So what happens in the expansions? Well, the storyline continues—after defeating the alien mothership on Earth, the Galaxy Defenders head to the dark side of the moon (Operation Strikeback), where there’s an alien base (and, of course, new types of aliens). After destroying that base (assuming you survive), the next stop is the alien homeworld (Extinction Protocol). I got a partial prototype of the expansions (enough to run one mission from Operation Strikeback and one from Extinction Protocol).
The expansions build on the existing mechanics and introduce Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that you can discover. When you find an NPC, it appears on the board and has its own AI that controls its movement and combat. In the first expansion, the agents will also have access to Power Suits, which provide better weaponry, armor, and movement as long as the batteries are charged. In the second expansion, you get upgraded Power Armor (miniatures pictured above) which is specific to the individual agents and has specialized weaponry designed for them. The Power Armor also uses energy, but has a built-in recharge rate.
There are also huge enemies that take up multiple hexes, and new types of damage: Lethal damage cannot be blocked by the blue defense dice; Critical damage lets you flip a token to see what special effects your attack had. You can also get poisoned temporarily, which bleeds out your health over time. Agents and aliens also have access to targeting systems, which will make attacks more effective while the target is “marked.” Finally, there are larger area effects: explosions can do damage to all enemies not only in one area but in all surrounding areas; area healing effects can heal all the allies in one area rather than just one ally.
Another new optional mechanic is fighting poses. Your default position is standing, but with this option thrown in, you can squat or lie flat—these stances reduce your movement and ability to defend against melee attacks, but they give you a bonus for your ranged attacks and for defending against ranged attacks.
I did try out the first mission in prototype form (no miniatures) but it gave a nice glimpse of a lot of the new mechanics. There are a few other things I hadn’t covered yet, like flying. There are flying enemies, which can go over barriers and obstacles on the board, and some of them even have the ability to seize you and drag you away—in this case, out of the relative safety of your spaceship. Fortunately, you also have access to jet boots (and, later, power armor) which lets you hop over these obstacles as well. There are also new areas of the board which are holes instead of obstacles—in these cases, you can’t walk over them, but they don’t block line of sight for attacks.
The NPCs in this scenario were hidden in the signals that get revealed as you encounter them—there are two Knights who will move toward the closest alien and attack them. They’ve also got a one-time-use tactic, an EMP blast that can wipe out all shields in an area. It’s incredibly handy if you can use it at the right time.
I also liked the variety of types of missions. Without giving too many spoilers, this mission had a very distinct storyline with different phases, and during each phase your objectives shifted somewhat. I like when you have to make choices between hunting down an alien so it won’t kill off a teammate (or you) and pursuing some other objective that will help you accomplish your mission objectives.
The expansions do seem to add quite a bit to the base game—both in terms of components and new gameplay—but you’ll certainly want to be familiar with the original before tackling those. (That’s how the storyline plays out anyway.)