As you drift out of the blackness, you hear the familiar hiss of the cryogenic pod depressurizing. It seems like only two minutes ago you came aboard for your eight month journey from the Old World Capital to your embassy on the Ceres Mining Colony. As the pod does it’s final checks, you marvel at how far travel has come from even your grandfathers era. What did they do for these eight months? But before you can finish your line of thinking, a siren sounds indicating a code red. That can mean only one thing, a catastrophic event. You run to your comms and hope someone nearby can assist.
To set up Helionox, place five Locations in the Location areas shown on the below page. Locations are placed in order (from top to bottom – Earth, Moon, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Europa). If this is your first time playing, use the Base Game Locations: Old World Capital, Lunar Base, Martian Biosphere, Ceres Mining Colony, Europan Warp Installation.
Each Player receives the below cards and tokens. All players place their ship token at the Old World Location. Set aside your Architect and, if you are playing with the expansion, your fleet asset. This card will not be shuffled into your deck. Starting faction cards are also chosen randomly and received as a pair (take both Bio faction cards, both Transport faction cards, etc.). All starting deck cards are signified by an orange dot in the upper left corner. Take your ten starting deck cards and shuffle them. This forms your starting deck. Draw five cards. This is your starting hand.
- 1 Architect
- 2 Starting faction cards
- 5 Material Assets
- 3 Sentinel Prototypes
Separate all faction cards into 4 decks based on the faction icon in the upper left corner. Shuffle those decks. This forms the Market. Flip the top card of each Market deck. These face up cards are available for purchase.
Form three decks. These decks will be called Event Deck 1, Event Deck 2, and Event Deck 3. Randomly choose a number of Events and Catastrophic Events for Event Deck 1 based on the number of players. Repeat the same as Event Deck 2 & 3. Once these three decks are formed they will be stacked on top of one another to form a single Combined Event Deck. Event Deck 1 will be on Top and Event Deck 3 on the bottom.
Players take turns clockwise around the table. Each turn has four phases taken in order by the Current Player. Each of these phases is described in detail below and on the following pages.
- Event Phase – Place the top Event of the Event deck onto its Location.
Below is the Event Phase process. This process is repeated in order at the beginning of every turn:
- Flip any Inactive Event currently at a Location onto its Active side. This step will only happen if there are Inactive Events at a Location at the beginning of a turn.
- Place the top card of the Event Deck next to its associated Location, Inactive side up. Match the large symbol on the Event to find its associated Location.
Any Location with an Active Event is considered Shut Down. If a Location is Shut Down, Location Bonus and Key Access cannot be used and an Embassy cannot be placed. Any number of Events may be at a Location. Events stay at Location until they are Overcome.
- Cryo Phase – Remove one Cryo Counter from your Architect.
If your Architect has any Cryo Counters on it, remove 1 Cryo Counter. Your Architect cannot be used while it has Cryo Counters on it.
- Main Phase – This is where players act, moving their ships, buying cards, playing cards, and using abilities.
Once per turn and any time during your Main Phase you may:
- Cycle 1 card from the Market (put it on the bottom of its faction deck and reveal a new card).
- Gain 1 Location Bonus from your Current Location. If you control an Embassy at your current Location, you may gain Key Access instead of a Location Bonus.
- In an effort to Overcome an Event, the Current Player may Call for Collaboration with one other player at his/her Location or any other player who controls an Embassy at his/her Location.
- Obtain any number of Prime Assets and/or cards from the Market for the cost printed in the upper right corner.
- Play cards from your hand. Card abilities are used immediately upon playing in the order they appear on the card. Credit and Defense may be pooled for use anytime during your Main Phase but all other card abilities must be resolved immediately.
- Overcome events. Whether an Event is Active or Inactive, if you are at the Location of an Event you may pay Defense equal to an Event’s Defense cost to gain Influence.
- This may only be done if your Architect has no Cryo Counters. To use an Architect ability, place a number of Cryo Counters on your Architect equal to the number on the chosen ability.
- End Phase – Played cards are now discarded and a new hand is drawn.
Put any cards played this turn into your discard pile. You may keep any unplayed cards still in your hand. Draw five cards from your deck then discard down to five cards. If you have no cards to draw from, shuffle your discard pile to create your new deck (same rules apply any time you need to draw a card).
The game ends immediately when no cards can be drawn from the Event Deck. Your score is calculated by:
- Adding the numbers on your Influence tokens
- Adding the Influence values in the lower right corner of any cards in your deck, hand, and discard pile
- Subtracting one Influence for each Infamy Token you have
- You will also add any applicable Mission Bonuses if you are using the Missions Variant
When it comes to Deck builders, I do like them but I find a lot of the time you have to invest way too much time into building and I feel like most are won by the person with the best deck or knowledge of the cards. Helionox is not like this at all; it actually feels more like a card game that is less about the deck building. With all the movement and events along with the strategy and hand management, I was pleasantly surprised. I actually played this several months ago, as I expected the need to play this several times, and do heaps of research on the deck building side of things. But I really didn’t. I read through the rules and after the first two play throughs we had the game down to 20-25 mins.
I have played this with several people, and as I received two copies of the game, we actually played a four player game, which is intense to say the least. Events were coming up and it felt at one point like we had just set the world on fire, but the intensity and the craziness was so much fun. I like that in this game you can’t just do one thing well and run away with the game. For example, if you focus only on the events and don’t worry about the card draw, you will find you will have a very weak hand very quickly or if you focus on just your hand and drawing the right cards, the event cards overwhelm you. It is this balancing act that makes me really like this game a lot more than most deck builders, as the learning curve is less but the enjoyment is just as high.
The art of Helionox: The Last Sunset is amazing, It was the art alone that made me jump at the opportunity to review this game. It is gritty with a sci-fi feel that would look at home in a post-apocalyptic scifi comic book. It really does make this game pop and hit home for me. To the point I would love for them to do a spin off comic of this world as I think it would make a really amazing series and that art would be perfect.
There are only two issues or complaints I have with Helionox: The Last Sunset. Firstly, you are only able to play two players with a single copy of the game. I think with two people the game is really fun, but I think you need to play this game with four people at least a few times as it adds a next level of fun. So if I was you I would definitely pick up two copies as it does add a lot of extra fun to the game. My second complaint is with the rules themselves. The first two pages are great, they have graphics to help illustrate setup and board layout (the one I used above is a actually taken from the rule book). The rest of the rule book is just straight writing, and though the rules are incredibly detailed, I think a little more work could be done on it. The addition of some more diagrams or even card images would really break up the slabs of writing.
Overall I must stay, Helionox: The Last Sunset is a great little game and I think fans of deckbuilders and even those that aren’t will really enjoy it. It has so much more to offer than your regular deckbuilder and I think that is a huge strength for it. But some words of advice, go out and get two copies of this game, as it is a very different game when played by both 2 and 4 players. Also there is an amazing playmat for this game, and though you don’t need it, it really does help keep everything in order and allows for an even easier set up and with all movement of cards it makes it a lot easier to pick and move cards.
Helionox: The Last Sunset is due to hit Kickstarter on the 12 of June, and I would recommend you have a look, as this is a little game that will surprise you.