Published by: Mr. B Games and Zeroic Games
Number of Players: 1-2 (3 to 4 with an additional copy)
Mayday Card Sleeve Size: Std card sleeve size
Helionox is a deck-builder and because of that, it does not require many components. The cards are your standard game quality cards and fit nicely in the compact box. One of the first things that attracted me to Helionox is the art. They did a great job with the art and making it feeling like a science fiction game in a universe on the brink of ending. The only other components are some cardboard tokens. The tokens are thick and easy to punch out.
I was disappointed in the rule book. On page 1 and 3 there are illustrations to help you understand the game, but then the rest of the rule book is all words. There is so much information in so few pages that I feel it would have benefited from adding a couple of pages and spreading out the information with some additional illustrations. The rule book does explain everything, but I found myself jumping back and forth in the book to find out an answer and referring back to the book during the game a lot. While the rule book leaves some room for improvement, the rest of the components were very solid, especially the art.
Helionox strays away from the typical deck-building game with it's movement system and event deck. The goal in Helionox is to be the player with the most influence at the end of the game. The game ends when the last event is revealed. Games take place over 3 Event decks that are created at the start of the game. Players will be trying to get two different types of points. Credit points allow you to buy new cards, move to different planets and build embassies. Defense points are used to overcome events that are happening on the planets. This is where a large amount of your influence points will come from, but new cards can also give influence points and will make it easier to overcome events.
Each player will have an Architect Card. This card is not in your deck but rather acts as your special ability that you can use during the game. Each Architect starts with 4 Cryo counters on them. At the start of your turn you will remove 1 token from the card. To use an ability you will gain that many Cryo counters back onto your card with a maximum of 4. For example an Architect may have the ability to move to an adjacent location for 2 Cryo counters. The player would add 2 of the removed Cryo counters back onto the card to use the ability.
At the start of your turn you will first settle the event phase. During your turn you will first flip over any inactive events onto their active side. Any planet with an active event is considered shut down. You will not be able to use that planet's ability or place an embassy on the planet. After you flip over any inactive events, you will add an inactive event from the left most event deck and add it to the stated location on the card. As stated earlier there are 3 event decks that you will go through before the game ends. Events can be overcome by have defense equal to the event's defense cost. You must be on the planet of the event you are overcoming. You may ask for help from another player if they are on the same planet or have an embassy there. After you have overcome the inactive or active event, players will gain influence based on the amount of defense they contributed.
Besides buying embassies and moving to locations, you will use credits to buy new cards to add to your deck. Once per turn you may cycle 1 card from the top of it's market deck and place it on the bottom revealing a new card available to purchase. The market consists of Prime Assets (card that gains 2 credits) and 4 faction decks that provide unique cards that will help you during the game. You may purchase as many cards as you can afford and place them in your discard pile after purchasing.
One unique difference that sets Helionox apart from other deck-builders is the ability to keep unused cards for the next round. At the end of your turn you will draw 5 new cards and add them to what you have currently in your hand. Then you will discard down to 5 cards. This can help you set up combos or beat that event that you were short 1 defense last turn from overcoming. The game ends once the last event is revealed. You will then total all influence gained from events and cards. The player with the highest wins the game.
Helionox did not feel like other deck-builders. The games were fast paced and lasted around 30 minutes. There is a good amount of strategy in trying to balance getting new cards and overcoming events. If you ignore events, it will really start affecting what you are able to do on your turn and keep you from different planets. If you focus only on events, you will quickly run into the issue of not having any strong cards to deal with all the events and traveling that must be done. I really like the ability to keep cards that you did not use from the previous turn and manage what cards are in your hands more. I would have liked the ability to play with 4 needing only one game, but Helionox made for a very good two player game as well as single player game mode. The events and moving around the different planets makes it not feel like a deck-builder and at times I completely forgot I was trying to get new cards. The card art was very good and I liked the theme. The events make it feel like you are trying to quickly put out fires before the end comes. Helionox is a compact game so traveling with it is easy, but it does take up a decent amount of table space. I am a big fan of deck-builders and Helionox: the Last Sunset was a fresh take on the genre and will most definitely be added to my collection. I would recommend this to people who love 2 player or solo games and those who want the feeling of a little Pandemic crisis style with their deck-builder. Helionox was takes a little while to learn and grasp the feel of the game, but once you do it is very enjoyable.
+ Art and theme were very appealing and felt in the gameplay
+ Keeping unused cards for next turn
+ Fresh feel to the deck-building genre
+ Compact box that makes it easy to take anywhere
- The rule book felt a little too condensed and needed more illustrations
- Need 2 copies for 3 or 4 player game
- Takes a few games to learn
- Sometimes feels like it is over too fast