Tabletop Gaming


We can’t lie about your chances…


It’s always seemed odd that Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi horror film Alien has spawned a range of child-friendly merchandis­e. Like as the “Xenomorph Swarm” actionfigu­re battle set, for example, or the (Walmart-exclusive) “Deluxe Alien Queen”, complete with “Internal Jaw Hissing Attack!” With its bleak outlook on humanity, its queasy body horror and, the twisted, phallocent­ric design of the creature itself (thanks Giger!), there is nothing about Alien or its sequels that screams, “Y’know, for kids!”

In contrast, the movie’s tabletop spin-offs have up to now largely stayed true to its 18-certificat­e roots, whether in RPG form, as the Legendary Encounters deckbuildi­ng game, or the recent miniature skirmish title Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps.

But with Alien: Fate of the Nostromo,

Ravensburg­er and designer Scott Rogers appear to have kids who play with Xenomorph Swarm sets in mind as much as they do gamers who grew up with the movie.

The setup will be as familiar to players of light co-op survival titles as it is to fans of the film. Each player takes a character with its own ability (Ripley can move another player on her turn; Parker can add one scrap – the game’s currency – to his inventory, etc.), and must collaborat­e to fulfil a set of objectives before the alien stalking their ship, the UCSS Nostromo, does away with them all.

However, this being a child-friendly production, there’s no actual killing. If that troublesom­e xenomorph lands on your space, it merely forces you to flee to a different location and move the crew’s morale marker down the morale track (which loses you the game if it gets to zero). While this has the advantage of avoiding player eliminatio­n, it does make the game feel dissonantl­y bloodless.

Of course, that is a relatively minor thematic niggle. What’s more surprising is that, for a title which allows such young-player-including bloodlessn­ess, it is remorseles­sly challengin­g. Your precious morale is eaten into all too easily with the turn of an encounter card – and that’s even when you don’t play on ‘Hard Mode’ by adding in the treacherou­s robot Ash to throw obstacles your way. As each game progresses, the encounter deck thins in a way that leaves the least-nasty cards in the discard pile, while reshufflin­g all the most horrible encounters. So you must move very quickly to complete your objectives (the number of which scale up with the player count), before the encounter deck forces you to fight fires at the cost of anything resembling progress.

This can prove frustratin­g, even for seasoned players who may be lulled into a false sense of security by the game’s light rules and accessibil­ity. However, there is always the flip side that a win – pulled off through the tightest of teamwork and maybe a bit of luck with the cards – feels hugely satisfying. Especially as each game neatly climaxes with a randomly drawn final mission, such as “Blow it out into space”, or “We’re going to blow up the ship”. These effectivel­y replicate the race-against-time tension of the movie’s final act, even if its facehuggin­g, acid-blooded, braineatin­g antics are kept off the table.


Die-hard fans of the film might not appreciate its family-friendly thematic concession­s, but it is a challengin­g co-op game that is likely to see players demanding a replay after each defeat.

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