Not Alone: Sanctuary
- Designer: Ghislain Masson
- Publisher: Stronghold Games
- Players: 2-7
- Age: 10+
- Time: 30-60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Stronghold Games
Not Alone: Sanctuary is an expansion to the all-versus-one game, Not Alone which we had reviewed recently. This expansion gives the Hunted a new path to victory as well as many new cards to give all the roles added abilities and possibilities. This in NOT a standalone expansion, so you will need to have a copy of the base game to play this.
There are a number of new components included in the box – some which are added to the base game and other which essentially replace components from the original.
There is a set of Evolution cards and yellow DNA counters. These cards can be used to give new permanent abilities to the Creature. The Hunted also get some new skills with the Avatar card deck. Furthermore, there are some extra Survivors – these cards represent other crash survivors and they can lend assistance to the Hunted.
Finally, there is a new mobile location, the Sanctuary. There is a token which marks the current location of the Sanctuary. There is also a different Sanctuary scoring board which tracks the defense value of the city. The Hunted have an additional way to win the game now – if they can move the marker to the final space on the track, they will win as they have developed a Sanctuary which is safe from the Creature’s attacks.
Setup is changed a bit – the base locations 6 to 10 are not used, and instead the same numbered locations from Sanctuary are used instead.The new Sanctuary board is added to the regular scoring board. The sanctuary token is placed on a random location between 1 and 5. Each player gets 2 Avatar cards, and one is chosen for the game. The Creature starts with a hand of Evolution cards as well. Two survivor cards are placed face up on the table as well.
The flow of the game is mostly the same as the base. The original four phases of the game play mostly the same, though the Sanctuary adds some changes to the Reckoning Phase. There is also a new phase added… The game is played over a number of turns, each of which now has FIVE phases: Exploration, Hunting, Reckoning, Cleanup, Evolution
In the exploration phase, the Hunted players each must place a Place card face down in front of them. Discussion is allowed, but it must be verbal (so that the Creature can hear). Bluffing is acceptable, but again, everything must be aloud. In this phase, Hunted players can discard one or two Will counters to retrieve 2 or 4 Place cards from the discard pile. If he has no more Will counters, he is forced to Give Up – he gets all his Will counters back, but the Assimilation counter is moved forward one space. It is recommended that Hunted Players keep their hands nearly full so that it is harder to predict/guess what card they are playing.
In the Hunting phase, the Creature gets to put one to three of his markers on the board. The Creature token is placed on any Place card, showing its chosen location. If this card has an Artemia symbol on it, the Creature can also place the Artemia marker. Finally, if a Hunt card is played this turn that requires a target location, the Target marker can also be added to the board.
In the Reckoning phase, the actions are resolved in this order.
- Unaffected spaces – Hunted players that are in a Place without a Creature marker in it can either use the power printed on their chosen Place OR choose to take one Place card back from his discard pile.
- Unaffected spaces adjacent to the Sanctuary token – the Hunted player could also choose to rescue a Survivor (instead of the above choices). ONe of the face up survivors is chosen, and uses the Survivor’s ability immediately.
- Unaffected spaces with the Sanctuary – The Hunted Player can choose to fortify the Sanctuary (instead of taking the action or drawing a card). The Sanctuary strength is increased one space automatically, and any face up Survivors in that player’s area can be discarded to advance the Sanctuary marker one space per discarded survivor. There are bonuses which can be gained for reaching certain spaces on this track.
- Hunted space – Now, all players who are on the Place with the Hunted token must suffer the effect of the Hunt card. Then, the players can use the Power of said Place card OR take one card back from their discard pile.
- Artemia space – Anyone on the Place card with the Artemia marker must discard one card from their hand and they do not get to use the power of the Place nor can they choose to take back a discarded card.
- Creature space – All players in the Place card with the Creature marker must lose a Will counter and the Assimilation counter is moved forward one space if anyone is caught (though only one space regardless of the number caught). Additionally, if any player loses their third and final Will counter, they must Give Up – getting back all their cards, all their Will counters, but the assimilation token will move forward an additional spot.
The Clean up phase isn’t really much of a phase. The Hunted Players all discard their card from this turn onto their discard piles, arranging them in a way that the Creature can see all the cards in that pile. The Creature then draws Hunt cards to bring his hand back up to 3.
Then before the next turn starts, there in a new phase, the Evolution Phase. The Sanctuary is first moved to the next higher location number – looping over to space 1 when it moves from the highest available number. At the start of the game, only Locations 1-5 are used, but if the Sanctuary marker is far enough along the track, you can then use Locations 6-10 as well.
The Creature then decides if it will evolve or rest. The creature play an Evolution card from his hand based on the cost shown on the card. A new Evolution card can be drawn into his hand for a single DNA marker. If the Creature would rather rest, it does none of the above actions and instead draws 3 DNA counters from the reserve, but the Sanctuary Defense Counter also moves forward one space.
The game ends immediately in favor of the Creature if the Assimilation counter reaches the Victory space. The game ends immediately in favor of the Hunted if the Rescue counter reaches the Victory space first. It is impossible for a tie to happen. The Hunted can also win if the Sanctuary marker makes it to the final space on that track.
My thoughts on the game
I missed the original release of the base game in 2016 as I wasn’t thrilled with the all vs one genre at that time, and when we played the base game earlier this year, it was a fine experience, but one that I wasn’t necessarily looking to repeat. Despite that, I did want to see if the expansion would improve the game, but for me, it seems to only add complexity and rules without changing the underlying format of the game – which is what I had the most issues with.
Though the rules may obfuscate the overall dynamic, this game is really just a dressed up version of RPS. (That’s rock-paper-scissors.) There are plenty of mind games going on here, because the Creature knows that I really want to go to the Swamp to replenish my hand, and I’ve made some passing mention of that in our discussion, but it’s really a feint because I’m hoping to entice the Creature to that space so I can instead go to the Lair. But the Creature is on to me, and he knows that, so he chooses the Lair. Good thing that I knew that he thought he knew what I knew, and I was able to safely go to the Swamp after all… Phew.
For me, It remains frustrating to not really be able to discuss plans as it must all be out loud, and when the Creature can hear, there’s obviously not a lot of secret planning to do, and sure I guess there is the double-think strategy of verbalizing a plan so that the Creature has to decide if you’re telling the truth or if you’re just spewing out some plans in order to make him think you’re going there when you’re really going somewhere else… Of course, the Creature can see your discards so he knows (in general) which cards you have left in your hand, and the Creature can certainly play the odds if nothing else once he knows what Places you are limited to… What this results in is not “all vs one” because the “all” team never really gets to work as a team. I’m guessing as much at the intents of my teammates as I am of the creature.
Overall the game works fine, but man, it feels like there isn’t a lot going on. In our group, we didn’t make too much discussion (again because the Creature can hear, and we’re not the sort of group to try to roleplay or discuss a fake/real plan)… So, we quickly choose cards in silence and then spend a few minutes resolving what happens. It almost feels as decision density light as Descent (where I once spent an entire afternoon making about ten decisions, four of which were so obvious that I didn’t really think about anything). At least one of the Hunted really enjoyed the mind games of trying to outthink/outplay the Creature, so I know that there is a market for this sort of game.
The expansion bits do add some complexity and some extra abilities. In the positive sense, maybe I have a slight increase in information to help guess/divine/anticipate what the other players will do – but I don’t know if the payoff is worth the extra effort. I still feel like I’m guessing at what everyone is going to do – and for a game like that, I’d prefer the more streamlined rules of the original.
For me, my gut feeling in 2016 still holds true – this sort of game just isn’t for me – now confirmed twice in 2021. There doesn’t seem to be enough decision space in the game for my tastes, and true enjoyment of this game probably requires a group that is into roleplaying, bluffing, and things like Werewolf. And those traits are clearly not ones that I have. The game seems to be well balanced, and I think this would be a really interesting game with a group that likes the mind games and/or social deduction games. However, for those gamers that like those things, the added complexity here may give the game a slight boost. If nothing else, the changes give a bit of flexibility and increased replay value due to the increased number of cards/components. But, I’d only recommend this expansion if you really liked the way the original game played; because in the end, that overarching experience doesn’t change. Many of my European friends rave about this game, and I’m sure that one of them will be thrilled when I send them my review copy!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor