Burke’s Gambit is Alien: The Social Deduction Game with the serial numbers filed off. You are all crew members on the Nostromo, ahem, I mean the Burke’s Gambit. One of you (but you don’t know who!) is infected with an alien parasite. At the end of the game, you get to vote on who goes out the airlock to hopefully kill the parasite or at least make sure it doesn’t make it back to Earth. Ah, but some of you are corrupt plants of the corporation and want to make sure the parasite makes to back home!
Incidentally, until I looked up the name to make sure I spelled it right for this blog, I didn’t realize that the Nostromo was named after a Joseph Conrad book. Man, that’s embarrassing since I like Conrad.
At the start of the game, everyone gets a public role card that gives you one special power, a hidden loyalty card to determine whose side you’re on and a completely hidden infection card (not even you get to look at it)
The game comes with a bag of specialty dice. I didn’t go through the dice but there are ten different symbols so there’s clearly some variety to the dice. On your turn, you draw a die and roll it. You get one reroll and then you use the die or hold it to use on a later turn rather than draw a die. You can only reserve one die at a time. The actions let you look at other folks cards or hurt people or reshuffle cards or such.
However, every die has an engine power-up face. Those lock and go into the center of the table. Get enough of them (how many depends on the number of players) and the game ends and you have to vote someone into the airlock.
First off, I haven’t played The Resistance or One Night Werewolf or Secret Hitler so I’m not up to speed on social deduction games. So I don’t know how Burke’s Gambit stacks up against those or other well beloved social deduction games.
Second, as I was writing this, I realized that I like a lot of crunch to my social deduction games. When it first came out, I played a ton of Bang and Shadows Over Camelot and Coup are both games I really like. However, I don’t normally think of them as social deduction games because so much else is going on!
I did have a lot of fun playing Burke’s Gambit. I liked the dice and the game did a good job pushing the tension. More than anything else, I liked the extra layer of hidden information with the infection cards and the fact that you could never look at your own. I would play it again.
The guy that who taught it to me said he was looking for a Battlestar Galactica experience that took under a half hour and I think that’s not a bad description of Burke’s Gambit. It is weird having a game obviously based on Alien that never reaches the chest burster scene but it does keep the tension high.