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The Menace Among Us

Oxygen is running low, the power’s dead. Can you fix the ship and save the crew? But more importantly: can everyone on board be trusted?

The Menace Among Us is an asymmetrical, social deduction card game set on a ship stranded in outer space. As crew members scramble to repair the ship, the menace players attempt to sabotage repairs and drain the oxygen. Which side will survive?

Gameplay

The HUD board is placed in the center of the table. The EmMA deck is shuffled and placed on it, as are the wound cards. The oxygen tracker is set to the numbered space that matches the number of players, and the energy token is placed at zero.

Each player then randomly selects an agenda card, and the thirteen card deck that goes with that agenda. Players keep this information secret from each other. Which agendas you play with varies based on the number of players, but at least one player is always the menace, and at least three players are crew members. The goal of the menace players is to kill all crew members or to run the oxygen down to zero. The goal of the crew is to either move the energy tracker all the way to full (twenty spaces), or to kill all the menace players and have the energy at 70%. In the advanced rules, crew members will also have additional individual goals which they must complete if they wish to win the game with their team. These may lead players to act in suspicious ways.

After each player has an agenda, they each choose a character. Each comes with an additional seven cards, so that each player starts the game with a deck of twenty cards. Each character also has two special abilities, which cost oxygen, energy, discarding cards, or a combination of those in order to activate. Finally, each player shuffles their personal deck and draws three cards. You are now ready to start the game.

Each round, a new player is mission leader. Starting with the mission leader, each player takes turns choosing one of the following actions: draw a card from their deck (hand limit is four cards), play a card face down in front of themselves, or use one of their character abilities. After each player has taken a turn, all cards played that round are collected. The number of cards played must at least equal half the player count (rounded up). If there are not enough cards, you draw cards from the EmMA deck and add them until there is the correct number (most of the EmMA cards will help the crew, but some of them will help the menace players). The cards are then shuffled and the mission leader reveals them one at a time, resolving effects and making any necessary choices (such as who to give a wound to if any damage is dealt). All played cards are then discarded face-down. You may never go back and look at cards previously played.

After the cards are resolved, players may discuss their suspicions. Any player can grab the voting pistol at this point, at which point players must have a vote on who to exile. If it is a tie, or more players pass than vote, no one is exiled. If any player receives a majority number of votes, they are exiled and must reveal their agenda card. Oxygen is gained if it was a menace player, but lost if it was a crew member. While exiled, a player cannot use their character ability or vote, but can still draw and play cards.

If a player ever receives two wounds, they die at the end of the round. If it was a crew member, the oxygen goes down.  A dead player is eliminated from the game. You are also eliminated from the game if you have no more cards to play. You can still win with your team, however, even if you are eliminated.

The game ends once one team’s win condition is met.

The Menace Among Us Components

Review

The Menace Among Us has elements that reminded us of more complex social deduction games, and distilled them into a faster, more accessible experience that still felt satisfying, tense, and intriguing.

In this game, you need to balance your deck and the crew-friendly and the menace-friendly cards, and try to work toward your team goal (and potentially your individual goal as well). Also, the fact that you get to select your character after receiving your agenda is a great design choice that really allows you to tweak your deck and select a character with cards that complement your agenda and its deck, or provide you with extra bluffing options.

Trying to read other players is tricky, especially with the EmMA deck around to always add an extra level of uncertainty. There are lots of fabulous opportunities for intrigue and bluffing all throughout the game.

Aesthetically, the Menace Among Us looks fantastic, as well. There is a really fun, cartoony sci-fi style to the artwork, and the voting pistol is just a thoroughly fun game piece; you want to grab it even when you’re not ready for a vote!

The game does have a rather extensive setup and take down time, with the compiling of the individual decks. The box has slots so that the decks can be stored already assembled, but that means you need to do the sorting when putting the game away. Also, as with most social deduction games, there is a sweet spot in the player count — playing with the minimum number of 4 players is not ideal.

For fans of social deduction, The Menace Among Us is thematic, well designed, streamlined, and a great entry into the genre for new players.

Pros: Easy to teach, ability to choose character once you have your team, great components

Cons: Extensive setup and take down time, not all player counts play equally well

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.