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Game Review

Alien Invasion USATM

Ages 12 and up
Immersion Games
Game © 2002 Immersion Games
game setup

2-4 Players2 hours


Aliens have landed in the town of Hodung -- the townspeople must find the aliens before the aliens can take over.


To begin, players choose the group they will play -- one player must be the townspeople and one player must be aliens. In a three player game, there are two sets of competing aliens. When four players are playing, the fourth player must be government agents.

Setup consists of dealing out character cards to the townspeople and aliens. Aliens choose three of their townspeople to be their starter set of aliens, one of these three is marked as the "master". The alien identities are hidden by placing the character cards in some card sheaths. The townspeople player, likewise chooses one special character to be their "star". Government agents have other special abilities and rules, so they appear to start out with fewer forces.

The board tiles are placed randomly on the table, into a 4 by 4 square. The character pawns are then placed in specific starting positions as indicated by the rule book.

Players choose who goes first. (Actually the rules specify that the player who's eyes glow brightest in the dark goes first... we turned out the lights to find out, but no one could see -- so we resorted to "rock, paper, scissors.")

Players display the townspeople cards in front of them. The characters may only be moved by the player who controls their card.

Turns flow in the following pattern:

  1. Move up to three characters you control -- one space each.

  2. Perform a special action (Townspeople & Agents test for aliens, Aliens "sneak attack")

  3. Openly fight to subdue a character

  4. Take one towns person card from an opponent and put it in front of you.

The game centers on the special actions. For townspeople, the primary action is to test for aliens. This is done by moving more than one character to a location with a red label. Labels are things like "cold" and "noise". When tested, the Alien players draw a special reaction chip (reaction or no effect). Once the reaction is known, anytime one of the alien characters is in contact with an item that produces the effect labeled in red, they are revealed as aliens. If the characters being tested aren't alien, or are not affected by the test, the alien players say nothing and keep the reaction their secret (until a later test is made.) Once a reaction is known, townspeople may collect items that will detect the aliens by producing this effect -- but the items are only available on certain places on the board.

For Aliens, the primary special action is "sneak attack" -- to do this, the alien player draws an attack card (a set of cards with the character's pictures). If the character on the card is alone, and the alien player has a character who has not yet been revealed to be alien then they may make an attempt to sneak attack. A set of numbered chips is put into a cup, the alien player draws a chip. If the number on the chip is higher than the number on the towns person, then the attack works and there is a new secret alien. If it fails, then one of the unrevealed aliens is exposed and the pawn is moved to the same place on the board as the attack's target.

The Star cannot be sneak attacked.

An alien is only revealed in four circumstances -- 1) they choose to fight openly; 2) they choose not to be moved by an opponent; 3) they react to an item; or 4) they fail a sneak attack attempt.

Fights are usually one character versus another. Once an alien is known, then the townspeople may attack the alien. Prior to that, only an alien may initiate a fight. Fighting is resolved by adding the number on the character (attack strength) to a die roll. Both opposing characters roll the die, and the highest roll wins. (There are additional bonuses if multiple characters of the same type are together -- for example, 3 aliens gang up on one towns person, the aliens get a bonus in the fight. If the alien wins the fight, the towns person becomes a revealed alien. If a towns person wins the fight, the alien is subdued and must be dragged to a sheriff, deputy, or to the sheriff's office. Government Agents need to drag subdued aliens to their black van.

Master Aliens and the Star get a +1 bonus when fighting.

To win, the Aliens and Agents need to get victory points. Victory points are equivalent to the attack strength of the characters they have subdued or controlled. The number of points needed to win varies depending upon the number of players. The townspeople player wins by capturing the master aliens.

Board closeup

everyone is a suspect

Winning Conditions:

  • Townspeople: subdue and secure the master aliens

  • Aliens: control townspeople -- total victory points of 50 (2 player), 40 (3 player) or 35 (4 player)

  • Government Agents: capture 8 victory points of aliens from each alien opponent.

Our Opinion:

Thumbs Down!Based of of the game's theme and the hope provided in reading the rules, we really wanted to like this game. The Zombies are all sci-fi fans, and this game is a favorite theme for us. Unfortunately, after a few attempts at actually playing the game, we found that it just wasn't fun to play.

We played using rules labeled version 2.0 -- There may be later revisions of the rules if you check the website.

When you read the rules, you get the sense that this game is an attempt to recreate a movie. This did not translate into good gameplay. Play is slow. Each time we played, there was little doubt as to which player would win after a few turns as the games tended to consist of one player gaining an upper hand numerically and the advantage never really goes away. A lot of our best strategies were thwarted by bad die rolls (or marker draws.)

The rules have a few holes in them. The largest hole is that an alien player cannot choose to reveal themselves at will. If no other player attempts to move, test, or attack your towns person -- and you do not control the character card which allows you to move, then you cannot use your forces the way you would like. This was particularly nasty when the Master Alien was uncovered on the third game turn, and was subsequently subdued because the other aliens were unable to reveal themselves to counter the situation. The second major hole is in the manner in which sneak attacks are played. The alien player has no choice as to whom they are attacking -- the random card rules the choice. This wouldn't be bad except that any savvy townspeople player will congregate as fast as they can to nullify this advantage. If townspeople aren't alone...the attack cannot occur, and the Alien player misses out on the use of their special ability. Finally, of the major holes, the last is a "What-if" scenario -- If the sheriff (or deputy) is an alien, does dragging a defeated alien to them still count? The rules do not say -- yet it happened in one of our games.

During play, we found the rules to be overwhelming. we constantly were referring back to the book to clarify how to play. Alien players have to keep a lot of details straight in their minds in order to play properly. They need to know when to react to items, and when not to react. They also have to worry about if a sneak attack is possible -- simply put, there are so many conditions, the Alien player can't enjoy the game because they are lost in the rule book.

The game isn't all bad. The theme was nice, the setup was good. When you read the rules and the box, players really want to like it. The game just didn't live up to that fantasy image in a sci-fi fan's brain.

If you have a serious fan of "The X-files", this might be a game for them. But, it's not a great pick for a casual game night.

SPECIAL ADDITION 5/5/2003: I have received some correspondence from Immersion Games -- they will be correcting their rules after having read this review. The most important change will be that the Alien player may reveal an alien character voluntarily. This rule change alone will improve the game play as compared to how our review games were played. If you are interested in this game, make sure that you get the MOST RECENT version.

Where to buy:

The only place to buy this game is online at Immersion Games. As of April 2003, it costs $30.

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