Dominion Strategy Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Pages: [1]

Author Topic: Overview and First Impressions: Not Alone  (Read 1847 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Adventurer
  • ******
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8689
  • Respect: +9184
    • View Profile
Overview and First Impressions: Not Alone
« on: January 02, 2017, 01:07:15 am »

The first game I played in 2017 was Not Alone.  I've played it 5.5 times now and it is already one of my best purchases of 2016.

Rules Summary

Not Alone is a 1 vs. many game where one alien creature hunts up to 6 other players who have been shipwrecked on its planet.  It is a relatively simple game of cat and mouse, hide and seek, risk and reward.  The goal for the Hunted is to survive long enough to be rescued; the goal for the Creature is to keep them there and assimilate them into the planet.  The board is a simple track with two token starting on either end.  As the game progresses, both the Rescue token and the Assimilation token will advance inward toward the same goal space that marks victory for one side.

Each of the Hunted starts with the same 5 Place cards in their hands, representing 5 locations on the planet that they can explore.  Each round has 4 phases, and in the first phase the Hunted players decide where they will be going.  Each one plays a Place card from their hand face down.  They are free to discuss and make plans, but the Creature gets to hear everything.  Each Place has a different effect that can help the Hunted survive and move closer to rescue.

After those decisions have been made, phase 2 lets the Creature go on the hunt, putting the Creature token (and possibly others) on one Place where it will stalk its prey.

Phase 3 is the reveal and resolution.  Going to the left from the Creature, each player resolves the effect of the Place they have chosen.  But if any players were caught by the Creature then that Place is ineffective, the Assimilation token moves forward 1, and the caught players lose 1 Will each (more on that soon).

Phase 4 is clean up.  The Creature gets its tokens back, the played Place cards are discarded, and the Rescue token advances 1 for another day survived.  The Creature also draws back up to 3 Hunt cards (these cards confer special effects, many allowing the Creature to place an extra token to further hinder the Hunted; the Creature can play only one per turn at any time during the phase listed on the card).

Maintaining the will to live is important when you're stranded on a hostile alien planet.  Each player has 3 Will tokens.  If you ever lose all your Will, then you must Give Up and the Assimilation token advances further (and then you get those 3 tokens and all your Place cards back).  You also have the option to Give Up at the start of Phase 1 for the same effect.  Alternatively, you can choose to Resist, losing 1 or 2 Will in order to retrieve 2 or 4 Place cards into your hand.  Losing will is costly, but it may be necessary lest you become too easy to find.

This is because the Hunted will lose options as the game continues if they aren't careful with their hand management.  The Place cards that have been discarded remain face up.  When the Creature knows where you've already been, it becomes easier to determine where you may go next!  There are only so many ways to get those cards back into your hand.

The Places are all pretty simple.  I think I can remember them all off the top of my head.  In addition to the usual effects, you can also just take back 1 Place card instead (unless the Place is rendered ineffective that turn).

1. The Lair.  You can choose to retrieve all discarded cards (which means not the Lair itself, as it isn't discarded until phase 4) OR copy the power of the Place with the Creature token.  However, if the Creature catches you here, you lose 2 will instead of the usual 1.

2. The Jungle.  You immediately return the Jungle to your hand and also retrieve one other Place card.

3. The River.  Next turn, you play two Place cards instead of one, returning one to your hand in phase 3 before revealing.

4. The Beach.  You either charge the beacon (putting a marker on the Beach) or use the beacon (removing the marker) to advance the Rescue token 1 space.  This can only be used once per turn (so multiple people going to the Beach on the same turn is inefficient).

5. The Rover.  You can add an advanced Place to your hand!

The Hunted can't visit Places 6-10 initially, but some may gain access via the Rover.  There aren't enough copies of these cards for all of the Hunted to gain each one though.

6. The Swamp.  You immediately return the Swamp to your hand and also retrieve TWO other Place cards.

7. The Shelter.  You draw 2 Survival cards, keeping 1 and discarding the other.  (Survival cards have special effects to aid the Hunted and can be played at any time during the phase listed on the card.  Each Hunted starts the game with 1 Survival card.)

8. The Wreck.  You move the Rescue token 1 space forward, max once per turn.

9. The Source.  One Hunted of your choice regains 1 Will, or you draw a Survivor card.

10. The Artefect.  Next turn, you play 2 Place cards and resolve both of them!

And that's it!  When either the Rescue token or the Assimilation token reaches the marked space, the game ends.


I don't know how it comes across in the rules summary, but the game is remarkably simple but also extremely immersive.  I've played both sides and they both feel tense but fun with many chances to outwit, trap and be the hero, and just as many to be outwitted, trapped, and become the victim.

My first 2.5 plays had some minor rules mistakes.  A friend had played before so he taught the game, and I only discovered the errors later after reading the rules on my own.  The 0.5 is for the middle game where one rule mistake had a major impact -- we thought that the Assimilation token moved forward for each Hunted caught, rather than just moving once if any Hunted are caught.  Three times in the first four turns, the same 2 players went to the same Place and were caught.  That game ended very quickly.

Game 1: early lead for the Hunted, but the Creature caught up and pulled out the win at the end.

Game 2: quick Creature victory thanks to that rules misunderstanding and some major bad luck.

Game 3: Valiant effort by the Creature, but a fairly solid Hunted victory.

The next three plays were with a different group.

Game 4: extremely close game that ended with a victory for the Hunted, but the Creature (me!) was only 1 space away.  In retrospect, I believe I could have won if I had paid slightly more attention.

Game 5: Solid victory for the Creature, who managed to catch out two Hunted fairly often.

Game 6: Solid victory for the Hunted, who managed to evade the Creature on most turns.

Overall, it feels incredibly well balanced.  Victory or defeat doesn't feel too random, but depends a lot on figuring out where the Hunted can go, want to go, and need to go, and then playing around that.  Maybe you really need to go to the Beach, but everyone knows that so it may actually be a better play to NOT go to the Beach, since obviously the Creature will go there.  But then there's the WIFOM -- the Creature knows you know that it should be going to the Beach, so nobody will actually go to the Beach, so the Creature will go elsewhere... so the Beach will be clear, right?

I do have a concern that the strength of the Creature may be unduly influenced by the randomly drawn Hunt cards.  As I recall, the games where the Creature won featured Hunt cards that allowed the Creature to target adjacent locations with a special token, thereby vastly increasing its chance of blocking multiple players.  It's too early to tell though, and it's worth noting that I didn't get any of the "adjacent" Hunt cards in the very closest game we had (Game 4 above).

I also think that there's a lot of room for clever team play by the Hunted.  In all 6 games we played, the Hunted chose their Places in relative silence, rarely discussing plans.  I think we/they were always afraid to let slip plans in front of the Creature.  Thinking on it now though, there are plenty of plans worth making.  A very simple one: "I may go to the Beach this turn, so nobody else go to the Beach!"

There were some cards with slightly ambiguous effects, but they aren't too tough to house rule.  After reading through some of the rules questions on BGG, I think we houseruled too much in favour of the Hunted.

Anyway, I highly recommend this game.  Plays up to 7(!), pretty easy to teach and learn, engaging and fun, and it offers a relatively uncommon experience as a 1 vs. many game.  It's great!


  • Apprentice
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 274
  • Highest Rank/Rating: 58/5600
  • Respect: +136
    • View Profile
Re: Overview and First Impressions: Not Alone
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2017, 01:10:22 am »

Love seeing board game reviews, good work.
"If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything." - William Lyon Phelps
Pages: [1]

Page created in 0.042 seconds with 21 queries.