Aliens and Allies - A Preview of Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion

Nightmare Forest

In this standalone sequel to Nightmare Forest: Dead Run, can you and your team survive an alien invasion?

Gameplay

Each player chooses a character, draws a gear card and then is dealt two special abilities to choose from. Each ability also states how much health your character will have. Players are encouraged to discuss the abilities and choose ones that complement each other.

Next the forest is laid out. There are four tiers of forest cards, each tier containing more difficult aliens to fight than the ones before it. To create the forest, seven forest cards are drawn for each character, and then laid out face down in one grid. Players each choose their own point at which to enter the forest.

Each round, players take their actions. There are no set turns and no start player. You can take an action, see how another player’s action turns out, and then continue with the rest of yours. You start the game with four dice and spend these dice during your actions.

You can flip over a forest card. If it’s an enemy you have to fight it, and you won’t be able to move until it is dead. During combat you choose how many of your dice to roll. If your roll is equal to or greater than the alien’s defense, it dies and goes into an experience points pile, and you get to reclaim one of the dice you spent in the fight. If you roll less than the alien’s defense, then it is undamaged and it counterattacks. When an alien counterattacks, it rolls the number of dice equal to its tier level. You lose health points for each successful hit. If an alien is particularly tough, players can also choose to attack it together.

Other forest cards will be plasma mines, energy snares or turrets, which can cause a lot of damage to anyone nearby, or you might even find some helpful loot.

Players can use experience points to reroll a die, heal themselves, or level up, which gives them more dice to spend each turn.

Other possible actions are spending a die to move (you can even move diagonally through the forest, though this will put you at risk of being attacked by aliens), spending as many dice as you want to search for gear, or passing gear for free to another player who is on the same forest space as you are.

Gear cards can do helpful things like heal you or let you reroll dice, or they might be weapons. Weapons count as automatic hits on enemies, but some can only be used a couple of times and some will even make noise, which means you have to roll the dice and risk more aliens coming to fight.

In order to win the game, you have to clear the forest of all aliens within a certain number of turns. The turn count is adjustable for difficulty. If you fail to do that, or any player dies, you lose the game.

Nightmare Forest cards

Review

There are lots of things that provide Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion with variation. Picking your character, randomly dealing them a gear card, and choosing between two abilities which also determine your character’s health points, is a really fun way to create an infinite number of characters with unique powers every time you play.

There’s also a lot of variation in the aliens you’ll be fighting and the forest cards that will be flipped over. You’ll never be sure how many plasma mines are in your forest or how many pop-up turrets you can expect to meet. The layout of the forest is also just plain fun, as is getting to choose a location at which to enter the woods. It feels thematic and also makes you feel like you’re beating your own path through the forest.

The only difficulty with the forest is that once it starts to clear out and there are more and more empty spaces, it can be hard to keep track of exactly which empty space you’re standing on. Are you on the second row? Or the third one? It gets a little easy to lose track, though there is a pledge level in the Kickstarter campagine that includes a game mat.

Cooperation is definitely key to survival and the game is by no means easy. The fact that there really aren’t set turns, but rather players can mix and match when they take their actions, really opens the door for strategizing together and playing off of each other. And you’re going to have to do just that, because this game is hard, and it’s a challenge to balance the race against the clock with not pushing your luck too far.

The Nightmare Forest: Dead Run game was fun, and this one takes all that was good about it and turns it into something even better. It blends strategy, push-your-luck, and cooperation into a unique game that I will definitely be going back to. Check it out on Kickstarter.

Pros: Challenging, great character creation, good blend of genres

Cons: As the forest clears out it can be easy to lose your place in it

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.