Invasion From Outer Space is a board game by Flying Frog Productions for 2 to 6 players that pits human Heroes against invading Martians to give that old sci-fi B-movie feel. Think Mars Attacks! (1996) but against carnival folk. Players choose to either be the Martians or the Heroes. Martian players a bunch of regular Martians (up to 18) and have the option to summon Martian Champions. Meanwhile, Human players have the option of playing any 4 out of 8 Carnival Characters:
- R.J. Flannigan, the Ringmaster
- JoJo, the Dancing Bear
- Carl, the Strongman
- Cassidy, the Trickshooter
- Hannah, the Firebreather
- Lucrezia, the Contortionist
- Archibald, the Human Cannonball
- Angelica, the Bearded Lady
From left to right: Lucrezia the Contortionist, Hannah the Firebreather, Ringmaster R.J. Flannigan, JoJo the Dancing Bear, Archibald the Human Cannonball, Carl the Strongman, Angelica the Bearded Lady, and Cassidy the Trickshooter
Each hero has different abilities and Talents that allow them to fight the Martians on even ground – for example, the Trickshooter always starts the game with two pistols, the Strongman and the Bear are good in combat, the Firebreather can breathe fire against the Martians, and so on.
The game is played on a modular board that consists of a middle piece and 6 L-shaped corners. Each L-shaped corner is different, and only 4 corners are used per game, resulting in a different play experience for each game. This also leaves the possibility of new L-shaped corners being released, increasing replayability for the game. Notice how the upper left corner is detached in the image below?
As with most board games, players use dice to resolve battles between the Martians and the Carnies, as well as to determine the outcomes of several game events. Finally, both the Martians and the Heroes have cards to represent their resources and to represent how the “story” gives either side an advantage. Cards represent either weapons, items, or advanced technology that the Martians and the Carnies can use, or story events that represent the plot twists in the invasion storyline.
I’ve played several games already, as well as tried to get other people in the game, and I’ve come to the conclusion that IFOS is not a very good “gateway game” – not a very good game to attract newcomers to board gaming. First of all, the theme is not that attractive – compared to the theme of the more popular predecessor Last Night on Earth, B-movie aliens aren’t as popular as zombies as of the moment and neither are carnivals. So for people new to gaming in general, IFOS may not be engaging enough to get them interested.
Another reason why the game isn’t a good gateway game is because of it’s complexity. IFOS involves moving game pieces on a board and drawing/using cards to influence the game situation. From what I’ve seen, it’s an effort for newcomers to read and understand each card and what it does, not to mention remembering which cards they currently have. The Carnival Heroes, when compared to their LNOE counterparts, have talents and abilities that can be tricky for newcomers. And the Martians have so many strategic options that it can take a newcomer some time to decide on what they need to do – in fact, I’ve played the Martians in some games where the human players got a bit bored because I was taking too long with my turns.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. It’s a great game! The game pieces have been sculpted with great detail, all the game components are very well made – the Hero and Martian cards are all printed on high quality glossy cardboard, and the tokens, invasion meter, board, character and scenario cards are all made of thick and durable cardboard. The rulebook is quite easy to understand and there’s good enough support from the game’s creators – Jason C. Hill himself posts on a message board for IFOS to answer rules clarifications! I don’t think I’ve had the best game experience possible with this game – most of the time I only play with/against one person and from what I’ve experienced with LNOE, the game drastically changes with more players involved – and yet I’m already hooked!
If you’re interested in finding a new pastime, you may want to give board gaming a try. There are a lot out there, I’ve just barely scratched the surface. I’m looking at obtaining a copy of LNOE next month, but for now I’ll try to write more about IFOS.