Game Length: 45-60 minutes
The original 1979 Alien film remains a masterpiece of horror filmmaking, taking the slasher genre into the terrifying confines of a spaceship, and utilizing a now classic monster design in the Xenomorph. Over 40 years later, Ravensburger has released Alien: Fate of the Nostromo, a cooperative tabletop game where the crew of the doomed ship run around crafting items, completing objectives, and avoiding the creature hunting them.
The Perfect Organism
In the film, the crew of the Nostromo are hunted and killed one-by-one, but the board game is more cooperative and family-friendly. To start, everyone chooses from the five crew members, each with their own special abilities and number of actions they can perform in a turn. Actions include moving around the ship, picking up scrap, and crafting and using items, such as motion detectors and electric prods. Having the likenesses of the actors is a real treat, and a marked improvement from the Jaws board game.
The goal is to complete a number of randomly drawn objectives scaled to the number of players, most of which involve creating items from scrap collected on the map, and bringing those items to certain rooms. Or it could involve bringing the entire crew to a single location. Players are thus encouraged to split up but still work together, an effective way of recreating the horror-slasher narrative.
When the game begins, the alien has already busted out of Kane, and begins in a corner of the Nostromo board, a large map with over a dozen interconnected rooms and hallways. That’s the other big change from the movie: the players actually know where the Alien is at all times.
After each player’s turn, an encounter card is drawn, most of which move the alien toward the nearest crew member. If the alien encounters a crew member (or vice-versa) the entire team loses morale, which represents the collective health of the group. If morale reaches zero, the players lose.
The one aspect that recreates the Alien’s hunting skills and jump-scares from the film are the concealed tokens. Whenever a non-Alien encounter card places scrap in a room (which is common), a randomly drawn concealed token is also placed. Whenever a player enters that room, the token is revealed, which could include the alien popping out to attack, and ending that player’s turn. It’s a nasty effect, though the powerful crafted items can help overcome many of the Alien’s movement and attacks.
Blow it into Space
The gameplay is a standard pick up and deliver, action-based co-op game with an enemy roaming around, which is exactly how I would describe 2019’s Horrified board game, also published by Ravensburger. Unfortunately for Fate of the Nostromo, Horrified is a superior co-op monster game thanks to its unique and varied monsters, all of which had their own win conditions.
Instead of a standard round tracker, the alien encounter deck becomes more deadly as time passes. The Quiet cards, which add scrap and concealed tokens, are gradually discarded, while the Alien cards are periodically reshuffled back into the deck thanks to one particularly awful card called Lost Signal, which adds a conceal token to every single room of the ship! Drawing this card too frequently can wildly affect the difficulty, as well as adding the optional variant of Ash the traitorous android who roams the map discarding scrap.
Fate of the Nostromo does have one standout feature: the final missions. The final missions are a random selection of five ending objectives inspired by major scenes from the movie. One is revealed whenever the other objectives are completed, dictating how the climax pans out. It’s not exactly Betrayal at House on the Hill in terms of changing the entire endgame halfway through, but it does add a welcome layer of panicked late-game planning as we scramble to reach a certain location or gather certain items.
Even then, I have yet to lose a game after devising a defensive strategy, with at least one crew member always playing defense with the flashlight and electric prod to reduce the Alien’s morale loss. Playing with more characters is more enjoyable, though a solo player can just as easily run multiple characters, making Fate of the Nostromo a great solo game.
Although the film is rated R, Fate of the Nostromo has a recommended age of 10+. The alien itself is featured prominently on the cards but there’s no gore or violence, nor do characters actually get hurt. Instead characters track fear using the morale track.
Fans of the film will get a big kick out of the player cards with actor likenesses, the lovely board map of the Nostromo spaceship, and the excellent art work that depicts the characters and infamous scenes of the movie, but the Fate of the Nostromo follows a standard co-op formula that feels very been there, done that for tabletop veterans. The rulebook leaves a lot of annoying questions and confusion, and the lack of character elimination (such as in Jurassic Park Danger) makes the monster-fleeing feel more like a Scooby-Do kids game than space-horror. Unless I’m playing with diehard Alien fans, I will still recommend Horrified as my go-to co-op monster game.
Find Alien: Fate of the Nostromo at Target.