The Thing

Man is the warmest place to hide.

It’s very exciting to see one of my favourite films of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing, get the deluxe board game treatment. And almost every beat from the film has been faithfully reproduced in this excellent game – though you’re going to have to assimilate a lot of rules as a result.

It’s a wonderfully thematic experience if you have players willing to immerse themselves in the tension, deception, and downright creepiness of it all. In our first game the accusations came thick and fast right from the start, and the rules encourage the kind of edgy paranoia that characterises the film. Of course with all these moving parts some games are going to be better than others, and there may be someone who just wants to burn everything down or freeze everybody to death, but every strategy is valid! Check out my unboxing and video review for heaps of detail about the game and how it plays.

Much like the eponymous alien however, this is an unwieldy beast, and the poorly written rulebook doesn’t make things easier, with strange naming conventions and blurry edge-cases (and those 1-3 player rules are truly atrocious). However I’ve tried to fix up as much of that as possible in my rules summary and reference, which also includes the rules for the Norwegian Outpost expansion (based on the later 2011 film).

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Update Log

Date Version Changelog
May 2024 2.8 Fixed how a player wins when their character is assimilated (in Encounter sections) and clarified that abilities aren’t repeated with cooperation bonuses in section 4.2.
May 2024 2.7 Tiny minor typo fixed
Apr 2024 2.6 Clarification to the escape by rescue helicopter procedure
Jan 2024 2.5 A few important fixes to the location references
Jun 2023 2.4 Clarified Fuel card entry on both main summary, reference, and 1-3 player summary
May 2023 2.3 Fix to Dormitory location in 1-3 player rules
May 2023 2.2 Fix to 1-3 player rules, dynamite/molotov and flamethrower
Feb 2023 2.1 Fix to 1-3 player rules, phase 8 (food consumption)
Dec 2022 2 Further fixes to 1-3 player rules
Nov 2022 1.9 Fixes to 1-3 player rules and Norwegian Outpost setup
Nov 2022 1.8 Fixes on the first page of the 1-3 players rules
Nov 2022 1.7 Removed Wire item from Norwegian Outpost rules
Oct 2022 1.6 Clarified Armoury and Warehouse entries on reference sheet. Changed win conditions for assimilated characters on summaries, as per errata.
Sep 2022 1.5 Clarified that characters lying down are not involved in encounters or contagion checks
Sep 2022 1.4 Fixed error in Setup section of 1-3 player rules
Sep 2022 1.3 Fixed up the rules concerning the alien being exposed in 1-3 player games
Sep 2022 1.2 Clarifications to ‘setting locations on fire’ sections
Sep 2022 1.1 Clarified that weapons can only be used to avoid human encounters
Sep 2022 1 Original release


  • Edward Woods says:

    Thanks, I was meaning to try and teach this one to our group soon and this will make it much easier!

  • Simon Taylor says:

    One thing to point out, weapons can only be used to avoid Human encounters. There’s a tonne of discussion on the BGG threads about this. You cannot use it to avoid dog or alien encounters.

  • Warren Woods says:

    Does anyone know why no one would get on the SOS helicopter before it runs out of gas? Don’t both the humans and aliens want to get on it immediately when it arrives.

    • You’ll probably get more responses on Boardgamegeek, but I would check out the process for getting on the helicopter. You have to have the lowest suspicion value for a start. I haven’t actually tested it out, but you’ll probably find it’s not as easy as it appears!

  • Andreas says:

    One thing that was clarified in the faq was that a character lying down is not involved in a contagion check! Worth adding?

  • Dave says:

    Just noticed the FAQ now says that an assimilated character does not reveal their role, but wins with the humans OR alien depending on which side they were on (changing the rules from previously saying they were just assumed to be human and win with the humans).
    This is in the public/secret information errata.

  • Mathroy says:

    On Page 6: Rules summary 1-3 players back

    Under Dormitory, it currently states:
    “Any number of characters, no exposed alien”

    But on Page 5: Rules summary 1-3 players front

    it states:
    “During each round, only 1 character may go to the Dormitory”

    This is for the 1-3 Player Coop Mode.

  • Scott says:

    On your rules summary for 4-8 players on the back under WINNING THE GAME, it states for the Resue Helicopter:
    “During phase 4, if the rescue helicopter has arrived, immediately after all encounters are resolved, the character with the lowest suspicion value may choose to get on board the rescue helicopter regardless of which location he is in (on a tie, the tied player first in turn order can choose).” However, the character with the least Suspicion is supposed to choose to get on or not INSTEAD of going to a location, before encounters are resolved. All other characters still go to locations and resolve encounters (but not actions) before attempting the escape.

    Rulebook pg 16:
    “During Phase 4, the Draw Action Cards and Take Character Actions Phase, if the Rescue Helicopter has arrived, the Character with the lowest Suspicion value (on the Suspicion Track) may choose to get on board instead of moving to a location (in case of a tie, the tied Character’s player first in turn order can choose whether to go to or not). If they do not choose to board, no escape via the Rescue Helicopter is attempted this round. If they do choose to board. First resolve all of the other Character’s movement and any encounters generated by them (but not their actions, then the escape attempt begins.”

    • I’ll look it at it more closely and it could probably be worked better, but I think my wording is in response to the v1.4 FAQ, which covers this particular subject. I recommend checking it out.

      • Scott says:

        The way the rulebook words it is pretty confusing. Here is what the v1.4 FAQ says:
        “Q: Escape attempt with Rescue Helicopter: how can it happen ‘after’ the encounters?
        A: The character with the lowest Suspicion value (from now on, ‘X’) may declare an escape attempt
        with the Rescue Helicopter during Phase 4, when players are moving their characters. This is in place
        of moving their character. Since it is not necessarily the first player after the Leader, all the players
        before X will have moved. When X declares the escape attempt, first of all you resolve all the
        Encounters due to the Characters’ position. Then, the escape attempt begins.”

        So the conclusion I’m now drawing if I’m reading it right is this: If the rescue helicopter has arrived, then during phase 4, once it is X’s turn to move to a location, they may instead declare an escape attempt, which if done, stops all players after X from moving to locations. However, all players that went before X immediately resolve any encounters caused by their movement, and no further movement is done before the escape attempt begins.

        Let me know if you interepret that differently.

        • I’ll need more time to work this out. I’ve done FIFTEEN versions of this rules summary due to this ridiculously bad rulebook, and frankly I’m pretty fed up with it. I’m completely out of touch with this game now so I’ll have to study the wording and check Boardgamegeek and sort it out, but it will take time. Sigh …

  • Mathroy says:

    Under Page 1 part 4.2, maybe it is worth noting for the cooperation bonus that a character may repeat the action but not their ability. So Windows with a Repair action card with 2 other standing characters in the room would not get 2+2+2 = 6 Repairs. He would get 2+1+1 = 4 Repairs.

    Found this on this thread:

    Thanks for your service to this game!! Your rulebook is amazing!

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