Review By Jerry Epperson
The Space Gamer #28 (May/June 1980)
INTRUDER (Task Force Games)
Designed by B. Dennis Sustare.
14-page 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" booklet, 16" x 20" mapsheet, and 54 die-cut counters.
For 1-3 players
Plays in under an hour.
INTRUDER is a solitaire game (with scenarios allowing more than one players) of hide-and-seek on the research station Prometheus. Sound familiar? It is. This game simulates the action in the movie Alien, and does a good job of it. The alien wanders around killing things; as the game progresses, it gains new powers, each of which comes as a surprise to the humans, and gets tougher and harder to kill.
This is basically a solitaire game; players who have opponents available will want it only when it gets hot in Siberia. If you do have some fellow-gamers around, you might try collaborating instead of competing.
Unfortunately, INTRUDER is not as well written as the other Task Force games I have seen. I had the distinct feeling that some of the rules were missing. For instance, where do you set up the cages? (I put them in the lab.) I had problems with the sleep-dart rules; they let the Intruder wake up so quickly that my officers had to fire repeatedly. Very irritating.
I was somewhat disappointed. This one is for solitaire garners, or others who are really hard up for new sci-fi games.
Review By Tony Watson
Dragon #39 (July 1980)
Produced by: Task Force Games
Retail price: $3.95
Recently, a popular SF film featured a particularly nasty alien creature that stole aboard an interstellar starship and proceeded to wreak havoc and cut the crew population down in a radical fashion. The monster prowled the recesses of the ship, whittling down the human population in a series of hit-and-run strikes, while its biology metamorphosed into increasingly deadly forms. Task Force Games' new offering depicts a very similar situation; no one who's seen the thriller Alien, and then played INTRUDER, can deny the similarities. There was a game in that movie, and Task Force has done a fine job of extracting and offering it to us in a pocket-game format.
The game's basic situation pits an increasingly deadly and hostile alien creature running loose in the reaches of a large starship while a slowly dwindling crew attempts to come up with something to stop it. The game treats this as a solitaire situation; the player controls the crew, while the actions of the lntruder(s) are governed by die rolls. Unlike many solitaire games, the system does not seem forced. The Intruder remains a formidable foe, and the player must make meaningful and often tense decisions in order to achieve victory. It is the player's task to hunt down the alien and either cage it (while it is still small and presumably still of some research value) or destroy it before unacceptable losses have been taken among the crew.
The game's map is a display representing the space station Prometheus, a three-armed configuration of corridors and rooms branching out from a central command module. Corridors are broken into segments for movement purposes and each room, named for its function (mess, lab, arms locker, storage, etc), serves as a single space for regulating movement as well. In addition to the actual station display, the map sheet contains charts for keeping track of numerous game information, such as Intruder life stage and powers, weapons production, and captured and catalogued lab animals. This is all very handy since it reduces all bookkeeping to sliding counters around, rather than using written records.
The player's forces consist of nine crewmen, three each of the following services: Command, Engineering and Science. Each is represented by a nicely executed counter with a color-coded silhouette. Separate counters are included for weapons: sleep dart guns, blasters, gas canisters and, after a few turns of work in the maintenance room by the engineers, electric prods and flame throwers. Cages for lab animals and the Intruder (while it is small) can be gotten from the ship's lab. The effects of the various weapons differ, and each has a separate column on the CRT, with results ranging from no effect to sleep (darts only!) to Intruder retreat or killed. The cages can be used to capture the Intruder while it is in a low life stage, or to secure lab animals picked up in the course of the search. The electric prods can be used to control the movement of the alien, the likelihood of this depending on the Intruder's life stage.
Despite the array of weapons available to the crew, the Intruder remains a formidable opponent, and the game's best features center around this fact. Most important is the Intruder's ability to metamorphose, becoming increasingly more vicious as it develops from life stage 1 to stage 6. Each succeeding stage is tougher than the last, with the creature becoming more likely to attack, more likely to kill crew if it does attack and more difficult to control with the shock prods.
The Intruder also possesses special powers, gaining one with each metamorphosis. The exact powers are determined by die roll. Most are immunities of some sort, such as resistance to darts or vacuum, while others allow for extra-strength or speed. These abilities add a lot to the game. The Intruder is different each game, requiring a change of tactics or weapons to defeat it. The most significant power is the ability to clone. This means the crew will have to face one or more additional creatures even if they kill the first.
Turns play quickly in INTRUDER, making for enjoyable games in about forty-five minutes. The sequence begins with the movement of hidden counters. The Intruder is placed face down with a mix of dummies and lab animals apportioned in designated areas of the map. The counters are moved each turn by a system utilizing numbers corresponding to die possibilities printed on each space and a die roll to determine the actual direction of movement. The dummies and lab animals serve to hide the exact location of the alien until they are slowly removed via capture (animals) or discovery (dummies). An interaction phase follows in which counters in the same area as crew members are revealed. Combat may ensue, with the humans using the weapons CRT and the alien attacks resolved by a simple die roll, the result of which is dependent on the alien's life stage. If anyone (or thing) is killed, a panic interlude takes place. All crew members go to the command module, any clones due to enter are placed and the hidden counters are remixed and replaced. The interaction phase is also the time for the crew to perform such actions as caging lab animals, activating airlocks or freezers, or attempting to control the alien with the prods. Interaction completed, a die is rolled for metamorphosis. Crew movement follows; crew members may each move three spaces or expend points to arm themselves, construct weapons and so on. This is followed by a second interaction phase and finally a self-destruction advancement phase - if that device has been activated.
The game plays very well. The crew members generally begin by arming themselves and then spreading out to search for the alien. Time is of the essence; the longer the Intruder remains free, the more likely it is to grow and become more difficult to deal with. The game is won by points; positive points are accrued for capture of the creature(s), or, second best, its destruction, while negative points are garnered for crew deaths. Since the Intruder can't be killed at life stages 1 or 2, the idea in the early going is to prod (or cage) the creature and stick it in the freezer, halting future growth. Capture becomes more difficult as the monster grows and gains special powers. The alien gets deadly in combat, and the attrition rate among the crew can get frightening. If things get bad enough, the rules even allow for self-destruction of the station and crew escape via shuttles, with the possibility of Intruder stowaway!
My complaints about this game are very few. There are a couple of minor glitches in the rules, though nothing a few moments' thought won't solve. The shiny finish to the counters, usually a plus, couples with the light color of the map surface to sometimes give the Intruder's position away by reflection (the Intruder counters are black on red, all other hidden counters are black).
The game, as a game; is a lot of fun. The situation is tense and games are often close. The Intruder is truly a mean monster and the player will have to use some brains to defeat it. INTRUDER is designed by B. Dennis Sustare. Components include a 16-page rulebook, 54 die-cut counters, and a 16-by-20-inch map-sheet, packaged in a ziplock bag. The game is available by retail only (Task Force does no direct mail selling).
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