The city of Los Angeles is under threat. Invaders from outer space infiltrated among the population and are slowly enslaving humans using subliminal messages that keep the humans happy and obedient to a complacent ruling class. Luckily for us, a small group of people knows the truth and they are fighting back to unveil the invader's plot.
To a lot of people, this plot would seems very familiar and it is in fact the story behind John's Carpenter cult movie “They Live”. As the movie was releases in 1988 a few people among us may not have seen it but you still have a chance to catch-up on this great piece of cinematic history.
In the meantime, you can definitely take a look to the new card game from Iconiq Studios based on this movie and coming to Kickstarter on the 20th of April.
They Live: The Card Game – Save The City/Enslave The City is an asymmetrical multiplayer card game of strategy, teamwork, and deceit. Each player takes the role of one of the main characters in the movie and works with the other members of the anti-alien movement in order to survive. As seen a few times in the movie, unfortunately, not everyone is playing for the same team and therefore the humans will need to discover who among them is the invader in order to win.
I had the great opportunity to play-test this game with my friends and I am very happy to share my experience and thoughts as the game is coming soon to Kickstarter. Spoiler alert: I really had a lot of fun playing the “They Live: The Card Game” and this is mostly due to the great work the team at Iconiq Studios has done in recreating the tension of the original movie. Before we start, I would like to mention that I have only tried the Kickstarter preview copy of this game. As such components, and artwork could change by the time the game gets to tables. .
“Where Did You Get Those Sun Glasses?” - Components
The first aspect to mention about components is the box. They Live: The Card Game is packed in a very portable small box perfectly designed to hold all the components you need. The box itself is designed to look like an old VHS tape with signs of wear and ageing that set the theme right from the start.
Inside the box, you will find 8 character boards, 7 identity cards, 1 themed dice, 80 double sided damage tokens and more than one hundred cards including enemies, weapons, ammunition, allies and city areas. The custom dice immediately caught my attention not only for the nice pink colour but also because its faces only have the words “bubblegum” or “kick-ass”. If you have seen the movie, you know this is one of the most famous sentence from the main character, Nada. If you have not seen the movie you may want to take a look to the title of the next section...
Overall, all the components are very well designed and of very good quality. I appreciated how the images used are close and aligned with the original movie but also how all the components have a general retro style that fits very well a movie from the 80's. All the components are also very well designed to smooth the gameplay. For example, the ammunition cards can be stacked behind the guns to show how much rounds are left and to be consumed once the gun is fired. The damage tokens are also greatly thematic with a side listing all the subliminal orders the Invaders used to control the humans.
There are so many small and clever details on cards and components that playing with them has been a real pleasure.
I would also like to mention to special upgrade pack planned for the Kickstarter campaign. The pack will include a pair of Hoffman Lenses (sunglasses) in their own case and a special set of identity cards. The identity cards will replace the ones provided with the game and they will all look the same UNLESS you look at them with the Hoffman Lenses included in the upgrade pack. Once you look at the cards through the special lenses, you will see some hidden message that will instruct you to save or to enslave humanity. I expect this not only to add a great thematic element to the game but to also to help masking your reaction when looking to another player identity card thus making the game even more engaging!
“I Have Come Here To Chew Bubblegum & Kick Ass...& I'm All Out Of Bubblegum.” - Gameplay
As mentioned above, the key aspect of this game, They Live the Card Game is that one (or more) players will take the role of Invaders. While the humans will aim to regain control of the city to overthrow the aliens, the Invaders will try to dismantle the resistance and to keep their control over the populations. The Invaders are obviously outnumbered thus they will need to exploit clever deception and strategy in order to win.
At the beginning of the game, each player picks a character and an identity cards at random secretly checking if they are Humans or Invaders. Keeping your identity secret is a critical aspect of this game although all Invaders players will discretely make sure they know they are on the same side so that can join forces.
Once the setup completed, the game will start by drafting and displaying a set of war card in the centre of the table. The displayed cards may include weapons, guns, admonition, city location, enemies and the very precious “Hoffman lenses”. These sunglasses are a critical part of the movie and they play a key role in the game too as using them is the only way a player can check the identity of another player. Starting with the player with the highest remaining health, players will take turns picking two cards and taking an action that can include attacking another player or an enemy card among those in the display. The last player will pick the last two cards (if any) and will take damage for every enemy remaining among them without the option to attack them.
The process will repeat every round as the game proceed in waves.
The main aim of both Humans and Invaders is to collect two copies of the same city location as this will give them control of that area. Once Humans or Invaders control an amount of locations proportional to the player count, the game finishes and one of the two sides wins.
The player remaining health plays a critical role in the game. First, it defines the order in which players will pick the cards allowing them to chose the city locations they need or to take any Hoffman lenses for them. Moreover, players can use the Hoffman lenses to discover another player identity only when their remaining health is in the critical red area. Allies effects are also more powerful once the health is in the critical zone.
As They Live: The card game is a game of hidden roles, players will need to focus on identifying who are the Invaders among them. There are a lot of strategies both sides can exploit. For example, a Invader player may casually take an Hoffman lenses card to avoid the humans to use it on him. Players may also try to attack any or all of the characters to bring their health in the critical zone and identify the Invaders risking the invaders may easily kill them and win. Invaders can also choose to reveal themselves to heal fully and to prevent enemy cards to damage them any longer. Overall, the game offers a lot of possibilities and strategical choices at each round.
“Put The Glasses On! Put 'em On!”- Final Thoughts
Honestly, my friends and I had a lot of fun playing They Live: The Card Game – Save The City/Enslave The City. There was of course a certain nostalgia when we started playing the game but then the mechanics and the gameplay hooked us completely. As soon as you play it you find that the game is a fast and intense role playing experience designed to nicely challenge your brain.
The key aspect that makes this game interesting is the strong need for player to player interactions. Finding the best strategy to deceive your opponents or to deduct who are the Invaders requires a lot of thinking and a lot of observation. Was that move really necessary? Were they helping because they wanted us to think they are humans? Were they thinking we will all think they would have planned it? Overall, there is a very good tension in the game as players work to unravel the puzzle of the opponents identities. Once all the cards are revealed and game ends you often feel like after a good plot twist in a movie.
Scalability and replayability of the game are also quite good. We found the game is really very well balanced and it plays already quite well with 3 players although higher player counts greatly increases the fun and the possibility of unexpected developments. Choosing which character players will use (deliberately or randomly) provides a good variability to the game considering they all have different abilities and characteristics and you will never know which ones of them will be Invaders.
Overall I loved playing They Live: The Card Game Enslave/ Save The City and I am really looking forward to the Kickstarter campaign to start!