Ridley Scott’s Alien is always going to end the same way. Ellen Ripley will always think she’s escaped the Nostromo until one last, surprise showdown with the alien, which she then — finally — blasts into space. It’s a fantastic ending. The culmination of an undeniable masterpiece. Now imagine sitting down to watch Alien and not know what’s going to happen. Maybe everyone lives. Maybe everyone dies. Later this summer, that’ll be up to you: Ravensburger is releasing a brand new board game called Alien: Fate of the Nostromo.
It’s a collaborative, strategy-based, thriller board game that makes anywhere from one to five players members of the Nostromo crew. Together, players must survive and escape before the alien kills them, which means the game will never end the same way the movie does. Either everyone wins, or everyone loses, and each can be accomplished in several different ways. To celebrate Alien Day — April 26, aka 4/26 (as in moon LV-426) — Gizmodo was the first to talk to the game’s designer Scott Rogers about Fate of the Nostromo, revealing some brand new details and images.
“We want to give our players the thrill of victory against a foe that otherwise would just wipe them out,” Rogers told Gizmodo. “But that said, you can get wiped out by the alien, so don’t go into this game thinking it’s going to be a breeze.”
Board game fans will find the basic gameplay of Alien: Fate of the Nostromo very familiar. Using a board that’s designed to replicate the layout of the famous ship, each player chooses a character token and mat. Using those, they’ll complete assigned objectives using a certain amount of actions per turn. Eventually, when each player completes their objective (while hopefully avoiding the killer alien running around), everyone teams up for one ultimate final mission, which will decide the fate of the Nostromo.
A game like this can’t just be basic though. It’s freaking Alien. So the key for Rogers was to make sure the game felt like the movie, with all the bells, whistles, and emotions that entails.
“The goal is to play the movie,” Rogers said. “I wanted to make sure that that thrill and that tension that is so amazing in the film, why we still love the film to this day, was represented [and] given justice in the game. So, of course, the goal is to create these moments of tension as you are hustling through the Nostromo to get the heck out of there as this murderous creature is wandering the halls and the air vents and whatnot.”
This happens in a few ways. One is that the alien, who is an AI character driven by cards and tokens, can’t be defeated. At least not until the very end. You just have to hope to avoid the many places it pops up, or survive the deadly encounters, and that’s where much of the actual scares come into play.
“The thing that I thought was scary about the alien in both the film and the game design is the unpredictability of it,” Rogers said. “You never know where it’s going to show up. It’s always going to be kind of a surprise. And then when it’s out, you’re like, ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near this thing. I want to get as far away as possible.’”
Another thing that hopefully adds to the fear in Alien: Fate of the Nostromo is Ash. Ash, of course, is the android turncoat — another bad guy in Alien who plays a similar role in the game. While it would’ve been easy for Rogers to replicate the film by making one of the crew members a secret turncoat like Ash is, he always wanted the game to be about working together, not deception. So instead, Rogers made Ash an optional addition that creates another level of difficulty for advanced players. The game’s very own Hard mode.
“Ash is essentially a second bad guy that roams the board,” Rogers said. “He does what he does in the movie. He’s actively working against everybody else … He’s getting rid of resources. The things that you need to complete your objectives. Ash is coming in and thrashing [them].”
Oh, and of course Jonesy the cat is in the game. He appears on Conceal tokens, which are spread across the board before gameplay begins.
The five playable characters in Alien: Fate of the Nostromo, though, are the five main Nostromo crew members still breathing when the alien is set loose: Dallas, Ripley, Lambert, Brett, and Parker. You’d imagine everyone would want to be Ripley, and in fact, Alien: Fate of the Nostromo can be played alone, but Rogers was careful to make the each of the characters just as cool and unique as they are in the film.
“We wanted to have each of the player characters represent their personalities in some way,” he said. “So, for example, one of my favourites is Brett. He’s the engineer and so it costs him one resource less to craft things because he’s the guy that’s crafting things in the movie anyway.” Another example is Lambert, who has the unique ability to veto a card because she’s the most “cautious and sensible” of the crew. Dallas has more possible actions than everyone else, because he’s the captain. The whole game is filled with little references and winks to the film like that, which could only come from a true fan.
When Rogers heard Ravensburger wanted to make an Alien game, he went after it aggressively. Though he’d only designed a few boardgames (Rayguns and Rocketships and Pantone the Game) to date, he spent years working on franchise video games like God of War, Pac Man World, Darksiders, and Warhammer 40,000. He knew the space, pun intended, and the franchise very well.
“I have been a die hard Alien fan since 1979, even though I never saw the movie until years later,” he said. Which sounds suspect until he explains he didn’t see the film when it came out because his mother thought it was too scary and wouldn’t let him. Instead, he went to the local store and stocked up on Topps Alien trading cards until he put together a full set and finally pieces together the story. Suffice to say, the resulting game is made with that sort of passion.
“All the items you are collecting, the types of objectives you are doing, the finales of the game, are all based on things in the film,” Rogers said. “For example, one of the objectives is get to the Narcissus, the shuttlecraft, and get the heck out of there. But another one might be ‘Let’s blow it out of the airlock to try to get rid of it,” which is a line that Dallas says … And so even though that’s just almost like a throwaway line in the film, it became the foundation of one of the endings of the game. So it’s a little bit like ‘What if?’ You look at all the things that are presented in the film and you say, ‘Well, what if that was an actual ending that the player could do during the game?’”
Image: 20th Century/Ravensburger, Other
Mission cards are what drive how you either win, or lose, the game.
Image: 20th Century/Ravensburger, Other
Conceal cards (Jonesy!) give you random scares across the board.
Image: 20th Century/Ravensburger, Other
Item tokens can be combined and have various functions.
Crucially, all of this cards, tokens, figures and more, come with the full licence and likeness rights to the Alien franchise, from Tom Skerritt and Yaphet Kotto, all the way down to Sigourney Weaver herself. That wasn’t always a guarantee either, but Rogers says the collaboration between Ravensburger and Fox to get there was smooth and easy.
Which, ultimately, is what he hopes fans will find in Alien: Fate of the Nostromo. A fun, collaborative experience that will both make you feel like you’re in Alien, but also that fate of the Nostromo is not written in stone. “We all know how the real story ends, right?” Rogers said. “It’s only Ripley and then she goes on to Aliens. But it’s fun to create this alternate reality in which the crew of the Nostromo can persevere.”
Alien: Fate of the Nostromo will be available August 1 wherever games are sold and retails for around $40.