Immersive gaming space race action with Bring Them Home
Ground control to Major Bates. Sending scrawled notes about what's in space.
BY ROBIN BATES
Bring Them Home - An Immersive Game Experience
Bring Them Home is a fantastic and fast paced gaming experience, suitable for newcomers to the world of immersive gaming, and old hands alike.
1972. The space agencies of America, Russia, and Europe have joined forces to send someone to space. What could possibly go wrong?
In Bring Them Home, by Treehouse Games, everything immediately goes wrong and the agencies must work together in an uneasy alliance to bring the stricken craft and the crew home.
Before the fateful date arrives, players are sent the simple instructions, and and an introduction from designer Jon Gracey.
From space to Earth in ten rounds
Play takes place over the course of ten rounds where the agencies spend their limited pool of action points to scan space and hopefully identify a safe route for the astronaut, communicate that information up to them, and upgrade their facilities.
Negotiations between agencies can take place, sharing of information being in the astronaut’s best interests, but not necessarily the agencies. Every player apart from the astronaut has their own secret objective to achieve (which I won’t spoil here) for additional prestige at the end of the game, and the agency who woo the astronaut into making touchdown in their landing pad receive additional prestige.
It’s a balance of time, action points, secret objectives, group objectives, and bringing the astronaut and crew safely home.
Meanwhile one poor, hopeless, player takes the role of the astronaut, separated from all others in a capsule, only able to communicate via written missives broadcast into the depths of space by writing notes and posting them through a slot in the tent. I mean capsule.
Spaceman, I always wanted you to go into spaceman
Meanwhile, up in space, our brave, handsome, dashing astronaut didn’t really have a clue what was going on down on earth. His crew of 4 in stasis, he began sending messages to earth, attempting to gather the data he needed to safely plot a course home.
The astronaut also gets 3 action points to spend, to move the ship, scan sectors, power up shields, maintain life support, and conduct repairs, or blow the lot on one supercharged action.
As life support drops they must choose which of the crew must be unplugged for the greater good, at the risk of angering the relevant agency back on earth (sorry EUSA but you had two crew so it was only fair, and everyone else was probably more useful than the chemist. Sorry chemists. NASA were kinda being dicks so their crew was an easy second choice).
Working with limited and conflicting data, trying to coerce the agencies into collaborating more, and deciphering scrambled messages was my job.
Over the course of 2 hours we encountered dangers, industrial espionage took place, and I narrowly piloted the craft past black holes and ion storms, docking with satellites for additional power before attempting to activate the emergency landing sequence in a strange change of pace to the rest of the game, before safely landing in Russia.
The Russians had been an utter delight from the start, and I don’t think my friends who played the EUSA will ever forgive me.
A hero’s welcome, a final report, a totting up of prestige points and EUSA had taken the win!
What do you do when you can't have a conversation?
Bring Them Home is a thrilling adventure, brilliantly contained into a short space, and one which ultimately for the astronaut is all about communication – or the lack thereof. Not knowing if messages were reaching their intended target, or if they were arriving in decipherable format, meant that I could not rely on anything.
Knowing that the teams were in an uneasy alliance meant I couldn’t necessarily rely on receiving information necessary to proceed – and that brought the most dramatic moments for me.
Should I progress into a square where I had no info? Would raising my shields minimise enough damage? What will they think of me back on earth if I accidentally pilot us straight into a black hole?
The lack of a conversation led to some really interesting decisions to make – stay put or progress? Wait for more info or risk it all to take one more step towards home?
The decision of which crew members to unplug from stasis were not as difficult a choice, feeling like simple resources rather than actual people with hard consequences – in fact I’d forgotten about them in my speech when we finally landed. RIP and sorry to my fallen crewmates.
It should also be noted that I never felt that we were ever in great peril; I don’t know if this is due to awesome scanning by the earth teams, pure luck, or baked into the game, so the tension didn’t quite ratchet up enough as we hurtled towards earth’s atmosphere, but it was still a thrilling ride.
While we’re on a couple of negatives, the game also needs a debrief. Points were totted up and we were quickly sent on our way as there was another game to prep for. Maybe I’d dawdled in space, maybe we started late due to it being the first show of the run, but a little more info on who was doing what – I had a quick chat with game creator Jon Gracey who told me that the Russians had stolen some of NASA’s headed paper so the messages that made NASA seem like dicks, were in fact written by Russia. Sneaky and well played!
Sharing those stories and moments would easily give Bring Them Home another star, and perhaps they could take everyone over to the main Vault Festival bar, or out into Leake Street tunnel, to talk about the game.
And that speaks volumes about Bring Them Home; that it creates such stories and moments that I really wanted to hear them, means it’s a damn good time.
So don’t let that put you off; Bring Them Home is a thrilling space adventure of epic proportions, that fits into an evening rather than a whole day – and for that, Treehouse Games, this astronaut salutes you.
Thank you for bringing me home.
Bring Them Home runs at the Vault Festival, London, until 3rd March 2019
BRING THEM HOME CONCLUSION
An exciting, immersive, compact and pacey game with interesting decisions, deception, and delightful moments.
Whether you're a hardened gamer or totally new to immersive gaming, Bring Them Home is worth your time and attention.
Creative, fun, and doesn't outstay its welcome (I'm looking at you, 12 hour megagames).
The Good Stuff:
- A fun and thrilling immersive adventure for gamers and newbies alike
- Secret missions keep everyone guessing, but not essential if its too much
- I want to play again in another role and that, my friends, tells you everything
The Bad Stuff:
- Scoring is a bit opaque
- Final round change of pace didn't really work (turns out they've changed it since we played!)
- Really needs opportunity to discuss the game afterwards
Bring Them Home - An Immersive Game Experience runs until 03 March 2019 at the Vault Festival, London.
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