Review – Under Falling Skies

It's the end of the world as we know it but my dice roll fiiine...

pic5428723

 

Designer Tomáš Uhlíř

Artist Kwanchai Moriya, Petr Boháček

Publisher Czech Games Edition

Category Sci-Fi, Dice

Length 20-40 minutes

Release Date 2020

Player Count 1

Price $34.99

If you’ve ever wanted to take the slow-burn intensity of Space Invaders and apply it to a dice-rolling tabletop game, Under Falling Skies is going to be your jam. Under Falling Skies is a solitaire game in which you are in charge of Earth’s defenses. You try to shoot down alien ships, manage your energy levels, and get your Research track to the end before too much damage has been done to your city. The game also features a four-chapter campaign that is completely replayable. So is it more fun than Independence Day or more of an Independence Day: Resurgence? Read on to find out!

Review

My initial interest in Under Falling Skies was due to the aforementioned alien invasion theme, and I was intrigued by the bright and exciting art style, which reminded me of Flipships (one of my favorites). Turns out they share the main artist. Not only is the art in Under Falling Skies catchy, but each chapter is preceded by a one-page comic book explaining the premise of that chapter, which is a great hook. The components are also top-notch with the ships being 3D resin designs where they could have easily just been tokens or chits. 

The goal of the game is to move your research token to the top of the track before your city is destroyed. You’ll do this by placing dice in different rooms, each with various effects. Only one die can be placed in each column of your base, which further restricts your choices. In the first of the three game phase, you place your dice and move the enemy ships. Ships move a number of spaces equal to the number on the die, unless they are restricted by the chosen room. This means that while it is important to get high numbers of research, energy, and attack, players must bear in mind that placing all 6’s will result in enemy ships raining down on them fast and furious. Ships are also affected by the spots they land on, which will either do nothing, move the ship over a column, move the mothership down, or leave them vulnerable to attacks if you placed a high enough die in a Jet fighter room. Also, when placing dice players must reroll any leftover dice when they place a white die (players have two white and three grey dice). 

The second phase is the Rooms phase, where players resolve the rooms they chose in the previous phase. Energy is gained and lost, the Excavator moves to open up more of the base, Research is completed, and Jets are scrambled, all depending on where you placed your dice. Some other rooms come into play later in the campaign, but I won’t spoil them here. 

The third and final phase is the Mothership Phase. The Mothership moves down a row, and the player has to resolve any new effects such as spawning new ships or losing research levels. If it makes it down to the skull, you lose immediately. I found out after losing a game that you want to do everything in your power in the first phase to not trigger any extra movement on the Mothership, otherwise your game can end quickly. 

I realize it might not sound like it, but this game can be a bit of a brain-burner. Sometimes you need big numbers to advance certain tracks in the game, or maybe you need a 6 to shoot down a ship closing in on your city, but you have to be methodical and smart or you’ll quickly take more damage than you can afford. And when ships hit your city they don’t go away – they just respawn. However you can advance on the research track multiple times in one round if you put enough dice towards it, and the more rooms you excavate the better they are. A Power-generating room that you start with might have a minus-two modifier on it, whereas one in the bottom of your base might give you a bonus. 

So it’s a good thing Under Falling Skies is a solo game because the chance for analysis paralysis is high. But it is SO satisfying when you are able to place 3 or 4 ships on Explosion spaces and can afford to put a 6-pip die in a Jet fighter room to take them all out. Moments like that are wonderful, and only come around once or twice per game, but their rarity makes them all the more sweet. The game does a good job of taking things slow, and then mixing in more elements and difficulty while also leaving room for customization – sky and city tiles can be flipped over to increase or decrease the curve, and they make a large difference. The comparison to Space Invaders really holds up as it almost felt easy at times in my first game while the later games in the campaign were like trying to shoot down the last enemy as they rapidly zig-zagged across the screen. 

This game will appeal to any fan of Space Invaders, Flipships, or classic sci-fi tropes of invading aliens. But the players in question will have to enjoy either sharing a game, or playing solitaire. There are no pass-and-play rules. Players will also have to enjoy the mental exercise it takes to balance the risks and rewards, otherwise it will just feel like a game of placing dice and bad things happening. But if you like dice-based worker placement with an ever-increasing challenge, Under Falling Skies is worth checking out. 

A review copy was provided by the publisher. 

The Bottom Line

If you like dice-based worker placement with an ever-increasing challenge, Under Falling Skies is worth checking out.

 

7

IMG_9455
Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.