Not Alone

Once in a while, I will buy my board games online. One of the places I go to when I buy board games is on a website, 401games.ca. Situated in Toronto, this store usually has some of the newest games, and sell them at a reasonable price.

So while I was perusing their online store, when looking for a copy of Adrenaline, there was a poll that they were doing which had the game Adrenaline as one of their choices. The poll was “Which demoed game at Essen are you excited to get this year (2016)?” Interestingly enough, Adrenaline wasn’t in the top spot, rather in second or third place. The game that was in the number 1 spot was a game called “Not Alone”, and had won the poll significantly. In my mind, if hundreds of people in Canada voted for this game, this game has to be good…right?

So I bought it…

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Not Alone is a two to seven player asymmetric card game created by Ghislain Masson and is published by Geek Attitude Games. In this game, you and a team of others are shipwrecked on the planet “Artemia” and your goal is to escape from the planet before a creature (who is acted by another player) hunts you and your team down and assimilates all of you into the planet’s ecosystem. Either the team wins by escaping the planet, or the creature wins by taking down his or her foes.

To set up, decide who will be the creature for the game. That player will get three plastic chips and a deck of hunt cards. The other players will get a deck of cards numbered one through five, three will counters, and a card from the survival deck. The point track is placed in the center of the table with the rescue and assimilation counters starting on the figures that correspond to the number of players. The remaining number cards are placed in the center of the table.

In Not Alone, players are trying to move their counters on the board towards the star. You will notice that the creature has less spaces to move compared to the hunted team. Each round in Not Alone has four phases:

  1. The exploration phase: In this phase, each member of the hunted will place one of their cards in their hand face down. This will decide which location they will run to and hide. During this phase, players may communicate aloud where they are going, but can bluff. This is also the phase where players can resist or give up, which lets the hunted take their cards back from the discard pile, but gives the creature one movement towards the star on the board.
  2. The hunting phase: In this phase, it is the creature’s turn to now hunt down the team. Using the plastic chips, the creature will choose one of the 10 locations and figure out where everybody is hiding. Normally, the creature will use the creature token to mark down which location he or she is searching, but it is possible for the creature to use more chips depending on which special ability the creature uses.
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  3. The reckoning phase: At this stage, players one by one, starting from the left of the creature, will show their locations. If the player chooses any of the locations other than where the creature token is, they will get to use the ability found on the card. These abilities include moving the rescue counter closer to the star, getting cards back from the discard pile, getting more survival or location cards available in the reserve and adding them into their hand, or allowing choices between two cards selected in the next round. However, if one or more players picked a location where the creature is on, these players will lose one will token and the creature moves their assimilation token one space towards the star.
  4. The end-of-turn phase: In this phase, players on the hunted team clean up the round by discarding the card they played. The creature draws back up to three creature cards. Then regardless of what happens in the round, the rescue token moves one space towards the star.

The game ends when either the assimilation token or the rescue token reach the star. If the assimilation token reaches the star, the creature wins and the players are assimilated into Artemia and become part of the ecosystem. If the rescue counter reaches the star, then the hunted team wins and escape the planet.

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Not Alone has some really interesting elements to it. I enjoy the logic element for the creature, and utilizes deductive reasoning to find where players are. At the beginning of the game, it is really hard for the creature to figure out where the hunted is. However, as the game progresses, the creature player starts to deduce where the rest of the players are going to be, and it becomes easier when you catch at least one person as they don’t get to utilize the abilities found on the card. Also, the motivations of the hunted players become more evident as more cards are played, giving the creature some information as to where to go. For example, at the beginning of the game if a player has played cards 1,2 and 5, you know that they are either at 3,4, or at another location that might have obtained in a previous turn. It becomes important for the creature to memorize what cards players have been getting.  The added survival and creature cards give additional abilities to both parties making it either easier for the hunted team to run away, or give an advantage to the creature to further pursue its victims. If you add the social element to the logic of Not Alone, the game becomes really entertaining. As a hunted player, you are trying to psych out the creature and bluff your way into hiding. This creates some unique conversation, unfortunately to the dismay of whomever is playing the creature.

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Not Alone is one of those games that steers towards the larger groups. Although the game says it’s for two to seven players, it is highly recommended that you play with larger groups. Having six players be in the hunted group means that more actions can happen for the rescue team and the creature has to make decisions on what would most likely give them the maximum benefit. However, if you play with smaller groups, it’s harder for the creature to find the players, and I find that the game runs slower.

One con, which I honestly don’t see as a con, but many of the people who I’ve played with think it is one, is that the game is heavily weighted towards the success of the creature. The creature is given some pretty powerful creature cards that, when used in the right order, can really thwart the efforts of the hunted team. In addition, the creature track is shorter than the hunted track, meaning that the hunted team will have to move their escape counter at some point during their turn using location cards. Again I say that giving the advantages to the creature isn’t really a con. To start, he or she is already playing solo and has to work independently to figure out where the others are hiding. Plus, with any cooperative board game, whether it is a pure cooperative board game where you battle the board or an asymmetric one where you take down one player, it has often been the advantage going to the board or the evil player. Personally for me, it makes victory even sweeter. Think about it. With the help of your comrades, you were able to take down a game, in which the rules and situations make it almost impossible for you to win. That feeling is just sheer euphoria. So what if you lose three or four times to the creature, that is expected. That one moment where you successfully defeat the creature just becomes this occasion of pure bliss. (On that note, nobody has yet been able to defeat the creature on all accounts in which I have played this game).

Not Alone is a cool quick game that is definitely worth a go. It gets the conversation going and is a great warmup to any game night. I recommend trying this one out with your friends.

Pros: 

  • Neat asymmetric game that is equivalent to hide and seek.
  • Components are well made. Artwork looks cool.
  • The table talk is welcomed. That is of course if you don’t mind the taunting as the creature.

Cons: 

  • Advantage will almost always go to the creature. Be ready to lose multiple times.
  • Scaling is alright, but it is definitely steered towards large groups.
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