Friday, July 06, 2007

It's Alive!

Who would have thought that re-animating a corpse could be so simple?

Last night, the Appalachian Gamers played It’s Alive!, a quick card game designed by Yehuda Berlinger and published by Reiver Games. It’s Alive! is an auction game with a Frankenstein theme.

Each turn, a player draws a card from the deck. Most of the cards are parts of corpses with various numerical values ranging from 2 to 8 (if I remember correctly). The player can purchase the card by paying the card’s value in gold. Or he can cash in the card to his graveyard and collect half of the card’s value in gold. Or he can auction off the card in the hope of collecting more than half of the card’s value from other players, or of winning the card without paying the full cost.

The goal is to collect the eight body parts needed to complete your monster. Once one person has all his necessary body parts, he calls out “It’s alive!” Players then total the value of their body parts and gold. The player with the highest total wins.

There’s a little more to the game than that, but not much more. There are rampaging villager cards that require appeasement in the form of a payment of gold. There are also expensive coffin cards that act like wild cards and can take the place of a body part. But that’s about it; the game has the virtue of simplicity.

The auction is the heart of the game. Knowing when to pay full price for a body part card and when to auction it off is one of the most important decisions in the game. If your opponents have already acquired their feet cards, and you have not, then auctioning a foot card could allow you to nab it for a pittance. On the other hand, auctioning off an expensive head card could be a mistake if one other player is near to completing his monster.

As you might suspect, the ability to remember the cards that other players have bought is a useful skill in this game.

For me, It’s Alive! will always be nothing more than a quick filler game. But it offers plenty of fun with relatively few rules, has appropriately grotesque art work, and gives players a chance to break out their Boris Karloff accents. I think It’s Alive! will stagger toward our gaming table again when a filler game is required.

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