FLASHBACK FRIDAY – Who Goes There? – Certifiable Studios – Review

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While exploring Antarctica your team found a specimen frozen in the ice. Naturally you brought it back to camp and set it next to the fire to thaw out. What could go wrong? A lot, actually.

Jeremiah & Kara

MeepleGamers

7.2/10

Publisher: Certifiable Studios


Designer: Anthony Coffey


Designer: Jesse Labbe


Artist: Anthony Coffey


Artist: Jesse Labbe


Game Type: Action Selection


Game Type: Social Deduction


Initial Year of Release: 2018


Age Range: 14+


Expected Playtime:


Number of Players: 3-4

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Theme and What is it?


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7/10

You trudge through the snow, back bent against the cold, searching for anything useful in this freezing wasteland. Your coworker searches a few feet away, though you can hardly see each other through the snowstorm. You’re rummaging through a crate of supplies when you hear you coworker shout. You spin around to see him on the ground with a massive, mangled figure looming over him. “Copper!” you shout, forgetting the crate. You grab a piece of wood and rush to Copper’s aid. Before you can get there though, Copper whips out his pistol and fires twice into the Thing’s twisted body. Howling and bleeding, the Thing turns and disappears in the snow. “Copper, are you alright?” you gasp as you finally reach him, offering your hand, “are you injured?”

Copper stares at your hand with an unsettling look on his face before replying. “I’m fine,” he says in a monotone voice, and he hefts himself to his feet, ignoring your outstretched hand. Silently, he starts back toward the camp.

 You stand, alone in the snow for a moment, feeling uneasy. Copper’s behavior was strange. What if… a cold sweat breaks across your back as you study the snow at your feet. Two dark trails of blood spot the snow. One leads away from camp in the direction the Thing fled. The other…. leads toward the camp. With terror surging through your veins, you tighten your grip on the club and race after Copper. He must be stopped.

In “Who Goes There?”, players act as part of a team of arctic explorers. While exploring, you found a specimen frozen in the ice. Naturally you brought it back to camp and set it next to the fire to thaw out. What could go wrong? A lot, actually. Now a Thing is loose in the camp, hunting your team and turning them into things just like itself. Will you manage to escape on the rescue helicopter? Or will you be turned and try to sabotage the mission? Either can happen in, “Who Goes There?”.

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Gameplay Mechanics


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5/10

“Who Goes There?” is an action-selection social deduction game. Players will use their actions to search for materials, food, first aid kits, and helicopter parts. Throughout the game, players will have encounters with the Thing, forcing them to draw vulnerable cards. If they draw the “infected” vulnerable card, they have been infected by the Thing and must try to survive long enough to board the helicopter and escape to the mainland where they will wreak havoc on humanity. Players who are still human must be careful and observant as they try to figure out which of their teammates have been infected and try not to get infected themselves!

There are some things we really liked about “Who Goes There?” and some things we didn’t care for. Something we liked was that players can use cards they’ve found to build items. They can make knives, coats, axes, and other items which will help them survive long enough to escape. When searching outside players will also gain XP which they can spend to upgrade their character. These two things help players feel like they’re making important progress each turn. 

“Who Goes There?” Is a social deduction game, which means players are trying to figure out who might be infected by the Thing, and who is still human. Unfortunately, the social deduction in this game rests in the background. No seems to care very much about who might be infected besides during the ‘sleep’ rounds of the game. Part of the reason for this is that if an infected player tries to infect you, you are automatically infected but continue to play the game normally. You’re still trying to board the helicopter, what does it matter how you get there?

Another thing is that players can only take 3 hits before they die and are eliminated from the game, and there are A LOT of things in this game that can hurt you! It’s possible that all players could be eliminated halfway through the game, and then it would just be over. 

The last thing we didn’t care for is the helicopter escape. The team leader will decide who is allowed to board and who must stay behind. Infected players can’t escape without at least one human player on board so they have to either sneak on with the humans, or trick the humans into boarding with them. Players who opt to stay behind or get left behind lose the game. If the infected player manages to board the helicopter but is overpowered by the humans, the humans on the helicopter win. If the infected player overpowers the humans on the helicopter, everyone loses. That’s not a typo – EVERYONE loses. Including the infected player! This means that there is no way for an infected player to win the game, which seems like a really strange rule.

Building the items, upgrading your character, and exploring the frigid wasteland outside of camp are all fun things, and really, the game IS fun! There are just some quirky things mixed in there that make the game feel  broken at times.

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Initial Impressions


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5/10

Before you can play “Who Goes There?” you have to read the rulebook, and it’s difficult to get through. This is an action selection game, but the actions aren’t explained until page 24. Other things in the rulebook are repeated unnecessarily and seem poorly organized. But once you get through the rulebook, you realize that the game itself is actually pretty straightforward. Players take turns searching for items, building tools, and trying to survive.
The game length on the box says about 2 hours. We’re pretty experienced gamers, and I thought for sure we’d finish early. I was wrong. Individual turns only take about 2 minutes each, but multiply that by 4 players and the 15 rounds in the game and you’ve reached that 2 hour threshold. 

Despite the convoluted rules, the long playtime, and the weird helicopter boarding thing I’ve already mentioned, we actually had a pleasant time playing “Who Goes There?”. We really liked building items for our characters, taking our chances searching outside, and trying to convince everyone else we weren’t infected. The individual turns were quick, and the game moved along at a steady pace, it was just a little long for what it is.

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Game Build Quality


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10/10

The component quality of “Who Goes There?” is phenomenal. There’s custom everything – miniatures, tokens, dice, and an insert that will make you weep with joy. The insert has spaces for everything: each individual deck of cards, the miniatures, xp, dice, wound tokens – and to top it all off, there’s a removable part of the insert that organizes and stores all the item tiles. This part can be set beside the board game during play so that the items are easy to see and reach. The dual layer character boards have tiles that click into place and can be physically removed once upgraded, which is oh so satisfying. And the best part is, everything fits perfectly into the game box. It’s worth mentioning that the box is massive — about 2 inches taller and You couldn’t ask for better production quality.

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Artistic Direction


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10/10

The illustrations and artistic design for “Who Goes There?” are fantastic. There are a lot of actions to keep track of during the game, each with various action-cube costs, but they’re all listed along the top left of the character boards which helps simplify things and keeps the game moving forward. Every buildable item, card, and character token has its effect printed on it so players know exactly what each of them does. The artwork is fun to look at, the cards are easy to read, and everything looks great on the table.

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Fun Factor


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6/10

After the initial rules’ explanation and setup, gameplay moved along really smoothly. We all had a fun time searching for materials, building items, and upgrading our characters. We did our best to avoid taking vulnerable cards, but eventually the deck ran out and that’s when we knew one of us was infected. There are three phases in the game, and at the end of each phase there is a ‘sleep round’. This means you must choose someone to bunk with, and you’ll have to show each other your infection markers. If the person you bunk with shows you a clean marker, you’re safe! But if they show you an infected marker, you’ll become infected as well. It was interesting trying to figure out who would be safe to bunk with and who might be risky. We also fun managing the camp as a team and making sure things didn’t break down.

We played as a 3 player game, but this one would probably be best with 4 players.

Player interaction in “Who Goes There?” is surprisingly low. Usually in social deduction games people are throwing accusations around like candy on the fourth of July, but in this one people mostly kept to themselves and did their own thing. It was exciting knowing that someone might be infected, but it didn’t seem that important to figure out who.

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Age Range & Weight


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8/10

Getting through the rulebook is the hardest part of this game. If you can do that, the rest is nice and simple. Most of the game, players are searching for materials, building items, and pushing their luck searching for helicopter supplies outside. Someone might get infected — and maybe it’ll be you – but as long as you prepare well to board the helicopter, everything will be fine. The manufacturer recommended age for “Who Goes There?” is 14+, but the game is so simple that I could see kids younger than that playing this one with their parents.

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Conclusions


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7.2/10

If you’re looking for a game with solid mechanics and enough social deduction to make your back sweat, this isn’t the game for you. However, if you love the novel “Who Goes There?” or the movie “The Thing”, and you want to play out that story in a board game, I think you’d love this one! It definitely has quirks and flaws, but beneath all its imperfections it still has some really good ideas – it just needs a little more work, or possibly some creative house rules. We had fun playing, and although I wouldn’t object to playing again, it’s not one I’m dying to get to the table again either.

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