I was not old enough to see the movie The Thing on the big screen in 1982. I had to wait about 6 years later when a High School friend rented it. The Thing seemed just the right kind of wrong to me. Disembodied heads growing legs and eye stalks, and gaping maws opening in a man chest seemed to emulate my love of the macabre and Lovecraft. This brings us to today’s review, The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31.
The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 (henceforth referred to as The Thing) is a social deduction game for 4-8 players. It plays in about 60-90 minutes and plays best with 6-8 players.
In The Thing, most players will play a human who want to clear all three sectors of the outpost and then get on the helicopter to escape. Some player(s) will play an Imitation who want to move the Contagion Level up, destroy the outpost before it’s cleared, or to stow away on the helicopter. All roles are kept hidden until the end of the game.
During setup, each player will get a Blood Sample card to determine who is Human and who is an Imitation.
After setup is complete play begins:
A game round consists of a few steps, but the main action is through missions. The Captain draws a mission log card and gathers a team of players to go in it. Each player secretly hands in a Supply Card, which are shuffled and revealed. If the numbers are high enough, the team is successful and they reveal the room chip, if not, the contagion level increases. Room chips will be either Gear, Discards, or force a battle with The Thing.
When they Battle The Thing, players follow the previous steps but instead, the Captain uses Supply cards to roll dice to roll 3 or 4 of a kind depending on The Thing level. If they fail the Contagion Level increases.
When an Objective Tracker section is filled through mission successes, a new Sector is unlocked. When a new Sector is unlocked the current Captain deals cards from the Blood Sample deck. If a Human is dealt an Imitation Card they are now an Imitation and their goals change.
If players are able to fill the Objective Tracker for all Sectors, then this starts the end game and the current Captain checks the Contagion Level. This determines if there can be any final Blood Tests. If so, the Captain can select player(s) to reveal their Blood Sample Cards.
The Captain also selects which players to be on the helicopter depending on the player count. Once players are on the helicopter, they all reveal their blood sample cards. If all players are Human, the Humans win, if any player is an Imitation, then the Imitations win.
Let me start with saying that I’m a big fan of social deduction and hidden traitor games. The Thing does an excellent job in both aspects. Whether you’re playing a Human or an Imitation, you’re playing a role and trying convincing other players you’re Human.
To be honest, playing an Imitation is much more enjoyable to me because, much like other hidden traitor games, you’re trying to convince other players you’re just like them. If you’re assigned to a team, you’ve got to be very subtle.
The Thing also gives all players a sense of rising tension. As a Human, the outpost is slowly being destroyed and Contagion tracker is rising, and causing Fallout in the current Sector. Even when the Humans have success and unlock a new Sector, one or two Humans could now become an Imitation. When you’re Imitation, its similar hidden traitor tension as other games, you’re doing what you can to not be found out and you’re always trying to throw suspicion elsewhere.
Another big plus for me is that The Thing does an excellent job at emulating the 1982 movie. As soon as you open the box and look over all the components, it’s like stepping into the movie. Also, as the game begins, all players start in the rec-room trying to decide what their next steps are going to be, which places you in the tensest part of the film.
As much as I like The Thing I do have to admit my first game was with 4-players and I didn’t like the game with that count at all. Actually, The Thing should not be played at 4 players, because there seems to be too few Mission Log cards and discovering who the Imitation was seemed fairly easy after about 3-4 turns. Also, there seems to be more passes than fails and there’s a lack of tension because the Contagion tracker didn’t move much. The Thing is much better with 5+ players and seems best with 6-8 players.
Another aspect that can be viewed as a negative is that luck of the draw and dice rolls can create unexpected swings in the game. For example, rooms with smoke or fire require a player to have a fire extinguisher, if no one has one or they claim not to, the room is destroyed and Imitation victory is closer. The same is true with bad dice rolling when battling The Thing. The Supply cards do add dice but do not modify the roles.
I was a huge fan of the 1982 movie: The Thing and I can say the same of the board game The Thing. The excellent rising tensions and emulating the look and feel of the 1982 film won me over and this game will stay in my collection for a while. Like most social deduction and hidden traitor games, this one is a social poker game where you’re trying to convince everyone that you’re Human, even when you’re Human or not.
If you’re not a fan of social deduction and hidden traitor games then you’re likely not the “right” kind of player for The Thing. For those who are, avoid playing this one at the 4-player count game because it lacked tension and seemed too easy. I’m sure like me and my group you will get over the swings of luck and still have a great time with The Thing.
Final Score: 4.0 Stars – A great social deduction and hidden traitor game that closely captures the tension the 1982 movie.
• Should not be played with 4 players
• Luck can be significant
• Need the “right” players