Under Falling Skies
Under Falling Skies is a solo game from Czech Games Edition where you are trying to fight off an alien invasion of Earth. During a game, you'll use the city you're defending's unique base to dig further into your base, collect energy, shoot down enemy ships, build robots and research technologies in order to defeat the enemy alien mothership.
There are a lot of different options for any given game of Under Falling Skies. Each city has its own unique mechanic (such as New York only allowing one robot instead of two, but making that robot's room more powerful) and its own unique base, made up of one upper and one lower base tile. You can also change the difficulty of any given game by choosing the easier or harder version of any given sky tile. The sky tiles, city tile and base tiles will form 5 columns with which to play the game. Once you've set up your board, you can start the game. Each game takes place over multiple rounds; each round consists of three phases: Dice, Room and Mothership. During the dice phase, you roll the three grey and two white dice. You'll then place one of those dice in your base in a column you haven't already played a die in. You can only place dice in rooms that you've excavated except for one die each turn that can be placed in front of the excavator a number of spaces less than or equal to the value of the die. When you place the die, you move each enemy ship in that column down towards the city a number of spaces equal to the value of the die; if you placed the die in one of the AA guns at the top of the base, you move the ships down one less space instead. If a ship reaches the city, your base takes one damage and the ship goes back to the mothership. If it's a white die you place, you reroll all the remaining non-placed dice. Once you've placed one die in each column, you move on to the Room phase. During the Room phase, you activate each of your rooms one at a time. Energy rooms give you energy equal to the value of the die in them. Jet rooms let you shoot down enemy ships on explosion spaces of equal or lesser value to the value of the die in them, placing purple ships back on the mothership and removing clear ships from the game. Robot rooms use the value of the die in them to place a blue robot die that stays on the board in between rounds but goes down in value by one each turn it's used. Research rooms let you move up the research track equal to the value of the die in them. If you placed a die ahead of the excavator, you get to move the excavator to that die's space, spending one energy to do so. Energy also gets spent on rooms requiring energy, of which there are a lot. There are also rooms that take up multiple spaces; those rooms only activate if you have a die in each of their spaces and you combine the dice to determine the value. Some rooms will also have modifiers that will change the value (positive or negative) of the die in them. After the Room phase, you'll move the mothership. First, the mothership moves down one row, activating any negative effect listed on that row as indicated by the sky tile. Then any ships on the mothership move to the front of the ship, going to empty columns before doubling up. After you spawn the ships, you move on to the next round. If the mothership moves all the way down to the row with the skull or your base takes too much damage, you lose the game. If you're able to move the research marker all the way to the top of the track, you win.
Under Falling Skies also has a campaign mode that plays out over 4 chapters. As it is meant to be new information when you first play through the campaign, I'm going to be a bit vague as to what the campaign does. The regular gameplay takes up just one third of the material in the box, as the rest is dedicated to the campaign. Each chapter introduces new mechanics that change up gameplay. There are scenarios and characters that make games more difficult and easier respectively, with the campaign having you use new cities, new scenarios and new characters each game. Each scenario gives you a new challenge that you have to manage in addition to the regular gameplay. For example, you might have to deal with your base in disrepair or civilians that you're trying to rescue. Each character gives you an ability you can activate once per game. As you play the campaign, you'll make choices as to which cities and characters you use, losing some along the way, but progressing through to the final chapter, win or lose.
Under Falling Skies, like Warp's Edge that I reviewed in January, is a really fun game for a single player where you're fending off an alien threat. While the gameplay is entirely different, the two games also have some other differences. Warp's Edge gives you options for both your side of things, with different ships, as well as the enemy's side of things with different motherships and different enemy ships. Under Falling Skies doesn't do as much to change up the enemy, only adding some more enemy options through scenarios from the campaign. It does have more options for your side though, with more unique bases than Warp's Edge has ships and characters that give you powerful effects and it has varying difficult settings from the changing up of the sky tiles.
One issue I often have with dice games is the randomness of the dice affecting how the game plays out and Under Falling Skies does suffer slightly from that. Because you can reroll dice though, you can strategically choose when you want to play a grey die and keep going with what you have or play a white die and reroll to get new values. The dice are also fairly well balanced in that a low roll is good because the enemy ships don't move very much, but bad because you don't get as much value, while a high roll is bad because the enemy ships move more, but good because you get more powerful effects. If you've excavated enough, you also get a lot of options for any given column. While you start off much more limited, the more you excavate, the more you can get out of any given roll.
Overall, I feel that Under Falling Skies is a great solo game that has a lot of replayability even before you start the campaign. If you're looking for a solo experience that can last you a while, it's hard to do better than Under Falling Skies.
Under Falling Skies is available now from our webstore.