It’s Alive is a game well overdue for a review. It came out just in time for halloween, but always managed to get trumped by something else that caught my attention. However, since it is about the only game I have lined up for review that is based on an actual board game I thought it should get some loving.
In very simple terms, It’s Alive is a game of monster mashing. You take corpse pieces, throw them on the slab and make a promethean monster (just add electricity). The theme is what you might expect, ranging from the exhumation of body parts, angry mobs, and the… let’s euphemistically call it the flesh trade.
Your object is to be the first to assemble a wretched creature, stitched from the parts of the dead; for science, you monster! There are eight body parts in total that you can collect, four of them (head, heart, brain, and torso) are more expensive then the others (hand, foot, leg, arm), representing their significance in having a functioning cadaver.
Realistically, the game can be broken down into two steps that each player must perform. There is the acquisition step, whereby the character must either draw a card at random (which mostly contains body parts, sometimes a coffin being a wild card, and sometimes angry mobs) or try to ransom a card from one of your opponent’s discard piles. The former gives you little choice, but is the most economic option, the later being probably the most expensive choice because not only do you have to spend to get said body part but it then goes up for auction. Now as for those random mobs you might draw? If one happens, you have to get rid of a certain amount of money to assuage them, either from your own coffers or your own coffins. You either discard money or body parts.
So, this is the second step. You can keep the body part, you can sell to a private anatomist for profit (although I don’t ever once remember selling private anatomy), or you can put it up for auction. Of course auctioning may or may not get you the body part for less then it’s worth, but it might be worth the gamble if you know what your opponents already have. For the already mentioned strategies, the conservation of money will prove to be the main and crucial strategy for this game.
There are two modes to the game, basic and advanced, and both are finished when someone collects a complete set of body parts. In the basic game, that person is also then the winner. In the advanced game it is the person whose aggregate value of body parts and coins is the greatest subtly shifting the strategy from fastest to best quality monster.
The game is not spectacular in its implementation but it is functional. There is no real tutorial, but the rules are simple enough that it’s not an issue in this case. In fact since you’ve read this review you probably know enough to run with. Fortunately, you can play with other plays in a pass’n'play mode so it’s passable.
The biggest impediment for this game is that bidding, auctions, and other economic interactions will, of course, work better with real people than with a faceless iPad machine. However, this is not a core mechanic of the game, meaning you can reasonably play it without depending on the game’s own formulae for auctions. It does come up but it doesn’t detract as much as it might in other games.
5/10: It’s not a game that everyone will get into, but it is something pretty simple you can pick up to pass away a couple of minutes here or there.It's Alive,