XenoShyft: Onslaught Review

xenoshyft onslaught review

Year: 2015 | Players: 1-4 | Minutes: 30+ | Ages: 13+

This XenoShyft: Onslaught review was made after playing the game eight times.

What is XenoShyft: Onslaught?

XenoShyft: Onslaught is a deck building game in which players take on the role of a military force that must defend their base against an alien species known as the Hive. The idea isn’t to defeat the Hive – that’s just impossible – but to survive nine rounds of onslaughts.

XenoShyft: Onslaught was designed by Keren Philosophales and Michael Shinall, and it is published by CMON.

XenoShyft: Onslaught Gameplay

xenoshyft onslaught board

In XenoShyft: Onslaught, each player defends the same base as a team. The base’s health track is determined by the number of players in the game, and you must keep the Hive (enemies) from bringing that track down to zero.

Each player has two boards in front of them: the NorTec/player board and the enemy board. Everyone begins the game with an identical set of 10 cards, but you also have your own unique cards and abilities based on your randomly-chosen divisions.

As the game progresses, you’ll add to your deck by purchasing items, equipment and more troops. Items and equipment are used to either heal the troops or make them more powerful.

Enemies come in waves, with each wave being a bit tougher than the last. Each wave also has at least one boss that must be defeated in order to move on to the next wave. During battle, enemies are flipped over one at a time and they fight the soldier closest to them on the player board.

XenoShyft: Onslaught has a total of nine rounds. You’ll win if you’re able to keep your base from being taken down.


  • A lot of board games have tried to pull off the “Horde Mode” feel found in some video games, but XenoShyft is the one of just a few games that I’ve found to actually pull it off. You really do feel like wave after wave of enemies are coming at you, which makes the game quite tense.
  • I also appreciate the fact that the designers took the time to make XenoShyft as cooperative as they possibly could. You want to help your teammates as much as you can in this game because it is often your only hope of winning. It’s sometimes better to take a little bit of damage to lower the chances of someone else on your team getting into trouble. This game definitely does encourage ongoing discussion and cooperative actions throughout.
  • The theme comes through surprisingly well. While the space marine-like theme has been done many times before, I like the way that it was implemented in XenoShyft: Onslaught. It feels like a unique board game world.
  • Considering how much seems to happen while playing XenoShyft: Onslaught, it’s very impressive that it isn’t a long game. Since you’re going to be doing a lot of losing in this one, it’s nice that you can start up a new game and not worry about losing too much of your day.
  • The art on the cards looks great. It really pops and every bit of it looks like it came from the same world, which isn’t easy to pull off.


  • Some of the troop divisions seem to start out stronger than the others. That’s not a terrible thing in a co-op, but it can feel kind of bad when you know you’ll be relying on your teammates to bail you out early on simply because you start out weaker by default.
  • Like most cooperative deck building games, XenoShyft: Onslaught is extremely difficult to beat. My group sees that as a good thing, though, because we prefer challenging, co-ops. However, some players will be frustrated when they lose even though it felt like they did all that they could do to win.

Final Thoughts

XenoShyft: Onslaught is an excellent co-op board game that is perfect for anyone who is looking for a challenging deck building game. If you are a fan of survival/horde modes in video games, chances are you are going to enjoy playing XenoShyft.

XenoShyft has immense replay value and they have already started to release expansions for it. It isn’t quite good enough to make it onto our best cooperative board games list, but my group does consider it to be one of the best deck building games. (Update: It’s right outside of the top 10 now.)

You can test out the game by downloading the XenoShyft: Onslaught app on iOS, Android, or Steam.

XenoShyft: Onslaught Links

BGG | Amazon | eBay

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