Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column about card games, board games, and everything else non-digital.
Oddly enough, it's a very appropriate time to review designer Yehuda Berlinger's debut game. In its original incarnation, It's Alive! was a Chanukah-themed title known as The Menorah Game. Upon being picked up by publisher Reiver Games, however, the theme was changed to something a bit more universal: building monsters from the remains of the dead.
Aside from the bizarre re-skinning, It's Alive! remains mechanically identical to its holiday-oriented ancestor. Two to five players compete to be the first to assemble their monster by collecting the eight different types of body parts required. It used to be candles, and now it's body parts. A simple transition.
More than just a monster game, It's Alive! is hand-published by Reiver Games, with care and attention given to the game's presentation. From the stellar illustrations, to the individually-numbered editions, It's Alive! embodies the indie aesthetic of non-digital games, and that alone is most definitely worth something.
Players take turns drawing cards, and either buying the body part on the card, selling it for profit, or holding an auction in an attempt to get the part for less, or get rid of it at a higher profit. Villager uprising cards are mixed into the deck, which if drawn force the player to sacrifice either a body part or an amount of money to appease the pitchfork-wielding mob.
The game's strategy comes from knowing what cards your opponents have or need, as well as knowing how much money your opponents have. Does your opponent really need that arm up for auction, but only have three coins total to bid? An unusually high amount of satisfaction comes from screwing an opponent out of a card he wanted, or not bidding on a card your opponent is trying desperately to get rid of.
Advanced rules are also available, which reward players for most points at the end of the game. This adds more strategy to the game at every step, as players are more likely to hold out for the body parts with higher point values, rather than simply trying to assemble their creature as quickly as possible. The game is enjoyable with two players, but the bidding mechanics truly shine with three or more.
As of writing this, It's Alive! is already in short supply. Reiver Games has only run off an initial set of 300 copies, making the game a very limited edition. If you're interested, we recommend ordering sooner rather than later from the publisher's website.
Final Verdict: Fans of strategic bidding games will enjoy the gameplay, and proponents of indie games would do well to support this stellar designer and his publisher. It's Alive! is a fun take on a classic Mary Shelley theme. Get it before it's gone.
Scott Jon Siegel is an fledgling game designer, a professional blogger, and a mediocre cook. His words and games can be found at numberless. Who likes horsies?
Off the Grid reviews It's Alive!
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