3-4 players, Semi – Cooperative, Hidden Traitor
Designer: Anthony Coffey, Jesse Labbe
Artwork: Anthony Coffey, Jesse Labbe
Publisher: Certifiable Studios
In this game your mission is to survive and escape on the helicopter at the end of the game. You must craft weapons and other items to help you survive. You must trade with other players to try and gather components to craft said items. All the while you are searching for helicopter point cards to try and reach that point balance you need to successfully escape. Along the way you may become infected and become a THING. If this happens your motives do not change, you must still survive and try to board the chopper at the end. Just beware that the more vulnerable cards you draw throughout the game, the more suspicious you look. And this might cause players to refuse to take you on the chopper.
So this game plays out over 15 rounds (18 rounds in an extended game) through 3 phases of increasing difficulty, 5 rounds each phase (or 6 for extended). The game out of the box will take 2-3 hours to play the standard game and since you can only play 3 or 4 players from the base box that time likely will not fluctuate too much unless you really have some people taking their sweet time making decisions. The reason of the semi-long play time is because each player takes a turn one at a time until each player goes and then there is a camp event that activates which adds a little more time. The first time you play it will take MUCH longer (as with any game) but this one especially as there are a plethora of items you can craft based on a handful of resources you can acquire. Luckily the game comes with a nice little diagram on how to craft these items. This shouldn’t add too much time to the game as you always have to craft an initial item first before you can craft the higher tiered items. That limits what you have to look at to craft which should limit the amount of time a person spends deciding.
Ohhhh the win condition, this varies so much. Bottom line is that you must survive till the end of the 3 phases, board the helicopter and escape. Along the way you will need to collect these Helicopter point cards. IF you survive (and that’s a big IF) and you get to board the chopper, you will then utilize those helicopter cards to help you win. Now that is just the very tip of what goes into determining if you win or lose, suffice it to say it’s a lot more complicated and I don’t want to spend all day trying to explain it. For new players this will be extremely difficult to understand and when you finally think you’ve got it, there will be something else you’re questioning. All that said if you have enough patience and put the time into this then you will certainly understand it and it will become second nature.
Of the games I own this is in my top 3 of game components. Everything looks very nice and colorful and omg double layered player boards!!! I go wild for double layer player boards. The character minis are detailed and colored in their respective character board colors, which is also nice in telling them apart. For example the physician’s player board has blue undertones, his mini is blue, his special deck of cards has a blue back and his plastic action cubes are blue. The different colors really go a long way in differentiating the characters but that’s not all. Each character has their own special draw deck which has unique cards only for that character plus on each player board there is a unique character ability that each can unlock that further compliments them.
Beyond the excellent player boards, the card stock they use for the cards are of excellent quality, having a nice linen finish and just feel thicker and more durable than your average card. All of the plastic tokens and cubes all feel and look nice. The one downer would be the cardboard strike tokens. They made these quite a bit thicker than normal cardboard tokens which you would think would be nice, but you have to be reallllllly careful when popping these out of the punchboard. I had a couple catch and start to split in the middle because of the thickness. This is a very minor gripe but something to be aware of. Oh! I almost forgot one of my favorite tokens! They made an AWESOME dog running plastic mini to keep track of the round. I Love this so much you don’t even understand. If you are familiar with The Thing movie, the very beginning of the movie has a husky running away from a helicopter during the entire beginning credits scene. Having this husky token representing the rounds and slowly running towards the helicopter round just adds SO MUCH theme to this already theme heavy game. Love it.
Let’s see what else….this game has a lot of great quality components and I want to make sure to touch on all of them. There are 4 plastic infection clickers that are basically these little devices that you can click one way to show you are clean and click the other way to show you are infected. These also add to the theme and I love the way they are used in game (more on that later). The dice! There are a number of blue dice that are 50/50, 3 sides have a flame and 3 sides have nothing. These are used during attack and setback rolls and they look really nice as well. The last bit ( I think) are the custom character dice which are super high quality with printed icons on all sides that are unlocked on your character board as you gain experience. Everything mentioned above is very high quality when compared to most board games.
The box is huge, but considering the fantastic insert they have included it comes as no surprise. The insert has spaces for everything and the way it’s laid out it prevents stuff from falling out of place and getting mixed up. It’s actually really clever. They have dedicated spots for the stamina cubes, the action cubes, the strike tokens, just everything. Also there is a totally separate plastic holder for all the crafting tokens with individual spots in that to separate them. So you can just pull that holder out of the box and place it somewhere easily on the table. The setup is super quick because of all this ease of access. The longest amount of time setting up will be spent shuffling cards.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Outstanding visuals and artwork. The artwork is rather cartoony but I think it goes with the theme really well personally. After all I get the vibe that this game is more a survival game rather than a social deduction game. The game is very colorful and I think that lends to the artwork very well. This is a VERY thematic game with the suspicion growing with every vulnerable card drawn. You will begin suspecting players the instant one has been drawn and this will cause your choices to change. Like do I trade or bunk with them now that they could POSSIBLY be infected? I mean I NEED that wood to craft this club BUT I don’t want to risk being infected. This will ultimately make the game more difficult as people stop trusting each other and stop working together as much.
This rulebook needs a ton of work. It’s for sure not the worst rulebook I’ve ever come across but man the way it was written just makes stuff much more confusing than it really needs to be. On top of that the order it is laid out is very confusing. The look of it is excellent, lots’ of pictures and every section has titles and bolded parts with many uses of diff colors to differentiate sections. However I found myself flipping back and forth through it trying to understand stuff. Like the full 2 pages of the characters and their descriptions are located on pages 18 and 19 when these should have been towards the beginning. The player board explanations are on page 20……this should be something you learn early on not later. And this one is huge, the player actions…..what each player will literally be doing each turn are all detailed on page 24. That should have been at the very beginning of the book. Why am I learning about what the bonfire does on the game board or what happens during a broken camp door before I learn what actions I can take on my turn?
Beyond the terrible rule placement the wording for much of the rules is confusing. When explaining the ending points they use the world “bonus” a lot. This makes it so much more confusing. There are helicopter bonuses, there is a bonus roll, then you have the humans bonus total and the infected’s bonus total. This entire section of the rule book explaining how the ending calculations are totaled up are literally the most confusing piece of rules I have ever tried to understand. And to be honest I’m not sure if it’s so much the way it’s written as it’s just the complexity of all the different bonuses you need and if you are infected or human. Probably a little of both. It took me many re-reads and actual playthroughs of the game to fully grasp it.
OH! Another thing that would have been helpful would be something detailing the different effects each characters Locker Die image does. Like a small excerpt on each characters player board or like a small rules reference card or something. I can never remember what that bullet icon for commander Garry means on his die so I have to grab the rulebook and flip all the way to page 23 to find that info. One good thing that can be pulled from all this, I am now a master at locating specific rules in this rulebook.
Table Presence/Game Board
The game does have a very commanding table presence. The game board you will be playing on consists of 2 separate pieces that are pushed together to form one. One side depicts the inside where you are safe from Thing attacks and stamina damage. You also can draw from your personal deck and the storage and equipment decks on this board. This is where you want to be if you are trying to heal up or craft gear. The other board depicts the harsh outside. Out here you can only draw from Phase decks depending on which phase you are in. Phase deck 1 is only available until you reach phase 2 and then both are available and so on. Each time you draw from one of these decks you gain 2 experience which you can use to unlock sections of your personal gameboard like an extra cube of stamina, and extra cube for actions and other special abilities. However being outside has its disadvantages. These phase decks are rife with Things that will attack you and camp door damaging cards that will unleash that bad weather on anyone inside. BUT you must search these decks as they are the only place you can find those lucrative Helicopter point cards that you NEED if you hope to escape alive.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
This game is a blast to play and creates a very high amount of table talk to boot! Starting out everyone is human so you want to be talking to the rest of your team discussing trades and strategies on who should go outside and search and who can stay inside and try to find good supplies or equipment. You really want to utilize the first phase cooperating as much as possible and building up your stockpiles of medkits, food and creating gear. Each progressive phase is harder and harder so being properly equipped and prepared is a must. Once the suspicion aspect starts up as people start drawing more and more vulnerable cards it creates a different kind of fun. At first you are having a blast just trying to survive but now you are trying to survive but also side eyeing everyone else to determine their motives.
With all the cool actions on each player board and the fact that each character plays a bit differently based around their specific decks and skills you will have different strategies with each, but not too different as everyone’s ultimate goal remains the same.
Optimal Player Count
4 players all the way. I mean the game out of the box is only 3 -4 players. And during the bunk phase you need to pair up with another player to prevent drawing a vulnerable card unless you are able to craft a specific item. Not only that but at 3 players there really isn’t THAT much table talk around the suspicion. The more players you have, the more suspicion, the more fun. For those solo players out there I have also tried playing this solo. I used a variable amount of player boards and just played them all. Of course this basically takes the suspicion aspect completely out of the game and turns it into a pure survival game so you can just leave the infection clickers in the box. I still draw up vulnerable cards and then at the end determine 2 characters to board the chopper based on who has the least number of vulnerable cards. Then calculate points as per usual and see what happens. So even though it’s not in the official rulebook to play solo, it’s still a fun variant you can use.
This is a game that I really enjoyed the first couple plays. I mean we all died the first game before we even got to the end. Our second game we knew what to expect so only one of us died before the end and there was that bit of fun in the debate on who can board the chopper. However there are just too many issues with the rules overall and the player elimination to really give this game top marks. The first 2 rounds are super fun but round 3 is just a struggle and by that time most players are basically done playing anyways as the game has started to drag on.
This game is not a good game for newcomers. No matter how well you try and prepare and tell everyone that midway through the second round people are gonna start dropping like flies, it always happens. And here’s the bad thing, this game takes like 3-4 hours to complete. You have a new group of players playing a game that takes that long to complete….you CANNOT have player elimination because it WILL happen in this game to new players. That leaves a seriously bad taste in their mouths and most won’t want to play again and invest that amount of time into this game.
The game seriously has some great components though and its presentation is top notch. This is for sure one of those games you want to play with the right group of people too. Players that really get into character will enjoy this game a whole lot more than those who do not. I have spent quite a bit of time trying to house rule a few of the rule sets to make it easier for new players so it doesn’t instantly turn them off of it. But honestly I shouldn’t have to do that for a game.