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Horrors From Another Dimension – The Others

the-others-board-game-boxThe Others is set sometime in the future, when the earth is under assault from extradimensional beings organised in factions based on the Seven Deadly Sins – one player, the “Sins player” controls these monstrous abominations, bent on the corruption of humanity. All that stand in their way is FAITH – the Federal Authority for the Interdiction of Transdimensional Horrors, whose heroes are controlled by the other 1-4 players.

What’s in the box?

As you’d expect from a Cool Mini Or Not game, The Others comes jam-packed with stuff. There are 8 miniatures, representing 7 different heroes (one has a “human” and a “Werewolf” figure), a set of monsters for 2 Sin factions: Pride and Sloth, 3 different types of “Acolytes” and the Unique monsters of the nefarious Hellfire club.

the-others-board-game-female-miniatures The miniatures are detailed, finely crafted, and (in the monsters’ case) thoroughly hideous (it is a horror game). Our first big group game of this was mixed-gender, and there were a lot of rolled eyeballs from the women at the over-sized and over-exposed breasts on display from most of the female Heroes – The Others is far from unique in this respect and, mechanically, there are some cool female characters, but the art-work is fairly stuck in that rut. In the end, one of them decided that Morgana was acceptable and the other took Rocco, with the group as a whole managing to complete the Mission before Leah or Rose were needed.

Aside from the miniatures, there are 9 city tiles which form the game-maps, scenario boards representing the 9 different missions on offer, cards for upgrades, player actions, and Sin reactions, and a whole range of tokens.

the-others-board-game-character-board

Everything can be explained – maybe even the lack of flavour text on the back of the board…

Generally the components are good quality: the tokens are durable, and the mission boards are clear and concise. The city tiles felt like a little bit of a let-down: the art is a little busy, distracting from the elements which are relevant for gameplay, and the fact that they are only single-sided seems like a missed opportunity to have more replay value straight out of the box. Likewise the character boards give you a 1-line quote which is supposed to convey the Hero’s personality, but it felt like a missed opportunity not to put a fuller biography on the back.

So what do we do?

If you are the Sins player in The Others, life is simple. You are the villain and your job is to kill the Heroes. There will be 3-4 Heroes in play at a time, out of a total team of 7, and each time you kill a Hero, they are removed from the game, with the controlling player selecting a new Hero from the reserve – if ever a player needs to select a new hero and there are none left, then the sins player wins.

For the others, The Others is a more varied game, with objectives that vary each time you play. Each mission is set out in detail by a board which sets up the game-map, identifies start/end of round effects, and sets out what players have to do. Some missions are straightforward and combat based, whilst others will require more complex activities.

the-others-board-game-sins-tokens Each turn, heroes perform one movement and one action. The action will be either starting a fight, or cleansing an area. Cleansing involves a skill check to remove tokens from the city: Fire damages heroes physically, Corruption blights them mentally, Nests bring forth new monsters, and Pentagrams boost the strength of the monsters already in play – sometimes you will want to remove these to cancel their effect, and at other times it will be a mission objective.

the-others-board-game-dice Combat in The Others is dice-based, with each character and each monster having its own basic stat-line, which can be augmented by friendly miniatures in the space, gear, or other game effects. Both sides roll at once, and are looking to roll enough fist symbols to cancel out the opponent’s defence – Heroes take damage incrementally, and die if they ever have 5 wounds. To defeat a monster, you need to roll fists equal to its defence in 1 action, or it survives unscathed.

Corruption

the-others-board-game-corruption-trackKey to taking The Others from being a dull punch-up game to something more interesting and strategic, is the corruption mechanic. Each Hero has a corruption track and any time they fight, they can choose to take a point of voluntary corruption. Voluntary corruption adds bonuses to your roll – limited at low levels, but cumulative, so that by the higher levels you can add multiple automatic hits, defence boosts and additional dice all at once. These powerful bonuses are virtually a requirement to take down some of the higher-power monsters, but using them is not without risk.

the-others-board-game-pride-fightAny time a hero leaves a space with a corruption symbol in it, the Sins player rolls a dice – on a tentacle result (1 in 6) they take a corruption. In every fight, the Hero takes a corruption for each “Tentacle” the Sins player rolls in excess of their “Cancel Tentacles” results.

Reaching maximum corruption is a problem – once a Hero is at maximum corruption, they cannot take any more voluntary corruption, (so no more powerful combat bonuses). In corruption scenarios, they may have to reveal a “dark past” card, harming themselves or others. Furthermore, any time a player needs to take corruption and cannot, they take a wound, hastening their death.

From the City

the-others-board-game-corruption-track A Hero suffering from too much damage, too much corruption or a simple lack of cool stuff can seek help from the city itself. Each “district” (building) in The Others has a “city action” which can be triggered once per round, and these allow Heroes to gain equipment, heal damage, remove corruption, gain extra turns, or even call in a laser-satellite strike. City abilities are vital for the Heroes, but the Sins player will be doing everything in their power to cut them off from the ones they need the most, so don’t become over-reliant on them!

Aside from city actions, Heroes in The Others may also be able to gain assistance from a technology company, the Police Commissioner, and even a Hacktivist. These tokens allow your hero to move faster, fight more effectively, or avoid Fire and Corruption damage respectively – it’s great mechanically, but it doesn’t always make sense thematically.

the-others-board-game-fire-protectionApparently the hacktivist lets you avoid fire damage and corruption because they have hacked the city’s sprinkler systems (fire), and they publish classified information online (corruption). This just felt forced and slightly odd to us – the Hazmat suit (which offers the exact same benefit) made a lot more sense.

It’s clear that the designers have put a lot thought into the setting of The Others, with lots of bits of flavour-content scattered through the rulebook, unfortunately, it never quite feels coherent. In a game like Zombicide where the players are Survivors: living ordinary lives yesterday and finding the Zombie apocalypse on their doorstep this morning, it makes sense to figure out the story as you go along. In The Others though, Heroes are agents of a government agency, and the attempt to convey the backstory stylistically just feels like it gets in the way.

the-others-board-game-havenI also took issue somewhat with the setting – the City of Haven on the South Cornish coast. Now, obviously, this is Sci-fi, set in the future, and so forth, but I did have to ask myself whether Eric Lang has ever visited southern Cornwall? The bustling metropolis, vast port area, “Federal” agencies, Police Commissioner all seemed very American to me, and having it show up in Cornwall felt more of a stretch than the decidedly non-human creatures which walk the game-boards.

Wait a minute – did I do that already??

the-others-board-game-sins-cardsThe Others is a complex game. There’s a lot going on. Actions are tracked with tokens that players flip over to show they have used them, but the number of tokens you have can fluctuate based on game effects. The Sins player doesn’t really get a turn as such, he just interrupts the Heroes by “reacting” to their turns – he can also play cards at the start of their turn, or during a fight, or after a fight – but only 1 card per hero turn, so you need to keep track of whether he’s done it yet.

Although there’s no one rule that’s inherently that complex, there’s a lot going on in a lot of different places, and it can be very easy to miss things, or lose track. The worst thing to add to a game that’s a bit on the fiddly side, is a badly laid-out rule-book and whilst, again, there’s not much that’s inherently unclear in-and-of-itself in the rulebook for The Others, it’s hard to navigate through: the index is sketchy, and you basically just have to leaf through until you stumble across an answer. The Others definitely feels like a game that’s going to work best with a regular group who all play it about the same amount, and regularly enough to keep it fresh in mind, but until then, the flow of the game gets broken up a lot.

If these are The Others, who are the others?

The Others was one of Cool Mini Or Not’s massive Kickstarter campaigns, meaning a huge wave of exclusive stretch goals for backers, and a wide range of optional purchase expansions which will probably make it to retail at some point eventually.

the-others-board-game-optionsCompared with some games (Blood Rage leaps most readily to mind), The Others actually does a decent job of including variety in the core box. 9 Missions, each of which come with multiple map layouts; 2 Sin Factions, governing which deck of cards the Sins player uses, and three different Acolyte (think “henchman”) groups, which all combine to give a good range of options.

The place where this does feel limited is in the Hero line-up: a hero squad in The Others is always made up of 1 Leader (all-rounded), 2 Bruisers (close-combat), 2 Fixers (skill-specialist) and 2 Shooters (ranged). However, with only 7 Heroes in the box, you only ever have one set of heroes to use, and you’ll probably want to pick up one of the additional Hero Teams to keep it fresh from the FAITH player side. Obviously, you can pick up all manner of other kit – new Sins, extra monsters and the like, but I don’t think you’d need them too soon.

So what’s the verdict? Should I buy it? Or should I stick to the others?

the-others-board-game-avatar The Others is a lot of miniatures, and a lot of game, all crammed into one box. If you like your miniatures games fairly complex, with a lot of things to keep track of, and still want to get to chuck a load of dice, then this one is definitely worth a look. From the Hero side it can be good fun, although in most of our games the Sins player would rather have had an app to take over so that they could join the heroes. The component quality of The Others is high, the scope to expand is vast, and the overall look and feel of the game is very consistent (even if it is consistently Gotham rather than Cornish Coast).

If you prefer your games fully co-op and thematic, your female characters sensibly depicted and dressed, or your game effects easy to keep track of, then this might not be for you. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition does thematic horror better, and Zombicide Black Plague does dice-chucking, kill-all-the-monsters better.

Overall, I think I’d give this a 7 – I can’t see it establishing itself as a regular in our house, because of the two games I mentioned above, but you definitely get a lot of game for your money, and for some groups, this one will definitely hit the spot.

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James Phillips

I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits in my new life as a dad. I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Dice Masters and Destiny) when I can make it out of the house.Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.

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