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Subject: Lifeform - An Alien Survival Horror Game rss

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Aaron Leahy
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I spent this afternoon at Fan Boy 3 in Manchester for a demo game (or two) of Lifeform - the new game by Mark Chaplin and Hall or Nothing Productions (makers of Gloom of Kilforth).





I am already a backer of the Kickstarter campaign and was really excited to get to try this out.

So, what is the game?

Basically, it is Alien: The Board Game. A highly thematic one against many survival game where some of you play the crew of the mining ship Valley Forge trying to escape the clutches of an unknown alien killer before the ship self-destructs. Sound familiar? You bet, and it captures the tension of that well-known film perfectly.




I arrived part way through a game and Tristan kindly gave up his seat to let Me jump in. I basically new nothing about how to play, having only watched a couple of demo videos earlier in the week but with a crib sheet in front of Me explaining the card icons and a quick run down of what you can do in a turn, it didn't feel overwhelming and I was able to take over quite seamlessly. The game was close to the end and the alien player had already taken out most of the crew and was set up very nicely to ambush the rest of us. It wasn't long before the ship was adrift with just one deadly occupant...



After a brew and a quick bite to eat, the game was re-set and I got to experience a full game.

How does it work?
We played a basic game, so some of the more meatier options were not included and we just had the simple task of gathering enough equipment and escaping in the shuttlecraft.

In the full game, players will be assigned personal objectives like downloading the ship's log from the data core or gathering specific equipment. This will add much more depth to the game as each player will be striving to achieve these goals as well as trying to avoid the alien and reaching the escape shuttle.

In the simple game however, we just had to focus on escaping. To do this, you need to collect the equipment tokens that are arranged in various rooms on the board. These are then placed on a track at the side of the board in various slots for coolant, energy cells, weapons, space suits and halon canisters. Most of these tracks have a minimum number of tokens needed before you can attempt to escape and any extra will grant bonuses like drawing extra cards or gaining a flame thrower.

In your turn, you get to perform one action so the downtime is minimal and the turns fair zip around the table, often before you've had a chance to take a breath and plan your next move.

All the actions are played from the cards you have in your hand, so you feel the tension of needing to get somewhere but having to wait until you draw a card that lets you run through multiple rooms.

Drawing cards. Now there's a thing. The ship's self destruct has been activated (naturally) and you only have 30 minutes until the ship blows up. Each time you choose to draw more cards into your hand, you slide the marker up the track, closer to the big bang.



I can't say too much about what the alien player can do as I didn't get to study that side of things too much but it certainly has some devious tricks up it's sleeve.

The alien player starts with two standees on the board. They look identical besides a little coloured sticker (this will be a set of symbols in the final game). He also has a corresponding set of tokens next to his player board and he will choose one of these to be the alien. The other standee (or standees, as later in the game there is the chance to get a third standee out) is a decoy so the crew, essentially seeing these as blips on their trackers, never know which is the real threat until it's too late.

There is a nice twist here, as, after making a kill, the alien player get's to reset his tokens and choose again which one will be the decoy and which will be the real killer. The alien player can also choose whether the kill was silent, offing the victim quickly and cleanly, or whether it is a nasty, brutal affair with lots of screaming. If the latter, then the other crew members hear this and all have to make a panic move into an adjacent room. This can be really useful if the crew are about to pick up equipment or possibly achieve an objective (I'm not sure if the personal objectives will be common knowledge or not sat this point).

The alien has various little trackers it can use from hatching more eggs letting it increase the amount of cards it holds, to taking control of the android on the crew which will then get placed on the board and follow a programmed track, killing any crew in it's way until it gets to the escape shuttle where it will start sabotaging various systems.

The alien also gets to place terror tokens and power out tokens on the board. If you enter a space with a terror token, you have to draw a card from the terror deck and these are always bad. A room with a power outage is dark and you can't run through it, you must stop your movement there. Other bad things can happen in the dark too.

What if I die?
Another neat thing this game does is avoid player elimination by cycling the crew. In our game, there were two of us controlling two characters each and when both of My characters died, I took one from the other player so we had one each. When that character was also killed (yes, I was not doing well...), rather than being forced to sit out the rest of the game, I could choose one of two secondary roles to play.

I could take control of the ship's mainframe computer which would allow me to do things like open and close bulkhead doors, slowing the alien down, allow the other players to draw more cards and various other useful things.

Or I could play the ship's cat. This was the option I went for and it was great. I could distract the alien, destroy some of it's eggs (so reducing it's hand size), place additional equipment tokens on the board or assist the other crew by letting them draw more cards.

It was this that that actually gave us the win as it was looking pretty bleak towards the end, but the cat actually managed to guide the last remaining crew member to a flamethrower and distract the alien long enough to make out escape.



What do I think?
This game is superb. Easy to pick up, but very thematic and definitely very tense. The decisions can be easy at times, but then you will hit a situation where the alien has you cornered and you must make some hard choices.

As I said, the theme just drips off every part of this game like a slightly corrosive drool. Our game started off really well - we managed to quickly gather a massive chunk of the equipment we needed to escape but the alien had been cutting the power and placing terror tokens closer to the escape shuttle ready for our eventual arrival and by the mid-game, we were feeling trapped and the alien was using the ventilation ducts to spring out and take us down one by one.

We were down to one surviving crew member and the ship's cat who, as I already mentioned managed to lead the human to the safety of the shuttle and espace.

Just getting to the shuttle isn't the end, however, there is one last twist (as in all good stories). At around the mid-point of the self destruct track, the alien get's to pick a card which is his estimate on what point prior to the ship blowing up we will reach the shuttle. If he has guessed correctly, then as we leave the stricken mining vessel, we find out that the shuttle has one extra occupant...

We were lucky and the alien player had guessed incorrectly, but had he been right, then there would have been a final battle aboard the escape shuttle and we may have been sending some deadly cargo back to Earth...

I can highly recommend this game and best of all, there is an expansion that adds an AI deck and a whole other set of objectives for solo play. I had a quick look at this and it looks like it will make for a very tense and really exciting solo game as well as a cool multiplayer experience.

Originally posted on Preston's Gamers Guild : https://www.prestonsgamersguild.com/blog/lifeform-an-alien-s...
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Ravage Board Gaming
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PrestonsGamersGuild wrote:
I am already a backer of the Kickstarter campaign


Quote:
I basically new nothing about how to play,


Erm... That FoMo needs to be quelled, dude

Good overview though, thanks!
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Aaron Leahy
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Stomski wrote:
PrestonsGamersGuild wrote:
I am already a backer of the Kickstarter campaign


Quote:
I basically new nothing about how to play,


Erm... That FoMo needs to be quelled, dude

Good overview though, thanks!


I like to support Hall or Nothing Productions! More than the fear of missing out. As I know I can always get it later, the last campaign e.g. I added multiple copies to get the campaign over a stretch goal.

That's a whole different kind of issue rather than the fear of missing out.
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bob mcgee
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PrestonsGamersGuild wrote:
Stomski wrote:
PrestonsGamersGuild wrote:
I am already a backer of the Kickstarter campaign


Quote:
I basically new nothing about how to play,


Erm... That FoMo needs to be quelled, dude

Good overview though, thanks!


I like to support Hall or Nothing Productions! More than the fear of missing out. As I know I can always get it later, the last campaign e.g. I added multiple copies to get the campaign over a stretch goal.

That's a whole different kind of issue rather than the fear of missing out.


You are a gentleman and a scholar!
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Tristan Hall
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Thank you for this epic review!
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Aaron Leahy
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ninjadorg wrote:
Thank you for this epic review!


Thank you for the epic games! Keep them coming!
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