Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Tuesday 27 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough

Game: Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough

Publisher: Portal Games

Designer: Joanna Kijanka, Ignacy Trzewiczek

Year: 2019

Portal Games really knows how to make a card driven engine builder. Imperial Settlers, 51st State, Alien Artifacts and now the latest Empires of the North, are all built off similar engines. Alien Artifacts definitely made an impression on us, with its interesting hand management system for resources and the three very unique types of cards that structure your strategy.

As with many games from Portal, the expansion strategy seems to be with small booster packs. The boosters add new factions that work in interesting new ways, adding new resource cards and some new mechanisms. The first expansion was Discovery, which added the alien resource, which was a powerful wildcard, but felt a little to diluted in amongst the rest of the cards in the game. Breakthrough adds another new resource type and faction, and works with either just the base game, or with the Discovery expansion.


Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough adds only a couple of new features to the basic game. Firstly during setup you are going to want to mix in the new technologies, planets and ships into their respective decks. You'll also want to separate out the breakthrough resource cards and put them into their own draw pile. Once you are playing the game everything will proceed as normal until you encounter one of the new planets or ships.

The new planets produce the new breakthrough resources instead of standard resources. These new cards have a large number of blue symbols on them and so are extremely useful if you want to develop Technology quickly. However if you build the new planets ion their logistical side they will instead discard these resource cards into the general discard, adding them to play for the next few rounds.

The new ships added are not combat ships, but instead are tasked with assisting your scientific endeavors. with the logistical side making it more likely for your techs to score when you build them, and the operational side actually triggering scoring for your technologies instead of attacking other players.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that Breakthrough is a science-focused expansion. While most of the new abilities are going to appear on the planets and ships, they all function to make technologies easier to build and use. This in turn tends to make the game end with higher scores as you get larger, engines of point-generating techs, or bigger engines if you are using your techs on the logistical side to add new abilities to your empire. It all functions to make the game bigger in scale. And also a little bigger in length, as the new cards slowly get added to the main resources deck, adding an extra couple of rounds to the game by the time you are done.

There aren't a huge number of cards included in the expansion, which does mean you run the risk of them being swamped in the base game cards. If the expansion cards are too thinly spread out you might not see one until the latter half of the game! However if you are mixing in the first expansion (Discovery) you'll find that there are enough expansion cards mixed in that you'll be seeing a good amount of them.

Breakthrough is what I would classify as a big money expansion, it doesn't add any significantly different new mechanics, but it makes existing mechanics bigger and better. Combine that with the very slightly increased game length and it feels like you have a bigger engine in play, and longer to run it! This makes the game feel more rewarding as you have that little bit more of a chance to enjoy your creation once it's 'finished'. In my view this does a lot to enhance the game, which makes Breakthrough a must-have expansion!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I really like how adding the Breakthrough expansion affected the game. It gave you a lot more of the blue resources, giving more opportunity to focus on different strategies to obtain end game points. I love the focus that the end-game scoring can give you, and having extra cards to work towards and trying to get those to complement each other is a really fun way for me to play.

After playing with Discovery, which I found to be really underwhelming, I wasn't too excited to try another Alien Artifacts expansion. I wondered if it might have been a better choice to stick with the base game. Fortunately I found that Breakthrough was not only a better expansion, but it also made Discovery better too! With just one small expansion, the 'new' content feels too dilute, but with two in the mix, there's a much better distribution of new stuff to try. In addition, I feel like the two complement each other. With Breakthrough, you have the chance to hold onto a lot of cards with 4 resources, meaning the Alien Artifact cards feel like they're much more achievable. A nice way to top up the value to meet the 10 or more resources you need to buy Alien Artifacts is to use some of your wild alien resources. As a single resource card, they often felt like they had no great purpose given your two card development limit, but for buying Alien Artifacts, there's no limit.

I'd definitely recommend that fans of Alien Artifacts mix in both expansions at the same time and don't bother playing with a single expansion that might feel too diluted. Breakthrough really gave the game a new lease of life and made Alien Artifacts a little more suited to our 'big money' gaming tastes.

You Might Like...
  • Breakthrough adds just the right amount of additional length to the game that we always wanted.
  • Alien Artifact cards become more affordable and inject some really powerful turns or abilities into the game.
  • Extra blue resources in the game means you're likely to build more blue cards for bigger end game scoring.
You Might Not Like...
  • Breakthrough is still a 'more of the same' expansion, with nothing too groundbreaking.
  • The encouragement of more Alien Artifact cards in the game can seem to cause bigger in game swings, which can feel 'unfair' at times.

The Verdict
7.5/10 Breakthrough is a must-have expansion for fans of Alien Artifacts. It's a big improvement on the first expansion. Although it doesn't hugely alter the game, it adds the excitement of more powerful actions and bigger points scoring opportunities, that we love to find in expansion content.

Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £13.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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