Like the movie that inspired it, Alien: The Fate of Nostromo is a tense little experience. The new board game, published by Ravensburger and designed by former Disney Imagineer Scott Rogers (Pantone: the game), it’s absolutely dripping with theme. While the thumbnails are a little wonky, the gameplay matches the tone and pace of Ridley Scott’s film measure for measure. There are even multiple endings that reward multiple sessions. With a playtime as short as 45 minutes, you can easily fit a few into your next game night.
In Fate of the Nostromo, players take on the role of five human crew members from the 1979 film: Arthur Dallas, Ellen Ripley, Dennis Parker, Samuel Brett, and Joan Lambert. Players must work together to save themselves and their stricken ship, traveling around the board to collect scrap metal, which can be used to craft useful tools, and coolant, which is rare and essential for allow their escape.
Each character has their own unique special ability. Ripley can spend an action moving other players, for example, while Lambert can view hidden information and share it with other players. More importantly, your crew members cannot die. This helps keep everyone involved and engaged until the end.
At the start of the game, players draw objective cards at random. They may need to meet in the ship’s galley while carrying some items, or check and maintain the ship’s hypersleep pod complement. A game of encounter cards slowly increases the tension, moving the deadly xenomorph around the ship and seeding its pieces with more loot.
Each encounter card moves the xenomorph one or more spaces on the map, but its true location is never clear. This is because it can unexpectedly appear on the back of special tokens that are evenly distributed throughout the ship. So you can move Chief Engineer Parker two spaces away from the eponymous alien, to return a token to its destination that warps the monster in the room with it.
Tools like the Incinerator and Grapple Gun can help fend off the alien, but each has limited uses before being destroyed. Best to travel in small groups, with a flashlight to reduce morale lost to the alien, and a cat carrier…to catch Jonsey, of course.
Once all the initial objectives have been achieved, the players then reveal the final mission card drawn at random. There are five in total and include options to scuttle the ship or knock the alien out of the airlock. There’s even a card called “You have my sympathies”, which requires you to destroy the cyborg Ash before lighting the incinerator on the alien himself. It’s a subtle tweak, but it really helps infuse the game with a sense of excitement and unpredictability.
The art in this game is brilliant, but has the same beloved texture as the original film. Plus, unlike this year’s Fast & Furious board game, it includes the likenesses of the original cast members. There are even little scan lines on the game board, making it look like it’s projected onto a blurry old CRT screen. The only frustration I have is with thumbnails. The bases are flat, heavy and stable. They have a nice texture, with the names of the characters etched into the plastic. But the details are soft and the poses a bit awkward. Dallas is frozen in an odd crouching pose, while Ripley is forever stuck in an odd startled posture, arms outstretched as if falling through the air. The alien isn’t very threatening either, standing tall and hunched over the other characters. I’d be curious to see if they look better with a coat of paint on them.
Overall, though, this mid-size box packs a lot of value at $29.99. Its fast playtime makes it an easy inclusion on your next board game night. It’s also surprisingly good as a solo experience. The game is currently available on Target.
Alien: The Fate of Nostromo was reviewed with a retail copy of the game provided by Ravensburger. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.