Game Name: Invaders from Dimension X
Publisher: Tiny Battle Publishing
Designer: Hermann Luttmann
Genre: Solo science fiction wargame
Players: Solitaire with a two player variant
Playing Time: 60 – 90 minutes
MSRP: $24.99 (currently $19.99 on the website) for the folio game or $9.99 for print and play
I make it no secret Hermann Luttmann is a pal of mine. It’s always a pleasure when I have the chance to chat with him and you can be sure if I happen to make my way to ConSim World Expo, and he happens to be there, I’ll kick it with a beer or three and talk games with him. I also happen to be a fan of many of his designs and you’ll find quite a few of his games (Dawn of the Zeds, In Magnificent Style, Duel of Eagles, etc) have received high review scores here at TGG. All of this means I’m a very happy camper when one of his games shows up at my door.
The latest is Invaders from Dimension X and while it may look like a traditional style SF wargame, ala the 1980’s and 90’s, there’s a bit more purring under the hood than you might expect. The premise is this: Humanity has taken to the stars and established colonies throughout the galaxy and, as in just about all science fiction, mankind finds they are not alone among the stars. Yet the newest enemy doesn’t come from another planet but rather another dimension. Thus the forces of the United Space Alliance (USA) are thrust into war with an utterly alien race known as the Kay‘otz.
Invaders from Dimension X is available, from Mark H. Walker’s Tiny Battle Publishing, as both a print and play download as well as a prepackaged folio game. I received the folio game so I’ll be basing my review on that. Included in the plastic bag are a ten page rule book, a sheet of double sided counters, a dual sided map, and a reference sheet. Keep in mind this is a $20 game so the components are pretty basic although Tim Allen has provided nice artwork for the counters and maps.
Setup is quick as you’ll choose either one of the two scenarios (or the campaign which essentially links the two)and place your starting units on the map. You’ll also want to have four opaque containers – say coffee cups – at your disposal to separately place the Kay’otz units, Kay’otz activation chits, Kay’otz mission goal chits, and alien dimensional manifestation (ADM) chits. If you’d rather not clutter the table with all these cups you can simply place the goals and ADMs face down somewhere. You’ll also want to grab at least three six sided dice from your collection to play.
The USA counters display a movement point allowance (MP), combat factor (CF), and defense number (DN). USA units are further designated as Marines, Scouts, Special Ops, Heavy Weapons, HQ, and Logistics. Kay’otz don’t use movement points and simply display an ID number which determines what that unit does during the Kay’otz activation phase as well as a CF and DN.
Play proceeds in a fairly traditional turn order with the USA marines taking an action phase, the Kay’otz performing an activation phase, and then an end phase where victory conditions are checked.
Marine Action Phase – The player may choose to have each of their units move fully, fire at full effect, shoot and scoot, or perform a special action if the unit is capable. Special actions include reconnaissance, building a stronghold, rallying, re-supply, or request reinforcements. USA movement is determined by spending MPs and terrain can cause an expenditure of additional MPS or, by using roads, maximize MPs.
Combat is performed by rolling a number of six sided dice equal to the CF of the attacker. When attacking the Kay’otz every roll higher than the DN of the defending unit equals a hit. It takes three hits in the same attack to destroy an alien unit. If only one or two hits are scored on a Kay’otz unit you’ll actually select an Alien Dimensional Manifestation chit for that unit. More often than not this chit will give the alien unit a higher DN although sometimes they’ll become easier to destroy. The ADM stays in play until the invader unit is destroyed.
Kay’otz Activation Phase – This is where the real wrinkle of Invaders from Dimension X lays. Since these beings are completely alien they don’t employ tactics as the human forces would. To facilitate that, the player will draw a Kay’otz activation chit to determine just what the aliens do that turn. It’s possible they mass rush the Marines, or some attack while others stay back, or maybe they bring in reinforcements, or possibly nothing at all… Kay’otz units don’t use MPs either as they can jump all over the map or suddenly gang rush right up into the USA force’s faces. There are no range factors involved or zones of control in the game but there are some simple line of sight rules as far as combat.
There is no close (or melee) combat since the two opponents don’t actually occupy the same reality at the same moment. If a Kay’otz unit lands on a marine occupied hex the alien counter is removed from play.
Keep in mind a successful Recon will allow the player to draw two activation chits, choose one, and then return the other to the draw pile (or cup). This can be very important as you have an opportunity to let the aliens do something which you might be better prepared for rather than having your “you know what” left hanging in the wind. Remember though, the returned activation chit will almost definitely be drawn later in the game so you may want to choose the less advantageous action just to get it out of the way.
USA forces are never eliminated but rather stunned or paralyzed. Even though they aren’t removed from play, having a lot of paralyzed units (especially HQs) can lead to disaster. Also if a Kay’otz Overlord is ever eliminated you can select one of the mission goal counters and remove it from the game; this is how you begin to understand just what is the objective of the alien invaders during that scenario and, by process of elimination, figure out what you can do to prevent a Kay’otz victory.
End Turn – Simply check for automatic victory conditions, based on the scenario, and if they aren’t met move on to the next turn.
The game continues until an automatic victory is achieved or there are no remaining Kay’otz activation chits left to draw. If I’m understanding the rules correctly, when that last activation chit is drawn, the Marines will still get their own action phase on the following turn. This can go a long way to preventing a Kay’otz victory if you’ve somehow narrowed down the possible enemy goals. Once the battle comes to an end you’ll draw a Kay’otz mission goal chit (hopefully you’ve narrowed it down to one by then) and see just what was the enemy’s ultimate game plan in the first place. The two scenarios also each have instant victories for the humans as well as levels of victory too.
Granted, I’m not getting into all the minutia of the rules (Special Ops and their BUMP guns, rallying, alien Monoliths, dice roll modifiers, and so forth) simply because a review shouldn’t be a complete rehash of a rulebook but simply provide a bit of a breakdown of what players actually do each turn during the game. The rules are presented in a straightforward manner and I understood everything well enough after reading through a couple of times. Most of the charts you’ll be referencing are right on the map and the handout for Kay’otz activation spells everything out so you won’t spend a ton of time flipping through the rules every time you play. There is a bit of an errata available but I didn’t find any of the misprints in my copy, or maybe I just missed them.
I like Invaders from Dimension X quite a lot and Hermann Luttman has come up with yet another clever solitaire game sure to entertain even relatively hardcore grognards as well as light strategy gamers. Two games never play the same, except for the victory conditions of the scenarios, because of the various alien goals and ever changing Kay’otz tactics. This is an extremely luck based design – what with all the dice results and randomness of chit draws – so if rolling a lot of ‘dem bones t’aint your thing you might want to take a pass here Dooley.
There are only a couple of minor quibbles I have with Invaders from Dimension X and they really have nothing to do with the design. First, it would have been nice to have a couple more scenarios. Sure, the randomness of it all keeps gameplay fresh but the instant victory conditions remain the same. I just think there’d be a little more bang for the buck with an extra battle or two; I just know Hermann would have loved including loads more but I’ll guess the $20 price put the brakes on that. Second, the counters are extremely thin. Not terrible, and they’re cut nicely so you won’t run into tearing, but even in what I would consider the infancy of Victory Point Games the counters were much thicker at approximately the same price point. As I said these are just very minor issues and certainly not game breaking.
I should also note there’s a two player variant, which I didn’t check out, but it seems to me things might not be overly exciting for the Kay’otz player as they’re still at the mercy of the activation chits (although they draw two and select one to implement just as a marine recon but the recon supersedes that anyway) and are sort of just moving counters and rolling dice. Some people might dig it but I don’t know. This variant seems a little tacked on anyway so really consider Invaders from Dimension X a solo game all in all.
On a strange side note, and one where I’m sure I’m reading WAY more into the design than intended, as I’ve played the game the premise feels almost as a touch of allegory to the current situation the Western world has in dealing with extremist elements emanating from the Middle East; conventional tactics seem to have minimal effect, the extremists are constantly changing their plan of attack, and – outside the obvious aim of spreading terror – Western leaders don’t seem to have a grasp on what the terrorist’s end game may truly be. Yes… I’m oversimplifying things, and I’m sure the design is aimed at only being a load of chaotic fun, but it’s weird how this modern day connection pops into my head.
For strategy gamers who aren’t afraid of the world of hex and counters Invaders from Dimension X is loads of fun. No two games will ever play out the same and you can bang out an entire battle in around an hour once you have the gist of the rules. The truckload of randomness will undoubtedly turn some off but such is the nature of most solitaire games no matter what the subject or genre; what would be the point of playing something if the next game will be exactly like the last?
At $20 (or $10 if you go the PnP route) Invaders from Dimension X is an excellent addition to your collection of lighter solo games with its interesting wrinkles and high level of replayablity. In the end, yet another feather in Hermann Luttmann’s designer cap.
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