Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space Review
Over the past week, I’ve already mentioned how Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is, what can safely be considered, a bit of a brain melter. It is a fantastically simple game and yet, like with so many simple games over the centuries, it can be completely baffling. It is one of the most mentally intensive games I have ever come across (and I play a lot of games) with some of the simplest mechanics I can think of. Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is the living incarnation of a play-by-mail campaign, played in person, and can explode minds without a second thought. So, with that in the forefront of our frontal lobes, let’s have a crack at reviewing one of the most complex yet uncomplicated games you can buy.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space Review
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is surprisingly easy to grasp game, but like all mentally intensive games, is really hard to master. The rules can probably be put into bullet points, so to make these easier to consume we’re going to look at them in list form.
- Everyone is given a whiteboard booklet. Each double page has a map on one side, with a reminder of the rules and movement tracker on the other page.
- The map is for your reference and, as you can see by the image below, it has a number on each hexagon. The movement tracker is how you track where you are on the map.
- Before the game begins everyone is dealt a role card face down. In an eight-player game, there will be four aliens and four humans. In a seven-player game, like our games were, there will be four aliens and three humans. It can be played with a minimum of two players and a maximum of eight. The players look at their role and identify their own starting point. For aliens, it is the X shaped symbol looking like it is going into a book. For humans, it is the symbol that looks like Loki’s helmet.
- The goal is for Humans to get to the Escape Pods (black hexes with numbers in them). The Aliens goal is to hunt down the humans.
- Now, you move starting at your own point on the map in accordance with your species. Humans may move one square. Aliens may move one or two. You announce if you are entering a silent sector (moving into a space that is white) or, if you are moving into a space that is grey you draw a card. These can be one of three things:
- White – You announce “Silent in all Sectors” and usually gain an item that is also on the card. These can only be used by humans and contains things like Adrenaline, that lets you move double in a turn. If it is an item you place it facedown in front of you (no matter who you are), or you discard the card if it is not an item. You can only have three items at any one time.
- Green – You announce movement in any other sector bar the one you are in. This can throw people off your scent. For instance, if you are in G13, you may say “Noise in A11”. You then discard the card facedown, so no-one knows what you drew.
- Red – You announce exactly where you are. You then discard the card facedown, so no-one knows if you drew a green card or a red one.
- Aliens, when they think they know where a human is and are within distance, can attack by saying “Attack on [Sector]” (so for instance, “Attack on G6”). If they are wrong they have just given away the fact they are an alien. If they are right and they kill a human player then that human becomes an alien, starting again at the alien home space. The alien who made the kill may now move 1,2, or 3 hexes each turn. If the alien kills another alien then the second alien is out the game.
- Humans, when they get to an escape pod, can say “Activating Escape Pod [1/2/3/4]” and they draw a card from a separate deck. If they draw a green card then they successfully escape. If they draw a red card then they have failed and need to try another escape pod.
Finally, each role has its own abilities that it can do. Oh, and you note your movement on the movement tracker. That’s about it. The rules are very simple.
What’s it like playing Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space?
It’s really strange to come across a game like Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space because it is a game of contradictions. In my opinion, it is an aesthetically lacklustre game. Yes, the cards can have nice artwork on them, especially the character cards; however, the whole game is played on a hexagonal grid using a whiteboard pen. Bar the cards, there is very little within the pad tying the game to the theme. Instead, you are faced with this plain book that does a great job of reminding you of the days you used graph paper in school to make pie charts.
And, don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism of the designer. She did a remarkable job with the small amount of space she had to work with. The box is beautiful and as are the cards. There is just nothing really you can do to spruce up a whiteboard hexagonal grid in what is, effectively, an abstract game.
That being said, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is an absolutely remarkable game. It is difficult to explain, however, I am going to try in as coherent a way as possible. This game does four things very well –
#1. Pseudo-Grid Movement
When we talk about Grid Movement we are usually talking about using miniatures on a board and, even though Grid Movement is not listed amongst the mechanics on BGG, there is a pseudo-Grid Movement mechanic in play with Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. Granted, you are not moving a miniature or even all share the same grid, but you are still tracking your movement across your own map, whilst others try and track you on theirs.
This is very similar in a way to how Fury of Dracula works, however in Fury of Dracula, the other players are trying to hunt Dracula, who is not represented on the player map. The same mechanic, I believe, is used for Whitechapel, although I would need someone else to confirm that. Either way, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, is like those, only everyone is being tracked off the board. It’s difficult to explain, especially in an Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space review, but it also creates a really interesting dynamic.
#2. Predator and Prey (Hunting)
There are very few games that can simulate hunting well, namely because, as players, you can usually see all things at all times. Instead, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, does a great job at making the alien Players feel like Xenomorphs, and make the humans feel like victims in some great horror movie. Humans are just vulnerable, they can’t move as far, and the only thing they have in their favour is that the aliens don’t intrinsically know where they are.
The humans shouldn’t really stand a chance, and yet they have to use their wits (and the occasional item) to get to safety. I don’t know of any game that quite gets that feeling down.
What is more, once the aliens realise who the aliens are, they can begin acting as a pack, and that just heightens the terror.
#3. Social Enagagement
It’s strange, but the race to hunt or flee really encourages social engagement within a group. The humans are, more or less, on their own until the aliens kill them; however, the alien team do get a lot of social engagement and this helps add to the tension. Once the aliens understand who they are, then they can band together, creating two strange experience.
- A good team game by showing cooperation with one another to reach a common goal.
- Added terror for the humans who are being hunted. The one thing worse than having one Xenomorph after you is, and you can ask Ripley about this, having four Xenomorphs after you.
#4. Thought Puzzles
Ultimately though, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a thought puzzle wrapped up in a Social Deduction game. There are so many things you have to keep track of that it can become really mentally intensive. Yes, you need to know where you are; however, you also need to track every other player, and with approximately 50% of the information they give you being lies, you have to figure out the truth. That is really difficult, and yet so rewarding.
Conclusion: Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space Review
So, what is it like is it like playing Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space? Well, I would describe it as a complete brain melter; however, it is more than that. It may be one of the best horror simulators on the market, all packaged up in an abstract game.
As such, the safest thing to call Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, is a unique group puzzle game that will make you wonder – in Space, does anyone really hear you scream?
So, what do you think of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space? Have you heard of the game? Do you enjoy it? Have you played it? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below.