Posted by: gschloesser | August 3, 2011

It’s Alive!

Design by:  Yehuda Berlinger
Published by:  Reiver Games
2 – 5 Players, 30 – 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

 

“It’s Alive!  It’s Alive!”  That famous line from the classic Frankenstein movie has been used over and over again in various settings.  Now, it is the name of a monster-building game from Yehuda Berlinger and Reiver Games.  Appropriately enough, the game takes its inspiration from the famous movie, with players attempting to collect all of the body parts necessary to create human life.  

Oddly enough, the game’s original theme was apparently based on the Jewish Menorah.  This is perhaps the most drastic change of theme of which I have ever heard!  I am assuming someone thought that the market for a game based on the harvesting of body parts in order to stitch together a living being is greater than a game based on the Jewish Menorah!

Each player receives a slab depicting eight different body parts, a privacy screen, and twelve coins.  A deck of small, square cards – each depicting a different body part, coffin or irate villagers – is shuffled, and becomes the batch of body parts being offered by the “dubious gentleman”.  

On his turn, the active player may either reveal the top card from the deck, or purchase a card from his own or an opponent’s discard pile, which is known as the “graveyard” in game parlance.  

If a player opts to reveal the top card, he may purchase it for the price indicated, sell it for one-half of the indicated price, or place it up for auction.   If he chooses the latter option, the auction is a “once around” bid, with the high bidder acquiring the body part and paying the active player.  If the active player wins the auction, he takes the body part and pays the bank.  Whenever a body part is acquired, it is placed onto the appropriate location on the player’s slab.  If the player already has a matching body part, he places on of those parts in reserve.  These parts can be used to acquire parts from players’ graveyards, or to fend off rampaging villagers. 

If the player reveals a “Villagers Uprising” card, he must fend-off the villagers by paying an amount either in coins or body parts equal to the value of the villagers.  The player keeps the villager card, and may use it later to acquire graveyard cards or fend off future irate villagers.  Further, he can continue his turn by revealing another card.  These villager cards can be quite problematic, and do upset a player’s plans.  Fortunately, their effects are not devastating, and the affected player does get to keep the villager card for future use. 

The only other type of card is the coffin, which can be used as a wild card, taking the place of a needed body part.  

If a player chooses to acquire a card from a player’s graveyard – even his own – he simply moves the card to the center of the table and pays the cost either in coins or spare body parts.  This is a major incentive to acquire spare body parts, so they can be used to acquire needed parts from the graveyard.  Of course, there first must be cards in the graveyards in order to exercise this option.  Cards that are sold, body part cards used to fend-off villagers, and cards used to purchase graveyard items are placed into a player’s graveyard, becoming available for all players to purchase on their turn.  However, only the top card in a player’s graveyard is available to be purchased. 

The game can end in one of two ways, depending upon whether players are using the Basic or Advanced rules.  In the basic game, the first player to successfully acquire the eight needed body parts shouts, “It’s Alive!” and wins the game.  In the Advanced game ends in the same manner, but all players then tally the value of the body parts on their slab along with their coins, with the player completing his body receiving a five point bonus.  The player with the greatest value is the new Dr. Frankenstein.

If you don’t mind the rather grisly theme, It’s Alive is a fun, fast game.  The auction mechanism fits well here, and isn’t prolonged since it is a once-around-the-table method and the value of the body part is clear.  Plus, auctions tend to be called sparingly, as there are other methods of acquiring needed parts and funds.   Thus, the mechanism doesn’t become too overpowering or repetitive. 

Still, there are incentives for a player to place a body part up for bid.  First, the player may be able to acquire that part cheaper than the listed price.  An astute player will recognize when his opponents are low on funds and use this method to acquire a part cheaply.  The active player must bid first, however, so judicious bidding is required.  Conversely, a player may recognize when one or more opponents desire a specific part and are flush with cash.  This could result in an opponent paying handsomely for a desired part, with all that cash flowing to the active player.  

I find it interesting that the theme was switched from constructing a Menorah to building a monster.  I must admit, though, that the published theme is more appealing, and the game will make an excellent addition to my collection of games that are particularly suited for play at Halloween!

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Responses

  1. Interesting drafting/buying mechanism. Need another play to remember it and to see if I like it any better. 6/10


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