A review copy of Helionox was provided by Zeroic Games. We would like to thank Zeroic Games for supporting our blog. All thoughts, comments, and pictures herein are our own.
I have always enjoyed deck builders. Deck builders usually play great solo, do not play the same way twice, and offer endless supplies of expansions. Deck builders also can fall into a bit of a cookie cutter form, one seemlessly blending into the next, with the exception of a new IP. It doesn’t stop me from trying them, it just stops them from coming to my table as frequently.
So it only made sense that when I saw Helionox, I was instantly intrigued. Helionox, published by Zeroic Games, designed by Taran Lewis Kratz and illustrated by Luke Green, is a 1-4 player deck builder that plays is about 45 minutes. Set in the distant future where the sun has been depleted, you play as an “architect” trying to influence the remaining population through new technology, operatives, and even establishing embassies on other planets. Where Helionox separates itself from other deck builders is in these details. There are plenty of cards to buy, from four different factions, defense, bio, cyber, and transport. Each of these cards has their own specialty. Defense cards offer, well, more defense. Bio cards offer hand management techniques. Cyber deals with influence and infamy, adding and reducing yours and your opponents. Transport focuses on, as one would suspect, movement, as well as adding more cards to your hand. Some of these cards will also offer victory points, or influence, at the end of the game.
Each round event cards are revealed that threaten to shut down planets, make it more costly to enter, to leave, or even to use each planet’s special powers. These events quickly stack making things spiral out of control quickly. When the event deck runs out, it’s game over. This limits the amount of turns you have each game, making each decision per round that much tougher to make. Waste too much time buying cards and you’ll never have a chance to use them. Turn your focus away from the events for too long and you may live to regret it. Build an embassy now, or save the credits for something else and build one later?
Credits, this games version of money, can be hard to come by. They can be used to buy new cards. They can be used to fly from one planet to another, necessary to take on the events there. They can be used to dispel an event, or activate a planet’s special power. This makes money management a big deal too. There have been many games where the amount of cards that I had acquired from the market was minimal as compared to the average deck builder. This almost seemed counter-intuitive to me, but somehow, it all works out in Helionox. Every turn is an agonizing choice.
There are so many nuances to Helionox it is hard to list them all in one place. Each player chooses an Architect to play. Each Architect has different abilities they can use at the cost of cyro counters. Cyro counters are placed on the architect card when abilities are used, one is then removed each round. Cyro abilities cannot be used until all cyro counters have been removed. This makes the timing of these powers critical. You may only have one opportunity per game to use it, so choose wisely!
As if this were not enough, an expansion, Mercury Protocol is also included in the deluxe version of the game. This adds more choices for game play including adding illegal tech to your locations, and picking up and dropping off cargo as an income generator. There are so many layers to Helionox that the replayability is endless. This game has come to my table more than a dozen times and no two experiences have been the same.\
The components are really well done. There are tons of tokens made out of thick cardboard. Player mats help keep everything organized and also have a handy reminder section for play order as well as a token and symbol guide. The game board is awesome, and also helps make set up a breeze. The artwork is phenomenal, helping to tie the theme together with the game play. Embassies and ship tokens are made out of chunky wood, in bright colors making them a stark contrast to the game board.
I have had a lot of fun playing Helionox. I have played it both solo and with friends. I cannot say which way I like it better. As I mentioned, no two games are the same, and that keeps me coming back for more. I am hard pressed to find something that I do not like about the game. it plays in just the right amount of time, for me. The event deck making the game end in a certain time frame really helps to add to the suspense and the tension of the game. There have been time when I almost found myself biting my nails while making a decision. Each choice in Helionox can feel like life or death for this struggling population. I truly recommend this game if you enjoy deck builders and are looking for something outside the box. Helionox truly offers a unique experience, and I can’tr wait to see what Zerioc Games has up their sleeves next!