Escape From the Aliens in Outer Space, henceforth referred to as Escape for brevity, is one of a small number of games that employ an element of hidden movement, along with Letters From Whitechapel and the classic Fury of Dracula. But Escape also mixes in some hidden roles to create a fantastic sense of total confusion.
Players in a game of Escape are trapped on an alien space station divided into hexes, with humans sneaking towards the airlocks and Aliens hunting them down.
The main mechanic governing Escape is writing down your moves on your own hidden map in the style of Battleships, and in each hex you might have to draw one of the game’s encounter cards. The encounter cards are what make this a game of deduction rather than just guesswork. You might have to reveal your location, you may be given an opportunity to lie , or there might be no information at all. The combination of whether players draw cards and what they say when they do forms the information you use to deduce who is where and what they’re doing.
As you get information drip fed to you it goes onto your secret player map, laying out a spider web of routes the other players have taken. When you spot inconsistencies with what other players have said, you have to consider whether they are lying now or were lying all along. This combines with the fact that you don’t know which players are humans or aliens. So someone could pretend to be an alien to avoid the other players’ attention.
The great speed of the aliens means that the only chance for the humans to stay alive is deception, although this relies on a certain amount of luck as drawing badly could force you to reveal your position several turns in a row. As the aliens catch up with you it becomes much more frantic and about how well you can bluff, since the aliens know where you could go but not where you did go. The final hurdle is actually escaping and there is one more chance for things to go hilariously wrong as the airlocks can be broken, meaning you just announced where you are and have a very long way to go to another airlock (sorry Dave).
The very generous box also contains some optional rules which will help extend the life of the game and change the puzzle if you’ve played it quite a bit. These are special roles and items. Special roles allow you play the game slightly differently rather than just being an ordinary human or alien. Items are shuffled into the encounter cards and can only be used by the humans, this is probably for the best as the base game is murderously difficult so giving the humans some resources to fight back with does help.
On balance i think Escape will definitely work for you if you fancy something light and will keep throwing up moments of hilarious confusion. However in my personal experience the task for the humans is much too difficult and I think the deception elements fall away very quickly, in particular the distinction between human and alien. So while this is ok for a casual time at the pub, there are plenty of games I’d rather be playing.