The Thing originally came out in cinemas in 1982, but the general public wasn’t interested in this bleak tale of an invading alien entity. They went gaga over a different, more friendly alien, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The Thing was a flop. Since then, due to the advent of video, DVD, and other home media, the film has become the classic it always deserved to be. This story about an alien organism infesting an Antarctic research base, and imitating the scientists that work there is a masterpiece of paranoia. Who can you trust? It is one of my favourite films and sits proudly in my top 5 films of all time. But wait a minute, what has The Thing got to do with this legally distinct expansion to Final Girl? Panic at Station 2891 is The Thing. It's as simple as that. I doubt there’s a lawyer anywhere who could argue the contrary. Is that a bad thing? Certainly not.
What Is It All About
The Final Girl system is based on the designer’s previous game Hostage Negotiator. It is a solo-only game, but I play it with my wife, taking turns at rolling the dice and discussing our tactics as we go. I have also played it solo. You are the titular Final Girl and you are trying to escape from a killer and rescue as many other victims as you can. The variability in the game is added by which feature film expansion box you use with the core box. If you’re new to Final Girl, I would strongly recommend going
with The Happy Trails Horror expansion based on the Friday the 13th series. It is as simple as the game gets. Panic at Station 2891 is one of the more complex expansions and is best tackled after you have played a few games of a simpler feature film box.
How Does It Play
The core mechanics are the same: choose from the cards at your disposal, roll to see how well you do at that action, move your Final Girl around the map, rescue victims, and hopefully, smack the killer about the chops. There are quite a few more rules included in this expansion to deal with the intriguing theme.
At the start of the game, there isn’t a killer on the board. Not only are there the usual quantities of hapless victims meandering around, but also three exposed victims. These have the potential to become a monstrosity, i.e., a killer. If you are in the same space as an exposed victim and have a test kit, or you are both in the lab location, you can test them, just like the classic scene in the film. You turn over a card from a three-card deck. If it’s safe you replace them with a yellow victim and everything is hunky-dory, except that you remove that safe card from the game. The next time you test one of the exposed victims, you are now choosing from only two cards, one of which is safe and one which assimilates the victim and creates a monstrosity. So, in any game, you could have anywhere between 1 and 3 killers. You’ll definitely get at least one but getting two killers is likely, and three is a possibility, a possibility that will probably slaughter you.
There are also new rules for getting frostbite, rescuing victims, and sneakery. If you or the other victims are out in the open you may get frostbite. Get frostbitten again and you lose a wound, or in the case of a victim, a painful death. To rescue the victims, you have to take them to a helicopter and then use actions to fly them to safety and back to rescue more victims. One of my favourite new rules is a small one but significant. In the panic phase, the exposed victims always panic. That means you roll a die and move the victim one space, following the path relating to that number on the board. Initially, I thought this was odd. Why would these exposed victims be panicking? Then I realised: they’re not panicking, they’re sneaking, sneaking around in the background looking to cause trouble. This causes many moments of thematic fun, such as one of them sneaking over to the skidozer to sabotage it.
How Thematic Is It
Speaking of thematic fun, as I said earlier, Panic at Station 2891 is The Thing. There are huskies, flamethrowers, axes, tests, roller skates, helicopters, skidozers, frostbite, and of course, the monstrosities. Put on the soundtrack to The Thing and you’re there with them in Antarctica, defending yourself from the alien entities.
I have to admit that my love of this expansion is partly down to the theme, but my wife, who is not as bothered about the film, still gives this expansion 85%. It is fun if you become really powerful and only have one monstrosity to fight. You can smack them about but there is still a chance they could take you out. Two monstrosities give the game a similar difficulty to a usual killer in the other expansions. But three will pummel you. I’ve yet to win against three but I think it will be possible. The challenge is fun. Each of the three monstrosities is slightly different in how they behave, adding variability to the game.
Panic at Station 2891 is my favourite of the Final Girl expansions I’ve played so far. The extra rules take a little bit of getting your head around, but when they click, and they soon do, the game takes you into the film it’s based on and immerses you in that freezing-cold Antarctic atmosphere. All that remains is to add in a few choice quotes from the film to really bring it to life: “You’ve got to be %^&*ing kidding!”