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The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Everybody watch whoever you're with... real close. rss

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Tom Swift
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Overview

The Thing is based on the 1982 film starring Kurt Russell. It's a fairly standard hidden traitor game. Throughout the game you choose teams to go on missions. If you're infected you're trying to fail the missions (while hopefully staying hidden) and if you're human you're trying to figure out who is infected.

Over the course of the game you'll work your way through the 3 sectors on the board, find the equipment you need, fight various incarnations of The Thing and then attempt to escape in the helicopter without any infected players sneaking on.

Components

In the box you get the main board, a couple of small boards for keeping track of the game state, player boards, some plastic figures and a bunch of cards. Quality is generally good and I like the artwork. There are a couple of minor niggles. The figures that represent the characters can be a bit tricky to tell apart and the way the insert grips the board makes it difficult to remove.

Gameplay

Setup is relatively quick. There are some cardboard tokens to place on the main board and everyone needs to choose a character and be dealt 5 supply cards. Some of the mission cards are only used with 6 or more players so if you're playing with 4 or 5 they need to be removed.

Once setup is complete everyone is dealt a Blood Sample card, this determines whether you are human or infected. There's an additional pile of Blood Sample cards that come into play later in the game which will cause one or two humans to switch to the infected team.

A round consists of the Captain revealing a mission and then choosing a team to go it. To pass a mission you will either need specific items (e.g. Copper Wire) or cards that give you dice to roll (most cards have +1, +2 or +3 dice symbols on them). For the missions that require dice you then roll them to either get higher than a specified score or get a specified combination (e.g. straight).

An infected player on the mission can play a Sabotage card to try and fail it. A few of the Sabotage cards instantly fail the mission but most require either the Captain himself or the mission team together to discard certain cards. Also if you're the Captain you can discard a card and draw a replacement from the supply deck before revealing, which provides some interesting options for putting suspicion on other players.

The infected players can win in 3 different ways - by causing 8 missions to fail, by destroying 4 rooms or by remaining undetected and sneaking onto the helicopter at the end of the game.

Issues

This game does have a few potential issues which I think are worth discussing.

1. Being sidelined. If you out yourself as infected, you probably won't be participating much for the rest of the game. Rope can be used to skip a player's turn to be Captain or to prevent them going on a mission. So the infected players need to be subtle and reasonably convincing liars. Rope is in short supply (typically 2 in a game and they're single use) so you would only want to use it if you're fairly sure someone is infected.

2. Rules are vague on how specific table talk should be. There needs to be a certain amount of ambiguity around the submitting of cards into missions, however the rules give no guidance on this. When I've played we decided that if a mission requires a specific item (e.g. Copper Wire) you can say whether or not you have that item, for missions that require dice we decided that you can say things like "I can't help", "I can help a bit" or "I can help a lot" but you can't say exactly which card you're putting in.

3. It's possible that the infected players could just hide. If you're infected you could play as if you were human (no Sabotage cards, no lying about what cards you're playing) then try to sneak onto the helicopter, at which point who wins the game is pretty much pure luck. There are blood tests to be performed at the end of the game with a sliding scale depending on how many missions have failed, so there is an incentive for the infected to Sabotage.

None of the above has really been an issue for the group I play with. We agreed rules on table talk at the start of the game and stuck to them. Nobody has been infected and tried to hide completely until the end, that would be boring for everybody. We did have someone out themselves (he was Captain and had to roll a 3-dice straight, we pointed out he could use his character's special ability to change a die and pass the mission but he refused to do it) and then basically sit out most of the rest of the game. Conversely we had someone play much more subtlety, fail a few missions and still sneak onto the helicopter at the end.

Similar Games

I've played a number of hidden traitor games such as Dark Moon, The Resistance: Avalon and Dead Of Winter. Compared to those I'd say The Thing is slightly more complex than Dark Moon, there's a bit more to it and it takes a little longer (our first game was about 2 1/2 hours including setup and rules explanation, subsequent games have all been under 2 hours). It plays somewhat like Avalon, with the choosing of teams and the passing or failing of missions, the main difference is the hand management element.

Conclusion

I've played this game a few times now with 7 and 8 players, and it's been a real blast each time. The theme is a perfect match for the paranoia and mistrust generated by the game. The choice of who goes on the helicopter has always been very tense and dramatic.

If you have a group of 6-8 players who like hidden traitor games I would definitely recommend this. I've yet to play this with 4 or 5, I'll update this review if I get to try it with fewer people.
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