ESCAPE FROM THE ALIENS IN OUTER SPACE
Aka: Battleship, with moving ships, and lies.
“I LOOKED AND LOOKED BUT I DIDN’T SEE GOD”- not a real quote
You stand alone in an abandoned medical testing room on spaceship SELVA, where you hear…what did you hear exactly?
Was it the echoes of a distant engine? Did a hull door unlatch? Where’s the crew’s faithful cat? Is somebody breathing? Is it you?
You stare at the spaceship’s only map and count the rooms between you and the nearest escape hatch. Then it happens.
“I ATTACK E11!”
Your crewmate is out to eat you, and she’s one room away.
“STAY AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH!”- the incomparable, Sigourney Weaver
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space (EFTAIOS) is a definitive mood piece in both the hidden movement and social deduction genres that pits a team of mutated extraterrestrials against a surviving space crew. The goals are simple: humans need to escape and aliens need to feed. Whoever is able to satisfy their basic need to survive, wins.
Setup is as follows:
Each player is given a dry erase marker, a flip book containing multiple maps, and a secret identity card denoting either a bugged out alien (Red) or a panicked human (Blue). The group decides which map to play and the game begins.
That’s it. There is also a communal deck of cards and five escape cards that come into play, but for those familiar with expansive productions in other hidden movement games (Letters from Whitechapel, Fury of Dracula, Spectre Ops, etc) you may be surprised at the tiny alien footprint that EFTAIOS leaves.
The game favors minimalism in all aspects of its design. The artwork effectively plays with shadows and negative space while the player maps within the flip books are merely numbered hexagons. At first glance, it’s a far cry from the heart-pounding horror the title suggests.
However, EFTAIOS is not attempting to evoke the seismic thrills of James Cameron’s Aliens. Instead it recreates the slow burning paranoia of Ridley Scott’s (superior) Alien.
A player’s turn is as simple as the game’s visual design; you move and then possibly draw a card depending on where you land. Humans can move only one space (beginning the game on the designated helmet symbol) and aliens can move up to two spaces. All movement is marked secretly on an individual’s map and if you end your turn on a white space, nothing happens. However, the grey areas are dangerous sectors and force you to draw from the looming black deck in the middle of the play area.
The dangerous sector cards are where most of the game’s tension mounts. If the danger card is red, you’ve made noise in your sector and must announce EXACTLY where you are on the map. If the card is green, you’ve made noise but can announce ANY SECTOR on the map. Both red and green cards are discarded face down near the deck so only the active player will know what’s true and what’s a sneaky sneaky lie.
If the danger card is white, you make no noise and keep the card face down in your play area because it may be an item card. Only human can play item cards and these range from spotlights that illuminate sectors to adrenaline boosts that allow additional movement.
Though aliens can’t play item cards, they can feast on gamey human flesh. To attack, an alien simply moves into a sector, announces their attack and if any player is in that sector, they’re dead.
For a human to escape, they need to reach an escape hatch (the black numbered spaces), announce the escape space and flip over a hatch card. If the hatch card is green, they’ve escaped and that hatch is permanently locked and unusable by other humans. If the hatch card is red, the door is locked and you’re royally screwed. Now everyone knows where you are and more than likely, you demise inevitable.
The game ends one of three ways: ALL of the humans escape, ALL remaining humans are eaten, or after forty moves the remaining humans mutate and die.
“THE TRUTH MAY BE OUT THERE, BUT LIES ARE INSIDE YOUR HEAD”-Terry Pratchet
I approached EFTAIOS with caution because I wasn’t sure what to make of the game. To be fair, from an outsider point of view there isn’t much going on.
The presentation is clean and almost bland in its starkness. Most of EFTAIOS is silent, with players occasionally peering over their flip boards to catch the telling poker face of a potential predator. It looks and plays like a solitaire connect-the-dots assignment. But when players begin creeping near each other on their isolated spaceship, the game becomes claustrophobic and interaction boils.
What’s interesting about EFTAIOS, is how rewarding it is to track seemingly obtuse information.
If Suzy draws a card and makes noise at J11 but two moves ago she made noise E2 WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?! Is she an alien trying to cover her tracks from nearby humans? Is she a human trying to remain incognito? Why didn’t she try to escape if she was at E2? Also why is Mike holding two no-noise cards? Can he not play them because he’s an alien? Is he waiting to track me down to shine a spotlight and reveal my location? Sarah just said she made noise in a location that isn’t on the map, SHE’S A LIAR! Why is there a cat?
Is all information a red herring meant to drive me insane in a mad dash to kill or be killed?!
Like most social deduction games, the answers to these questions are
revealed in an individual’s personality. How well do you know your friends and how they would react in dog-eat-dog world? Do you have the mental fortitude to hide in plain sight?
“GAME OVER MAN! GAME OVER!”-dead space marine
What separates EFTAIOS from similar titles (Resistance, Saboteur, Deception, etc.) is the foreboding atmosphere that drips from seemingly nowhere. The game is simply a grid, a pen and some cards (and the Alien: Isolation soundtrack if you’re willing). As one player in my group stated, “This is Battleship, with moving ships, and lies.” That’s not far off.
Yet it effectively suffocates and pins down the players with a simple command: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. EFTAIOS’s ruleset and sadistic map designs (seriously who made some of these) should be experienced before they’re easily judged.
If I’ve learned anything from this game, it’s to not trust anything at face value.
- Last edited Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Jul 22, 2016 3:06 am