The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
This is it. Your ticket's been pulled. You've prepared your whole adult life for this. As the clunky shuttle coasts to the derelict and quarantined space station, you know you've got everything you need to take care of this problem. Heavy artillery? Check. A fully automated, infection-proof android? Check. Nerves of steel? Check. Flamethrower? Definitely check. Now it's time to face this space nightmare down and light some little nasty buggers on fire, simple as that!
In Panic Station, four to six players take on the role of two characters each (a space exterminator and an android) as they try to investigate and root out a parasitic race of aliens that have taken over a space station. But there's a classic Sci-fi horror twist! One of the players randomly begins the game with their human character as a "Host." The Host keeps his or her identity secret, and tries to infect as many other team members as possible. In the end, any uninfected must use their flame throwers to destroy the alien hive, or everyone dies.
Each player controls their two characters and explores a labyrinthine maze of control rooms and storage facilities on this derelict space station. Each turn, a player draws cards, explores rooms (by flipping over cards from a deck of room cards), and tries to battle the parasites that roam the station. The Android and The Human characters play differently. The Andoid has a gun it can use to attack aliens and players, and The Human has a flame thrower it can use to destroy the hive.
Players can also interact with the board by doing things like healing in the sick bay, activating a heat scan (to determine how many characters are infected), and search for items in the storage rooms. Because all uninfected characters have the same goal, they can trade items in certain rooms. Some items, like the gas can, are crucial to winning the game (you need fuel for that sweet flamethrower, right?). But because you never know who's infected, trading and coming in contact with other players is always a risky endeavor!
This is the type of game that has great replay value if you've got a rotating cast of players coming over to try it out. Once you start playing the game with the same group of people it begins to lose its replay-ability. Once you know that Johnny's always lying when he scratches his nose, and Meg always lies when she smiles… well, then half the fun of the game is down the drain. But with a fresh group of people every once in a while, this game is just random enough to be a blast on repeat.
Aside from some logical fallacies (why wouldn't the humans also have guns on them?) needed to keep the mechanics balanced, this is a really awesome and well put together game. It perfectly bounces between cooperative play, strategy, dice rolling, and betrayal. If you like liar's games, or if you think Alien is the best horror movie ever made, you need to try this out!