When I first heard that Mondo and Project Raygun would be producing a board game based on John Carpenter‘s The Thing, I was both thrilled beyond delight and slightly terrified. Board games based on well-known properties tend to be hit-and-miss, especially when you delve into one with a specific storyline that has to be followed to conclusion. So how exactly does this version of The Thing stack up both as a board game and as an adaptation of the film? We cracked it open with seven other players to see jut how long we could survive.
The Thing, which we’ll call it for the rest of the review, is a 5-8 player survival and hidden identity game. The goal, much like the film, is to kill off the creature and clear out the base without losing any players who are human and get the hell out of the outpost alive. At the start of the game at least one player is The Thing, and over the course of play, more players have the potential of being turned into The Thing as well. Much like identity games like Ultimate Werewolf and Secret Hitler, each side has their own goal. The humans are trying to get the gear they need to escape on the helicopter without any infected people, while the infected people are trying to sabotage their efforts and get away on the helicopter themselves and infect the world population.
You start by evenly comprising a team of different roles, all based on characters from the film, who have different abilities depending on who you pick and what area of study they have. As you can see by Childs below, he has a few different skills and is primarily in maintenance, as identified by his token’s color and the card in yellow. Everyone gets a small supply of cards that can be used throughout the game for various purposes, whether it be clearing a room or attending to a disaster nearby. This also includes a blood test for every player that determines whether you are infected or not, and will define your goals moving forward.
Play starts when the leading character draws a Mission Log card. This determines what you need to go do and what people and supplies you need to accomplish this. You can choose any room to visit, it doesn’t matter, but each room has specific items you can collect or gear you need to obtain or a Thing creature you need to defeat. The base itself is divided into three sections, each with their own specific goals before you can move onto the next. In all three you must collect one specific item (rope, dynamite, or a flamethrower) and defeat all of the Thing creatures. There are a couple additional tasks here and there, but only if you wish to stock up on items at the end.
Each task requires a group of people to go take care of stuff, and you can take up to five people to contribute items to accomplish this or fight creatures off. If you fail to accomplish something in a specific room, you could cause a power outage or a fire to break out, at which point you’ll need a flashlight to get into dark rooms and a fire extinuisher to put out fires in other rooms. Rooms can also become destroyed and lose whatever supplies are inside.
Every time you move into a new area of the base, you do a new set of blood screenings. This is to add tension to the ordeal as it could cause more people to become infected and works against the humans. In a game of 8, no more than 3 people can become infected, leaving five humans to figure out how to deal with the problems they’re causing. A lot of what you’ll be dealing with allows whoever the leader is to choose what happens to make things succeed or fail, which leaves an open opprotunity for the infected to play off as if they’re helping with the ultimate goal of getting on the helicopter at the end of the game.
I found myself in a bit of a predicament as it was hard to gauge who to trust and who I couldn’t. Unlike other hidden identity games, there’s no way to tell whether or not someone else is infected because there’s no reveal round between coconspirators. So for all you know you may be making a good bit of judgment with bad people, or be making a terrible mistake among others who know they’re fine. But with everything so unpredictable, you have to rely on your best judge of character to determine who might be The Thing, and that is where things really get fun. With friends, it’s always a treat to mess with each other, and in a game of strangers, you have to judge based on what you come across in the room.
The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31 is an incredible game! There are some rules you need to get through that might leave you scratching your head for a moment, and there are a lot of moving pieces that you need to keep track of as the game progresses, so it does require a bit more attention than you might normally give a game. However, the reward of playing it all the way through is well worth it, and it doesn’t ruin the film or cripple the premise at all. This is a very successful adaptation that any fan of the film should have, and a must-own for people who enjoy hidden identity games.