Survive the Suspense: Exploring The Thing Board Game by Ares Games

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The Thing board game by Ares Games a review
Dive into the world of The Thing board game by Ares Games, a thrilling hidden identity and worker placement experience inspired by John Carpenter's iconic film.

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a renowned science fiction horror film released in 1982. Set in the desolate Antarctic landscape, the film follows a group of researchers who encounter an extraterrestrial lifeform capable of assimilating and imitating other organisms. As paranoia and fear escalate, the team faces a chilling battle for survival against this shape-shifting alien entity. The film is widely celebrated for its groundbreaking special effects, atmospheric tension, and a sense of isolation that intensifies psychological terror. With its suspenseful narrative and memorable practical effects, John Carpenter’s The Thing has become a cult classic and a defining entry in the horror genre. So it is only natural that a cooperative worker placement board game would follow in the iconic footsteps of the movie. But does the board game capture the same terror of the film and keep you coming back for more?


The Thing, a board game by Ares Games, successfully captures the tension and excitement of the movie. With a fair amount of replayability, this mid-weight game is a worthwhile addition to any collection.


Experience intense suspense and thrills with The Thing board game. Read our in-depth review of this thrilling hidden identity and worker placement game, capturing the essence of John Carpenter’s iconic horror film. Discover the exceptional components, immersive gameplay, and challenging decisions that make The Thing a must-have addition to your board game collection.

The Thing by Ares Games set up and how to play
The Thing by Ares Games Core Set

How The Thing Board Game Is Played

In The Thing board game by Ares Games, players are immersed in a thrilling hidden identity and worker placement experience. Here’s a breakdown of how the game is played:


  1. Secret Identities: Each player assumes a role within the research team stationed at an isolated Antarctic outpost. One player starts as the Alien, while the rest are Humans.
  2. Worker Placement: On their turn, players place their character in a location on the board, representing different areas of the outpost. Each location offers unique actions and benefits.
  3. Actions and Encounters: Players choose an action card to perform at their chosen location. These actions include using, repairing, or sabotaging elements. After each player’s action, an encounter occurs if multiple characters are in the same location.
  4. Suspicion and Infection: Encounters involve the risk of infection. If an Alien is present, there’s a chance of infecting other players, turning them into Aliens as well. This creates a constant sense of suspicion and challenges players to make strategic choices about gathering together.
  5. Difficult Decisions: Players face tough decisions throughout the game. Repairing the base, for example, provides bonuses if multiple players participate, but the risk of infection increases. Balancing teamwork and the potential threat of Alien infiltration is crucial.
  6. Paths to Victory: The game offers various paths to victory for both Humans and Aliens. Humans aim to escape the base, repair the outpost, or eliminate the Alien. Aliens seek to infect Humans and hinder repair efforts or escape the base unidentified. The Norwegian Outpost expansion introduces additional gameplay elements.
  7. Tension and Strategy: The Thing board game combines hidden identity, deduction, and worker placement mechanics to create an intense and strategic experience. Players must carefully navigate alliances, gather information, and determine whom to trust while trying to achieve their respective goals.


By navigating the challenges of secrecy, teamwork, and suspicion, players experience an immersive and gripping gameplay session inspired by the suspenseful atmosphere of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The Thing by Ares Games cooperative suspense and suspicion
The Thing by Ares Games Cooperative Suspense and Suspicion

Review of The Thing Board Game



When it comes to games based on intellectual properties like movies or books I’m always ready to jump in. The Thing by Ares Games pleasantly surprised me. I have repeatedly mentioned Ares Games because there is another similar board game by Mondo Games named:  The Thing Infection at Outpost 31.


8 year old playing The Thing by Ares games

I have been excited to get this back on the table for the 3rd time with the kiddos. My 8-year-old Benjamin at the bottom left had no problem understanding the rules. The images on the cards are not gory or inappropriate for children. In fact, all the horror comes from suspecting that your fellow teammate is actually out to get you.


So we decided to set up a game night and give Ares Games The Thing a shot.  As usual, I provided snack incentives to help keep their attention for this 2-hour game that we usually cut short with some house rules. Although the instructions for setting up were not the best and could have been clearer, we managed to figure it out. After a couple of hours of gameplay, we unanimously agreed that The Thing needed our house rule:


Our House Rule

According to the rules as players become more suspicious they move their token up the suspicion track sometimes landing on the MAXIMUM SUSPICION AREA. As long as their token is on that area they must reveal any ACTION cards they hand in. However, we added that anyone who has a weapon can call for an execution of a weaponless player whose token is in the maximum suspicion area. If the majority of players vote in favor the execution is carried out resulting in either the death of a human or the revealing of an alien. According to the rules, the revealing of an alien can also happen through various TESTS that are thematically accomplished with items found around the base. The rules also state that a player can reveal themselves anytime they wish. I leave that rule out with my kids because they’d quickly reveal themselves resulting in an all-out war. 

The Thing Core Set

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The Thing Norwegian Outpost Expansion

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Ares Games' The Thing Game Components Token Quality


The Board Game Components



The game components of Ares Games’ The Thing board game are of high quality and designed to immerse players in the chilling atmosphere of the Antarctic outpost. The 2d cardboard miniatures accurately represent the characters from the movie, with impressive detail and faithful imaging.


The Core Set comes with 2D Cardboard Standies for the main characters and the aliens but you can upgrade your game to paintable plastic miniatures here. The Core Set dues feature plastic miniatures for the 4 iconic dogs of the movie.



Ares Games' The Thing Game Component Quality

Ares Games' The Thing Game Components Minis Quality




The plastic tokens, cards, and game board are all sturdy and well-crafted, ensuring durability during gameplay. We absolutely adore the oil cans and gas cans that were so important in the movie. The only drawback I find is the card quality. They feel glossy and easily bendable. I would not recommend a traditional shuffle but instead, you should use card sleeves and slide shuffle the cards. However, this minor limitation does not detract from the overall engaging experience provided by the game’s components, contributing to the enjoyment of the suspenseful and intense gameplay.

The Thing by Ares Games gas cans Quality

The Thing by Ares Games Card Quality

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The Rulebook Quality

Then there’s the rulebook… The rulebook is comprehensive but occasionally confusing, especially during setup. Reading an entire section before implementing its instructions was necessary. Everything is in the correct order but there are a few problems that we’ll try to explain here.


Ares Games' The Thing Rule Book Errors


The Setup Map in the Rulebook: This section is made up of a numbered list of steps that correspond to a yellow square number on the setup map. The map is an image of the game board, so the idea is to help players understand where things go. However, square numbered symbols don’t help point to the exact location of things on the gameboard, and an arrow would have been more helpful. This is especially true with setup number sections:


3. [In section 3 it states to] place 1 fuel token on the Rescue Helicopter Track in the “fuel tank” space (furthest to the left). These spaces are marked with [the fuel droplet symbol]. [There is no fuel droplet symbol to be found near or on the fuel tank to the left of the helicopter]. 


Ares Games' The Thing Rule Setup Errors


5. The Kennel: When do the dogs get released from the kennel is a very confusing frequently asked question. The rulebook states that you should place the kennel location card onto the matching space, but actually, you need the kennel location card in the location deck to know if the dogs will be released. They are released when you draw the kennel location for the first time. The kennel location card should only be out of the deck the first time you are randomly choosing where to place the Leader Token.


9. This section tells you to place a number of fuel tokens in the warehouse according to the number of players. The only problem is that there is actually a warehouse location in the base where players grab items. The warehouse this section is referring to is a small section near the boiler room that holds fuel tokens and is not a location the players can visit during the game. So they should have named this the fuel tank storage room.


10. This section states that you need to add a number of fuel tokens to the external reserve according to the number of players. However, the rulebook amount doesn’t line up with the actual spaces available on the gameboard. For example, if there are 5 players you need to add 4 fuel tokens but the gameboard has symbols showing 5 players add 3 fuel tokens. So you’ll have to make a decision on which to follow, the rulebook or the gameboard.


Ares Games' The Thing Rule Setup Errors Fuel Token Placement


As you can see there are a few errors that can be confusing. Despite these errors, the game does run smoothly from round to round. The rules never bog down the game and are liberal enough to allow for some house rules.


The Overall Gameplay

The Thing incorporates mechanics from various games such as Avalon, Dead of Winter, Ultimate Werewolf Extreme, and Secret Hitler. However, these mechanics have been modified and combined in intriguing ways. The game revolves around secret identities and worker placement, with players facing difficult decisions throughout. Repairing the base, for instance, offers bonuses when two or more players are present, but encounters with Aliens may occur, potentially infecting the humans. The game presents a multitude of challenging choices.

The worker placement mechanics add another layer of interest. Players place their characters in a location and select an action card from a deck. The leader shuffles the deck, reveals cards, and assigns actions to characters. This mechanic resembles Avalon’s gameplay with unique twists.


There are multiple paths to victory for both humans and aliens, and the Norway expansion further expands gameplay possibilities.


Some Cons


One minor drawback is that some characters have asymmetric powers that encourage players to repeatedly choose the same location. However, the leader and card draw mechanics, along with the importance of card selection, offset this issue.


Another challenge lies in the rules themselves. For the theme and weight of the game, it may be overwhelming to absorb all the rules at once. Explaining each phase during gameplay is a more practical approach. In our game, we executed a human first before realizing who the alien was halfway through, leading to an entertaining revelation of events at the end.


Lastly, the game can drag on when the aliens are revealed but some good house rules can turn this into the “last battle” and end the game soon.

Ares Games The Thing Box Container
Ares Games' The Thing Box Container Alien Ship Under Ice

In conclusion


The Thing is a game that deserves a place on my shelf. Its winter-themed atmosphere makes it especially appealing. Its hidden identity is perfect for my kids and me. Its repetitive worker placement actions can become a slog to new players that do not see how team work can lead to good results but the fact that you can become sidetracked with keeping up the functions of the base only to forget about the deadly alien on the loose is great fun!

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