Grabbed it on sale from Eagle Griffin cause we like clever deck builders here. This one is even more clever, to the point it plays more like a card builder (like Mottainai) than a proper Deck Builder.
The premise of the game is you want to ‘isolate’ xenon in your hand by removing all other cards, then use it gain victory points. This is done primarily by a once a turn ‘distilling’ step where you remove from your deck all the cards of the most common gas in your hand (so all nitrogens if you have nitrogen, all oxygens if you have no nitrogen, etc). The catch of the game is that to get xenon cards into your deck you also must take a nitrogen, oxygen, and krypton, then you spend all your effort on removing those cards.
The non-gas cards are divided into 3 types: power ups, pipelines that increase your hand size, and contracts that convert xenon to points. Power ups can be used like in a deck builder (once per shuffle), or can be installed at a cost to go off every round. This means that it’s possible to play and win this deck-builder without ever buying a card to your deck. You would still need to take air in, but that’s done as a separate action from buying.
So the one half of the game is the above, a multiplayer solitaire to get the most points possible out of the objects you buy, about when to switch to ‘overtime production’ which allows you to distill twice, at the cost of not getting any new cards, and when to buy what. The player to player interaction comes through the process of bidding.
Bidding is placing your player token on a card available for purchase. It lowers the price of the card for you buy 1 (including going into negatives, meaning the card can pay you to purchase it), but perhaps more importantly it means that whoever buys that card will also have to pay you on top of the normal price.
This leads to the primary interaction with other players: trying to block their purchases and convert what they need into a slowdown for them and acceleration for you.
A playthrough is about I’d say 20m per player, and has a similarity to Mottainai in that the two main strategies are either to go slow and get as many points as possible, or to go as fast as you can in order to get the game to end quickly before the slower decks manage to ramp up their engines. In our experience this can go either way.
It’s a great game for us, not very heavy but interesting in a puzzle solve-y way, while still including a bit of player interaction without making it too aggressive. Recommended if those things sound appealing to you. The unique play style and theme also helps. Wish it was just a hair quicker cause it’s just barely too long for work lunches with our usual 3-4 people.