TTRPG Review - Alien: Fate of the Nostromo
By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
As you may know, a handful of Stack Up folks attended Gen Con this year, and I was more than ecstatic to be one of them. There were so many games that caught my attention, but for now, I want to focus on one of my most anticipated games - Alien: Fate of the Nostromo.
For all its faults in later installments, the Alien franchise is one of my favorites of all time. Though I’m a fan of all kinds of horror, that tense isolation and hopeless desperation coupled with the fear of the unknown, all packaged up in a gritty sci-fi setting, make Alien something truly special. While there are many successful and drastically unsuccessful adaptations and continuations of the Alien universe, Ravensburger decided to go with something we already know and love. In this instance, I believe it paid off extremely well.
I didn’t get a chance to demo the game at Gen Con this year, but I secured my own copy and was able to run through the game with a full five-person crew at our most recent Stack event. Alien: Fate of the Nostromo is a cooperative game for one to five players and is essentially your chance to play through the first movie, possibly changing the outcome depending on your choices and objectives. You have the option to play as one of five crew members: Ripley, Parker, Lambert, Dallas, or Brett. Each person has their own number of actions they can take, including a special action unique to them. You draw a number of objective cards based on the amount of players, and your goal is to complete these objectives, and a final objective before either the Xenomorph causes you to lose all morale or the Nostromo self-destructs. The core game leaves the synthetic science officer Ash out of the equation but comes with the option to include him for greater difficulty.
Each player takes their turn, using the number of actions available to them to move, craft items, pick up/drop items, and complete group objectives by doing all the former. After each person’s turn, they draw an encounter card. There are a few different types of encounters, some more severe than others. Each encounter may allow the Xenomorph to move about the ship and/or add or take away scrap from the board. “Quiet” encounters are the least of your worries, but the interesting thing here is that, as the game progresses, the heavier encounters get shuffled back into the draw deck, leaving the Quiet encounters discarded, which gradually and masterfully ups the tension of the game.
The gameplay itself is fairly simple, but making choices in the game are often anything but. A large part of the game is collecting and crafting items and consumables. Choosing when to craft these items, save your scrap for objectives, help others, or help yourself can quickly lead to analysis paralysis and plays right into the tense theme with ease. The crew will encounter items and resources to craft around the ship, but will also have to deal with concealment tokens that may hide nothing at all, that little shit Jonesy (the cat), or the Alien itself, both the latter causing you to lose precious morale. If your chances of survival don’t already seem low enough for you, toss Ash in the mix, and he’ll run around trying to hamstring your progress by stealing valuable scrap and lowering morale as well (though you will have his sympathies).
I also had the chance to run through the game solo. If you’re familiar with previous articles, you know I highly value good solo tabletop experiences. So far, I wouldn’t say the game is lacking in solo mode but may need some tweaking on your part to dial in a good challenge. In my experience, I was able to quickly complete all objectives, including the final mission, with minimal dings to my morale. I chose to play with Dallas, as he has no special ability but clocks in with 5 actions per turn, being the most of anyone and left Ash out of it. If playing solo, I suggest adding Ash to the mix and play around with different crew members to tweak the difficulty, as some have special abilities clearly intended for cooperative play, and others seem more optimal flying solo.
I believe the complexity of the game’s mechanics are dialed in almost perfectly. It’s fairly simple to learn and play, yet it could have bogged things down and taken away from the tension and atmosphere if it were made any more complex. However, if it were simplified any further, it may have ended up feeling phoned-in or cheesy. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it should or “too big for its britches.” In our experience, the intensity was built throughout the game almost perfectly in step with its cinematic counterpart. We started our playthrough very confidently, almost thinking it may end up being too easy. By the end, our confidence ended up being our undoing, and though we were so close to achieving our goals, we ran out of morale as the alien’s relentless advances whittled us down to nothing. It was an emotional rollercoaster and thoroughly engaging from start to finish, making for an experience many other games hope to achieve, and one I look forward to coming back to very soon. Honestly, I give it ten facehuggers out of ten.
Check your local game shop; if unavailable there, you can find it at major retailers such as Target. Alien: Fate of the Nostromo should only set you back a modest $30.