"That's a nice torso, I'll pay you 4 coins for it."
It's Alive is a bidding game where you're racing to complete your board before anyone else does. Of course, when I say 'board', I really mean 'cadaver'. This is gameplay, Dr Frankenstein stylee.
Each player receives a screen to hide their body parts behind (!), a few coins, and a 'slab' showing the body parts you need to collect in the game. Now this may sound a little gruesome, but I think you'd struggle to find anyone who was genuinely upset by the box, the cards, or the theme of the game, it's all rather camp as opposed to sinister.
So, you have your slab for body parts, you have your money, and you have your screen/mad professor's castle to hide everything behind. Now you need some body parts.
Game play is pretty straight forward: when it's your go, you take the top card from the card deck. Turn it over and it reveals a body part and a cost. The body parts aren't too grim and there's a distinct lack of claret: you're collecting a foot, an arm, a brain, and so on… no needs to delve around look for a spleen, pancreas, or anything too slimy.
Compare this card to what you have on your slab and what you still need to acquire: you're deciding whether to buy it yourself at the cost shown on the card, auction it off around the table with a starting price you set, or sell it into the graveyard for half the cost shown on the card. Play continues like this until someone has completed the body on their slab, at which point they maniacally shout "It's Alive!!!!" at the top of their voice and win the game.
The beauty of It's Alive is that you don't really know what anyone else has got on their slab (because of the screen). There's a great deal of interaction and laughter as the game progresses, as to win you'll almost certainly need to bid for cards offered up by your opponents, or take a gamble on buying something in an auction at an over-the-odds price, because you're desperate for it or think someone else is and you want to stop them.
Conclusion: It's Alive has proved an exceptionally popular game with everyone I've introduced to it. In truth, it's a little hard to fathom why, because it's not the most complex or strategic of games - maybe it's the cartoonish horror theme, and almost certainly has something to do with the amount of interaction and rivalry between players. The game rarely ends without a smile on everyone's face.