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Aarggh... I can't breathe...

Imagine, if you will, a space station at night (or rather, during the hours of what has been defined as rest time for the crew of said space station). All is calm - until all the alarms go off, emergency lights flash on, airlocks slam shut, and it becomes painfully obvious that something has gone very, very wrong...

This situation provides the backdrop for a very entertaining board game, or "easy to learn fast action strategy game" as is stated on the box. It is a game for 3 to 6 players, supposedly for ages 13 and up.

The players each assume the role of one of the hapless astronauts on the station, and the big idea is of course to stay alive, and make it safely away from the wrecked station. The station is a mess after years of neglect, and the equipment needed to survive is scattered all over the place. To make matters even worse, there is only one working escape pod. It has room for two people only - and it needs two people to operate it. This means that the players must form alliances whith some players, and fight off others, all while rummaging through the rooms in search of space suits and other helpful devices like weapons (eg. a stapler or a baseball bat!) or bits of computer software.

Each turn the player can do two things: walk (move his or her counter) a number of spaces (determined by rolling a die), and either fight or search for items.1 That sounds very basic and not very different from a lot of other games. The great twist about this game, though, is that all the players start out in one of the undamaged rooms on the station - ie. a room with air in it - but in order to move around and find the stuff they need, they have to open airlocks! And once a room has been exposed to vacuum... well, there's no way of getting the air back. So now the players also have to worry about getting oxygen at the various oxygen stations around the board2.

If you like board games, Sucking Vacuum is a lot of fun. I like to play it every once in a while, but play it too often and it gets boring. There is not a lot of variation; you walk around and pick up stuff, find an ally (or the computer floppy disk that will allow you to operate the escape pod single handedly!), and then you run like mad to avoid being killed by other players or weird battle robots. It gets old after a few times.

The board itself is divided into a number of sections, which means that the layout of the station can be different from game to game. And there are a lot of funny and quirky details on each section, with references to famous and not so famous sci-fi movies and books. Personally I find the half eaten take-away pizza hilarious...

The game is an "Alien Menace" game, designed by Marc Davis; art and graphic design by Alvin Helms.


For a really good, and much longer, review of the game go here.


  1. This is the short, short version of the rules. Want to read all the rules? Check out the Alien Menace website.
  2. Yes, in this game you can walk around fine for a good long time, even after being exposed to vacuum. Probably best not to think about it...

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