Designer: Joe Van Wetering
Publisher: Mondo Games
Artist: Justin Erickson, Mark Simpson (II)
In the barren Antarctic winter, something is lurking amongst the researchers that inhabit the remote Outpost 31 with the potential to destroy all of mankind if it is to escape to civilisation. Can the Humans successfully detect and torch the imitations? Or will they fly away unknowingly with an impostor and doom the world?
In “The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31” players take on the role of an original character from John Carpenters Si-Fi cult classic film ‘The Thing’ each belonging to their own department on the outpost; maintenance, science and operations.
Next all players will be dealt a hand of item cards and will have a roll off to determine who the Captain will be.
Humans are tasked with the job of completing missions and clearing rooms in order to work their way through each sector of the outpost. If they do so successfully, they will eventually have the opportunity to escape on the helicopter at the end of the game.
The task of the imitations however is to infect more of the humans and destroy as much of the outpost as possible. If they are really sneaky however they might try to blend into the background and stow away on the escape helicopter at the end of the game to wreak havoc upon the rest of the world.
The core mechanics of the game itself are pretty straightforward, the Captain unveils the mission card, declares a room to investigate and chooses a team to take with them. Each mission card has a requirement for the number of players needed to take on the mission and also their departments.
The players selected for the mission then hand the leader items from their hand that determine the success or failure of the mission (or battling a ‘Thing’ if discovered).
Before showing the cards to the group, the Captain shuffles the cards given to them and can secretly look at them. They then have the option of swapping one of the item cards with one from the face down supply deck before revealing them to all players. The only exception to this is if the captain is given a sabotage card, in this case the mission will automatically fail.
If the mission is successful, the token in the room is turned over - if it is equipment it is added to the games progress track. If, however a ‘’Thing’ is revealed, combat starts. Success in combat is determined by rolling the dice and getting 3 or 4 of a kind. The number of dice the captain gets to roll is shown on new Item cards are given to the captain buy their team members.
As players find equipment and successfully defeat ‘Things’, they unlock new sections of the outpost to explore. As each sector of the outpost is unlocked blood cards are redistributed amongst the players adding a further element of danger to the game. This means that more imitations MAY be added to the group, ramping up the tension in the game as the humans are left never knowing how many imitations are among them or who they might be.
Once stage 3 of the outpost is cleared, all players hold a vote for a final captain who will be tasked with deciding who to take with them on the helicopter, they will have to choose four other players to take with them to escape (being careful to select only those that they trust the most!)
If imitations are selected to leave on the escape helicopter the humans fail instantly having allowed the imitation outbreak to spread. If the captain selects only other humans however, the human team wins and escape to safety.
So, what do we think of The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31?
The social deduction element of The Thing Infection at Outpost 31 really shines. While we love social deduction games such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf, they normally rely heavily on discussion and the confidence of the players to speak up. This can be tricky in some player groups as often people are too shy to speak out or are unsure of what they are required to do.
The missions in The Thing work really well for this type of player as they allow people who may not be that confident with the role of the traitor the ambiguity to mess with the other players without having to bluff or having to vocally lead the role.
Another interesting element lies with the role of the captain, as a human in the mission stage they can try and mitigate potential damage the cards can do or on the other hand, if they are an imitation, they can slip bad cards into the mix and try to shift the blame to the other members of the team.
The items you discover as you explore the outpost are true to the film including rope used to tie up suspects in the recreation room and flamethrowers to conduct blood tests to potentially expose imitations and the option to torch other players if you are confident they are indeed an imitation.
On the read through of the rules, there is a good balance of text and imagery and was fairly straight forward and easy to teach to our normal gaming group (we played with the maximum number of 8 players).
The box artwork and artwork within the game itself is stunning to look at. It is very crisp, easy on the eye and the colours used for the player boards pop against the white and light blues of the board.
The simple use of spot UV on the board makes what could be an uninteresting colour scheme very striking.
The quality of the player pieces included in the game, while not particularly detailed suitably capture the peculiar looks of the ‘things’.
The one slight issue we faced as a group was identifying some of the miniatures and matching these up to the corresponding headshots of the characters on the player cards. Whilst these look superb, it is tricky to match one to the other unless you are very familiar with the film and recognise the characters.
There is a reference for this in the rules, but it can be a bit of a pain to keep referring to it in the middle of a game.
In our play though, it transpired that an imitation had not only snuck onto the escape helicopter at the end of the game, but they had also gained the trust of the entire team and were assigned the role of final captain in the game.
This was a fantastic final twist to our game and several jaws dropped when the blood sample card was revealed declaring that person as an imitation.
Thematically, the game is superb, and you can tell from all of the finer details included in the game that this was a real labour of love for the developers who it is clear are big fans of the 1982 adaptation of the film.
For us it is refreshing to see a game based on a film executed so brilliantly. We have often found in the past that a theme can feel very pasted on with little thought about either the overall mechanics and how they fit together with the theme. This certainly isn’t the case with The Thing Infection at outpost 31. The game and mechanics fit together perfectly and combine to make an incredible thematic gaming experience.
The only sight negative we have is the concern of how well the game is balanced, it seems as though it may be harder to win when acting as a human. If an imitation simply decides to help the humans at all stages of the missions in a no risk strategy they will stand a very low chance of being exposed to the group as a traitor and be very difficult to pick out of the group in the final selection process for escaping on the helicopter.
Overall, we see this as a very strong start for Mondo who are recently branching out into the board gaming industry with this game as their first production. We look forward to seeing what they bring to the table in the future.
At the beginning of the game the players are given a blood sample card at random, this will determine their starting status. The majority of these cards will show the player that they are a human whilst at least one of the players will receive a card declaring them as an imitation. These cards will be kept a secret throughout the majority of the game.