I played Infiltration earlier this month. It’s a board game from Fantasy Flight Games; it was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino (Dominion, Kingdom Builder). I liked it far more than I had anticipated. It can be hard to get me to sit still for board game, so successfully playing to the end of Infiltration is a bit of a big deal. Infiltration isn’t a board game—it’s a card game—but it had enough going on that it felt much more like a board game to me. Since it’s a card game with ingenious layout (space efficient and visually appealing) it doesn’t have the same massive footprint most board games do. If you’re willing to put the box somewhere else, you can probably cram it and four players around your average 4-seater IKEA kitchen table. Things it has going for it?
Potential for tense situations? Check.
Enough combined chance and strategic thinking required to make things unpredictable and interesting? Check.
More than one mechanic out to kill you or complicate your life? Yes.
Since I took Infiltration out for a stroll in two player, I tooled through the game in a much more relaxed manner than I think I would in a larger group. No using cards that could delay other players, and no outright trying to smoke my opponent. I’d heard Infiltration described as “Shadowrun the card game,” which isn’t all that disingenuous. Futuristic setting, corporate thievery, competitive criminals trying to make a big score, all while angling to get out alive and ahead of everyone else. Infiltration is part of the Android Universe, one of Fantasy Flight’s game line. Your basic murder filled, corrupt dystopian future. Turn up the blue LEDs, add a space elevator, sprinkle in some bad weather.
The victory condition for Infiltration is simple: don’t get busted by cops, ran to ground by corporate security, and escape with more sensitive data than your opponents. Think Leverage, but you’re all against each other! In order to get those sweet, sweet files you have to explore a secure corporate facility. Due to the magic of card shuffling, this means your facility starts face down, and you have no way to plan for the next unknown room. Maybe it’s a lab with some techs in. Could be the room you finally run into security! The game and your fellow players provide a plethora of unknown variables and complications, so the game isn’t exactly calm.
I pushed my luck pretty hard while exploring the building, because I decided to run the very real risk of being deep in the building when the authorities showed up: there’s a proximity counter that tells you just how close to hosed you are. It goes up. You also roll on it every turn, so it does a cha-cha that’ll make your heart race.
It does eventually run out.
But winning. Infiltration presses the bad gambler urge to keep going, even when it’s bad for you, to its absolute edge. Definitely the first game I’ve played in awhile that courts that strategically bad, poor impulse control illogical conclusion that no, really, totally worth continuing to press your luck this close to going bust.
So how did my first game go? I lost. Horribly. In retrospect, I can admit that, perhaps I should have used those buckyballs. Next time around, I’ll play with a few more folks and see who walks away.
Don’t have a FLGS (friendly local game store) nearby? You can find Infiltration on the Fantasy Flight Games website.