Calvin’s Commentaries: Xenofera

Xenofera was one of those most pleasant surprises that sometimes happen when you break the seal on a board game.

The art of the box top was a bit ‘young-looking’, that is to say, it made one think the game might have been geared specifically to younger children, so it was unclear exactly what the game might play like for adults.

The game, created by Liz Gattra and Jeff Porter from Puff Duck Games, plays two to five players.

But, the theme sounded fun at least.

“Once a decade the Royal Society of Xenofera Hunstmen sponsors the Great Galactic Hunt,” detailed fluff in the rulebook. “Members, representing the various Royal Families, compete to gather the most magnificent collections of Xenofera, alien creatures, from across the galaxy. Creatures are given points based on their appeal with bonus points awarded for specific collections of creatures. The member with the most appealing collection at the end of the hunt is the winner. Members, being Royals, rarely participate in the hunts themselves. Instead, they hire the most experienced huntsmen from throughout the galaxy to lead their expeditions.

“You have been hired by one of the Royal Families to represent them in this decade’s hunt. They have supplied you with a ship, but you will need to recruit your own crew and build your own cages before you can capture the creatures. While you’ll want to capture the most appealing creatures you can, your Royal Family has requested try and capture a specific collection of creatures they feel will give them an edge during the final tally.”

And that is where gameplay focuses.

“You will be competing for crew, cages and creatures against some of the greatest huntsmen in the galaxy,” continued the rules fluff. “And no huntsman is above stealing from or sabotaging another’s expedition. You will need to be vigilant and cunning if you are to capture the best collection and prove that you are the Greatest Huntsman in the Galaxy.

“To win, you must have the highest number of points at the end of the game. Points are gained by capturing creatures and completing special collections.”

There are cards representing the alien critters you are after, and here the art takes a major leap forward compared to the box top.

Any of the creature cards would make great game posters as they are done in a pastel style, with whimsical critters ranging from the bumblebee bat to the horned mouse, the cownivore, pigasus and of course a hack-a-lope.

A cool aspect of the cards is the scientific name is included; bovivorous rex as an example being the cownivore.

The cards do have a lot of icons which initially looked like a bit much, but they are well-designed and very quickly understood in terms of gameplay.

So you build cages, add crew and capture strange animals, and at the end of the games each player calculates their score by adding the total values of all the creatures in their cargo bay to the total bonus points for any collections successfully completed (goals within the game), minus any crew member costs for crew members in their crew quarters. The winner is the player with the highest score. In case of a tie, the winner is the player who captured the most creatures.

In the end, a game with loads of charm, and smooth gameplay which is easy to learn and quick enough, the box suggests 60-minutes and that is pretty accurate for a four-player game at least, that it’s easy to recommend.

Check it out at

Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.


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