KICKSTARTER PREVIEW/PLAYTHROUGH- UFO WAVE
“The Truth is out there”.
Designer, Dave Hodrien, certainly believes so. Therefore, who better to create an alien themed card game than the Chairman of the Birmingham UFO group?
Published by Paradigm Games and coming to Kickstarter on July 29 2021, UFO Wave is a light fast paced card game for 1-6 players.
In the game, you play leaders of various alien species visiting earth, intent on carrying out activities whilst you are there. Basically causing chaos and mayhem for the human race. Ultimately, the leader with the most “ET” points at the end of the game is declared the winner.
But whilst most humans are not best pleased to see you, there are some true believers out there who, just like Dave, will help you on your way. So be sure to buddy up rather than blast them!
A Space for Everything!
On the table, you will find a deck of blue “Plan Cards”, a deck of green “Scan cards” (which include 10 “Event” cards), and 6 red “Species cards”.
Each player selects a Species card and receives a starting hand of 5 randomly shuffled Plan Cards. The Species card tells you what your individual bonus power is, and which activities earn you extra points if you have them in your scoring pile at the end of the game. Your Species card must be kept visible during the game.
The remainder of the Species cards are put back in the box (as they are not required), and the remaining Plan cards are placed within reach.
Two randomly selected Event cards are shuffled into the Scan deck, and Seven Scan cards are then laid out in a line, face up, for all to see. This horizontal “Scan line” represents what everyone can see from their alien ships, and contains all the possible actions a player can take on their turn.
And that’s it. You are ready to play UFO Wave.
Turn actions are very simple:
1. Pick a Plan card from the Plan card deck; then
2. Use as many Plan cards from your hand as you desire (could be zero); then
Pick up an ET point scoring activity card plus any adjacent positive/negative energy cards (adding them to your score pile) and/or human cards (which sit alongside your score pile);
pick up human card and place it on your side or give it to one of your opponents; then
4. Replace any Scan cards taken from the draw deck moving from left to right; and finally
5. If you have exceeded your permitted hand size at the end of your turn, discard as many as you need to in order to reduce down to the correct amount.
[Note that if any Event cards are revealed in the Scan when replacing missing cards, players must immediately carry out what the card requires, and then discard it, replacing it with a new Scan card.]
The Plan cards in your hand represent and bestow the powers you have to do certain things on your turn. For example, they may allow you to hide from nasty human on your turn (i.e. cover up a Men in Black card in the Scan line).
This is helpful because, if you decide to take an Activity card from the Scan line, then you also normally have to take any immediately adjacent Human cards and/or Energy cards either side of it.
Energy, however, can be good or bad (although even the negative energy cards are balanced). And, as most humans are not happy about the meteoric meddling going on, they inflict some serious points damage to the recipient. (Although note that if you can hold onto enough rare believers, they will let you choose between 2 Plan cards each turn, so you will definitely want to pick those up if you can).
We found one particularly useful power to be “warp reality” as it gives the card holder the option to re-arrange the Scan line in order to ensure they can pick a point heavy activity card without any adjacent nasty consequences, saving those for the player whose turn it is next.
Alternatively, there are also powers which let you take sneak peaks at the cards in the Plan/Scan decks, or even take/discard some of an opponent’s cards. And if none of the activity cards appeal (often because the negative consequences cancel out any benefits for your ultimate score pile), you can pick a human card and either keep it or give it to somebody else. Watching as they suffer the point scoring consequences of those faithless folk.
It is not all plain spaceship sailing, however. Because, just like you, your opponents have powers in their hand which may allow them to counter actions levelled against them, and/or do other actions including affecting the Scan line again, or stealing cards back, to better suit themselves on their turn.
Plus, applying the right combination of Plan Craft cards in hand and/or the innate special power particular to their species on a turn, any player’s basic powers can be increased to more powerful advanced (red) powers, dealing even greater blows/advantages in response.
Play continues with alien leaders competing for the best activities and humans, whilst also trying to avoid or offload point stealing ones until the Scan deck runs out. Then, after all remaining activities and humans have been taken from the remaining Scan line, points are totalled, and the winning Species gets the glory of being the busiest alien around the table!
UFO Wave is a fast playing, light, card game that, for us at least, suddenly clicked. Although it took us a few games to get into the swing of it. And I think that is because the Plan cards can do a lot of different things, and trigger a lot of different actions, each of which can lead to a different type of play on a turn. A little dizzying in the first few games as you are unlikely to remember all the potential options from the get-go.
But once we became more familiar with the available powers and the ability to combo-strike each other (or double up on benefits), we were flying through a 2 player match in around 15 minutes, 3 player just slightly longer at the 20 minute mark.
Part of the speed of play is, I think, down to the way in which UFO Wave allows players to affect the Scan line. And we capitalised on that whenever we could. For example, through a combination of manipulating card order and the adjacency rule, one of us was either picking up 2 or 3 Scan Cards or forcing each other to take multiples from the line each turn, depleting the Scan pile quickly.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although, some games felt over before one or both of us had quite got into the groove as a result. But with one eye on the fast diminishing deck, the need to strike blows, and inflict humans, or pick point scoring activity cards creeps up quick. And this race-esque element adds a light level of tension and tactical play to the game.
Speed also means that, for us, luck of the draw seems to have a bigger than anticipated impact on the game.
With Scan cards going down quicker than a meteor hurtling towards earth, the number and type of Plan cards players cycle through in a given game becomes more limited. As such, the powers coming out of the Plan deck are dependent on what happens to rise to the top of the pile (unless of course you can use an advanced premonition power which lets you pick and choose from the top 3 Plan cards!).
Some powers are definitely more valuable in terms of chaining moves and effects than others, particularly when used together with species asymmetric abilities. As a result, if these do not come up for you before end-game is triggered, it can feel like a bitter blow!
The importance of Craft Plan cards also becomes more apparent after a few games. Being able to hold onto enough to discard unhelpful humans and advance your powers at just the right time can be the difference between winning and losing. Plus the ongoing effects of the decisions you make each turn become more obvious as the game progresses.
For example, it is tempting to want to rid yourselves of harmful humans as soon as they appear. But if you’re playing the long game (relatively speaking), this could be a bad move. Focusing on point heavy activities now and worrying about their point sucking powers later on may be a better strategy. After all, you may pick up Plan cards that will allow you to remove them as one of the actions on a later turn. But of course, you won’t know that until it is perhaps too late!
In UFO Wave, whether going for the points or focusing on sabotage, the choice is yours. Either way, the game will give you opportunities to try different approaches. And because it wraps up quickly, if it didn’t work, you can always go another round or try the solo mode, ready to do alien battle next time.
Final Frontier Thoughts!
It is obvious that UFO Wave has been created by a designer who is passionate about both the subject matter and attention to detail. As an active UFO Investigator, I would expect nothing less!
The cards are colourful, and the cartoony styling (illustrated by another UFO spotter) is fun.
The prototype I played isn’t 100% there yet, but game development is an organic process and it is important to note that things could still change between now and the final design. I am currently advised that, whilst mechanics are unlikely to be varied, the finished box will be a flip top design with a magnetic catch, card stock and inlays will be improved, and there will be individual player aide-memoire cards.
Perhaps most importantly, the thematically styled “Field Guide” rule book will be getting some further revisions which I am glad to hear as I think they will really help to streamline early plays and better reflect the simplicity of the game play.
Having drawn on real-life accounts of alien encounters in the design of this game, the theme in UFO Wave hasn’t just been picked out of convenience. And although a card game could call upon any scenario, the alien connection has a deep meaning for Dave as it may also do for fans of sci-fi themed games.
But you don’t have to be a die hard ET fan to play UFO Wave. Overall it is a light, fast, colourful, simple hand management card game that doesn’t just follow the usual draw-keep-discard mechanic.
[Please note that I was temporarily provided with a prototype copy of UFO Wave from the designer/publisher for the purpose of this Kickstarter preview, however, no fees were paid, any opinions expressed are unbiased and my own]