My first review of an Essen ’16 release. Argo from Flatlined games designed by Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget. Is my first game a good one or a duffer? Read on and find out.
It is based in a space station where aliens are invading, you have to get as many of your team of 5 astronauts as possible, out of the station in the limited supply of escape pods seats. There are a maximum of 12 seats available in the escape pods in a 3 or 4 player game. In a 2 player game there is only 8 seats available, so each game there is a guarantee that some of the unlucky personnel in the space station will get left behind and munched by the not-so-friendly aliens, if they don’t get you during the game they will use any astronauts left behind as a buffet.
The excellent box artwork
It plays from 2 to 4 players and plays in about 45 minutes. It is pretty easy to pick up. It is a game where you will get points as the game progresses and the person with the most points wins. However, there is the Aliens who also score points for dead astronauts, so if they get the most points they win and none of the players do!
The game starts with an initial start-up of the Waking Room with neighbouring corridors and in each turn you need to first move aliens (if there are any to move), place a room tile or escape pod and then do two actions. All of your 5 astronauts start in the Waking Room and each has a special ability that break the usual rules. Only one can actually shoot the aliens, so use this guy wisely. They are a Grunt (guy with the gun), Pilot, Explorer, Chief and Robot. Aliens don’t like robots. They break their teeth when they try to bite them, so they leave them alone.
What’s in the box?
However the game has a bit more to it than what I have just described. Each room/corridor has a maximum number of astronauts it can accommodate, either one or two. If someone moves into a room which is already full, lots of pushing around of astronauts goes on. More on this shortly. Also there must be at least 3 tiles between the Waking Room and escape pod, so you just can’t put one close by and shove your astronauts into it. Well, if you could do that the game would be very quick and a bit boring wouldn’t it? Also the pods will only launch under certain circumstances, so you could find your Chief in an escape pod, but it doesn’t launch, therefore he doesn’t score. Each escape pod holds 2 astronauts. It will launch immediately when full or if an Alien moves directly next to it or if you move your Pilot in and launch it immediately – which is one of her abilities. These are the only ways the pods will launch. Also the 2nd person in the pod will score more points than the first.
The aliens have been massacring the astronauts, this is on the easy level too!
The actions you can do are pretty much limited to move and activate the room you are in. The same astronaut cannot move twice on the same turn although the Explorer can move 2 spaces. Each room has an ability that you can activate to gain an advantage. They are all fairly easy to understand how they work with the exception of the Time machine that took a couple reads of the rules to fully understand how it worked. However the pushing thing……
This is what makes the game. Astronauts pushing other astronauts when one moves into a room that is at capacity. Corridors have a capacity of one person, the rooms two. The Waking Room has unlimited capacity. When someone moves into a room/corridor which is already at capacity then someone already in that location gets pushed out into another neighbouring room/corridor/escape pod. Pushing can cause a chain reaction and the person whose turn it is chooses where each astronaut goes, no matter who it belongs to. So you can shove someone else’s pilot into an alien and they will then get munched by said alien. Well he was hungry and she was squishy, what else would happen?
Towards the end of a game, most astronauts have become dinner or have escaped!
Where do the Aliens come from? They don’t start on the board right? Correct. They only appear when you place a room tile with the alien icon on and that room will have a pretty little alien in it all ready to shoot with your grunt. You must move one too at the start of your turn too, even if it is to your disadvantage, so you could end up scoffing your own astronauts! They only move one space, but that is all they need to move to cause havoc. Aliens can push other Aliens too, but not astronauts.
Now points – where do they come from? Most of them are from getting your astronauts out of the space station. The escape pods are stacked in order so the pods worth the least points are at the top and get better as the stack depletes. You also get a point when you move an alien and he scoffs an astronaut of another player – each dead astronaut will help the alien score too. If you move (or push) a grunt into an alien, this will gain you a point as he will kill the poor defenceless alien or if you push someone else’s (non grunt or robot) astronaut into an alien, the pushed astronaut’s day gets decidedly worse. Well, being in the digestive system of an alien might not be a fun way to end the day.
The green player needs to make more of an effort to get his dudes out I feel!
Loads of player interaction
No player elimination (well there is, but if this happens it will trigger game end).
Easy to teach and pick up
Easy to distinguish the different characters in your team
Plays in under an hour
Not so good stuff:
The rulebook is not the best. All the rules are in there, but when referring back to it the rule you might be looking for may not be where you would expect it to be. Plus it states in the ‘End of Game’ section there are 3 ways the game can end, but it then states in the ‘scoring’ section underneath End of game section that there is another way for the game to end, so it really has 4 ways it can end. This was my main gripe with the game really, well it is more of a niggle really than a gripe.
A couple of turns into a game. Aliens are ready to be fed.
How it played:
I played it with 2, 3 and 4 players and it works well with all numbers, but I thought – and so did most of the others I played it with – that 3 players was the sweet spot. With 4 we found that it was hard to keep the number of astronaut deaths down to stop the aliens from winning, but we might just be an anti-social bunch who like carnage. Plus in one of the games with 4 players we found once that one player was pushing for the aliens to win as he was out of the running for the win, we found this funny, but I know gamers who would not like this fact.
There was also one game where by sheer luck all of the room/corridor tiles where aliens appear were all at the bottom of the room stack except one or two right at the top. This was just a fluke but it led to a pretty boring game and the newbie at the table said “I don’t see what you were all getting excited about”. Unfortunately for him it was just unlucky the way the room tile stack was shuffled as he didn’t get to experience the fun that we had had the previous day.
Can you compare it to other games?
Yep. You can see influences from Room 25, Panic Station and possibly Escape – the room placing bit, not the timed bit.
Would I buy this?
Yes, definitely. It has not hit the shops yet and one of my friends who was playing it with me over the last week was desperate to get his hands on it, he offered me £50 for my copy, which I turned down and he went off onto Boardgamegeek and found someone trading it in the USA and paid about £90 for a copy.
Argo from Flatlined Games
loads of player interaction and encouraging aliens eating your buddies. Lots of fun to be had in under an hour.