Reviewed by Herb Levy

INFILTRATION (Fantasy Flight Games, 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.95)


The time is the future and this future world is a very dangerous place. It is the Android Universe (a dystopian future world postulated by Android, a previous release by Fantasy Flight), a world run by immense corporations involved in android technology. CyberSolutions Inc., one such corporation, is on the verge of a revolutionary breakthrough which would challenge the power (and profits) of other corporations. Players, in the role of cyberthieves, have an assignment: break into the heavily guarded CyberSolutions facility, steal as much information as possible and escape before security can capture you! This is Infiltration, the new game by Donald X. Vaccarino, designer of Dominion (Winter 2009 GA Report), Kingdom Builder {Winter 2012 GA Report) and others.

Several decks of cards are used in the game. The larger cards come in three varieties: blue, yellow and red. The cards are shuffled (separately) and six blue (level one) and six yellow (level two) are laid out to form a V with one red card between, all face down. These cards represent the rooms of the facility; the rest of the decks are not used in the game. (The red card represents a “secret” room that can only be entered if other rooms are in play.)infiltrationbox

Rooms have several attributes (and all rooms have at least some of them). First off, a room will display how many Data File (DF) tokens are available in that room. DF tokens represent the valuable information you are trying to steal and come in values of 1, 2 and 3. There may be an “Enter” effect which happens when entering the room and/or a “Reveal” which must be resolved when the room card is turned over. There may be a Tech Lock (noted by placing a red counter on the space) or Lab Worker (yellow counter) which, when removed (through the play of a card) will release more DF tokens into the room. Finally, there may be an Interface, marked by a (purple) counter, which, when destroyed, will activate a specified ability or event.

Every player chooses an identity and a matching token which will enter the complex and everyone begins with a starting hand of 8 cards: 4 Action cards and 4 “items”. Action cards consist of Advance, Retreat, Download and Interface. Item cards are “specials” which can do a variety of things.

On a turn, all players choose 1 card to play and all cards are revealed simultaneously, In turn order, each player resolves his chosen action. If playing Advance, the player moves his token one room ahead. Face down rooms entered in this manner are flipped over and any Enter or Reveal effect resolved. If the player is already in the room and plays his Download card, he may take DF tokens (two if he is the first player playing that card in the room, one if he is not). An Interface card played in an occupied room will destroy the Interface (purple) token and the matching effect of the Interface in that room is activated. Or, a player may play one of his Item cards.

Item cards are specials allowing a player to do more than the standard four Action cards allow. These cards allow a player to remove a Tech Lock or Lab Worker (resulting in more DF tokens becoming available in that room). Others increase movement ability or allow the play of more than one card or take more than one action on a turn. Unlike your standard Action cards, most of these are used one time and then discarded.

As players explore, they will encounter many things including special cards such as Blackmail File (which can add DF tokens to your holdings or let you blindly exchange tokens in the hope of getting higher valued ones) and Prototype (which adds 10 to your DF total at game’s end but will not allow you to use Item cards). There are also Non-Player Characters (NPCs) who can wound players/intruders as well as doing other unpleasant things. Room effects can also cause wounds. (Some Item cards and rooms allow players to become “healthy” again.) Although none of these wounds are fatal, a wounded player does feel the effects. After playing an Advance or Retreat card, a wounded player can NOT play an Advance or Retreat card for the next turn. He is, in game terms, “delayed”. After a turn, however, that player is “healed” and may again have his full complement of Action card options available for use. Being delayed can be much more serious that first appears because time is not on your side!

At the end of the round, after all players have gone and any NPCs in play have done their damage, players check to see how close security is. The game uses a very cute “Security Tracker” to mark this progress.infiltration2

The Tracker consists of two parts. The smaller, “alarm”, dial is set at 0 (but may rise as high as 8 thanks to effects of entered rooms and one Item Card [Secretaries] gives a player the option of raising or LOWERING the alarm setting by 2!). The second part tracks proximity. This part starts at “00”. At the end of each round, the first player rolls a six sided die. The number rolled is added to the current alarm value and the total added to the proximity dial. For example, let’s say we have already started our attack on the facility, the alarm value has risen to 2 and the proximity dial is now at 22. The first player rolls the die and rolls a 6. That 6 is added to the current alarm rating (2) so that 8 is added to the proximity dial making the current value 30. That number is important for to win, players need to not only have the most value in collected DF tokens but also have to escape from the facility before that proximity dial reaches 99. All players, regardless of how many DF tokens they have, that are still within the facility when 99 shows up on the dial have LOST! (Some rooms allow for immediate escape, a valuable quality that can prove the difference between winning and losing!)

Rules provide for a host of variations which are, actually, pretty good. For example, instead of being dealt four Item cards randomly, you draft your hand of four which gives you a bit more control over your hand, allowing you to semi-plan your method of attack. (A second variant along these lines is to give 2 specific cards to each specific character chosen and then, randomly be dealt two more Item cards.) If you wish, you can replace your Download Action card with an Extract Action card. Extract cards work like Downloads in picking up DF tokens EXCEPT the amount of tokens you get depends on how many other players in the room have played an Extract card! You the only one? Then take 4! If 3 or more have played it, then all of you only get 1. (With these cards, not only do you have to plan your actions, you have to worry about what actions your opponents are planning!) Or how about mixing the blue and yellow cards together and dealing out 12 of those to create your facility. This, of course, makes the facility more dangerous and unpredictable as first and second level cards can appear anywhere! Or how about sprinkling in all the NPCs throughout the facility, making success that much more difficult? As designed, the game seems to be just the right length for what it is. But, as tastes vary, you may, for a shorter or longer game, start the alarm dial on -1 or +1.

Knowing the cards in the game is a big plus as you can better plan and prepare against unexpected dangers. These valuable Item cards are replaced into your hand by room effects (although one Item card allows you to go through the Item card discards and draw one into your hand too). This encourages you to probe further and further into the depths of the facility. But this plunge must be tempered by prudence as time is not your friend as time is constantly ticking against you. This yin-yang element of Infiltration adds to the decision-making and heightens the enjoyment.

The game offers rules for 2 but the game is really at its best with more players, four being the minimum, to increase interaction and competition. The game is postulated in the Android world and the artwork is exceptionally good, atmospheric and very much in keeping with this milieu. Which is why it is a curious design decision to have all the cards (except for the rooms) so small. Larger sized cards (say standard card size) would have been a better showcase for the art as well as making reading the considerable text on the cards that much more readable. Although science fiction is the genre, the game would certainly have worked with a retheming (and probably had a different theme when it was originally designed) such as operatives from a number of different countries infiltrating a terrorist corporation or a mad scientist’s lab who had data that could cause irreparable harm to the world, either of which is certainly a more positive theme than trying to be the better thief. Although the game mechanics are straightforward and certainly manageable for younger players, the age 14 and up caveat is probably due to the technical multi-syllable language on the cards that could challenge younger players. But the biggest strength of the game is its variety of experience since not all room cards are used in each game, room order is unpredictable and Item card combinations are plentiful giving Infiltration excellent replay value.

Essentially, Infiltration is a science fiction dungeon crawl where the unexpected is to be expected and monsters are replaced by technological dangers. And, as such, is one of the best games of this type out there. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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