I imagine few things are as isolating as living at the south pole, inside a research base with only a handful of people. This is the situation you find yourself in during The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, a deduction game from The OP and Mondo Games. As you might have guessed, this game is based on the 1982 horror classic The Thing from John Carpenter. Not only is this one of my top 5 horror movies of all times, but this game in particular is one that hits the table every Halloween season.
There’s an Alien Among Us
Players start the game by choosing a character from the movie. Their divided up by 3 classes (Ops., Science or Maintenance) and each character has a special ability that will come in handy for the team. You don’t need to know the movie to enjoy the game, but fans of The Thing will probably go for their favorite character.
Everyone starts with a couple pieces of equipment along with a blood sample card which lets you know if you’re human or an “imitation”. Keep this info secret and be cautious in how you play because every action will be scrutinized by your team.
At different player counts, the number of imitations at the table can be different. During the game, there will be moments where it’s possible for another member of the team to become an imitation and this is based on a random dealing of blood sample cards. It’s incredibly tense knowing that the number of opponents is growing when you’re on the human team. But, there’s also the tiny possibility that the number of imitations stays the same.
The odds are incredibly low that this could happen, but it literally happened to us last year. Somehow, the extra imitation card just happened to be dealt to the only player with an imitation card on two different occasions. This caused a paranoia at the table that ran rampant. Everyone was accusing everyone else while a single player sat back knowing they were alone and watching us fight.
Failure is not an Option
In each round, one person at the table will fill the role as the captain before choosing a mission card. Mission cards will give the captain information on which classes of character are needed for the mission and the criteria to be successful. Success comes in the form of getting the correct cards during the mission or hitting a specific value on the cards that are submitted.
Equipment cards or sabotage cards are submitted facedown. The captain will shuffle these so that no card can be associated with a player at the table. The captain then looks at the cards and they are allowed to substitute a card based on what they have seen. Following the instructions for the mission, you will either win or lose that task as a team. Anytime sabotage cards show up, players get up in arms and the accusations start flying.
Succeeding in a mission will give the captain a new piece unique item to use in the game. Failing a mission makes future turns harder by bringing harm to the facility and taking away opportunities to reveal the imitation(s) later in the game. Failing missions, especially early on, is heartbreaking. It’s an uphill battle that will either unite people at the table or make people say “What are we doing?”
Don’t Let the Aliens Win
As you tackle missions room-by-room, you’ll eventually run into The Thing and have to do battle. Battles result in rolling dice based on the equipment that was submitted during the encounter. Ultimately there are goals that need to be fulfilled to move the game forward. The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 comes to an end if too many missions are failed (imitations win), 4 rooms are destroyed (imitations win) or players reach the Escape phase which allows them to board the helicopter.
The final captain will get the chance to bring players they believe are humans onto the rescue helicopter. If a single imitation is on the helicopter, humanity is doomed and the imitation(s) win. If all humans are on board, humanity survives. Eat that you alien scum!
It’s Hard Being Human
One of the biggest critiques of this game is how difficult it is being a human in the game. As an imitation, you can lay low during much of the game, playing along as a human and not drawing attention. You want to be “part of the team” as much as possible. Because of the access to equipment cards, it’s rare to be stuck in the situation that forces you to play a sabotage card. Table talk is super important as the captain makes decisions on who should come on the missions from round to round. The humans almost have to push to make the imitation step out of the shadows.
The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 has a fantastic theme and the tension is felt every time you play this game. I really like how characters are associated with a class and how the mission cards dictate which classes are needed for each task. It’s rare that the team can constantly leave a player behind mission after mission. If players do believe that someone is an imitation, using rope to tie them up and keeping them from being a captain is a great option.
In 2021, the second edition of this game was published after being out of print for more than 2 years. This means people can now purchase the game without paying 3 to 4 times the retail price on the second-hand market. The second edition of the game is relatively the same, with the number of blood tests allowed at the end of the game being adjusted (which was the right decision). NOTE: These photos are all from the first edition of this game.
Everyone is “SUS”
Even though The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is one of my favorite deduction games, the game isn’t without its issues. The rulebook almost feels like they are over describing mechanics, making it feel more complex than it actually is. It took a good 3 reads before I felt comfortable teaching a group of players. Equally frustrating is when the rulebook doesn’t feel clear. I ended up retreating to the Board Game Geek forums quite a bit in our first couple games.
While the box says that the game plays 4 to 8 players, you couldn’t convince me to play the game at the 4 player count. The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 shines at 6 or 7 players and it’s about the only way I like to play.
One of the biggest strengths of this game is how quickly the game plays and how it keeps players engaged. If you’re not going on a mission during a turn, you can swap out an equipment card with the deck. This game has genuinely caused players to cheer at the table as die rolls defeat The Thing in later rounds.
Back in 2020, the digital game Among Us hit the mainstream on every mobile device in the world. We were able to get our teenage kids into the game because of the similarities to Among Us. It was so cool seeing the kids invite a friend over and introduce them to The Thing.
As the cooler temperatures roll in, this is one of the games I’m most excited to bring to the table again. If your family or gaming group is looking for a game with lots of tension and deduction, this might be a great add to your game collection.
You can purchase the 2nd edition of The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 at The OP webstore or through Amazon today.
- Miniatures and nicely designed board immerse players
- Characters from the movie along with captain abilities are a nice touch
- Tension and paranoia are totally present in this game
- The game keeps players engaged throughout the game
- “Imitation” players don’t have to do much to succeed
- Possible to be over zealous and eliminate a player too early
- Needs a higher player count to enjoy