Theme and What is it?
It has been scientifically proven that aliens visited our human ancestors and passed on vast amounts of knowledge regarding the solar system. If you don’t believe me, look it up on the internet. Because, you know, everything on the internet is true.
Part of the process of higher intellect beings sharing knowledge with lower intellect beings was figuring out how to communicate with each other. There had to be a way for everyone to get on the same page. Through dedicated work and some ingenious means, the aliens finally figured out a way to have humankind understand them. From there the knowledge flowed and the course of human history was forever changed.
First Contact is a game that is based on how the original beings from the sky first taught humans their language and began the slow process of inter-species communication.
Players split up between two teams, aliens and humans. There should be more humans than aliens. A deck of item cards is shuffled and a 5 x 5 grid of cards is laid out in the middle of the table. The rest of the deck is returned to the box. Each human receives a screen and a pad to track the clues the aliens will provide. The alien team shares a screen and the draw one of the alien language pad that all aliens use to communicate with the humans. The aliens also receive an assignment card that shows what item cards the humans must offer to the aliens as a gift. Once three of an alien’s assigned items are offered, the game ends and they are the winning alien. The human players have a different path to victory which will be discussed later.
The game begins with the aliens providing the symbol of a word to each player. The earthlings then begin their first round. In turn order, each player selects between 1-5 item cards and turns them sideways. These cards need to have something in common. The aliens will then show a symbol for a word that they feel matches the common characteristics of the selected cards. This information is available to all players and humans will all mark their boards with what they feel that symbol represents. Each human takes a turn doing this.
During the alien round, each alien draws three characters on their board which describe the item that they need to collect. The humans try to decipher this message based on the knowledge they have and then they vote behind their screen on which item card the alien is asking them to present. If a human chooses the correct card, the alien gives that player a benevolence token. After an alien has received their third item and the game ends, the human player with the most benevolence tokens is the winning human player.
I was excited for First Contact because I am a sucker for Egyptian stuff and I am an alien fanatic. I watch all the crazy documentaries on both of those subjects. That made First Contact feel right at home.
Another thing about First Contact was the familiarity it has with the Codenames Games. I have only played Codenames a couple of times, but as I was setting up First Contact,I saw some similarities. Once the game got rolling, I discovered that First Contact had more depth than Codenames. The language barrier was very unique and created some interesting challenges. The game moves along at a great pace and everyone stayed engaged because when a clue is given everyone has access to it.
Explaining the game was kind of tough, but once we were up and running it did not take long for everyone to catch on.
Game Build Quality
I liked all of the components in First Contact. You do use a dry erase marker on most of them and they are built to be used over and over. Everything should hold up.
The one complaint I have in this department is the box size. For as much as there is inside the box, it is small. Unless you place everything back exactly in the right spot, the lid does not close all the way. It is not a huge concern and I am sure it is environmentally sounder than using a bigger box. Just something I noticed.
First Contact does a great job capturing the ancient Egyptian artwork. It then takes that and adds the alien element and the two themes work well together. The game does not take itself seriously and the art is lighthearted to go along with that. The item cards are themed towards Egyptian elements and that was great to see.
What makes this game fun is the communication factor. We played with a strict rule that the aliens could not communicate with the earthlings in any way except the symbols on the alien drawing board. Trying to work out the meanings of random symbols can be very challenging and it allowed people to really use their imaginations. Trying to find common characteristics and then hoping that the other player sees the same commonality is tough but very rewarding.
Age Range & Weight
Recommended age range is 12+. I can see this game being a great way to fire up a kid’s brain and get them thinking abstractly. Yet, I probably wouldn’t play it with other adults at the same time as my kids. I would separate the two experiences. The kids might struggle making associations and that could cause some delays or may even make the game unplayable. I still think it would be a great exercise with my kids. I would want to experience the game without any hang-ups. Having a group of older players that have developed that part of their brain function will make this game a real treat and should provide lots of entertainment.
First Contact may appear like a game you have played before but it has its own flavor that works really well when playing with the right people. It is not as light as Codenames and that is OK. It can still be used as a party game yet still have some depth that allows seasoned board gamers to enjoy it. Everyone should have a turn playing as both alien and human. This will allow everyone to feel how challenging it is to express themselves with out being able to communicate. It is a struggle that is very rewarding.
First Contact is not a gateway game. It may not even work well when introducing people to tabletop games. I would advise easing them in on a classic gateway game and once they have navigated that then teach them First Contact. Not only will you teach them a fun game, you will also teach them about how humans gained their knowledge of of the sciences!