under falling skies excavator and box

Under Falling Skies Review

under falling skies board game box

Name: Under Falling Skies

Year of Release: 2020

Player Count: 1 Player

Playing Time: 20 — 40 minutes

Designer: Thomas Uhlir

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Primary Mechanisms: Dice Rolling, Modular Board, Campaign, Once-Per-Game Abilities

Weight (According to boardgamegeek.com): 2.44


Whether it be late-70’s/early 80’s arcade games such as Space Invaders or Galaga to box office hits in Independence Day or Signs, the people of Earth have always been fixated on the question of life on other planets and what might take place if those beings collided with our world.  While not a science fiction junkie by any means, I’ve always had a soft spot for alien-themed pop culture and that’s what first drew my eye to Under Falling Skies.  The second thing is that I kept seeing it pop up on different best-of lists dedicated to solo play and figured I should at least try it out.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews on the site, then you know that I frequently play solo variants of games but what might surprise you is that Under Falling Skies is the first solo-only game I’ve ever played.  I had mentioned it to a friend at work who ended up picking it up and eventually let me borrow it.  I was excited to see how the game would play out knowing that all of its mechanics would be constructed with a single player game in mind as some games, even with official solo variants out of the box, can feel as if the solo mode was just an afterthought.

Does this alien-blasting, dice-chucking game blow me out of this world, or does it come crashing down to Earth like a smoldering, ruined alien spaceship? Read on in my review of Under Falling Skies.

Rulebook & Components 

There’s a chance that I expect too much from a board game’s rulebook; striking a perfect balance between not enough explanation and walls-of-text that make your eyes glaze over after one viewing.  I’ve always been this way, going all the way back to when video games actually came with *gasp* instruction manuals!  If the literature isn’t going to do its one job and make the game easy to get up and running, it just puts a bad taste in my mouth about the whole experience.

That being said, I absolutely love the concept of how the Under Falling Skies rulebook is put together but something about the execution is lost on me.  To explain, the game is modular and the rulebook does an excellent job of having the player set up the first game in its most basic form, using the easiest sky tiles and city and cutting out any of the extra bells and whistles.  It then takes you through the three phases of a turn before turning you loose to finish the game.  After this section, it then invites you to add in some of the extra components to spice the game up or you can move to the Campaign section and start on the fantastic four chapter story (which I’ll discuss later in its own section.)  The idea of walking you through the game like a tutorial, slowly adding in more complicated concepts is a great idea that I wish more books tried to implement.

The problem is, a lot of the actual explanation are these huge chunks of text that I got a little lost in.  A great example is the section on the Excavator.  It isn’t wildly complicated but a glance at the Board Game Geeks forum for this game, and you can see plenty of people have had trouble fully interpreting the ruleset on this one piece of the game.  On top of that, once special rulesets or player powers are introduced further in the campaign, the rulebook does not make clear how exactly these might work with all other mechanics in every situation.  I felt like there was a few times I was forced to go get auxiliary information from the web to understand exactly how to resolve something that I would have liked better if the rulebook could have addressed.

Component-wise, I was very surprised how weighty the box was when I first picked it up.  It ends up being a whole lot of cardboard for the Campaign, but the Campaign is fully re-playable and you can even mix-and-match parts of it into standalone games after completing it.  Outside of all of the different tiles (city, base, mothership, sky, character, and scenario) you get three grey dice, two white dice, and two blue dice to use as your weapons against the oncoming galactic creatures.  Lastly, there are the plastic alien ships that perfectly capture the feeling the game is going for.  Some are cast in purple, some in white, and one in orange and they will play different roles as they rain laser beams down on the unsuspecting civilians of your city.

While the components aren’t off the chart, I was very happy with how all of it works together, especially the Campaign’s inserts that act as additional rule clarifications on one side and the other side has a graphic novel layout, accentuating the story being told in the Campaign.  At a price point of only $27 in most places, I think that players get their money’s worth in this department.

Next, let’s take a look at the set up and how to play Under Falling Skies.

Set Up and Gameplay

under falling skies excavator and box

I’m going to skip the details of setup outside of saying that you build the board out of different sky tiles and choose the city you want to defend.  The city tile gives you two letters that you match with the base tiles to show which base you will be defending from.  Setup for a stand-alone game is a breeze and I really enjoy the modular aspects of Under Falling Skies, especially when you mix in the options from the Campaign.

The gameplay centers around the five dice (three grey and two white, henceforth known as Worker Dice) and where you place them in your base.  At the beginning of a turn, you roll all five dice.  Moving across the board from left to right, you will see there are five distinct columns.  In the bottom section of the board, where your base is located, these columns hold different rooms where your Worker Dice will be deployed.  The catch here is that only one Worker Dice may inhabit each column.  This is significant because your base also holds a large truck meeple (called an Excavator) that will allow you to tunnel into the depths, unearthing more rooms you can use.  In effect, as the game progresses, you will be gaining more room options but will still have to live with the “only one die per column” rule.

On the flip side of the board is the mothership and it’s five purple ships.  One a player deploys all of the dice to the different rooms, the alien ships descend down their appropriate columns equal to the value of the die placed in that column.  So, you might put a six in a room in order to generate a whole lot of energy but by doing this, you will also be allowing the alien ship in that column to descend a whopping six rows.  If the alien ships get to the bottom of the sky and hit your city, you gain damage on the Damage Tracker.   Gain too much damage, and you automatically lose.  Similarly, at the end of each turn, the mothership descends one row and triggers an action including spawning more alien ships (this time the white ones) or setting your Excavator back multiple spots.  If the mothership reaches the skull on the Mothership Tracker, you also automatically lose.

Back to the rooms holding the Worker Dice.  There are different categories of rooms that benefit the player in different ways.  There are yellow rooms that produce the aforementioned Energy, which is critical to power other rooms.  There are green Research Rooms that allow you to move the marker up the Research Track.  This is important as getting the marker to the top spot is the sole way to win each game.  There are red Jet Fighter Rooms that work in tandem with Explosion markings on the sky tiles, giving you the ability to destroy alien ships and send them packing back to their mothership.  Then there are AA Gun Rooms, that don’t do anything directly for you, but they do help limit the spaces the alien ships can maneuver.  There are some additional room types (specifically the blue Robot Rooms that employ the blue dice) but I will let you find out about them as you play.

I found every turn in Under Falling Skies brought me important decisions to make, though possibly to its detriment at times.  Analysis Paralysis setting in was a common occurrence; I was constantly counting spaces on the sky tiles to perfectly make all the alien ships fall right where I wanted them too while also making sure I was going to gain enough Energy to fuel future turns.  A part of me liked that there was no “down time” and every choice meant something but the other part of me was frazzled that one wrong choice somewhere, might doom my city to destruction.

under falling skies alien ships

Campaign (Spoiler Free)

Outside of the ability to play stand-alone games, Under Falling Skies also comes packaged with a re-playable, four-chapter long Campaign.  This is where the game truly shines for me, linking games together and opening new base possibilities was a really fun experience.  Two of the big additions in the Campaign is the usage of different Character powers and a different Scenario each game that changes the objective slightly.  My only real complaint is that each city also has a “rule change” to deal with and it could get overwhelming making sure that I was making the adequate changes according to the Character, the Scenario, and the City.  This complaint would probably lessen the more I played and got used to the different changes though.  I love the fact that there are so many different options in the Campaign and that only a portion of them are used so that each time you play through it, it will be set up differently. 


under falling skies dice workers

Being the first “solo only” game that I’ve played, I don’t have much to compare to but in my mind, Under Falling Skies is definitely a win.  I could see myself going back through the Campaign many times over and any game that offers that amount of re-playability, especially at such a cheap price point, deserves to be in any solo gamer’s collection.  Additionally, there is a 9 card print and play version released in 2019 that was nominated for the 2019 Golden Geek Best PnP Board Game that is worth a look.

Leave me a comment and let us know what you thought of this alien-destroying, dice roller!


Ratings are based on 5 main criteria: rulebook, setup, components, art & graphic design, and gameplay.  The first 4 criteria are rated 1 to 5 and the gameplay is rated 1 to 10.  These scores culminate in an “overall satisfaction” score that is rated from 1 to 10.  If the reviewed game has both a solo and multiplayer mode, I have assigned scores separately to give context to which mode we enjoy more.  


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Kristofer Solomon

Hey, everyone! I’m Kristofer Solomon and the creator of Board Game Breakdown. I’ve been playing board games since I was little, typically spending days on top of days playing Risk with kids from my neighborhood. As I moved into college, I started playing Magic: the Gathering with a group of guys and my love for board games slid to the wayside as I progressed into gulp adulthood (not to mention a long obsession with World of Warcraft.) Eventually, I fell back into the hobby in its current state when my wife (then girlfriend) bought me a copy of Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition for my birthday in 2008. This simple to grasp, but strategic train game blew me away. I didn’t realize at the time that board games could be much more than your average game of Sorry or Trouble. We eventually got Catan, Small World, and other well-known titles and the rest is history.

I’m hopeful that the content of this website and its associated YouTube and Instagram channels can be informative to those who are either on the fence about getting a game, or maybe just looking for something new. About 50% of my gaming time is spent solo gaming so I enjoy touching on that subject when I discuss games as this is an area that is typically not focused on.

Thanks to all who spent even a minute perusing this site, it means a lot to me. Happy gaming!

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