Gameday First Play – Xenon Profiteer
When I was a boy, I read with great interest but scepticism about as magic lamp which was used with success by a certain Aladdin. Today I have no scepticism whatsoever about the magic of the xenon flash lamp which we use so effectively for many purposes.
~ Harold Eugene Edgerton
Xenon is a valuable noble gas that is found in very trace amounts in Earth’s atmosphere. Due to the difficulty and expense of isolating high-purity Xenon for various technological advancements in recent years, the need for Cryogenic Distillation of Xenon is on the rise.
For such a complicated subject this is quite a simple game.
The game starts with piles of cards out in play… The 4 different types of air in their own piles with contract cards and upgrade cards in their own piles too but with 4 of each laid out face up.
As it’s a deck builder you all start with the same deck which contains 2 upgrades cards called ‘Feed’ and ‘Reflux’ and 2 each of the 4 air cards. Everyone shuffles these and draws 5 cards.
You also have a play area to store things which is where you central console lives and you place your deck above it. Your central console also contains connectors to show you where you attach cards to it… It also, very handily, has the actions you take on your turn and the order you take them…
The first thing you do is Distill… You return to the supply all the cards of one Element in your hand in order they’re printed on the central console… But, if Xenon is the ONLY element left in your hand, place it to the right of the console, you’ll use it later.
During the Air/Wipe you can do one of two things, introduce Air (put one of each Air card from the supply into your discard pile) and Gain $2. Wipe is simply the act of removing the available cards in the Contract/Upgrade row so you can put out new ones.
Next you Buy or Bid. If you buy you simply buy a card from one of the two rows… Well, I say simply…
You pay the cost in the hex in the top left and place the card in your discard pile if it’s an upgrade or into the contract slot in your console if it’s a contract.
Instead, you can Install it (Which takes your buy action) next to your central console so you can use it’s ability later by paying the cost in the bottom right corner if buying directly from the row or from your hand if you pay the smaller number in the top left circle if the upgrade was in your hand already… Easy… (The ‘Bid’ part of this that comes later adds more complexity :))
Contracts are free to take but still take your Buy action and go to the right of the console. They are free to complete, all you need to do is discard the required number of Xenon from your supply you flip the contract and gain an amount of cash.
Some available cards are Pipelines that you attach under your Console, you can have 1 of each colour and they increase your hand limit and give end game points.
To Bid, place one of your bid tokens on a card in either the upgrade or contract row… A card can have multiple tokens and the card stays when/if the row is wiped.
Now, when buying a card with a token on it, you pay opponents $1 for each of their tokens and get $1 discount for your own tokens on it… If it put the cost of the card into a deficit you gain that amount. If you are out of tokens and want to bid, you can move one already in play instead.
Instead of doing ANY of this you can go into Overtime at the start of your turn… Flip over your console card, you get reduced actions but you can Distill twice then MUST bid twice.
At the end of your turn you restock cards in the rows and may keep any unplayed cards in your hand but draw to your hand limit. If in Overtime you shuffle your deck and discard pile together before drawing.
When a player builds 5 Upgrades or 5 Contracts, that player gets the Xenon Privilege token and chooses a side…
Either pick 3 points and end the game, or choose ‘Final Turn’ and each other player takes a one more turn, ending with you.
Score Completed Contacts, 1 VP per Installed Upgrade, 1 VP per $5, end game scoring on certain Installed Upgrades and each Pipeline you have is worth 1 2 or 3 points depending if you own 1,2 or 3 Pipelines. Most Points Wins with the Tiebreaker being the player with the least leftover Xenon.
So firstly, it’s nice to play a deck builder with hardly any setup time, and more recently, one without a board! 🙂
As you’re building up a factory to quickly and efficiently extract the Xenon it’s very much an engine building game… Those upgrades were kinda ignored by us early in the game but then we VERY quickly realised they’re amazing.
Being able to add air twice in a turn gets that Xenon into your deck quickly, discarding a card before distilling means you can ditch a single Nitrogen card so you can distill maybe 2-3 Oxygen cards for example… Both very powerful, both are the upgrades in your starting deck.
As you distill every turn you’re constantly thinning your deck, you end up with VERY few cards which gets a bit awkward… Also, the games is only 30 minutes long which is good in some ways but it feels that the engine you’re building doesn’t get used much.
But you need that engine because taking in air is super important so you have the Xenon in your deck that you need to be able to complete contracts, you just need the engine in place to extract it.
I also like the 3 Point/End Turn token, I haven’t seen anything like that before and it gives you ultimate power when you pick a side 🙂
All in all, a bit short but has great art, smooth game play and for a deck builder is simple, cheap and comes in a small box… I can’t wait to play this more and try some of the other options and available upgrades.
Note: The copy I played was a review copy generously provided by Eagle-Gryphon Games, big thanks to them for this game.