Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-5
Amount of time to play: 60-90 min
Age requirements: 10+
Set-up time: minimal
Alien Artifacts is an engine building card game. You must use your resources wisely to score more VPs than your opponents.
You start Alien Artifacts by picking a faction this can be done randomly if you like. Then you set up your faction based on the instructions on your faction card, get three resource cards, and put your VPs to zero and your credits to eight.
Throughout the game you will be building cards which you must buy with your credits. Cards bought but not built go on the left hand side of your board and do not give you any bonuses or actions. But once paid for they move to the right side of your player board and can help you score VP, get more actions, and more.
The cards are double-sided and grant you a different ability based on the side you choose to use when you build it. There are three different classes of cards; ships, technologies, and planets.
Ships can increase the number of cards you can play when building specific cards (normally you can only play two resource cards a turn). They can also be built to attack the aliens or your opponents. Technology cards can grant you additional actions and other bonuses, or for scoring VPs on you turn and when the game ends. Planets grant you discounts for building or buying cards, or can produce resources you can play as if they were in your hand.
On your turn you can take one basic action or an operational action. The basic actions are build a card, buy a card for five credits, or trade resources in for credits. The three operational actions are launch an offensive, score technology, or produce a resource on your planets. At the end of your turn you may discard up to two resource cards and then you draw back up to three.
The cost to build cards into your empire increases the more of that class you have. Initially it costs five and you add one more for each card in that class already built.
When you launch an offensive you either attack the aliens or one of your opponents. No matter who you attack they have a defense plan. All the ships in your empire must attack. Each draws one resource card. The resource cards have a number between one and four. That is your attack value (plus any bonuses your ships might have). The defense plan of your target tells you if the attack was successful. Successfully attacking the aliens gets you VPs and possibly alien artifacts. While hits against your opponents shuts down cards in their empire.
Alien artifacts may be played anytime on your turn and grant you a one-time bonus. For example, one increases your credits to fifteen. Another lets you take three extra turns at the end of the game.
The game ends once you have run through the resource deck a certain number of times (depending on the number of players). You gain VPs for each card in your empire, score your end game technologies, and any bonuses your faction grants you.
Alien Artifacts is a fast-playing, engine building card game. There is a lot going on but once you have played a few turns everything makes sense. Turns go quick and there is little downtime.
The components for this game are fantastic. It looks great and the chits and cards are very high quality. The box insert has a place for everything and the rules are well-written and have plenty of examples. There is a lot to take in so I would read the rules watch the how to play video and then read the rules again.
I like that cards are used for everything. The resource deck is the game timer and that can give you some control over when the game ends. In the lead? Hit the accelerator and use or discard more cards.
There is some randomness in the cards available to buy. So being able to spend more credits to view more cards is a cool way to mitigate some of that unpredictability. The Alien Artifacts themselves are swingy too. Some will help you is they vibe with your overarching strategy, but some might be less useful. Then there are a few that seem overpowered. I have won twice getting the Time Looper which lets you take three extra turns after the game ends. The VPs I scored in those turns are what granted my victory.
Player interaction is low and it is often not worth attacking another player instead of the aliens. Successfully attacking the aliens can get you VPs or an artifact. You can slow an opponent down by attacking them, but it costs you a turn and probably benefits players not involved in the conflict the most. Attacking an opponent makes the most sense in a two player game.
I do wish there were more cards. I think expansions will address this but for ships and planets there are only a handful of different cards.
Alien Artifacts is not a pure 4X game. You build an engine and try to gain as many VPs as you can. It is usually best to build one that works towards your faction bonus scoring. So some of the strategy is baked in. I think this game is really good for newer gamers that are ready for something with a bit more weight than a gateway game. If you or your group is looking for a boardgame to fill that niche, pick this up.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 3 out of 6
Luck 4 out of 6
Player Interaction 2 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6