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Not Alone

Stranded on the alien planet Artemia, you and your crewmates must wait for rescue. Simple…until you discover you’re not alone here. Now you’re being hunted, playing a game of hide and seek with a deadly and determined alien creature.

Published by Stronghold Games, Not Alone is an asymmetrical board game in which one player takes on the role of the alien creature while everyone else are the stranded crewmates trying to hold out until rescue arrives.

Gameplay

One player is the creature, while all the others are the hunted. To create the planet, the ten place cards are set in the center of the table. These are numbered one through ten and are placed in numerical order, in two rows, with five cards in each row. Each hunted player has a hand of place cards that match the locations numbered one through five. Cards for the other places are set aside in a reserve. Each hunted player also takes three will tokens and a survival card. The hunted player takes three hunt cards and three special tokens: creature, target, and Artemia.

Hunt cards have special abilities for the creature, while survival cards have special abilities for the hunted. Each card states which phase of the round they must be played on.

Finally, the board is placed in the center of the table. The rescue counter is placed at one end of it and the assimilation counter is placed at the other end (the exact locations vary based on player count). The hunted are trying to advance the rescue counter to the victory space in order to win the game, while the creature wins if he gets the assimilation token there.

Each round takes place over four phases. During phase one, each hunted player chooses a location card and places it face-down. This represents where that player is moving to. Before playing a card, a hunted player may choose to spend one to two will tokens to take back two or four place cards from his discard pile. If you spend your last will token, you take back all your will tokens and discarded cards, but the assimilation token moves forward one space.

During phase two, the creature may place his creature token on any location card. He may also place his target token if he uses a hunt card that allows it, and the Artemia token if he plays a hunt card that allows it or the rescue token is far enough along on the board.

During phase three, all hunted players reveal the place cards they used and resolve them, before placing the cards in each player’s individual discard piles. If you placed a place card with no enemy tokens on it, then you either use the location’s ability or take back one place card into your hand. Abilities include getting new place cards from the reserve, advancing the rescue token, or allowing you to draw new survival cards.

If you are on a location with a target token, you must resolve the effect of the hunted card that placed it that turn. These might include forcing you to discard place cards or will tokens. However, after resolving the effect, the hunted player may then use the location’s ability or take back a place card. The Artemia token forces a player to discard a place card and the location’s ability cannot be used.

Finally, if your location has the creature token on it, you must lose one will token, and the assimilation counter moves forward one space. Even if multiple players are caught, the token only moves forward one space. If at least one player runs out of will tokens during phase three, the assimilation token also moves forward one space.

During the final phase of the round, the creature takes back all its tokens and draws up to a hand size of three hunt cards. The rescue counter is moved forward one space on the board, and a new round begins.

Not Alone Components

Review

The mechanics of Not Alone do an excellent job of capturing the sense of hunting and being hunted. The creature player is constantly trying to predict where players will move. Cards in each discard pile are kept visible, so you always know which locations someone cannot move to, which means you have information to work with and can balance the options against each location’s ability and how likely someone is to want to use it. Hunted players, meanwhile, have to very carefully manage both their hands and their will tokens, since it’s so important to constantly have options and always keep the creature guessing.

Not Alone does such a fantastic job with its theme. The artwork is rich and detailed and we loved looking at the different locations, and enjoyed the way the hunted players slowly build their hand of place cards, nicely capturing the theme of exploring this planet.

The game can be played with two people, but it really starts to shine when the creature is up against a team of players, trying to predict where people are going to go and trying to figure out what’s the most important location ability to lockdown. This also introduces an element for the hunted players of how much they want to communicate with each other and opens up the door for more mind games with the creature.

The game feels nicely balanced, too. We liked the way the hunted slowly become stronger by having more places at their disposal, while the Artemia token also serves as a nice balancing mechanism if the hunted pull too far ahead.

Not Alone is a great asymmetrical game. It does take a little bit of extra time to teach as there are a lot of little things to cover, however there are some quite helpful player aid cards to keep you on track during the game. It’s thematic, has nice components, and is just a solid sci-fi board game, a genre that is usually more complex, and would be a great addition to a Halloween game night.

Pros: Extremely thematic, artwork, both sides are fun to play

Cons: Not at its best with two players, takes a little longer to teach

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