Dale Yu: First Impressions of Alone (spoiler free)

Alone

  • Designers: Andrea Crespi, Lorenzo Silva
  • Publisher: Horrible Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: ~2 hrs
  • Played with review copy provided by Horrible Games

Alone is a new one vs all game from Horrible Games.  I received a review copy a few months ago, and I’ve had it on the table a few times now.  It has been a hit as there is now a second KS campaign about to launch as the demand for the game has been high.  

The game is a bit of a departure from the usual Horrible Games fare as it is a non-Euro game – really more of a dungeon crawler.   The game thematically is different than most in the genre because in Alone, the solo player is the Hero or good character and the group is made up of Evil masterminds.  Furthermore, the game box is chock full with sculpted miniature figures, boards, cards, etc.

Some of the miniatures in Alone

The hero finds himself all alone in an abandoned space colony.  He is armed with a flashlight, and can see a few rooms around himself.  The things which he can see are shown on the table with map tiles. As he moves and explores the colony, different parts of the map will be revealed (as well as the enemy creatures that might be found on those tiles!)

The Hero sits at one end of the table, and has his own character card; this gives him special abilities unique to that character.  Depending on the difficulty level, the hero also gets some equipment cards. Three mission cards are drawn – the hero must survive long enough to complete the Final mission to win.  However, at the start of the game, the Final mission is locked, and the Hero must complete one of the two initial Missions first.

At the other end of the table, the Evil player(s) sit behind a screen.  They have the full map in front of them where they can track all of the things: the hero, the creatures, the mission tokens, etc.  The map is made up of two sheets – as there are always two levels to explore. They take care of setup such as seeding creatures to the board and drawing a hand of reaction cards.  (There are 4 different decks of reaction cards, but only two of those four decks will ever be used in a scenario based on the setup). Then, based on where the Hero begins, appropriate tiles are taken from the box to build the current labyrinth – that is, the tiles which the Hero can currently see as well as what he is able to remember (using his equipment).

The game itself is broken up into a number of rounds.  Each round is further split into 8 turns. On a normal turn, the hero can take a single action: move, explore, fight, turn on lights, scavenge, etc.  It is possible to use Adrenaline to take a second action in a turn. The Hero first announces which action he wants to do, but then before he does that stated action, the Evil players might get a chance to play a Reaction card.  There is a limit of 2 reactions cards per turn that can be played as well as an overall limit per round – this can all be tracked on the information board.

The hero announces what he wants to do and then the Evil players decide if they are going to play reaction cards or not.  The evil players cannot show each other their cards, so there is the usual conversation about what I could do or not do with my cards.  Of course, you have to be a little cryptic because the Hero can hear what you say and then use any information gained to his advantage later on.  Then, the action and Reaction are resolved. New room tiles are placed if needed, creatures are moved, battles resolved, etc. Interestingly, there isn’t a formal turn for the Evil side – their interactions are made only in response to the Hero’s chosen actions.

So, the Hero keeps moving around trying to accomplish his missions.  The initial missions generally are move to room X and then take an “interact” action.   The Final missions are more complex and may require you to kill everything in the colony OR find object X and then bring it to room Y and Interact with it there.

Again, the hero wins if he’s able to complete the Final Mission.  The Evil players win by killing off the poor lonely Hero before he completes that final mission.

My thoughts on the game

So, I’ll start by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with dungeon crawl games.  Some of my best gaming weekends have been centered around long Descent campaigns. However, I have also had plenty of really bad experiences where I got quarterbacked and made no meaningful decisions through an entire day of gaming.  Sure, some of the experience is going to be player/group related – and I have definitely learned to choose my playing partners wisely. I have also learned that the game experience may be vastly different whether you are the single player or part of the team.

I have tried to optimize the experience with Alone by playing with people who don’t quarterback, and I’ve tried being both good and evil.  Thus far, I have enjoyed my plays, though I much prefer being the hero. When I’m on the team, I find that I either end up quarterbacking, or in my quest to not quarterback, I allow myself to be quarterbacked.  The game tries to resolve this by having a designated team leader each round (with this rotating between Evil players), but I have found that this doesn’t totally neuter a quarterback.

From the hero’s side, it’s an interesting game of exploration and battle.  I like the way that you only have a limited view of the surroundings, and there is a constant increasing pressure on the Hero.  The starting missions are easier to complete, and you obviously must complete one in order to get the final mission available. One type of mission (green) tends to give you something positive as a reward for completion while the other (blue) takes away an Evil advantage found on the mission card.

From the Evil player’s side, it all about the teamwork – trying to work together to stop the Hero.  This does require plenty of communication, and with the right group, it is a fun challenge. When all the Evil players are able to contribute their ideas, there is plenty to think about and discuss.  As there is no specific Evil turn, the players are constantly engaged and following the action because there really isn’t any down time. Furthermore, as the Evil players are in charge of the gruntwork with the maps and the creatures, there’s plenty of things for everyone to do.

The minis themselves are nice (or at least that’s what I’ve been told by the people who appreciate such things).  I’ll admit to being a Eurogamer thru and thru, and I’d be just as happy with cardboard punchout tokens for the creatures.   So, all I can report on is what the other players have told me, and they have all been in approval.

The rules are easy to understand once you’ve played thru a game, but our first game was a bit more difficult.  The rules are split up into three different rulebooks – a setup book and then a book specific for the hero and one specific for the evil side.  I found that this made it hard to find things when I was looking for them. It also didn’t work well for my own learning as I like to know what all my options are as well as those of my opponent; and the game wants the Hero to just read the Hero book for the first game and the Evil players to somehow share the Evil book at the same time.  I’d prefer a single book, but that’s just me.

I don’t think that this will supplant Descent as my favorite crawler, but this one offers up enough different things to keep it around.  I do like the fact that the missions come on cards, and that the game isn’t limited to a book of scenarios which can realistically only be played once.   Alone offers a fair amount of variety, and it should be easy to generate more with new expansion mission cards (which I’m sure are coming). It’s too early for me to really be able to give a final rating on the game, but the fact that I want to keep playing it to find out is telling. Unlike most dungeon crawlers which are one-and-done for me, I still want to play Alone.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2018, First Impressions. Bookmark the permalink.

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