Rob Grieco
United States
Kingston
MA
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Microbadge: Splendor fanMicrobadge: Futurama fanMicrobadge: Escape From the Aliens in Outer Space fanMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: Boston Bruins fan
For a quick review, skip to the last paragraph.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a hidden movement game where 2-8 people are stuck on a space station and things have gone horribly wrong. It's like playing hide-n-seek except in this version aliens are hunting down the humans before the humans can get to the escape pods. So, I guess it's more like hide-n-seek-n-don't-die...you know...a family game!

Components & Overview: Allowing up to 8 players, each player receives a dry erase marker and a notebook compiled of 8 laminated maps. More on the maps in a bit. Each player will also receive a role of an Alien or a Human. This is split down the middle so it's half and half. In the event you play with an odd number, majority of roles go to the Aliens. The other cards in the game are movement-conducive or item cards. Items are only used by humans. The box says approximately 20-45 minutes per game, though you can easily go over that 45 minute threshold if you play with a larger group. Also, age recommendations say 14+ and that's one I think isn't a terrible suggestion. Could someone younger play? Absolutely. Is the recommended age based on gameplay difficulty? No, it's really the subjectivity and thematic material. The art, though exquisitely subtle, could be a little eerie for youngsters. I would say middle school age would be fine, but that judgement will differ from person to person, obviously.

Setup & Gameplay: Deal 1 role card to each player. Half the group will get an Alien role, the other half a Human role. You do not know the role of other players! Choose a map in your laminated notebook for all players to start on. The rule book provides recommendations with maps based on number of players. On the map, Human players have their own starting spot, as do the Aliens too. The first thing you'll notice are the sectors containing a letter/number combination. This is to keep track of your movement throughout the game. Think Battleship here, A9, B4, etc. Going in clockwise order, each player will move around the map through these sectors. There are two kinds of spaces on the map (besides the starting points and escape pods). The first are silent sector spaces, which are blank white spaces. If you enter this spot, you announce "silent sector" to the group, indicating that you are somewhere on the map inside one of these white spaces. The second space is a hidden danger (probably the wrong name) space, which requires you to pick up a card. This can be helpful, or crushing. Cards include a green variation, a red variation, an item card, and a silence card. If you draw a green card, you announce any location for your position on the board (AKA you can lie). If you draw a red card, you must announce your current location to the group. An item card drawn can be used by the humans at any point on one of their turns. The items vary, but help you to do things such as teleport back to the starting point, attack an alien, and more. The silence cards are used as a way to mask the item card pick-up. The silence cards, and item cards, have the same icon in the corner of the card. So when you draw a silence card, or an item card, you announce "silence in all sectors". The silence cards are provided to create ambiguity around drawing item cards. If you're a Human, and have to announce "silence in all sectors", Aliens automatically know you drew an item card, so the silence cards help that out a bit. As you move around the board, you write down your coordinates on the top page of your notebook. One important factor is that the Aliens are allowed to move 2 spaces per turn, compared to the Humans 1 space per turn. Also, if you're an Alien looking to attack on your turn, you move as normal, but announce the coordinates you're attacking. If a player is there, they must announce their location, which means they have died. YES, an Alien can accidentally kill another Alien. Oops! If you are killed, as a Human player, you are reincarnated as an Alien, so you get to come back and play instead of sitting out waiting for game's end. The game ends under multiple circumstances. 1) If all Humans escape the ship through the pods 2) All Humans have been hunted by the Aliens 3) A combination of both of those 4) 40 turns have passed without resolution, in which case the Aliens win.

What I like: Just about everything! There is a lot of good tension in this game, especially if you're a Human player. As you move around the board, you're trying to listen to everyone else's announcements, but it's almost impossible to keep track of everyone, unless you're playing 2 or 3 players. The aspect which amplifies the tension are the draw cards. If you have a good indication where someone is, but then they pick up two cards consecutively to help them disguise their movement, you all of a sudden are thrown off and feel like you're in the dark. Speaking of that imagery, the art in the game is excellent! It's minimal, dark, and closer to a rough design than a drawing. The greatness resides in the subtlety. The whole game brings in the theme of something lurking over your shoulder. The art brings this to fruition. Another aspect I love is the iconography. It's not over-abundant in number of icons, but every symbol is illustrated on the top pages of players' notebooks, right above each map. It helps the learning process quite a bit. Finally: the box. When I get a game box that fits everything, and it doesn't fall out of place when stored sideways, upside down, etc, it's nothing short of a Christmas miracle. This is one of the few games in the world that fits that description. It makes me happy. Another small tidbit is the rule book. So many rule books go on forever, or seem to not have some nit picky rules that really seem required. This one is clear, concise, and an easy read.

What I don't like: Really not much that I can think of. If I had to be picky, I guess I would say there isn't much need for different abilities with each role. Every Human/Alien has their own ability. These abilities often one-time actions, such as announce two locations on one of your dangerous sector cards drawn. Some of the abilities are cool, just underwhelming. There seems to be enough merit within the game to forego the individual role abilities, but I'm sure they're a great fit for plenty. When I first started, I didn't play with items or role abilities, and the game was smooth, easy, and fun. If I really had to put something else out there, it would be the cheapness in the dry-erase markers, but that's getting annoyingly specific. Overall, the replay value could start to dry eventually, but my guess is this would take A LOT of plays. Even in that case, there are extra maps you can download on the game's website.

Overall, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a terrific hidden movement game that is easy to learn, quick to teach, and requires almost no playing space. Recommended at ages 14+, I would be weary to show this game to kids younger than 10 or 11, though that'll differ on an individual basis. The art is subtle, yet eerily adds to the theme of the game, which increases the tension. If you're the type of player that loves tension in gaming, this would be for you. Not the kind of "take that" tension with angry gaming, but the internalized tension when your inner monologue sounds something like "oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no...crap....". As a Human hiding from Aliens, you do a clench when you hear an Alien player calling out their attack sector and you hope it's not yours! Also, it plays up to 8 players, which wouldn't feel too crowded, unlike some that play beyond 5 players. Even if it's a larger group, every move matters, which forces you to pay attention. This maintains attentiveness and forces players to respect the game flow. Another positive is the player elimination mechanism they put in place. If a Human is eliminated by an Alien, they enter the game on the following turn as an Alien and join the hunt. This removes the waiting factor. For best results, put on some creepy soundtrack in the background. Maybe some broken space station sound effects with dimmed lighting. That'll help! I recommend this game highly. I rate it an 8/10 and I think it's one that will return to the table, or our laps, with decent frequency. Happy Gaming!
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