Deck builder games have become a definite area of interest for our gaming group.
It helped that our first taste of the genre was the breakthrough game Dominion, a deck builder which really helped create the genre by its success.
In the wake of Dominion, there have been a raft load of games which have utilized the deck-building mechanic is a variety of ways; ranging from basic deck-builders like Ascension to games such as Motherload where the mechanic is part of a more multi-faceted game experience.
With so many games out there, the result has been great games and weak ones, with a lot slotting in somewhere in between. The mechanic alone is not a guarantee of a good game.
So every time a new deck-builder comes to the table it’s a bit of ‘a cross-your-fingers and hope it’s good’ scenario.
Well, that crossing of fingers certainly worked in the case Helionox: Deluxe Edition from designer Taran Lewis Kratz and Mr. B Games.
So from the game site; “Helionox: Deluxe is a movement based sci-fi strategy deck-building game. It combines deck-building and board game elements to create a robust gaming system that provides maximum replay value, a minimal learning curve, and a short setup time.
“Players compete for ‘Influence’ by overcoming both social and stellar events, traveling to different locations around the solar system to establish embassies and gain special abilities, and acquiring powerful technologies and operatives from an abundant marketplace.”
That might not sound all that special, but it didn’t take long once we got into our first game to realize Helionox was a cut above the average in terms of game experience as a deck-builder.
To start with the game does set up quite quickly, although that tends to be a common aspect of many deck builders.
The sci-fi-themed art in Helionox is very strong, and that is important since you will be handling a fistful of cards in the game. Nice art adds to the experience. That is one of the downfalls of Ascension, where weak art detracts from the game.
In terms of gameplay, cards here all tend to offer you a positive option in terms of gameplay, which is a plus. There is a frustration when cards in your hand are useless at times, and that is rarely the case in Helionox. There may be times when the cards don’t let you do the optimum move in the game, but you can usually do something.
Helionox is not just a hand of cards either. There is a board game element with players hopping world-to-world overcoming problems on their way to earning points.
The elements of Helionox add up to an outstanding deck-builder-based game experience, one that rates this game in the top tier of the genre.
Check it out at www.mrbgames.com
Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.