The Alpha Review

The Alpha

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  • Designer: Ralph Rosario
  • Publisher: Games by Bicycle
  • Players: 3-6
  • Age: 10+ (I was able to play this with my 5 year old son under guidance.)
  • Time to play: 30 Minutes

Hey folks! I’m back with another review! This is a review copy from Bicycle Games. In this game, we’re taking notes from Duran Duran. Food sources have been scare, and all the packs are fighting over what food they can find. Yes, that’s correct. We’re hungry like the wolf! The Alpha is an area majority game with dice rolling and some simultaneous hidden selection added in. The pack with the most food at the end of 5 rounds is the winner! So, let’s get in touch with the ground. . .

Components

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  • 36 Beta Wolves
  • 11 Region Tiles
  • 9 Region Dice
  • 6 Alpha Wolves
  • 6 Den Boards
  • 6 Conflict Tokens
  • 1 Game Board
  • 1 Weeks Left Token
  • 1 Alpha Token

Set Up

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  • Each Player takes a den board and selects a color to play. They then take the alpha and beta wolves and conflict token of the chosen color.
  • Place the Game Board on the table.
  • Each player places one of their beta wolves on the game board on the number 5 gray stone. This keeps track of your food.
  • Place the Weeks Left token on the 5 spot.
  • Place the region tiles based on the number of players. Large and Medium Regions go above the board in the deep forest. Small, scavenge, and live stock regions go below the board in the near forest.
    • 6 Players – 1 Large, 2 Medium, 3 Small, 2 Scavenge, and 1 Livestock regions.
    • 5 Players – 1 Large, 2 Medium, 3 Small, 1 Scavenge, and 1 Livestock regions.
    • 4 Players – 1 Large, 2 Medium, 2 Small, 1 Scavenge, and 1 Livestock regions.
    • 3 Players – 2 Medium, 2 Small, 1 Scavenge, and 1 Livestock regions.

Game Play

Pick a starting player at randomly or select a player who can howl the loudest. They are the starting player, and holder of the alpha token.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is made up of 5 phases.

Phase 1 – Stalk

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  • Starting the alpha player and going clockwise. On a players turn during this phase, they place one wolf from their den onto a region tiles using the following rules.
    • Alpha Wolves count as 2
    • Beta Wolves count as 1
    • Going into the deep forest costs 1 food. Move your food tracker back one space. If you don’t have food, you can’t go into the deep forest.
    • Large Regions must have 5 wolves on them to produce food. (All wolves are counted, not just what pack is there.)
    • Only one wolf per pack on a Scavenge Region
    • Livestock Region can only have 1 wolf total on it.

Phase 2 – Establish Dominance

  • Each region is looked at. The pack with the majority there is considered dominate. All other packs are considered scavengers at that location. If there is a tie for dominance, the are both considered dominate.

Phase 3 – Chase

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  • For each region with wolves, you’ll roll the region die associated with it.

Roll Outcomes

  • Numbers – The hunt was successful. The number shown is the food amount available.
  • X – The prey got away. If there’s another dominate pack here, they can re-roll the die.
  • C – The prey got wounded and will become carrion next round for a set amount of food shown on the flip side of the region. No need to roll for a chase on a carrion during that round.
    • Immediately, all the packs resolve conflict for the amount of food shown on the roll.
  • D – Dead wolf. The wolf has died and is removed from the game.

Phase 4 – Resolve

  • If there are no wolves in the region, move to the next region.
  • If the hunt was successful and there is one dominate pack, that player moves their food tracker wolf up the number of spaces equal to the roll result.
  • If the hunt was successful and there are multiple dominate packs, you move to resolve the conflict before resolving the region.

 

Conflict – Fight or Share

 

  • Each player that is in conflict is going to secretly picks “Fight” or “Share” on their conflict token. Keep this secret.
  • After everyone has chosen fight or share, players will reveal their choice simultaneously.

 

Conflict Resolution

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Remember, if carrion is rolled for chase, all wolves at that location are in conflict.
  • One Fight – If only one player chooses “Fight” that player gets all the food.
  • All Share – If all players pick “Share” they split the food evenly.
  • Multiple Fights – If there are multiple “Fights”, each player that chose “Fight” places a wolf in the injured area on the main board and loses out on any food available at that region.
  • Share after Fights – After the multiple fights are resolved, any player that picked “Share” then shares the food between all the shared players evenly.

Scavenger Packs – Usually scavenger packs don’t receive food. They only receive food if the dominate packs are all injured and don’t receive food.

Left Over Food – If food is not able to be split evenly. Starting with the player with the Alpha token, or player seated closest to the Alpha, each player takes one food at a time going clockwise.

Phase 5 – Advance and Clean Up

  • Move any wolves on regions back to their dens.
  • Move wolves in the healing area back to their dens.
  • Move wolves in the injured area to the healing area.
  • Move the Weeks Left token to the next space.

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Pass the Alpha Token to the player with the most food. If there’s a tie, the it’s to the player closest to the current Alpha. If the current Alpha is part of this tie, they remain Alpha.

The game ends when the Weeks Left token reaches zero. The player with the most food is the winner.

Final Thoughts

The Alpha has some great components. I want to talk about the insert first. A lot of times, you’ll get either get no insert, a cardboard insert that “holds” or separates components, or a plastic insert that holds the components. It’s easy for a company to go the route of no insert or cardboard insert. Bicycle has gone with a plastic insert that holds the components. It’s thought out and everything has a place. I would store this horizontally, as vertically can cause the wolves to mix packs.

Next, I want to talk about the actual components. The region tiles and den boards are nice thickness. The region tiles have matching colored dice that are used in the game. Each region tile has what food is available when going there. It’s very nicely set up to remind players of the reward.

Next, the den boards have the conflict outcomes on them! One again, it’s easy to just have a small board, but to think about how to make this game as streamline as possible is a nice touch.

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The dice are custom to the game. Each one is nicely colored and matches the region tile and is easily differentiated from the others. My one complaint with the dice is just a personal one. The die used for the elk has 9s on it. A couple of times when playing we mistakenly took it as a 6 without realizing it at first. Now we know what to watch for that when playing.

The game board is smart in the set up as well. The starting spot for the players is visually different and the areas where deep forest and near forest tiles go is labeled.

The wolf meeples are some of my favorite meeples. I like that they didn’t go with just what colors wolves might be, but visually different colored wolves. It makes it easier to tell them apart when on region tiles. You can easily tell the wolf meeple that counts as two apart from the rest of the pack.

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Game play is a back and forth fight for majority on the food supply tiles all while deciding when to go with you alpha. You can place it first on a tile, to make a statement that you want this region and it’s going to be a tough fight. Then, you could wait until last to place it. Sneak a region away from an unsuspecting player.

Then the rolling for the food for each tile can have you on edge. Is the prey getting away, do you automatically get the food, or are you fighting for it with everyone there? Yeah, it’s random but that’s the fun of it. You can be at a region with one wolf and the other player with majority rolls for carrion. Guess what, you’re in the game for it now! I like that the bigger animals there are more chances for carrion and escape.

That brings us to the meat and potatoes of the game. Well, I guess since we’re wolves the meat of the game. The conflict phase. This is my favorite part of this game. It’s the part where you’re trying to figure out the other players and guess what they’re going to vote. You’re staring at each other, waiting for a tell. It’s great watching even if you’re not in conflict. First time someone steals the kill from the sharing players, it ups the tension during this phase. It’s also great when both players pick fight, lose out on everything, and then the scavenging player ends up with food! It’s clever player interaction that I haven’t experienced in a game before.

Overall, The Alpha is a quick game that has high player interaction. It’s easy to teach but hard to read people playing. It’s one that is welcomed to the table any time, and one I don’t think my kids will get tired of competing to get first player.

The Alpha will be available June 19th from Games by Bicycle.

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