There are plenty of board games that can trace inspiration back to movies and books. But, until now, one of the best possible inspirations has been left untouched, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Panic Station captures what made that movie great, aside from Kurt Russel. You will never trust your friends again.
This game is semi-cooperative. At the start of the game, each player will take control of one human and an android counterpart. You have been sent to an arctic station to find out what happened to the previous occupants. Once there it isn’t long before you will encounter alien parasites that seek to either kill you, or take control of your body. The game is setup so one of the players will become infected very soon after arrival. That player then seeks to convert or kill the remaining players. Those who are not infected are trying to find the man hive and destroy it.
On your turn you have several options as to what you can do. You can explore, thereby adding new rooms to the complex. You can move to other rooms as well. You can also search some rooms in the hopes of finding useful items such as gasoline, bullets, and medkits. Of course, searching is also how the first player becomes infected. You can also attack parasites or even other players.
Now, there is need for some serious poker faces in this one. If you can’t lie or hide the fact that you just joined the infected team, the game loses a lot of what makes it great. You need the absolute paranoia and mistrust of everyone else. You don’t know who is on your side, trust the wrong person and suddenly you have a new alien friend living in your brain.
I have played through several times now and the humans have won once and the parasites twice. The game can frustrate at times because you can’t trust others nor can you get them to trust you. Thankfully the game plays quickly, about 30 minutes. Any longer and tempers would start to flare and I could easily see a table flip coming.
So, how does the game stack up?
I’d have gone higher, but I feel that numerous plays are gonna show some serious wear on the cards. I also dislike having to attach stickers to pieces, especially when the stickers are the exact same size as the piece they attach to.
The game plays solidly and it is easy to pick up. They have some interesting ways of making things work. There are a few clarifications that needed to be made to make them game play a little better, but overall the game is simple and quick.
This is where the game really falls a bit. The number of cards that are used to make up the map of the complex are quite limited. There are expansions in the works, which is good. Until then though, the games plays itself out rather quickly.
The game comes in a nice tin, though these can be rather easy to dent and bend. The components could be better, but overall they aren’t that bad. With an MSRP of $30 it falls nicely into an affordable range for a game that won’t hit the table a lot.
So, on the d20 scale we score a 14. Fairly respectable number, so I’d call it good enough for a hit. This is a great filler game when you want to squeeze in one last game before the end of the night, or for when you want a reason to get mad at your friends.