TableTopTakes: Not Alone
One of the harder genres of games to get to the table tend to be one versus all games. Fairly often these games are bigger dungeon crawls and they take time to set-up and teach. Not Alone is a small game where one person can take on a crew of a crashed spaceship in this quick cat and mouse game.
In Not Alone one person plays as the planet and the monster on it where a space ship has crash landed, stranding it’s crew. The crew needs to explore the planet and survive until they can get off of it, but the monster doesn’t want that. On each turn, all plays can discuss where they want to go and will play cards face down for the location that they are going to go, they can split up however they want. However, all discussions need to be able to be heard by the person playing the monster. Then the monster will pick a location as to where they are going to go, blocking off and hurting the people who went to that location, but everyone else gets to take the actions of their locations. However, the monster, when they select has ways to manipulate where they are, where people are actually going, or to cause more places to be bad spots for the players to go. As the monsters get crew members, they progress on their track, while the players are trying out last and do a few things to speed up how fast their rescue ship is coming.
This game is a clever cat and mouse game where the players don’t want to accidentally all end up going to the same place and getting caught by the monster, but talking about it and planning can mean that the monster will better understand the strategy. So how much information do you talk around the table is an interesting piece to the game. Plus, cards being discarded and the monster being able to see what starting cards might be left for the crew, it means that sometimes it’s fairly obvious where someone is going to go. The best example of this is the beach as to why you want to discuss. At the beach, you can either light a beacon or use the lit beacon to help speed up the ship, but only one of those actions can be taken on a given turn. So if three crew members go to the beach, you’re wasting two peoples actions there.
Another piece of this game that I like is that the monster can get the crew, but when a crew member dies, that doesn’t mean the person is out of the game. Think of it as Star Trek with their seemingly unlimited number of red shirts. They are getting sent out of the crashed ship every time another crew member dies, so there is no player elimination in the game. However, dying is still bad, not surprisingly, because that means that the monster is getting closer to their goal which is based off of hurting crew members and killing crew members. So, if you aren’t careful, even though you won’t be out of the game, you can be speeding the monster on their way to victory.
Final piece that I want to talk about is the monster cards and ability cards. The game gives everyone a chance to feel unique. There is technology and things that can be scavenged from ship, so that means that as a crew member you’ll be able to be unique. But the monster definitely has more fun cards. There are a number of different things, where a monster can force people to discard cards, or maybe the monster can go to two locations or do something to make the planet block off a spot for players for a round. But the players might not know where that’s going to be, as the monster gets to place after everyone has picked their locations. The cards do interesting things, and you won’t ever go through all the monster cards in a single game, so even if you have played a lot before, the monster is going to feel different depending on the cards drawn, when they are drawn and the strategy of the person playing the monster.
This is a really enjoyable game for me. I like the cat and mouse nature from both sides of the game. I think I’ve played it six or seven times at this point, and about half of them I’ve been the monster, and generally, since I’ll be teaching it as well, once we’ve played once with myself as the monster, someone else will want to play again and try being the monster themselves. I also have the expansion for this, but I haven’t played that yet, but I’m excited to try it soon. When a one versus all game can make it fun to play both sides, I think that’s a good thing for the game, and because Not Alone is a pretty straight forward game as to how it works, after a play, people can figure out how to play the monster, and I think, if someone wanted to be the monster on their first play, it wouldn’t be hard to teach them that as well.
Now, if there were a downside for the game, and I do know people who don’t like it nearly as much as I do, it’s that the game is stressful, and that’s intentional for the game. As the crew, you are worried about the monster catching you and dying, and even though you come back, if the monster is on the same wavelength that you are, you can feel like your letting down the team. I think for some people that is going to turn them off from the game, and the fact that it is only a card game, so it might feel like it’s heavier than the components suggest, though, I would not call it a heavy game.
Finally, let’s quickly mention the theme. I think that the theme is a lot of fun. People know the concept of being stranded on a planet or an island, so there is something for them to grasp onto. If someone has seen Predator, they can get even more into the theme, because that’s a lot what the game feels like, someone has crashed on the Predator planet, because there isn’t much that the crew can do to the monster. Is it a massively thematic game, I think that it’s more thematic than not, and while you can definitely get into the strategy and count cards, the game works best when people are enjoying the theme.
Overall, I really do enjoy this game. I like how much it packs in, in terms of tension , for the small package that the game has. I like the them, those survival on an alien world movies and shows are fun for me. I also like that it’s a larger group game without it being a party game or social deduction game. The cat and mouse feel of the game definitely sets it a part and definitely makes it seem heavier than most games of that it’s size.
Overall Grade: A
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B
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