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So I was very, very excited about this game before it came out. At one point I was one of the most active on the game's BGG forum. Since then my passion has been consumed with the work and Word of God. I hardly ever visit BGG anymore except to check on games for other people (most recently as a gift) and to perhaps glance at an upcoming game or two that I may or may not purchase in the future for Friday night Bible study and/or family time.
That said, I feel some obligation to give a report of what came of all the excitement. By my silence some may assume that I was disappointed with the game. So here's my feeble attempt at a session/review:
First off: I thoroughly enjoy this game and everyone I play with does, as well. So far this has included my wife, a pastor (who, after amassing a respectable inventory, said he felt like "one bad hombre"), a female cousin and her boyfriend, a sister-in-law and her husband, two young nephews, and the regular Friday night high-school-aged Bible study group. Some of these I had never played with before putting this game in front of them. It has its problems. The holes and inconsistencies in the rules are probably the biggest, but they have rarely hindered the fun. Often you can just use common sense; see the session below for a couple of examples of this.
SESSION: Things were going really well for the humans. REALLY well. And you know what they say about things going a bit too well when there are six troopers with their mind-controlled androids exploring a dark, claustrophobic space station full of eerie sounds in the shadows. Occasional sniper fire from orange team [sister-in-law] covering the rest of the squad could also be heard. I still don't know how she put that antiquated rifle I gave her to such good use when the walls and locked doors seemed to close in on every side and ammo was so limited, but I was glad I had given it to her. For all the stories I had heard about this place, my spirits were high. There couldn't be that many rooms left to explore. We had to be closing in on the hive.
That's when I heard Doc's [nephew] voice over the headset, "Hello infector wector."
Infector wector? Sometimes the comedian's jokes are bad.
Turns out that our resident sniper was also the host. At first it looked like Doc, who had the fuel to burn the first infection, had spoken a little too soon to his own hurt; the newly-revealed host made good use of a wide-open room to run to Doc's other character. To her surprise, he had another gas can in his limited inventory.
So our sniper was the traitor in our midst, but as skilled as she was with that gun, she was a greenhorn in the end. We made good use of key cards, locked doors, and the reactor room to avoid infection (the radiation from the reactor had a strange effect on the infector).
The humans were still doing REALLY well. I could feel it. We were almost there. I was in both of the computer rooms--both of them being, fortuitously, behind locked doors. I was accessing the security cameras. I risked asking Nina [wife] if she wanted me to reveal the storage room near her location so that orange team wouldn't take it. She would have to move through infector territory, but she said she had plenty of fuel. I know she moved in and found a few things; I never asked her what. Somehow, after what followed, it didn't seem important.
With sniper girl chasing Doc, Doc running from her and the increasing number of parasites, Billy [sister-in-law's husband] searching for items and trying to defend himself from the parasites with a knife, and the sounds of Jason's [nephew] gun dealing with his own problems, I had a plan--obvious and simple. No need to run the heat scan program that some geek had given us... or so I though. As it turned out, this last decision to not take the time to do the heat scan was possibly my worst decision of the mission.
"It's a wrap, Nina. I've accessed the last of the rooms. The hive is to the east of you. You have the fuel. Go in and burn it."
She went in.
Here it comes, I thought grimly. The "victory." The smell of burning fuel and the sound of screaming alien parasites, but also the sense of loss as we leave the infected orange team behind.
I waited. Nothing happened.
"Nina! Do it!"
"Too bad I'm the host."
My heart sank. Not my wife. Not her. But...
"I thought orange team..."
Through the cameras I saw orange team's smile. Then, to my chagrin, I heard the laughter of two other voices through the headset.
[At this point the game paused for quite a while as everyone started laughing and exchanging stories and gotchas.]
In an instant, my perception changed. What I had seen as an ineffective host and an easy mission now turned bleak, as the true host revealed herself--my wife--along with two other infectors for a total of four. The hive was on the other side of the station, in the worst possible place. I couldn't decide whether the locked doors I was behind was safe enough anymore. Sniper girl revealed her keycard and chased Doc, who also had one. I had the other. I also only had one gas can. The infectors had almost all the rest. I was still operating the security cameras, and knew we had no chance. I told Doc to end his own life and that I would do the same. Better to die than be infected.
"No, Ramirez! I found something! I think they managed to develop an antidote before they all died." [Note: the game would have ended here without the expansion's antidote card, and it almost did before we remembered it. It DID make for an epic game, but afterward we decided to leave it out next time since the game lasted so long. That said, I'm glad it's there to mix things up and create those game-changing moments every once in a while.]
So all that rummaging around in the medical bay he had been doing, attracting parasite after parasite to the vicinity, had paid off. Now was our chance! Cure either blue team or orange team through the mental link of their cyborgs, and the humans they had left near and in the hive (to infect us if we got close) could turn around and burn it.
If only it had been so easy. We held our own for a while. I found the final gas can by turning everything in the computer room I was in upside down. I could hear all the parasites I had attracted outside the door. They did their work, though. The infected green team was barely alive after they were through with him. The aliens did not discriminate.
Orange team wanted to shoot Doc in the medical bay, but realized that her sniper rifle's extreme range wouldn't do her quite as much good here as she would need to be next to the door to unlock it with her key card so she could shoot through it. [This was not stated in the rules but was one of those common sense things.] Instead she ran to the computer room I was in and tried to infect me. After using one of my two gas cans to fight her off, she opened the security doors!
Doc made a run for the reactor room from the medical bay; from there he might be able to choose the best possible team to cure.
They were all over him. The wounded Billy wanted to come in with his knife, but before he even got there Nina's android ran in with an automatic rifle, then set a grenade off in the same room, taking a hit but leaving Doc unable to cope with the finishing shot from orange team's sniper rifle. I watched my friend go down with a feeling of helplessness. [The grenade part was the other common sense rule. The rules state that a grenade may be tossed into an adjacent room, but doesn't say anything about the same room; common sense dictates that one may sacrifice oneself for the greater good.]
I ran from the computer room to the nearby medical bay, healing myself and trying to have a good place to defend from while they positioned themselves for the kill.
Doc's android was holed up with mine on the other side of the room. Its mental conformity with him was all that was left of my friend. He turned to me--my android--with a sad smile, and took me off to the side. We removed our headsets. Then he told me of his final plan.
There was no way it would normally be able to run all the way through from the far end of the station where we were to a blue or orange team member to cure them. But, apparently, Doc had read something else while he was rummaging in the medical bay. The geniuses at the station had created a concoction that gave the drinkers unheard of speed and coordination. In fact, that was probably the purpose of the station itself--the development of those drinks. Then it showed me: it had two doses of them. [No, he didn't really show me; that's against the rules. He only told me in secret in another room while they were playing their turns.] No telling what two doses would do to him. But we were about to find out.
It downed them both. The effects were immediate. I've never seen anything move that fast. He was through the station in seconds. Without a single pause and with unerring accuracy, he planted the antidote in her neck. As a final act of defiance, my wife, the host, spilt precious gas onto the floor before she came to herself.
Except she didn't come to herself. Not really. She had been infected too long, had too much emotion invested into the infector's cause. And she had spilt one of her three gas cans. I persuaded her to her human duty, but she cried the whole time. I moved into the open so she could trade with me for a gas can. Jason's team was dead, Billy's severely wounded, and orange team wouldn't get there in time. There was nothing they could do. She moved to trade with me. Then she burned the hive.
This was the ultimate victory. Use the host herself as the weapon to burn the hive. Nina, my wife, has never thought of it like that, however. To her, it will always be the ultimate defeat.
After that, do I really have to say anymore? I have read firsthand from a Warhammer 40k guy that he has suffered through more bad Warhammer games than good ones, but that the few good games he plays makes it all worth it. This game offers, I believe, more good experiences than bad. I have played some so-so games, but those were mostly with people that didn't care. They would run off and do their own thing and die in a parasite swarm of their own creation, or search a room several times right at the beginning and hurt everyone in the first round with parasites. But even these games turned into interesting ones, as we dealt with the difficulties of uncooperative teammates and forged on.
In one of these, I infected someone, and we two (out of five) bided our time until just the right moment. I was opening doors for everyone from a terminal. Someone had placed the medical bay, which already has a locked door, behind another locked door. Someone with one action point (which makes me think it was in the aforementioned game where everyone was hurt at the start of the game) went to it. He then healed and, now having another action point, moved back into the area between the two security doors, expecting me to open them again. It was then that we revealed what we were, as I refused to open the doors, locking him in there, and my accomplice raced up to the other player, infecting her (who at first was waiting at the door to trade the now-imprisoned human a gas can so he could burn the hive). She then had to turn on her own teammate, as I opened the door for her so she could shoot him. Yet another betrayal/defeat.
The rules do need some slight tweaking, and the game's creator has offered some tweaks himself. For one, I don't pass one gas can to each player at the beginning of the game. I pass each player two cards, then shuffle the host card into the top 8-12 cards (depending on how many are playing). Two, I have house ruled that you can run through a run room even if there are other players in the room, thereby avoiding a trade.
Also note that in the first game I wrote about above everyone explicitly revealed who they were. This was against the rules and probably their worst mistake as otherwise I probably would have assumed that the two females were the only infectors. I could have done a heat scan but even then would not have known who to trust. There are two cardinal rules: do not explicitly reveal your identity and do not physically show your cards.
One more thing: my wife gets AP in this game. This does not destroy the game for me, but an AP person can start to suck the narrative fun out of the game. It's one thing if you're planning and involving other people and asking them what they will do, but it's another when you simply can't decide whether to explore that room or shoot that parasite.
There are other sessions I could write but I think everyone gets the point: I like this game. Played with the right crowd and with 5 or 6 people, it can be amazing. It's the sort of game that makes grown adults talk about what happened during the game even after they get up and are doing other things. Probably the best bang for the buck of any board game I own.
I rate it a 9 out of 10. This is based on the experience of playing it, not on whether it is perfect or not. These are two different things, and while I am not necessarily knocking others for rating a game's perfection ratio, I don't like doing it that way. I am not trying to say this is the definitive rating. This is my rating, and maybe you will give this excellent game a chance because of it. Thank you, Mr. Ausloos, for the experience.
Thank you, Mr. Ausloos, for the experience.
You are most welcome.