I was looking forward to this for some time and having heard mixed opinions (along the lines of ‘brilliant, love this game’ to ‘doesn’t work very well in practice’) I was curious to try it myself and wanted the re print with the matte finish book-like box, the map/log manuals and wipe clean markers. It has a great design, the minimal art work is very fitting and the creatures are pretty horrible, it really does have that ‘Alien’/space horror feel. But is it any good? I won’t beat around the bush, yes, yes it is. In my opinion.
Let’s start with the setting. You’re on a research mission in deep space. The bad news is that your craft has been badly damaged. You’ve been plunged into darkness. The worse news is that an alien plague has got on board and it’s going to creep about and pick you off one by one and transform you into a flesh eating monster too. Run.
So how do you play? Well despite the slightly intimidating rule book (symbols everywhere…brain melting) it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s bluffing/hidden movement basically. You randomly determine in secret who is playing the alien and who is the human. Each come with a special ability (optional) and you choose which map to play on (there’s a recommended beginners map and they all state the number of players they’re best used with). From here on you decide where to move on your map to escape the alien or hunt the human. The white sectors are silent sectors, so you can announce you’re located in a silent sector but don’t have to draw a card. Then there’s the grey ‘dangerous sectors’ where you randomly draw a card from the main deck. Green cards mean you have to declare a sector but not necessarily the one where you’re in, red cards means you have to be truthful about where you are. So there’s a fair amount of bluffing here. Which for some reason took me a while to get the hang of but when I did, I realised I’m actually pretty good at it! So you move around your map trying to get to an escape pod. If the alien player or players find you then they can attack and kill you! Then it’s ‘game over man, game over!’ So a pretty abrupt ending. You can also randomly draw ‘action’ cards from the deck instead of a noise card, you can keep these to yourself and play them on any turn once. This is also optional!
A few points:
- The maps matter. I was playing a two player game with the starter map which is actually recommended for 4-8 players. The first two times I played I died within about three minutes (but was also not bluffing very well) and as soon as we started playing with the 2-8 player maps the game went on (for about 10 minutes) and was a lot tougher.
- It works as a two player. This was a concern I had but it still works really nicely. Only with two players you both know who you are so there’s really no secret there and also a couple of cards that would be cool you aren’t able to use, like ‘mutate’ so you can change into an alien secretly and trick your opponents. It would also last longer with more players, so I really want to try it with 2+ to see how it differs.
- I’d recommend playing with the character ability and events. It means there’s more going on, more options and you can (try) to get smart. For example one action card means that the human player can attack an alien. So I deliberately tried to trick my alien opponent by bluffing as to my whereabouts and was secretly following where I thought he was to kill him. Then I played the card at the wrong time and promptly died. Not so smart. But it was a fun way to play. Maybe next time!
- It can be over pretty quickly. If you play with 2-3 players it’s more of a filler game.
- I’ve never played a game that involves mapping and writing and I really enjoyed this aspect. But as much as I liked the laminated maps I found the pens to be fiddly. Also hiding your manual from the other player whilst writing and trying not to smudge your ink is tricky. Give me a mini pencil any day!
- You have to announce ‘silent sector’ ‘dangerous sector’ ‘noise detected in sector X’ every single turn. After saying the phrases in various theatrical tones, like the whisper, the Dalek, the generic ship computer voice, it got a little annoying. It’s a small criticism, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment!
Overall I’d give it a 8/10. It’s a good game, fun with two, probably a ‘bigger’ game if played in a group, and with the lights down and some atmospheric music it’s even better. Maybe not worth paying over the odds for but definitely worth the RRP (£25-£30 depending on where you shop.) More Info
I coveted Fantome d’le Opera for aaaaaaages. I saw it reviewed and thought it looked cool. That was about 18 months ago, and admittedly my tastes were a bit shallow. Recently I looked at the review again, and even though it wasn’t particularly glowing I thought ‘I still want this dammit!’. It looked to be out of print or at least hard to come by in the UK so my ‘covet-o-meter’ was going mad! After coming into some spare money (tax rebate!) I found it on eBay and decided to go for it. It’s in the same family as Mr Jack, which I’ve never played, and it’s a simple, but kind of tricky hidden movement game.
You can choose to play as The Phantom or the other characters who are trying to escape his clutches. You move around the board using the movement ability and conditions on the character cards, to deduce who the Phantom is. At the bottom of the board we have Carlotta and she moves up the track each round and can be ‘scared’ by The Phantom, and if she reaches the end before you’ve figured it out, you’ve lost! Personally I found playing as the characters and guessing too easy, it’s running away and disguising as The Phantom that is tricky!
Now, in hindsight, maybe I should of taken heed with the video review I saw. It’s a bit thin. I don’t regret buying it, it’s a great game to have in the collection, and sometimes when the mood takes I could really fancy it. Also it’s worth remembering that since this was released in 2013 gaming has moved on somewhat, with small box games and print and play especially becoming more popular. It comes in a fairly large box (though not huge by any means) and has a nice board, big cardboard cards and chunky tokens. It definitely has an old school feel, which I really like. But because it’s quite ‘big’, you feel that there should be something more substantial to it, especially for a two player only game. But there really isn’t too much going on apart from what it says on the tin. It just seems quite unnecessary to have the board, the heavy cardboard etc, because it’s a filler game basically. It’s over really quickly, even when we house ruled to put the start marker two steps back so it takes a bit longer. I’m sure we never had a 30 minute game as estimated in the game overview. This could be a little card game or a print and play, it could probably be re-released as such, because it’s definitely a fun party or filler game.
Next time I play i’m lighting the candles and putting the soundtrack on! Not the one with Gerard Butler. That was weird. More Info
Fury of Dracula, my first hidden movement game. Waited for this for two years and got a third edition for Christmas. Fist game took about two hours with two players, I played this hidden movement game as both Dracula and the hunters and both are just as good, the only criticism I have is that if you’re Dracula you do have quite a bit of dead time (ugh pardon the pun!) after you have your move, waiting for the other player or players to take their turn which is considerably longer but it’s worth it when it comes to the ‘fighting’ stages and you can do cool vampire stuff. I love the artwork and the board, good quality pieces and definitely worth the higher price point. Very pleased to have added this to the collection at last. More Info