Who doesn’t love a good alien invasion movie? And I don’t mean like Cloverfield – I’m talking campy, almost cheesy movies where the special effects are a little off and the script might have been written by a guy chain smoking in a Waffle House booth over the course of three hours. My favorite is Mars Attacks!, but that movie is really an homage to all the movies that came before.
FAZA gives off the same vibes as those movies the second you look at the box. The game draws you in so quickly with its beautiful artwork, but you’ll want to stick around for the solid mechanics and thematic gameplay. After you and your friends spend an hour or two with this one, you may be looking to replace Pandemic as your go-to cooperative game.
Designed by Benjamin Farahmand, FAZA puts two to four players among some of the last survivors left in a city after an alien invasion. In order to avoid total annihilation, you’ll have to take down the three motherships before you are overrun. The game is played on sixteen tiles which are set up randomly in a 4×4 grid. Setup includes placing the motherships and a bunch of alien drones out on the board, making for a challenging start no matter how you approach it.
Players start the game by choosing from one of eight characters, each of which has their own special power. Once the game begins, players will work together to take out drones and motherships. Drones are taken out by simple dice rolls in which four or higher leads to their defeat while three or lower leads to an injury for you. You can use special weaponry or defensive devices to enhance your chances for victory. You can even get some benefits if you happen to be on certain squares of the board.
The motherships, however, can’t be taken down from the outside. Instead, you’ll have to convert some of the Faza you have defeated into rebels who are able to infiltrate and harm the motherships. Each injury to a mothership makes you draw a Faza card, which often leads to trouble, like more drones being added around the board or giving a player a long-lasting effect that keeps them from working efficiently. Sometimes, though, you’ll draw cards that give you perks, like allowing you to move around more freely.
We’re Under Attack!
Once you’ve taken all your actions, though, the motherships get their turn. Each of the motherships can have a devastating impact on the board. Some cause damage to your players. Some leave drones all over the board. Another “fazaforms” the board, flipping over the land tiles and making them more dangerous for battle.
As you play the game, you’ll be immediately reminded of Pandemic and similar cooperative games. Each of the players has different actions, and using them strategically is the only way to achieve victory. Some players can attack drones from nearby tiles, allowing them to avoid damage. Other players can use shields to protect them from attacks, while others can use teleporters to help them move around the board quickly. In addition, each character has an ability that lets them break the rules a little bit. The Scientist, for example, can teleport a group of rebels to their location instead of having to move them one tile at a time. All of the characters can be helpful to your cause if used correctly.
Life Needs Balance
An important element to any cooperative game is the difficult balance. You’re essentially playing against the game, so the game must give you enough of a challenge to be tough, but not oppressive to the point of eliminating fun or so random that you can’t possibly plan ahead. FAZA has done a great job of creating balance by keeping things simple. On the “game’s” turn, the motherships attack. Their attacks are intense and greatly impact your progress, but they are predictable – the number of attacks is equal to the number of players. Thus, each player can make sure to end their turn so that they can avoid most of the havoc that the enemy will cause, or to at least be prepared to start their attack on the next go round.
I don’t know if FAZA will necessarily replace Pandemic in anyone’s collection, but there’s certainly room for both on your game shelf. I think the theme is much more approachable for some, and the artwork is splendid. It may fall short for some people in the lack of variety in the decisions you can make on each turn, but I find the simplicity to allow for better strategizing. Today, if I were to pick a game for my wife and me to play with another couple, I would probably choose FAZA. Maybe its newness will wear off and Pandemic will come back to prominence, but for now, let’s go kick some alien butt.
FAZA is on Kickstarter until July 25, 2019. Do yourself a favor and check out this campaign today.
Benjamin Farahmand provided us with a prototype copy of FAZA prior to the Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.