Kickstarter Alert: ‘Area 51’

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Area 51, Image: Mücke Games
Area 51, Image: Mücke Games

At a Glance

Work as a secret government agent in 1950s America and hide away evidence of extraterrestrial activity.

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What’s in The Box?

  • Board (Adaptable to number of players)
  • 60 Security Markers
  • 20 Storage Towers
  • 30 Game Pieces (One scoring meeple & 5 tower caps in six colors)
  • 4 Trucks
  • 4 Trains
  • 24 Numbered Markers
  • 104 Alien Artifact Cards
  • 6 Reference Cards

In Detail

Area 51 Board & Pieces, Image: Mücke Spiele
Area 51 Board & Pieces, Image: Mücke Spiele

Area 51 is all about hiding away the evidence of alien activity on Earth. Players assume the role of government secret agents much like the Men in Black or The X-Files‘ Cigarette Smoking Man and compete to conceal evidence into their bunkers. The game is intended for three to six players aged 12 and up, but a two-player variant is included in the rulebook.

The evidence comes in four colors to represent advanced tools, futuristic weapons, biological samples, and alien clothing. Each piece of evidence must be stored in the correct type of bunker, and more dangerous/advanced artifacts must be housed in stronger bunkers, requiring you to upgrade your security.

On each turn, players must perform one of four actions.

  • Collect Three New Artifacts – add cards to your hand, either from the six face up options or blind from the top of the deck.
  • Play Artifacts to Create or Upgrade a Bunker – place cards in a hangar then build a new bunker or add additional security levels to an existing one, allowing it to contain more dangerous artifacts.
  • Play Artifacts to Hire a Train or Truck – hire a train or truck to transport artifacts to other bunkers, upgrade the security of the vehicles, or move them to a new location.
  • Pick Up a Pile of Artifacts and Load Them Into Bunkers – the only action that scores points, players gather up artifacts from a hangar and distribute them into existing bunkers scoring points for themselves and other players.

When two regions have no security markers left, the end of the game is triggered. Players each get one more regular turn, followed by one Pick Up & Store action. Final scoring takes places with players getting extra points for having bunkers with high-security levels in each region and the player with the most points is the winner.

You can read the rulebook (available in English, German, and French) over at Mücke Spiele or Board Game Geek. Also, the wonderful Undead Viking has created an in-depth look at the gameplay which is well worth checking out if you’re interested in seeing more.

Board Close Up, Image: Mücke Spiele
Board Close Up, Image: Mücke Spiele

Verdict

I was sent a prototype of the game which needed to be cut out from printed sheets, so I am unable to comment on the quality of the board or cards. The playing pieces themselves are made from chunky plastic. The molds for the train and truck are great, however, we found that the security markers didn’t stack together as well as we would have liked–hopefully, this problem will be fixed by the final production. I’d love to see this game painted up as the pieces have great potential to be customized.

Although complicated at first glance, once you’ve got the hang of what you’re supposed to be doing this is a very clever game with a lot of potential for strategic thinking. Allowing players to not only score themselves points but score for other people by having to place items in opponents bunkers is a lot of fun. It could also be the basis for a lot of arguments!

The theming of the game is fantastic, although as a die-hard UFO/X-Files/Roswell conspiracy nut I’m bound to say that! The style of the art reminds me of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (this is actually a compliment–I love that movie), although I would have liked to see more made of the cards with perhaps some filler text.

If you love alien conspiracies and strategy games, this is a must-back.