13 July 2021
Make Space For This Invader
Under Falling Skies is an unusual game. Apart from its metaphor-invoking title, it’s based on an award-winning nine card print and play game, contains both multiple single-game setups and a re-playable campaign – oh, and it’s for a single player only. Fortunately, this all works together to create a fantastically priced box that’s packed full of variety, strategy, and surprises.
Whether playing in standalone or campaign mode, each game sees you defending a single city as an Independence Day-esque mothership filling the heavens descends upon you. As it approaches, it spawns a stream of smaller ships that dart through the sky, challenging you to snipe them down from specific spaces. While holding these off, your job is to research a method to defeat the aliens – represented through a simple track that does nothing except say “you win” when you reach the top of it – before either too many small ships make it past your defences, or the mothership gets too close.
Your agency in the game comes through dice placement – each round, you roll five dice and assign them to rooms in your base underneath the city to allow you to do things like progress the research track or shoot down the alien craft. The trick is that your base is laid out in a grid and each column can only take one worker each round, leading to difficult decisions on what you want to prioritise. Can you afford to forgo generating energy this round if that’s the only way you can excavate better rooms for next round?
Except that’s not the difficult part of the planning. That honour goes to Under Falling Skies’ masterstroke – which is that each die, as well as defining how strong a room’s effect is when you use it, defines how far the ships in its column descend that turn. Each column becomes a nail-biting trade-off of how good your room needs to be against how far you can allow the ships to move.
While these base mechanics form the framework for every game, Under Falling Skies impresses further with its variety and volume of content. Before you even touch the campaign, there are three different cities, each offering a unique power and a different base layout creating a fresh puzzle each time. Additionally, the four tiles that make up the skies through which the enemies will descend can also each be independently flipped to more challenging versions, offering a range of difficulties depending on how many you reverse.
And when you’re ready, you can crack into the campaign – a set of four chapters, each introduced with an attractive one-page comic that offers a synopsis of a story. Behind that comic is a set of additional cardboard components including new cities, characters to offer one-off special powers and more. The highlight are scenarios: rules modifications to each game that throw a unique challenge at you. A run through the campaign will take you seven or more games, and there’s enough material in the chapters that you can play a full second campaign with next to no repeated content. In a box of this size, the sheer generosity of content is remarkable.
The only complaints with the game are minor – such as that some copies, including my own, have slightly miscut punchboard that means lining up the pieces of the game board sometimes causes some offsets in the artwork. It’s an unfortunate production flaw in a game whose design is near flawless. If you enjoy solo gaming, Under Falling Skies is a strong candidate for your new go-to game.
PLAY IT? MUST-PLAY
A wonderfully sharp print-and-play game that’s earned its position as a commercial product with a wealth of varied content.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED GANZ SCHÖN CLEVER
While nothing alike in theme – Under Falling Skies has one – the choices of dice to place and dice to reroll has similarities to the solo mode of Wolfgang Warsch’s roll-and-write.
Designer: Tomáš Uhlíř
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Time: 20-40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 1 Mothership tile
- 4 Sky tiles
- 3 City tiles
- 3 Base tiles
- 7 Wooden dice
- 9 Plastic ships
- 1 Wooden excavator token
- 3 Base status tokens
- 1 additional plastic ship
- 4 chapter comic sheets
- Campaign sheet pad
- 12 Punchboards containing additional cities, base tiles, characters and more
Enjoy a solo game? We have a top ten for you that you can check out by clicking here, or by watching below!
This article originally appeared in issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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