Uncle Kwaggy's avatar

Super Genius

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I found a new board game at my local store earlier today, called Level 7 [Escape]. I'd heard about it online, and it sounded pretty good. After a glowing recommendation from my friend that works there, I picked it up. My friend and I played it at her house later that day, and it was AMAZING. Has anyone else tried it? It's the first horror board game I've ever played where I felt legitimate fear. Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness, while fun and well-built games, weren't actually that scary because AH is actually fairly easy and with MoM I'm NEVER going into a session expecting to win because the odds are stacked sadistically in the GM's favor so there's nothing really at stake. With Level 7 [Escape], the odds are never too hopeless until you drop dead. The next corner you turn could easily be a deadly enemy, but it could just as easily be exactly what you need to survive and/or progress. (Very often, both.)

Basically, you're a group of human test subjects who wake up in an alien laboratory, working semi-cooperatively (in other words, everyone CAN win, but not everyone WILL win, and you can backstab each other) to escape the horrors of the facility. At every turn, you're assaulted by guards, and alien clones, and when your progress a little further even horrific hybrids of human and alien. To top it all off, the aliens actively feed on human fear like a drug. The more more intense things get, the more scared your character is and the more likely it is for the aliens to seek out you specifically. (When you reach maximum fear, aliens literally pop of the vents to get at you.) The game is set up in 7 scenarios; one for each floor of the facility, and the map layout is random except for your starting tile in each scenario. Those familiar with say, Zombies!!! will recognize the basic map structuring. Every time you enter an unexplored area, you draw a new tile, desperately hoping it's the one containing the escape for that floor. The difference between this and Zombies!!! is that instead of one giant mass of tiles, you have to make one small pile of totally irrelevant tiles that you go through first, THEN a large pile containing your actual goal. There's an actual minimum amount of space you have to go through before you can find your goal, and there's frequently areas you have to go to BEFORE you're allowed to use the exit. Knowing that your goal has a 0% chance of being around the first few corners, that there is literally no possible way to luck into the exit early and move on, is actually pretty terrifying.

And if you ask why you'd backstab someone, it's because the game is actually easier if you strike out on your own. More tiles revealed means more chances of ANYONE finding the exit, and several win conditions cause would-be allies to be dead weight. For example, in one of the earlier scenarios, we had to leave on an elevator. In order to use that elevator, we had to satisfy [X] condition. Thing is, players who satisfy the condition can go to the elevator and wait there for those that haven't (as long as at least half the people using the elevator had done it, anyone at the elevator space could leave with them), OR they can simply leave, removing themselves from the game board and thus from harm's way entirely at the expense of leaving allies to fend for themselves. This particular scenario is EXTREMELY difficult alone as well, since multiple things need to be accomplished basically all at the same time, and it's also very dangerous to voluntarily stay behind to help because the enemies will still be trying to hurt you. Rather than just make leaving the ONLY sensible thing to do, they made it a real option. I had satisfied the condition before my friend. I would have had to wait three full turns for her to get back to the elevator while I waited, surviving every event she triggered to get to me. I decided to do the nice thing and wait, and we got lucky, but it was actually really nerve-wracking to watch her play out her turns.