1-4 players, Cooperative, Planetary Puzzler
Designer: Benjamin Farahmand
Artwork: Scott Chantler
Publisher: Self Published
Release Year: 2020
When I first glimpsed Faza I instantly fell in love with the artwork on the box cover. The bold-faced font type and the way the Faza Force are pointing back at the invading aliens instantly injected a bit of excitement. This is one of those rare games that I came into almost completely blind, as in, not knowing much about. Read on to see if it is one that I would recommend.
Overview of Gameplay
The general idea around this game is that the players are playing as members of this “Faction Zeta” that is comprised of many different playable skillsets. You will be attempting to take down all three of the different types of alien space ships in order to completely vanquish the alien threat and win the game.
There are four different skill sets to choose from, each with two different sub sets. You have: Medical = Doctor or Farmer, Political = Rebel or Senator, Tactical = Soldier or Scout, Technological = Engineer or Scientist. The differences between sub sets being the special skill that is available and the difference between sets being their starting location and general play style. Each player also has four action cards that are set up in front of them. These will be used as you play the game turning them sideways, or “Tapped”, to show they have been used. Each card has two abilities on it with the general feel of at least two of them having some kind of movement and some having some kind of attack.
On the flip side, the alien’s phase will have the three space ships moving about the tiled board, dropping alien invaders, terraforming land and generally being nasty. Now, on the players turn there really isn’t a set turn order to speak of. This is a game where you all work together to decide the best possible outcome to your actions BEFORE the aliens get a chance to make a move. Players can take a single action between each other or take their full actions, whatever appeases you. To damage the space ships, you will have to rely on your alien turncoats. These are alien invaders that have tired of the war and decided to join your forces to put an end to it. To this end you will need to clear out all the “bad” aliens from a space ship location and then send in the “good” alien tokens. Each one sent in will deduct a pip from the die face sitting comfortably on top of that space ship. Get it to zero and it’s destroyed! Beware though, when you attack a space ship you have to draw one of those devilish event cards. These beasts throw that proverbial wrench into the stew messing with all your carefully laid plans.
Another thing to note is that you can take damage and perish, ending the game in defeat for not only yourself, but your entire team. Those four action cards you have keep track of that damage easily by flipping a card to it’s opposite facing. This will reveal a weaker version of the opposite sides action which can still be used. However, if you flip all your cards it’s game over! One thing you can do is sacrifice your rebel alien friends that are in your same location instead of taking damage…..but, since you NEED them to take down the ships that is a risky proposition. NOT TO FRET THOUGH! You can always recruit more rebel aliens by destroying regular alien invaders. For every two regular aliens you destroy and collect you can trade those in for one rebel alien. Not a bad trade at all!
Components/ Game Board
The components are well done with a large amount of wooden alien shaped tokens for the invaders and rebel aliens. There are standees for the alien mother ships with a clever notch on the tops of each to hold the miniature dice to track their health, I really love that. The cards have a nice linen finish upon them to give them that premium feel and the board tiles also have a linen finish and are sturdy enough to avoid any of that dreaded warping. All in all a very nice presentation!
The overall box size is smaller than average so you can surely fit it somewhere on your shelves. There isn’t an insert to properly hold everything however so you will need to bag up your tokens and possibly cards. That said, there isn’t an overabundance of tokens so this game in particular isn’t hindered by the lack of a good storage solution. It’s very easy to open it up and get setup and put away without needing a crazy amount of sorting.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The artwork was the main selling point for me coming into the game and to be honest, it still is! I just love this art style on the cards and even on the map tiles. It gives me that old 1950’s space invader vibe and I love it. The theme is pretty standard alien invasion though so nothing about that really jumped out at me.
The rulebook overall was well done. I didn’t have any issues with learning from it, it has a nice components list at the front, plenty of examples and large font face. The different sections explaining things are broken up nicely. I would recommend reading it fully through to the end before jumping in as there will be things you need to know about the board tiles that I totally missed as I got a bit rambunctious.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
This is a game where you MUST cooperate with all the other players in order to win. With the way you can take actions in any order between players this really makes this game more of a puzzle style. There will always be an optimal path to victory and this can for sure lead to some player quarterbacking. Now, of course those wrenches will get tossed in as well to shake things up a bit from the event cards. Of course, you can also kind of plan ahead based on how the alien ships will move on their turns. Overall, this created a huge puzzle of a game where I was straining my noggin trying to find the most optimal path to victory.
Optimal Player Count/Replay Value
The game can be played solo but you have to play with two characters and since it’s basically a big puzzle game anyway, it doesn’t lessen the fun to play alone in the least. The way the game modifies the difficulty is the alien motherships only activate a number of times equal to the player count. So, there is less of a drastic change between game round with a lesser player count.
Replay value is decent. There are two subsets of each set of characters and each has its own ability but I didn’t feel those REALLY changed up the game that much to be honest. For example, between the Scientist and Engineer the difference in skill was based entirely around movement. Each slightly different but still, I was hoping for more clever skills that REALLY made them unique. The board tiles are shuffled and placed differently every game so you never really know just how a game will pan out after first setup. And with the thick deck of event cards you will be hard-pressed to get through all of those in a game.
Positive Final Thoughts
I LOVE the artwork throughout this game as it is the bright point for me. The component are all good quality and the presentation all around is excellent. The rulebook is very well down and I love the way they integrated the dice on top of the mother ship standees for their health, very clever.
Negative Final Thoughts
Because of the way the gameplay works I feel this is a game that will be quarterbacked HARD. Even though there are random things in the game such as the board state/setup and the event cards. There will always be a optimal path that will be seen by some and not others, which will ultimately lead to quarterbacking.
The Bottom Line
I think if you enjoy a good puzzle style game and like to really challenge yourself to win, this is a game you will love! However, because of the puzzle nature and the swingy randomness at times, this is also a game that I think works better with a smaller number of players. If you are going solo, take a look! But if looking for a game to play with 4 then I would pass on this one. Even still, the artwork and presentation alone of this game has impressed me and I think there is quite the puzzle inside this box just waiting to be defeated!
The Fuzzy Llama Bronze Seal of Prevalence