Level 7: Invasion, from Privateer Press, is a semi-cooperative game that continues the story that began in Level 7: Escape and continued in Level 7: Omega Protocol. This time, an evil alien race known as the Hydra are invading the Earth and three to five players, representing the various coalitions of Earth, must stand together to stop them.
Each player receives a special player mat with information and dials that represent his or her coalition's territory — North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. The South American player begins the game controlling Dr. Cronos, the Alien Ghin scientist who alone holds the key to humanity's salvation, though he will move about the board as the game progresses.
Over the course of the game players must deploy military units to fight the invaders that appear via huge drop ships around a really cool game board map of Earth. At the same time, they must trade money and resources, develop new technologies, hire Ghin mercenaries and work with Dr. Cronos to create a super weapon to use against the Hydra. This, and more, takes place over three phases per round, each with five steps.
Combat consists of determining who has the most combat power in a battle, the coalition player or the Hydra, then rolling a dice. Depending on the roll, a number of coalition units or Hydra units will be removed. If too many Hydra units are in a region without any coalition units to fight them, they overrun the region and the relevant coalition player suffers penalties.
During the event step, players each draw an event card that has two nasty effects to it — an alpha event and a bravo event. They each choose which event they want and slide it under the board in an appropriate slot. The player that controls Dr. Cronos then reads out what nasty surprises the Hydra have unleashed and where new Hydra units spawn on the board.
Players lose in several ways, including if their Military Industrial Complex dial reaches zero, if Dr. Cronos is killed by the Hydra and more. Individual coalitions may be eliminated as well. The players win if they can survive long enough to each complete their part of Dr. Cronos weapon and deploy it.
Level 7: Invasion is a fantastic game that draws players into the grim theme of an alien invasion. The negotiation between players — they must trade resources and fight together — is a lot of fun, and the combat is simple yet intense. The event step is really scary and players will hold their breath in anticipation of the Hydra's next attack.
While some of the resources don't seem as necessary as others, and the game really plays more like a standard cooperative game rather than a semi-cooperative one, it nevertheless succeeds brilliantly. Many original ideas are married here to standard cooperative mechanics and the result is a truly fun and unique strategy adventure game.
Level 7: Invasion plays in about three to four hours and is recommended for ages 14 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org