Helionox: The Last Sunset is a game by Taran Lewis Kratz, published by Zeroic Games and Mr. B Games. It is for 1-2 players but can be played with up to 4 players using a second copy of the game. In this game, players will travel to the distant future to a world where terrible events plague the solar system due to the dying sun. Each player will take on the role of an Architect of the future as they seek to explore and exploit the worlds of the system to gain the most influence and lead civilization to a new beginning. In the end, the player that can gain the most influence will be declared the winner.
To begin, each player will craft their starting deck consisting of 5 Material Assests and 3 Sentinel Prototypes, as well as 2 randomly selected Specialized faction cards. These 2 random cards will be received as a pair. The player will also receive a random Architect cards which is placed in front of them, not to be added to their starting deck. The player now shuffles their starting deck and places it face down in front of them. They will then draw the top 5 cards to form their starting hand. Next the event deck is created using 8 Events and 1 Catastrophic Event per player. The Event deck is then separated into 3 equal decks called Events I, Events II and Events III. Events I will include no Catastrophic Events. Events II will include half of the Catastrophic Events while Events III will include the other half. The 3 Event decks are placed in order from left to right on the right side of the play area. The Market is now created by separating all the faction cards into 4 different piles based on faction. Each deck is shuffled and placed in it’s appropriate space in the Market. The top card of each of these decks is flipped face up on top of the decks. Prime Assets are placed in a separate pile beside the faction decks. The first player is chosen and play now begins.
The game is played over a series of turns. Each player will take a turn that consists of 3 phases; the Event Phase, the Main Phase and the End Phase. The first phase of a player’s turn is the Event Phase. In this phase, the player will take an Event from the Event deck and place it with it’s inactive side face up at the corresponding location by matching the large symbol on the card. Any inactive Events that were previously placed will now be flipped over to it’s active side. This shuts down the location making it where location bonuses and key access cannot be used. It should be noted that if the Event is a Catastrophic Event, once it becomes active all locations are shut down. Any players that don’t have an Embassy at the location will lose 2 Influence.
The next phase is the Main Phase. In this phase, the player must first remove a Cryo counter from their Architect. If a player’s Architect has no Cryo counters on it, they are able to use it’s Cryo ability. This is done by placing Cryo counters equal to the abilities cost onto the Architect card. The player can also perform several actions, some of which may only be performed once per turn while others may be performed as often as chosen. Once per turn, the player may cycle a card from the Market by placing it on the bottom of it’s faction deck and then revealing a new card. They can also gain a Location bonus from their current Location once per turn. If the player has an Embassy at the Location, they will gain Key access instead of the Location bonus. At any time during their turn the player can play cards from their hand to immediately gain abilities, credits and defense. Credits and defense may be stored and used at any time during the player’s turn. The player can also overcome events as long as they are in the location of the event. They simply pay the defense equal to the Event’s defense cost. The player will then collect Influence tokens equal to the Event’s Influence value. If the player needs help they can call for a Collaboration with another player at the same location as long as they control an Embassy at the location. Both players will gain Influence equal to the amount of Defense they contributed to overcome the event. Each player will then draw 1 card. They can also buy cards or Prime Assets from the market by paying the cards cost. The card is then placed on the top of the player’s deck. A new card is then drawn from the deck to replace it. The player can also travel to new locations by paying 2 credits to move. However if they have an Embassy at the desired location they are traveling to, it will only cost 1 credit. Finally the last action the player can take is to place an Embassy at their current location by paying 2 credits.
The last phase is the End Phase. In this phase, the player takes any cards that they played and places them into their discard pile. Any cards remaining in the player’s hand may either be discarded or kept. The player will then draw 5 new cards and discard down to 5 cards. Play then passes to the next player.
The game continues until the last event is revealed. At the end of that turn, the game ends. Players will then add up their points from Influence tokens, the Influence values of any cards in their deck and the number of Embassies they control. The player with the most Influence is the winner.
This game comes with a bunch of cards and some heavy duty cardboard tokens. The cards are very good quality and have that nice linen finish to them. The artwork is rather unique and quite unusual. It has a very interesting SciFi look and feel to it. There are robots, planets and space ships of all different shapes, sizes and colors. The art really draws you into this strange new world. I’m very intrigued with how amazing each card looks. There are also some quick reference cards which are very helpful when playing the game. The tokens are really thick and fit the theme quite well. There are Cryo counters that are used with each player’s Architect. There are Embassy tokens to show when each player controls an Embassy. There are ship tokens to track the player’s location. There are Influence tokens to keep track of each player’s score. There are also shut down tokens that are used to show when a location is unable to be used. About the only thing that the game didn’t come with was tokens for credits. However if you’ve ever played a deck builder before, you realize that you don’t really need this as it’s simply redundant and easy to keep up with each turn. Just looking at the game, it kind of reminds me of Eminent Domain. However many of the images on these cards are a bit rougher than on that game. Still, I rather like the unique designs of these and feel that it brings out the theme a bit more. Overall I think that the cards and tokens are really great and really convey the SciFi theme quite well.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game isn’t very long. It contains only a few actual pictures. There are a couple of pictures that explain the anatomy of each card type and one for showing how the game should be set up. Other than that, there’s really nothing. The rules are actually fairly simple to read and understand. I didn’t see anything that looked difficult at all. Everything is explained fairly well. The book contains a few faqs and examples, as well as a section that explains the terminology of the game. There’s also a section of advanced rules for players already familiar with the game. In this section there’s a way of playing with Missions as well as rules for solo and cooperative play. Seeing as I like to play most deck builders in solo mode as well as with other players, this was a much appreciated addition to the rulebook. The back page has a nice reference that shows faction and other card symbols on it. Overall I think the book does a good job at covering the rules in a concise and simple way.
7 out of 10
I have to say that I rather enjoy this game. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to many as my love for deck builders is pretty well known. I mean what’s not to like? As a deck builder this follows the same fundamental mechanics that you’ve no doubt seen time and time again; play a card, gain coins or power or whatever, buy new cards, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, rinse, repeat. While I enjoy that aspect of deck building, this one does veer off into a different realm just a bit. For one thing, there are locations which provide various benefits. When your ship moves to that location, you can take the benefit that it provides. If you’ve already placed an Embassy, you get what is called Key Access. Basically all this does is give you the absolute best ability that the location has to give. However not every location will be available during your turn as events will be placed beside the corresponding location that will shut it down. If you’re really unlucky, then you’ll have to deal with a Catastrophic event that shuts down ALL the locations. That’s a bit of a pain when you already had your strategy already figured out, but those are the breaks. Sometimes you just have to use your Defenses to handle the event so that it can be removed first. This whole moving around to different places, handling these dire situations that come up using your ingenuity make me feel a bit like the Doctor. I just need a T.A.R.D.I.S. instead of a space ship. I feel like it’s these events and locations that really change the dynamics of the game and make it much more than your regular deck builder. It’s more of a strategic puzzle that takes a bit of understanding how to best use the cards in your hand. That’s just the normal game. The solo and cooperative games are even better. In these games, it’s all about making sure that you collect enough Influence before too many Events or Catastrophic Events become Active. Overall this is a great deck builder that I think fans of the mechanic should really enjoy. I also feel that SciFi fans might enjoy it as well. I would definitely recommend this one especially for solo gamers.
8 out of 10
Helionox: The Last Sunset is a deck building game set in a future SciFi style world. The game time isn’t too long. Most game sessions last around 40-45 minutes, depending on the number of players. Solo games tend to be a bit shorter. The artwork is really unique and unusual. I quite like the futuristic designs on the cards as well as the theme. The game adds a bit more to the deck building mechanic which makes the game a bit more fun in my opinion. As either a solo or multiplayer game, this one works well. I especially enjoy the solo aspects of the game and think that this is truly where it shines. Fans of deck building games like Ascension or Eminent Domain should really enjoy this one. This is also one that SciFi fans might enjoy as well. This is a game that I would definitely recommend. Don’t let the sun go down without giving it a try.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Zeroic Games or Mr. B Games at their site.