An occasional column in which Lou Harry gets his game on with film-related tabletop titles.
The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31
John Carpenter’s celebrated flick The Thing not only took a while to make the leap from film (1982) to board game (2017), it also took a while to get to my collection (2021) and find its way to the game table (2022).
I could blame that last wait on the challenge of getting the game’s minimum four players to the table. In a pandemic-sensitive game market, there’s been an increased emphasis on those that can be played with as few as two people. But, thematically, that makes no sense with The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 (The Op Games), and I’m glad the publisher didn’t try to force a two-player version.
Speaking of infections, they are at the core here. At the outset, each player is dealt a secret card that determines if they are fully human or already infected. Later in the game, two additional potential infections occur that could convert others. Not knowing who has gotten the bug is a big part of the suspense and the fun.
Players take turns being the captain of an exploratory visit to one of the outpost’s rooms. A card determines how many players need to join the temporary captain as well as the conditions that need to be met to reveal what’s in the room. It’s up to the captain to select those players.
Once in the room, that mission’s team members each secretly turn in a card that may either help or hurt the chances of success. These are shuffled so nobody knows who submitted what cards, and the captain takes a look, revealing any sabotage cards. If the team survives the sabotage condition, then the rest of the cards play out to see if they meet the mission requirements. If they do, the team discovers what’s in the room. Could be a useful tool; hey, we now have a fire extinguisher! Could be an alien. If it’s the latter, there’s a battle to be fought.
I won’t go further into details, but suffice it to say, there are many ways — some subtle, some obvious — for the infected players to wreak havoc.
Once the game made it to the table, our first effort included completely off-the-mark — and very vocal —assumptions about who the infected traitor was. And she eventually took the whole team down before we even made it out of Sector One. (There are three to get through, and that’s before you have the option of taking a flamethrower to someone you think is infected and boarding a helicopter to escape.)
We immediately and enthusiastically all wanted to try again. This time, I had the honor of drawing the infection card early and managed to keep myself hidden, sneakily weakening the team’s efforts without overtly sabotaging. The results paid off when fire in multiple rooms and other calamities led to my victory … and their shock when I revealed my identity. It was enormously satisfying.
In short, this game was well worth the wait and I’m looking forward to our next visit to Outpost 31. Next time, we’ll try to round up more of the maximum eight players and see if anyone can make it to the chopper.
The Goonies: Escape With One-Eyed Willy’s Rich Stuff
As I mentioned when reviewing a different Goonies game in an earlier column, I was never a fan of the film. I saw it on its original release and perhaps I was just a bit too old for it.
Whatever the reason, I tried not to bring that meh view with me when I brought this one to the table.
The Goonies: Escape With One-Eyes Willy’s Rich Stuff is part of The Op Games’ Coded Chronicles series, which previously produced a kid-friendly Scooby-Doo effort. Basically, Coded Chronicles are heavily narrative-driven escape room games. In the Goonies version, players are given journals corresponding to the film’s characters (or a solo player can take them all). A stack of map tiles and clue cards are put on the table and that’s about it, with other components left in sealed envelopes until called for.
The game progresses with a series of puzzles that lead to the placement of map tiles allowing for exploration of that cave system underneath Lighthouse Lounge. A clever system of matching a character’s number with a number in a room leads to specific clues in the journals. And the three-act structure allows you to play one long game or attempt it in installments.
There’s lots of exploring to be had. And yes, the Fratellis are after you. Make a mistake in looking up a code and they advance toward you. The more times they catch you, the lower your end-game score. But, rest assured, they can’t take you out completely.
All of which adds up to a game that, unlike many that I’ve covered in Roll ‘Em, is extremely loyal to the source film. Since I didn’t particularly care for the flick, I wasn’t in love with the game — although I enjoyed some of the challenging puzzles. I suspect bigger fans will find greater pleasures here.
Know of movie tie-in games that I haven’t yet covered? Drop me a note on Twitter @louharry