First Take Friday – Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Sanssouci (2nd Edition), FORK, Clockworker, Bug Council of Backyardia

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Sanssouci (2nd Edition), FORK, Clockworker, and Bug Council of Backyardia.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space – Justin Bell

I have a lot of friends who love hidden role/hidden movement games, so I was glad to try a classic in this space, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. We did an eight-player game, with four humans trying to work separately to escape a space station before they are consumed by the four alien players and converted to the bad guy side.

I liked the game at first; it was fun to figure out who was an alien, especially playing as one of the human players trying to get out alive. It’s also intriguing to see which way each human player will go from a shared central starting area, because you can’t really tell anyone else which escape pod exit you’re going to hit early on. But player elimination begins to set in, especially if an alien player kills off another alien (this happened 10 minutes into our hour-long game), or if any human players escape. Insult to injury: players have a 20% chance of reaching an escape pod and then finding out it doesn’t work; after careful planning for about 40 minutes, this happened to another player. (There’s an outside chance I would have flipped the table had that been me.)

The final 20 minutes of this game, where one human was trying to escape the clutches of three alien players, was a drag even as we were laughing our way through the Keystone Kops inability of the aliens to catch that human. Very glad I saw it once, but not a game I’ll be playing again.

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
☆☆☆☆☆ – No chance

Read more articles from Justin Bell.

Sanssouci (2022 Edition) – David McMillan

I recently had the opportunity to get the Sanssouci (2022 Edition) to the table for the first time and really enjoyed it. A remake of Michael Kiesling’s (Azul) 2013 classic, Sanssouci is a tableau-building game centered around the acquisition and placement of tiles from a central supply board.

Each player has a matching deck of cards, each of which feature iconography or colors that correspond to the tile types or their position in the tile supply on the central board, respectively. On their turn, the player will play a card, collect a tile, and then add the tile to their tableau, which is a palace garden that’s been divided into several columns and rows. The columns all feature the same terrain type. The color and type of the collected tile determine where in your tableau it can be placed. Completed rows and columns earn bonus points at the end of the game. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. At the top of each column are little figures that the players will be attempting to move down the columns. Each time one of these figures moves, it scores points equal to the row it ended up on.

Michael Kiesling excels at these types of games, seemingly easy on the surface, with unexpected hidden depths lying just beneath. I had a grand time playing this classic for the first time and am keen to get it to the table again soon. Keep an eye out for my upcoming review.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles from David McMillan.

FORK – Tom Franklin

FORK is an acronym for Fox, Owl, Rabbit, Kale. Yes, Kale. You see, this is a card game that also includes the food chain as a central mechanic. Your lone Fox card will eat (capture) your Owl or Rabbit card, an Owl will eat a Rabbit, a Rabbit will eat Kale. Any uneaten animals get discarded, but uneaten Kale will score you additional points; the more Kale, the more points.

This game is coming to Kickstarter sometime in early 2023, and I hope they do well. The group I played with wasn’t sure about this one, but I thought it had something unique and fun about it. I’m eager to try it again.

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions.
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles by Tom Franklin.

Clockworker – Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Between the charming artwork, the unique approach to workers and engines, and the relative difficulty in obtaining a copy, Clockworker sat high on my list of anticipated games. Players deploy robot workers to private locations to gather resources, then utilize those resources to pick up special abilities (Artifacts), additional engine bits (Locations), or straight victory points (Records). The worker placement is unique, though, because resources are not retrieved upon placement. Instead, they are placed en masse and retrieved slowly, one round at a time with their corresponding resource, in a slow trickle from the various locations. Fascinating!

The central market is called the Junkyard, and with good reason—there is just so much stuff on the table to choose from! Gears and pellets and robots and records and locations and artifacts. But this one very quickly settles into a tight economic engine. Clockworker is ultimately an efficiency race where the tension becomes increasingly rich throughout. There are only so many cards involved, though, so the question is whether that delicious tension can withstand the increasing familiarity with options and strategies. I’m excited to find out.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Bug Council of Backyardia – Andy Matthews

What’s in a name? Apparently a sophisticated system in which insects maneuver for political power in your own backyard. Bug Council of Backyardia is a trick-taking game in which players compete to win tricks by playing the most powerful card, then rearrange the strength of the council to set themselves up for future wins. Bug Council of Backyardia requires you to follow the lead suit, but if you can’t play that, then you can play any other suit, even the trump suit which changes from round to round based on “power cubes” which are constantly being rearranged by the person who played the lowest card. Players earn points for each trick, and a bonus for “supporting” the most powerful faction (which has the largest number of cubes) at the end of each round.

Bug Council of Backyardia is a satisfying puzzle in which the landscape of power is ever changing. Self-published by Engro Games after a sadly failed Kickstarter campaign, designers Patrick and Kyle persevered and were able to get this out to interested parties. If you love unique trick-taking games with a hook, then check this one out for sure. Be on the lookout for a future review.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Andy Matthews.

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About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

About the author

David McMillan

IT support specialist by day, Minecrafter by night; I always find time for board gaming. When it comes to games, I prefer the heavier euro-game fare. Uwe Rosenberg is my personal hero with Stefan Feld coming in as a close second.

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

About the author

Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

On any given day, I am a husband and father of five. I read obsessively and, occasionally, I write stories of varying length, quality, and metrical structure. As often as possible, I enjoy sitting down to the table for a game with friends and family. I'm happy to trumpet Everdell, in all its charm and glory, as the insurmountable favorite of my collection.

About the author

Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor in chief of, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

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