Bezier Games’ latest effort in the One Night Ultimate series is now making the rounds, fresh off a successful Kickstarter run. The fourth release and third standalone game after One Night Ultimate Werewolf and One Night Ultimate Vampire, Alien distinguishes itself from its siblings in that the free helper app that merely facilitates the other games is now required. So how well does that work?
Let’s not bury the lede: the results are hilarious and excellent. Our game group, a bit long in the fang when it comes to ONUW, fell for the added silliness and reduced predictability of ONUA almost immediately. Unlike Werewolf, where we find ourselves needing to add the extra Daybreak roles to the mix in order to provide the requisite amount of chaos that gives a One Night game its charm, Alien comes preloaded with a few roles that lend themselves well to an unstable table.
Consider the Blob, one of my top picks from this game. The Blob plays for neither the village side (out to catch an Alien) nor the Aliens (out to avoid being caught). Instead, the Blob focuses on its own survival above all else – but the app will notify the Blob that it has absorbed other players into itself, and every part of the Blob must survive for the Blob to triumph.
Other standouts include the Oracle, who is invited to make a fateful decision at the start of the evening; the Rascal, whose job is to mix up the cards as the app directs; the Mortician, who’d like one of his neighbors to occupy his funeral home; and the Synthetic Alien, who recognizes the other aliens but desires to be the one targeted in order to preserve intergalactic peace. We also enjoyed the Empath, a bonus role in which one player discovers the way a number of other players feel about something – trivial to role discovery, perhaps, but useful for convincing those persons of your honesty. The fact that the questions are odd and funny adds to the levity of the game.
New to Alien is player numbering, used by the app to provide random instructions about whom you can and cannot interact with. The presence of aliens in the game also brings with it the chance for a “ripple,” a random effect that can see the whole evening repeated, a card exposed, roles switched, and other last-minute twists to complicate the process of figuring out who to accuse.
The biggest problems with this game might well be that somehow it remains insufficiently random – certainly, having a good memory for the app’s instructions will play a large part, but a fair amount of the potential for gaining and losing information is still role-locked, meaning the presence or absence of those roles communicates certain facts. The Rascal can act as the Troublemaker or Robber from the original game, but since both roles are now contained in one, there are fewer players contributing active disruption. There is also the possibility of too much information, as in one game where the Oracle was permitted to look at all three center cards. With the Psychic and Exposer roles also able to check cards on the table, there can be too much verified info for the village team to make use of.
It has to be said, though, that this is a relatively minor problem, moreso than it ever was in earlier One Night efforts. The ONUA app is packed with amusing interjections and provides enough shakeups that reusing the same set of roles doesn’t feel stale. ONUA is quire simply a much funnier game than ONUV and ONUW, providing a lot of value as a quick filler game or something light and social. It remains to be seen how well it blends with roles from the other games (I am supremely unconvinced by the “mega-game” model that incorporates multiple enemy factions) but at the moment this is my top pick out of the three for a new purchase.