The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 - Board Game Review - A tense co-op survival experience
- Game Type – Co-operative Horror
- Number of Players – 4 to 8
- Mechanics – Variable Player Powers, Hidden Roles, Hand Management, Bluffing, Deduction, Voting, Dice
- Difficulty to learn – Medium
- Release – 2017
- MSRP - $59.95
- Publisher – USAopoly
- Recommended for fans of – Mansions of Madness, Eldrich Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Monster Mansion
Based on the classic John Carpenter film about an isolated outpost in Antartica that stumbles upon an alien that can duplicate any person, you and your mates need to work to get out of the outpost and escape without letting any of "The Things" on-board your escape chopper.
Everyone is given a secret role and during the game at least one person is going to be "The Thing" with opportunities for others to be infected. Your objective is to move room to room looking for resources and killing evil aliens and each room requires teamwork by every team member chosen for a particular task turning in cards that can make the objective easier or they can sabotage the mission. Sabotaging missions can win the game for the bad guys, or make it harder at the end of the game for them to be revealed because the default is that the good guys will get to vote to blood test some people before the helicopter trip but sabotage can cut down the number or eliminate the test improving their odds of escaping. However, you can also lose objectives just by having bad cards in hand or bad rolls of the die, so not all sabotage has to be overt.
The rule book is good and clear with an FAQ and a glossary. The game isn't very complicated so one read through may be enough.
The game captures the movie well with the theme beyond the obvious inclusion of the movie's characters, setting, and notable items. It can be very tough to determine who among you is an evil copy as they can play it straight and help the team escape without going the sabotage route, or they can be sly and try to help a little less at critical times and never really show their evil hand. Plus, some missions may require you to team up with the person you most suspect so you can't just banish them from influencing the game.
Shuffle a few cards, and pick some characters and you are pretty much ready to roll. The box insert makes putting the pieces away easy.
You have some decent miniatures for the various characters and for the imitations you kill. The cards and components seem durable enough to hold up to repeated play-throughs.
The game was suspenseful and it can really be hard to decipher the hidden roles, and then when you reach the stage where someone else could potentially be infected it changes everything because your read on each player is reset. Furthermore, players can be genuinely good for most of the game and then turn at the end so your comfort with them can be entirely misplaced. If you are unlucky in your blood testing or don't get the flamethrower earlier in the last stage you really are uneasy about who you can trust. This tension is great but some might want a little more control in determining their fate and may feel that the card draw to determine if you are infected or not is too random. I also think that being forced to draw the cards might be better as an earned event, like if things are going swimmingly you can avoid it and only deal with one evil copy, but failing objectives means that more can be infected. Or perhaps leaving people alone improves the odds of infection. I think the game is great as it is, and with some house rules it could be tweaked easily to address those concerns. However, I don't think I would want to play this game a dozen times, which is the only reason I bumped the game off the "Buy This Now" rating as I think repetition isn't a strength of the game unless your group of friends really loves hidden motive games or reliving the classic movie.