My group has a soft spot for hide-and-seek style board games. Beginning a few years back when we discovered Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, and gaining momentum with every new discovery–Letters from Whitechapel, Fury of Dracula, Specter Ops. I find that games of this type share the deductive appeal that makes games like Spyfall, Avalon, and Secret Hitler so appealing, while also introducing a geographical element to the sleuthing that makes the game more accessible.
Not Alone by freshman designer Ghislain Masson send players on a mission to the planet Artemia, where they crash land and have to survive until their rescue. The twist is that one player plays The Creature, who is hunting the other players.
Each of the crash survivors is given a hand of five cards representing the five places initially available to the survivors. Each round all of the survivors select one card from their hand to represent the location they are visiting that turn. After everyone has made their selection in secret, The Creature places a large token on one location. If any of the survivors picked that location, bad stuff happens to them. Eventually the survivors are either picked up or they succumb to the depredations of The Creature.
Cards that are played get discarded and need to be recovered before they are available for further use. This is where our mistake came in. The most powerful card is called the Lair, depicted above. When survivors visit the Lair they are allowed to take back all of their discarded cards, but not the Lair itself. The reason for this is that the Lair, while it is being played, is neither in hand nor in the discard pile, so it’s not available to bring back from the discard pile.
Another mistake we made involves another location, the Beach. The Beach accelerates rescue efforts, bringing the survivors closer to rescue and victory. Using it is a two-step process. The first survivor going there places a token on the Beach, which primes the location for use. The next player who makes it to the Beach without interference from the Creature or something else then takes the token off, which signals the rescue vessel, drawing it closer. However, only one player can use this location each turn, so if two or more survivors visit the Beach each turn, only one may interact with the token and the rest are out luck.
Early impressions of Not Alone are quite favorable. The gameplay is uncomplicated and easy to teach, while still allowing for lots of decision-making and surprises. Gameplay moves at a brisk pace. The art is pretty and, unlike most games of this type, the box is small enough to fit in a carryon. It is difficult to tell if the game has any balance issues. At once it seems like the survivor’s escape is assured and that the Creature’s project is doomed, yet simultaneously the Creature can engineer stunning reversals that make escape seemingly impossible. Artemia is well worth a visit if you get an opportunity–but be careful, it’s harder to leave than it is to arrive.