Overview: The Martians are coming! The Martians are coming! They’ve got huge noggins, flying saucers, laser guns, the whole works. Fortunately for Earth, the circus is in town, and the carnies are ready to fight back. Flying Frog’s Invasion from Outer Space is a 1940s sci-fi movie turned into a board game. I mentioned this one briefly in my PAX round-up, but here’s a more in-depth look at the game.
Ages: 12 and up.
Playing Time: 1 to 2 hours.
Rating: Excellent. (I’m tempted to say “out of this world” but that would be cheesy, right?)
Who Will Like It? If you liked Flying Frog’s zombie game, Last Night on Earth, then you’ll really enjoy this one as well: it uses the same game mechanics, but the Martians have a lot more options than the zombies did. Also, if you’re a fan of schlocky sci-fi films, this is a fun way to immerse yourself in that world.
As with LNoE, Flying Frog has put a lot of effort into making the theme a huge part of the game, and IFOS is no different. As the humans, you get a pretty wild collection of characters (including my favorite: Jojo the dancing bear) and various tools and weapons you might find at a carnival. The Martians get their fair share of advanced technology including the death ray and can bring in the gargantuan Zard beast to do some of their dirty work for them. From the little details in the artwork to the flavor text on the cards to the soundtrack CD, IFOS does a good job of really bringing you into the world the game represents, rather than making everything an abstraction.
Oh, and in case you couldn’t tell from the picture at the top, these are definitely not your modern sci-fi aliens. They’re good ol’ big-headed, ugly, laser-toting Martians from old B-movies, and they’re darn good at it.
The IFOS box is packed with goodies—so much so that after you punch out all the pieces it’s a challenge to get everything to fit in the little plastic divider (especially if you get some of the bonus figurines). There’s a large double-sided center board and six L-shaped corner boards (you use four at a time, and there are extras to mix things up). The eight heroes come with little plastic figurines and character cards showing their abilities. There’s a batch of 18 Martian figures (complete with little clear plastic bubble helmets), a Martian Leader figure, and the Zard beast. Five game scenario cards, two 60-card decks (one for Martians, one for Heroes), 16 dice, a CD soundtrack, and several sheets of die-cut counters round out the set.
All of the cardboard pieces are extra-thick, sturdy cardboard with a glossy surface. The figurines are great, though you’ll have to superglue the bubble helmets onto the Martians yourself: it’s a nice touch for gamers who want to paint their figurines, but for the rest of us it adds a bit of work. The cards are very stiff and durable, but difficult to shuffle—this is probably my only complaint about the components, really. I guess the cards may last longer, but it really can be difficult to get them mixed thoroughly and they don’t seem to get more flexible with repeated play.
The artwork on the cards is all done with photography: props and backgrounds and costumes, as you can see in the images at the top of the post and below. Many of the cards feature the heroes or Martians using the items depicted, and it adds to the theme.
One other thing: the box for this seems a bit flimsier than Flying Frog’s previous boxes; I’m not sure if that was to save on printing costs. If so, I’m glad they just cut costs on the box and not the components.
IFOS uses the LNoE game engine, so a lot of the mechanics are similar, but there are several key differences as well. Rather than repeat everything here, I’ll refer you back to my write-up of LNoE—check the “Gameplay” section there—and then note just the major changes here.
The biggest change is that the Martians get a lot more to do than the Zombie players did—this makes it more fun to be the bad guys, but it means the learning curve for the humans is a bit steeper. I haven’t played with two Martian players yet, but I think there’s more strategy to discuss and plan in this game. There’s an additional phase of the Martian turn which uses the Martian Command Console: you get two points to spend on things—drawing new cards, immediately beaming down more Martians, building technology, and calling in your champions. Some of the cards are Martian technology, and they cost a certain amount of points to build—but once built, you can reveal them and put them into play, often with devastating effect.
Also, instead of the stationary spawning pits where the zombies emerged, the Martians are beaming down from flying saucers. The great thing about flying saucers, of course, is that they move. You can actually spend Command points to move your flying saucers around, beaming down closer to the humans. The Martians also have little laser guns—they don’t have a huge range, but with your pack of three Martians you still have a decent chance of getting in a few shots before you have to start throwing punches. Fortunately for the humans, the Martians are weaker and slower.
As for the humans, they also get a little something extra to help counteract all the new bonuses. In addition to their abilities, the humans can also accumulate Power tokens which they can use to activate certain more powerful abilities. For instance, Archibald the human cannonball can use Power tokens to fire himself from one of the cannons on the board—either to get away quickly, or to smash into the Martians. Players roll a green die each turn for a chance to earn more Power tokens.
The five scenarios included give a good amount of variety: the basic “Invasion” is a straight kill-the-enemy battle, but there are others like “Abduction” which has the Martians trying to capture various townsfolk or “Blow ’em Out of the Sky” which challenges the Humans to shoot down the flying saucers. If that’s not enough, though, the manual also gives rules for combining IFOS with LNoE to bring Zombies to the circus or Martians to the little town of Woodinvale. But what I’m really eager to try (once I can get enough players together) is the three-sided “Earth Overrun” game—it uses an extra-large board setup for a Humans vs. Zombies vs. Martians free-for-all. I just have two words for you: Martian Zombies.
As much as I liked LNoE, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a fan of IFOS as well. Both games are pretty comparable in style and gameplay, though I think based on mechanics alone IFOS is even better. Typically I’d say I probably prefer zombies to 1940s Martians, but these guys are really fun to play because of all the different options you have. Now, if you don’t like zombies but you do have a soft spot for sci-fi, this may be worth checking out—however, if you’ve played LNoE and just didn’t care for it at all, the added mechanics in IFOS aren’t probably enough to change your mind.
There’s a lot of luck involved, both in the draw of the cards and rolls of the dice, and I know those games aren’t for everyone. Myself, I tend to prefer more strategy and less luck in most games. However, I really love the way that Flying Frog emphasizes the theme of their games, and I think Invasion from Outer Space is destined to be favorite at my game nights.
Wired: A fun take on old sci-fi horror films; lots of options for both teams; high replayability with all the different options in board setup, scenarios, and characters; did I mention that Jojo the dancing bear is wearing a tutu?
Tired: The cards are stiff and sticky, which makes them a bit hard to shuffle; sometimes Lady Luck frowns on you.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.