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VENOM Assault
VENOM Assault
2016 | Card Game, Fighting, Science Fiction
What would you say if I told you I completely expected a game I received to fall completely flat for me but instead may actually unseat a revered similar game from my Top 10 list of games? That would be surprising, right? Well such is life, and such is this game. I do believe that VENOM Assault may knock off one of my favorite games: Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game. That’s really saying something from me, so let me discuss a bit about why I state this.

VENOM Assault is a deck-building game very similar in style to Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game (which, if I have to reference again will just call Legendary). Players take control of a team of (relative) wimps in order to help recruit the real elites and battle the evildoers plus their henchmen. Sound familiar? For this review I will be playing the Solo rules, which are the same as the multiplayer rules, but for one player. Novel, eh?

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review. This is a retail copy of the game, so what you see in these photos is exactly what would be received in your box. I do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rulebook, but will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more in depth rules, you may purchase a copy online or from your FLGS. -T

To setup a game, please follow the rulebook as there is way too much to cover here in complete detail. The setup should look similar to the following photo. Here is what you will see: a space for the Mission scenario in the upper left corner. To its right a space for the active Event card. Next to that is the area for the VENOM Support cards to be displayed. Then the VENOM Support deck and discard areas. Below the Mission area is the space to track threat level and the current VENOM Leader’s Health and Defense values. Beneath those trackers is an area for four decks: the VENOM Leader deck, Reward deck, Event deck, and Event discard. To the right of this area is the Training Ground (recruitment zone), the Recruitment deck, and the Retirement pile. In the middle of the board are seven spaces to be populated with Reward cards and VENOM Leaders on top of the Rewards. Each player is dealt six Recruits and four Commandos and will shuffle these to create their draw deck. The players then draw five cards to create their hand and the game may now begin! Go save the world!
I will not be covering every aspect of a turn but will highlight the goings on. The Commander (first player) will draw and read the Event for the round. Events can be helpful for the players, extremely hurtful by advancing the VENOM plot, or even uneventful altogether. Next, player(s) will enter the Recruitment Phase. During this phase players will be using their entire hand to total the recruitment points that can be spent on recruiting those elite soldier, vehicle, and location cards from the Training Ground right into their discard piles.

Once the Recruitment Phase is complete, the Tactical Phase begins, and this is a large part of the game that helps differentiate it from others of its like. The players will choose one of the seven revealed VENOM Leaders on the map to attack in combat (if they choose – this is optional). Using the stats on the VENOM Leader card the players will adjust the Health and Defense values on the trackers on the board. If the VENOM Leader has any abilities that would trigger during this phase, then they trigger now. These could include Global Abilities as well. Once the Leader is done with their abilities, the players will choose one of their cards played to become the Combat Leader. This character now may not use their printed ability but will use their Combat Value (crossed pistols) to place combat dice on their card. The other team members in the combat will add dice to the pool as well if their abilities direct them. Next, the VENOM Leader will call forth their VENOM Support armies to aid them in the combat round. Once displayed, any hero Tactical Phase abilities can be resolved. If VENOM Support armies still are active, their abilities may be resolved at this point.

As the Tactical Phase ends, the Combat Phase begins. The Combat Phase is where the players are able to roll their combat dice in the hopes of besting the VENOM Leader’s Health and Defense values. Defense values dictate the dice values that need to be hit or exceeded to equal a successful attack. The Health value is how many successes are needed to defeat the Leader. However, once rolled the VENOM Leader will trigger any Combat Phase abilities at this time. Once complete the hero team will be able to resolve their own Combat Phase abilities, if any. Finally, the VENOM Support will resolve their Combat Phase abilities. Now the dice may be completely resolved against the Leader, after all abilities have been resolved. If the Freedom Squadron (heroes) defeated the Leader, they take the Leader and Reward cards into their VP pile. Depending on the Mission, these Rewards may be necessary to win the game, and all will have VP values.

After a lengthy Tactical and Combat Phase, the players then enter the Retirement Phase. The players may retire a card from their hand, thus removing the card from the game entirely.

Once a card has been retired (or not), the End of Turn Phase will help clean up the mess of the current round. Any other End of Turn Phase abilities will trigger, and used cards will be discarded to the appropriate areas and refills of key points on the board and players’ hands will setup the next round of play.

Once the Mission card’s success or failure stipulations have been met the game is over and, with any luck, the Freedom Squadron has defeated VENOM once and for all!
Components. This game boasts a large game board, a metric ton of cards, some dice, and some cardboard tokens. All the components are of fine quality and I have no issues with them. The art style used in the game is pleasing and, thankfully, not over-the-top gory or bloody or anything.

You may have noticed or thought that perhaps this game is taking inspiration from a cartoon/toy line from the ’80s, and I would very much agree with you. Could it be called Legendary: G.I. Joe? Maybe, but this one stands on its own, though very similar to the Legendary system. What I do like about VENOM Assault is the fact that it already comes with a large amount of incredible cards to be recruited. I do not know if I will ever feel the need for extra heroes in this game, whereas with the Marvel Legendary one can really go overboard trying to collect all the mini expansions and big box expansions just to find their favorite Marvel entities. Since VENOM Assault isn’t tied to any specific IP and is more generic overall, each character provided is its own thing, not a specific hero that one has grown up loving their entire life.

You see, the problem with those mini expansions in Legendary, at least for me, is that each one brings with it a host of heroes AND a host of new keywords and rules that must be remembered or referenced until it becomes second nature. In VENOM Assault, the rules stay the same and play is altered by the Missions and which characters can be recruited. I like a more reliable and static ruleset when I’m playing an intense game. So point goes to VENOM Assault here too.

Now, I was never into G.I. Joe and I am not at all a war or guns kinda guy, but I am really attracted to this game. I don’t necessarily think of my heroes as going in and shooting the place up, but rather taking Navy Seals-style tactical maneuvers to eliminate the target. So the point is that if you were never into that IP before, you should not feel alienated by this one. It appeals to all, in my opinion.

I said previously in this review that VENOM Assault is knocking on the door of bumping Legendary from my Top 10 games. I continue thinking about it even when I am not playing, and that is a mark of an excellent game for me. If I never think of a game again after playing, there is no way it remains in my collection. This one, however, has me considering different strategies in my head even now as I’m typing.

If you are in the market for a great deck-builder with worldwide espionage at its heart, I urge you to grab a copy of VENOM Assault. If you like the Legendary system but are looking for something just a little different, check this one out. If you just enjoy owning games that are fun and make you think, but also include a bit of luck in the dice rolls, then you owe it to yourself to play this. I really think you’ll enjoy it, as I have. Okay, time to setup another game.