Under Falling Skies unfortunately lives up to its name

Title Under Falling Skies unfortunately lives up to its name
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Game reviews
When January 13, 2021

One of my favorite boardgame designs is Troyes.  Although it relies on dice, it's not about chasing sixes.  Normally, dice games are all about seeing how many high numbers you can roll..

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Well, that is dismaying. I can tolerate a lot for a solid game, even shoddy craftsmanship, unclear rules, an ill-fitting match of theme and mechanics. From what I had read and seen about this game, it didn’t suffer from any of those flaws but a punishing endgame is definitely a turnoff. I will have to rethink whether I really want to gamble on this one.

My board game footprint is small compared to many others on this forum. But the additional doo-dads being added to a tower defense game reminds me of Dawn of the Zeds.

Dawn of the Zeds was a game I did not enjoy in any iteration of plastic and cardboard piece count.

I got a print and play of Under Fallen Skies. I think I’ll stop there. Thanks for the review, Tom.

One indie game solo game that sparked my interest recently was Iron Helm: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/iron-helm

Does this cool abstraction of a dungeon crawl, playing like a turn to turn push your luck, with a clever “open door 1 or door 2” mechanic that gives you a fair amount of agency, while being a bat shit crazy luck fest…From what I’ve played on tabletop sim, it feels like it strikes a pretty good balance of luck/agency (while pushing more towards the luck side)

The way it handles the theme (how it makes the mountain feel like an actual place) of the dungeon is also non-intrusive, but surprisingly immersive.

Probably doing an awful job of explaining it, but I’d put it on par with something like Arkham Noir, or as something i’d suggest instead of it if you preferred chucking dice and plundering a dungeon (that’s relatively thematic given that it’s essentially a card game)

Still working myself up to making the actual purchase due to the exorbitant shipping costs to canada.

I love Iron Helm’s visual design and general vibe, but it is wildly random, offers almost no choices, and the postage-stamp-sized rule book is riddled with spelling errors and rules conflicts/ambiguities.

Try the completely free print and play version if you want to know if the game is for you:

This is a game that makes top games of 2020 and top solo games of 2020 lists. So while it might not be for Tom, you might still find you enjoy it. The print and play should give you a good idea.

That’s a good idea, thanks for the link.

Yeah, Iron Helm is sadly a junk game.

Uh, no. That won’t help. Did you read the review? If you had, you would know that none of what I talked about is in the print-and-play version. The print-and-play is a one-off proof-of-concept for the basic dice puzzle. It has none of the campaign stuff, and it certainly doesn’t have the godawful slog at the finale. Likewise, it doesn’t have any of the modularity that makes the game itself so much better than the relatively simple dice puzzle at its core.

And finally, this game is for me. What are you even talking about? I like it. I even wrote a review saying as much. It’s linked at the top of this thread in case you’re interested.


Sorry Tom. I am interested. But I have just had 2 10 hours day at work and didn’t have the time to give your review the attention it deserved during a short break. So I wanted to help Dive quickly and get back to the review later. I can skim the forum. But I give your reviews the time they deserve. :)

Ok Tom, but I’m fairness to Wendelius, reading this:

“Instead of being excited about how all the modularity will come together, I instead get to dread reaching the finale. I get to dread having to play the same losing game over and over again until my score is reset to zero. I get to dread where the game is going. Why would I bother playing my way here again?”

Kinda sounds like you don’t have much interest in playing the game again.

Psst: house rules

There are a few ways around the finale that I’m currently experimenting with. Because it’s a game worth saving, even if the designer and developers fumbled it.

Also, as he noted, Wendelius didn’t read any of it. I don’t even think he looked at the Review Score ™.


*A reply to both justaguy and Tom’s reply
Truly sad! I was under the impression that there might’ve been some underlying thoughtfulness that brought it out of just being a junk food game.

I suppose it’s handy in the sense that not having a copy will haunt me less. :D

Forget it, Tom’s a hater /s The review made me really want to try it out and compare it to something like say, One Deck Dungeon. A game where you play your way all the way up to the boss and then get kicked in the knickers. I still like it, because you can check off marks on a sheet and get stronger with each run.
I read it as a really positive review with a harsh final ending, hm, just like the game campaign!

Le sigh. Remind me not to try and be helpful on a long day.

I have read the review now. So here is my question. What do you care about replaying the campaign again and again if the end is dreadful? Is it a requirement to somehow enjoy the puzzle? What I get from your review and others, is that this game is a very nice little puzzle with lots of configurability (the reversible tiles are a nice touch).

So you get to play a campaign once. And then you get to shoot down aliens as a one off using whatever options you fancy that particular night.

Is the $30 solo experience lessened in any way if it’s not all about replaying the campaign over and over?

Excellent comparison! There’s an element of grinding in One Deck Dungeon that fits the theme perfectly. Those bosses really suck, but the point is that you have to throw yourself at them to get powerful enough to finally beat them after several failed attempts.

The ending of Under Falling Skies is like those bosses, but there’s no reward for failing. Instead, you just replay every city you played in the campaign, and each time you fail, your score falls. There’s no provision for getting stronger with each failure, which is weird, since that same concept – getting stronger when you fail – is built into each mission leading up to the finale! Why did they suddenly abandon that concept for the grand climax?

So that’s one of the things I’ve been dinking around with to house rule around the frustration and difficulty spike. For instance, when you get to the finale, you’re supposed to pick three of the characters you brought with you from the campaign. What if after each failure, you get to add another character? What if you get four characters after your first failure, five after your second, and so on? It’s a really simple tweak and it would alleviate a ton of frustration, as well as giving the player a fighting chance.


Hey, you were the one who said you didn’t read it. You even came away with the impression that the game wasn’t for me. I was just pointing out that you didn’t get that from the passage he quoted.

And while I appreciate you trying to be helpful, the print-and-play isn’t going to help anyone who’s concerned about the problems I raised in the review. It’s furthermore not going to demonstrate any of the really cool stuff I talked about in the review.

The campaign is the best part of the game. It takes a cool little dice puzzle and twists it into nearly infinite themed permutations. It gives context to the choices you make.

But, yes, I could mix and match all the bits and pieces for a standalone game. However, I’m in it for the way the campaign is a series of choices between randomly generated mission/city/hero combos as you work your way up an escalating difficulty level. Standalone games don’t have that.

Replayability matters to me, especially (only?) in games I like. And it’s a significant part of the appeal of Under Falling Skies. In fact, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts all those top ten lists you mentioned bring this up. All of them. But if you just want to play once, that’s cool and not really surprising, given that your playthrough probably ended with a long drawn-out slog through six losing games. That certainly lessened my experience.


I am reading the rules pdf (2.0) Am I the only one having issue with understanding this rule

You will place two white dice, so you must reroll twice – or only once, if you save a white die for last.

No example, a simple sentence for a pretty important rule. I did not get what I reroll twice. I had to watch a rules video by Paul Grogan to get it. I thought I would reroll white dice, but no, you reroll all unplaced dice. Maybe for native english speaker it is clear?

It’s saying that every time you place a white die, you must reroll all other remaining dice. Since you have 2 white dice, you will be rerolling twice over the course of the round. Or only once if you keep one of the white dice for last.

Part of the mitigation strategy is when to place a white die and cause a reroll.

I know, but I had really trouble understanding it, because it is somehow phrased indirect or implicit. And it was one of the very first rules.

When placing a white die, reroll all unplaced die.

That’s simple and explicit.

It wasn’t unclear to me. It’s a statement of fact about what will happen during a round, rather than a rule in itself. But if it trips people up, it could definitely be reworded in more helpful ways.

Are you saying the effect of placing a white die is not explained elsewhere? If so, that’s indeed a bit lacking.

Edit: I see from the reply below that it is. Then it’s fine.