Outside of Plan 9 from Outer Space, aliens and zombies have been two of the coolest things that unfortunately cross paths on only rare occasions. To help fill that void and have fun while doing it, Matthew Ryan Robinson from Broken Prism Games has created Host: A Card Game for the Rest of Humanity – Or What’s Left of It.
In a rich theme that caught eyes during a successful Kickstarter campaign, the game’s world is beset by both covert alien invaders and outbreaks of zombie hordes. Players take on Missions in this manic world, some working for the good of humanity and some working against it.
The art in Host is beautifully minimalistic. Large print-like headlines stand out on the cards, which are decorated with simple images one might see on warning signs if this world were to come true. Color-coded biohazards, alien abductions, fingerprints, the caduceus, and more give just enough to get the imagination rolling to horrifying ends. Character cards hold scarier art photoshopped to grainy grayscale that gives the viewer a sensation of unrest.
In its mechanic, Host is a points-gathering game. At the beginning, each player is dealt a Mission card and four Host cards. The Missions outline the individual player’s goal for the game, such as “Case Closed! Collect 10 Investigation”, “Alien Virus: Collect 5 Infected, 5 Invasion”, and “Covert Ops: Collect 10 of Any Card Type.” These correlate to Host cards that bear points in the categories Investigation, Invasion, Infected, and Inoculate. The first player draws a card and passes a card to any other player at the table, and then the second does the same. The first player to accomplish his or her mission wins. As the cards build up, winning is inevitable; it’s all about the race to be first.
With a mechanic built primarily on the luck of the draw, the real play in Host comes from reading other players. A player should take note of the card he or she is given in discard and attempt to determine what the opponent is shedding. Reactions may give away players’ interest in certain types of cards. Since there is a limited number of Mission cards, players may even detect what goals other players are attempting.
To add more levels of madness to an already mad world, Host has Event cards that a player draws at the direction of a special Host card. Events tied to weather, corruption, and sci-fi disasters can change Missions, shuffle cards, or even steal cards from other players. Optional Character cards give players additional starting bonuses as well as fun personae for the game, though these Characters might be deficits depending upon the Mission a player is dealt.
Host is a card game for two to six players aged 12 and up. Because it is strongly based in luck, rounds can be as quick as five minutes or can stretch out to 15 or 20. Host is a great game for lovers of luck-based card games where anybody can win at any time. Others may enjoy the psychological aspect of judging other players as cards are passed, making for an intense game each time around.