Strangely enough, Petersen Games’ new title would have made the perfect headline as the ending of 2020. Designer Sandy Petersen almost subconsciously spawned this effort given that the Brood have been on his mind for decades. It just goes to show that if you combine an environment of fear and an active imagination, something very positive or something very negative can come out.
Petersen’s opus here is a small asymmetric war game where humanity fights to the death against the Brood invaders from the stars. It’s for 2 players and generally can take between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Invasion of the Brood plays best with opponents who have equal experience in the workings of each species.
Players of Invasion of the Brood will first choose sides. The Human side and the Brood side play very differently not only in how a player makes their moves but also in the kind of choices the player is presented on their turns. Player personalities and preferences for style will certainly influence selections here.
The Brood player will play their turn first then the Human player takes a turn. This alternates until the game ends. The Brood player’s turn is more of an action selection game while the Human player has more of a procedural turn common to many strategic wargames. However, of course, the Humans have a twist as will be indicated later.
The Brood player first gathers their action point resource known as Mindpower. They’ll gain this depending on the number of Broodmasters they have in play, and they spend this to use the following actions in any order:
- Spawn Larva – Place a new larva Broodmaster.
- Molt to Adult – Morph a larva to an adult Broodmaster.
- Spawn Worker – Create a Worker in a space with a Larva or Adult Broodmaster
- Molt to Warrior – Morph a Worker into a Warrior. The unit now has increased attack and defense values.
- Control Factory – In a space with a Factory and a Worker, the Worker can control the Factory. The Brood player wins if they control a Factory in each of the territories of the major countries.
- Control Human – If a Control Token is available, place it on a Human unit to control it.
- Move – Move a unit.
- Berserk – This allows the Brood player to use a unit to attack all other Human units in its space.
- Dupe – If Dupe Tokens are available, they can be converted to Mindpower.
- Destroy Orion – If the Human player has an Orion unit in a space with Brood units, the Brood can destroy it.
Depending on the Human player’s first phase, they perform a sequence of phases on their turn.
- Awaken Phase – The Human player will be gradually convincing other countries of the threat of the Brood from two different means: Mediation or War. If War is chosen, the Human player can use all their remaining phases. If the Mediation route is taken, depending on the selected country the Human player is forced to choose some phases to pass over during their turn.
- Project Orion – The player can build, move, or launch Orion units (a massive planet-to-space missile system). Once they have 6 units launched from Antarctica, the Humans immediately win.
- Move – The player can move units. They cannot move into other large countries unless War was used there.
- Battle – The player attacks Brood units or mind-controlled units.
- Build – The player can build new units.
Combat between units is resolved by a single d6 die roll with the addition of the attack or defense value of the unit. Humans can add to this roll based on added air units as well.
The first thing players will notice is that the asymmetry of the choices here really drives the game. The different interactions between the units and the Human player’s activated country of choice are probably the major critical decision each round of the game, especially for early turns before all countries are awoken. The Brood player needs to make very selective moves about where to place Broodmasters and how to defend them to build up enough Mindpower for the middle and late game.
This is a very engaging and enjoyable component of the game, but it also feels at times that the game really hinges on the die rolls. For the Humans, the early game is critical to slowing the rush of the Brood to gain an insurmountable lead in Mindpower, but it’s only a single d6 die roll (+ or – based on Air Units) to determine the victor. Some other kind of mitigation of the randomness, either a second d6 to make it a 2-12 roll or a more deterministic method such as combat cards feels necessary. If the Brood player or the Human player gets the advantage from these early conflicts, it can really determine the rest of the game.
However, one thing which should be noted is that the game feels like Chess when all the die rolls average themselves out. A very experienced player can take out a new player quickly with little to help the junior player recover. This is something that players may want, or they might find it brutal. Generally, the randomness of multiple die rolls helps mitigate this. The rules for handicapping one side or the other are included, and because they take place at the beginning of the game, they help to offset the steamrolling nature of early play from the veteran. From personal experience, players should use these rules as soon as they feel there is some imbalance in competence.
What does make up for this is that the game achieves the feeling of a global conflict in a small package. The playtime and the simplicity of the cardboard units won’t have players wishing for plastic miniatures. The 1980s PC resolution art adds to the theme of something akin to Space Invaders meets RISK. These design decisions are perfect for this type of game.
Invasion of the Brood sits somewhere between a filler and an entree game for players taking a break from heavier wargames. It’s not for everyone, but for players who love lighter war games and good 1950s style alien invasion, it’s an entertaining romp that begs for multiple plays and experienced play. While the early game randomness is frustrating, it also comes off as a distraction. Fortunately, the rules for handicapping experienced players makes up for it.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Even with the contradiction between the deterministic style and randomness of the early game, it’s entertaining and welcome to the table for just the right players.
• Random combat feels too impactful early game
Disclosure: An employee for Petersen Games also writes for Board Game Quest. He had no influence over the opinions expressed in this review.