Game: Similar to every other co-op game I'm familiar with, each "round" allows each player ship to activate, which grants it a certain number of actions to do with as they please. X-ODUS gives you three or four, depending on which ship you chose at the beginning. You have to spend all your actions before anyone else can take their turn, and you're even given the option to "strain" your ship to take one additional action at the cost of maybe blowing a hose or two and causing minor ship damage. These actions can be spent on a HUGE variety of things, maybe too much, as you can move, fight, explore, trade, evade danger, hunt down a precursor key, and on and on. 



Aiding you on your quest always are the precursors themselves, or at least their artifacts, having hidden the keys you're hunting, but also providing you with unlockable ship upgrades in the form of precursor mods, and their derelict stations and flotsam around the galaxy will often attempt to re-energize or repair your craft--sometimes with unintended consequences. They're an advanced race, after all, and no one really knows how to control their tech. 

The bulk of your actions will be spent trying to push through the system stack, a pile of hexagonal tiles which hide all the goodies and baddies in the game. You can send a probe to a neighboring system as an action, revealing the top tile and allowing you to orient it in relation to the existing discovered space based on a connected hyperspace lane. (each tile has "walls" on it that force you to line them up with open sides facing each other) You can then spend an additional action jumping to that system, or you can go full Galactica and spend just one action to blind jump--exposing a tile and moving there at the same time. This choice, while more efficient, puts you in danger of jumping into a hostile sector with no information first--causing combat or worse. Some systems are so corrupted by the very harbingers of the corruption you're trying to stave off that they contain no useful resources and serve as immediate travel destinations for the deadly ships, intent on stopping you before you can seal up their source.

Let's start with what works here. The first thing you notice about this game is just how outstandingly pretty it is. There's a gorgeous unifying feel to the art and assets here, and it absolutely sings on the table (my amateur photo skills notwithstanding). From the card backs to the tiles, to the ship mats, there is an obvious care taken to make sure that everything looks like it comes from the same universe, and the bar is set very high. While these are only prototype components, I'd be very surprised if these aren't finalized assets. They look amazing. 



Additionally, X-ODUS does a phenomenal job with immersion. You are a ship's captain, and you can do just about anything you can imagine. Want to form up with a fellow captain and create a fleet with your two ships? You got it. Want to ignore the good of the galaxy and just go exploring? Sure, ok. Arm yourself to the teeth and go on a bloody rampage across deep space? Yes, Captain Kavok. With ship upgrades all over the place and more and more goodies to find, there's plenty here to keep you busy for the whole game. 

The story, such as it is, is also pretty compelling. Bored Game Ink (what a weird publisher name) has taken a pretty tired, usually hackneyed backstory of a malevolent, unstoppable force shoving its way through space, and through excellent use of flavor text, balanced ship power, and little bits of story unraveled through exploring, made something quite good. There's plenty of cards to work through as well, so your games aren't likely to be overly similar to each other. From unearthing cultist bases to bumping into swarms of semi-sentient nanobots, invading outposts to discovering ancient dyson spheres, and even stumbling across a giant fleet of escaping civilians, the stakes are set from the beginning and each discovery feels completely appropriate and dangerously fun.



Reviewer's Note I: This review originally contained remarks that addressed the endgame based on a misunderstanding of the rules. The developer has clarified the game's intent, and assured me that the rules are being clarified throughout the book. While I haven't had the chance to test the "correct" endgame, the change addressed my original, negative concerns with it.

There's always a dark side of the moon, though. In some ways, X-ODUS' reach feels almost like Icarus', as it tries to do so much, it's very nearly overwhelming. Right up to the end of our first session with the game, we were referencing the 20-page (!!) rulebook constantly. There's also a player elimination component working against you here. It is a 4X game, after all. However, since it's a co-op, it's not your fellow players who will be X-ing you, but rather the game. For a game that can take three hours or more, getting eliminated can result in some serious badfeels. Finally, the game's wide berth of options I mentioned earlier can become a millstone for players who aren't sure how best to serve the cause- the sheer number of choices for how to spend your turn can be daunting. X-ODUS can quickly devolve into alpha gamer territory, because while there's lots to do, only some of it actually serves the best interests of the team in any given turn. All of this is not to say that X-ODUS isn't fun. It very much is, but it's only going to be fun for the 2-3 hours it takes to play if everyone's on board for it, and stays focused. 

Artwork and Components: My opinions on the artwork should be pretty clear by now--it's almost the best part of the game. Clean, beautiful, bright, and immersive: everything you want in board game art. There's nothing to not like here.

  

It's harder to give my opinion on the components. Most of what I have feels prototype-y, and could vary a lot on what the KS stretch goals are, if there are any. The dice I have are stickered plain d6s, and the ship and XP markers are just wooden cylinders and cubes. It's possible the markers stay that way, but with the level of attention paid to everything else, I highly doubt it.


The Good: Gameplay is rich and varied, table presence is great. Decent story, and variability is above average.

The Bad: Player elimination is a real bummer in a 3 hour game. Rulebook is dense and unclear in places, forcing you to bounce around different pages to get the information you need. The game has so much to do that it's tough to hold it all in your head for your first couple plays.

Reviewer's Note II: The developer has contacted me to let me know that they are working on a friendlier ruleset that allows, quote, "a lighter, less punishing experience" in regards to player elimination. Good to know.

Score: I genuinely enjoyed X-ODUS throughout the plays we did for this review. Despite the fact that our first couple plays were overly long due to confusion with the rulebook, I think that gamers who truly get into this genre are going to have a lot of fun with this title. There's a great game in this box, and my only wish is that it didn't take such a concerted effort to plow through the first time to get there. I'm giving X-ODUS: Rise of the Corruption a score of Incorruptible.



Check out X-Odus: Rise of the Corruption on:

              

Live on KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends July 10, 2019



Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas 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. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
X-Odus: Rise of the Corruption Kickstarter Preview X-Odus: Rise of the Corruption Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on June 11, 2019 Rating: 5

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