Sunday, February 12, 2012

ALIENS



Now I know that this isn't mecha related but I've yet to meet anybody that likes sci fi & mechs that dislikes  the first two Aliens movies. It had such a huge impact on modern sci fi and is a key source of inspiration for just about any game that uses a dark forlorn setting.

I saw Aliens for the first time when I was about 11 and it scared the living crap out of me, but I also found it such a fascinating film and presentation of how good sci should be. I'm also a huge fan of Blade Runner as it likewise has incredible imagery and atmosphere. I'm also dying to see what he does with Prometheus when it releases later this year.







Back in  1989 I picked up a copy of the Aliens board game which was put out by Leading Edge. They also had several different miniatures sets available to use in place of the card board cut out. It is a scenario based game that did an amazing job at recreating the feel of the movies. You started out in the reactor room where the marines first get attacked. Then the next map takes place in the communications room as they retreat back into the medical station and finally into the airducts.

The map is laid out on a square grid system, the marines start within a deployment zone near the reactor room stairwell and must proceed to a door way on the far edge to escape. Alien deployment is random and based on dice rolls, You roll to determine what row they deploy in and then a second roll tells you what location on that row the alien pops out on. This creates for a difficult survival scenario where the Aliens can literally appear on top of on of your marines and ruin even the best of plans.


(recreated map)

Each marine has a set number of actions (usually two) which they can split between firing and moving. Their ability to hit is a percentage based on the range and if they apply one action or two representing an aimed shot. It is often a very a tricky balance between moving and firing. Your squad moves in a set order each turn so you can get gummed up in tight spots, it can make for some difficult tactical choices and stings really bad when you opt not to move in order to fire and end up missing. It's very important to work and manoeuvre as a squad but the ability to do so is constantly tested by the sequence being challenged.

What made this game interesting to me was that it could be played single player, it was fun if you had two people but the solo play was equally as challenging.

Fitting with the theme of the movie the game is very stacked against the marines and you will lose a good portion of the games, but that's also what makes it such a great challenge and something I played countless times.

They latter added an on expansion pack which covered more areas of the story, five new mission including entering the queens lair to save Newt and the final powerloader vs queen fight.







S**  H*** came out that same year as the Aliens game, but I honestly think Aliens is far superior. It focuses heavily on the squad mechanic and has random location deployment for the aliens which add a great deal of difficulty. There are less opportunities to fire at the aliens, and rolls are on a D10 for a better probability spread.  Ammunition use is an issue and grenades while powerful can also kill your own marines if you are not exceedingly careful.

I do enjoy SH a fair amount but their enemies have deployment with tokens and there's no ambushing, there's just waterboy style waves of monsters. I've always felt to be a bit limited, there's also lot more actions and shooting involved per phase which I think changes a bit how the game feels. With Aliens I think it simulates the cramped quarters and potential ambush threats are far greater. Plus due to certain events over the last year it's really soured me with anything regarding products from that particular company so I've completely divorced myself from their games.

The downside to all this greatness is that Leading Edge shut down back in 1993, and even prior to shutting down they were having difficulties getting product distributed effectively so the original game is very difficult to come by. I never was able to get the expansion pack or many of the miniatures. I managed to get the queen miniature and a squad of marines but never had any of the warrior aliens of character models as my local shop just couldn't get them in no matter how much I pestered them.

To make matters worse I lost my copy either when my basement flooded or when I moved during my senior year. But the times playing it will forever be among my fondest gaming memories. O' precious Aliens box, how I morn thee.





Prior to the re-issue of SH I had been trying to recreate what I could remember of the Aliens game but didn't get too far as it'd been a long, long time since I'd played it. I found a bunch of modelling blogs and stuff on DakkaDakka that got a bunch of my creative juices flowing but ended up diverting me a bit more towards playing  SH for a time as it was easier to attain as I already had minis and I could find rules online for it. And of course about a year later they did the re-issue so people could buys actual copies again.

As nice as it's been to have SH available again the Aliens bug was still inside me. (damn face huggers). Having played the superior Aliens game I wasn't content with SH,  so over the last two years I've been thinking about how to create my own AVP style game that way I could run a mix of marines, aliens and predators for all sorts of destructive action. I've picked up a few of the heroclix figures and created a number of 3-d models for terrain. I have a number of floor sections completed and printed but are still awaiting casting.






They are a few of the many unfinished projects I embarked on over the last year that I have almost complete but are currently neglected by my general state of apathy. My modelling ADD is quite severe at times as I get a huge rush and make great progress initially but run out of steam before completion. It also hasn't helped that I've been fighting with a lot of depression the last several months. (It's also the reason why my Robotech stuff was on hold for about 6 months as well) I feel like I'm back on a more positive swing now so hopefully I can refocus some of that energy and get the pieces for my table underway.




Anyways so where this long rant is headed is that I was doing some blog hopping and found a couple things my previous google-fu had missed. Fans on Board Game Geek have compiled a couple of text files with the original rules sets and homemade tokens, which has helped restart my interest in this project. back when this all started in 2009 I either hadn't thought to look there or I'd missed it when searching. But it's there and it has me drooling with ideas.


There's also a pair of great blogs entries on Dawn of the Lead and also ColorCrayons. Dawn of the lead is a great blog I've been watching for a while, during my initial search for suitable models I saw his photos for some of AVP horrorclixs. I also really liked the minis he used from copplestone casting, so I'd picked up some of those as well which have been sitting on my shelf for the last year and a half.

He's likewise started the venture into the brave world of a 3D board. Given that I'm still two years into this with much to show I have a feeling he'll far outpace me on speed and be more fun to watch. ;)


Also I saw a link on his blog which was AWESOME. Somebody has made a flash based version of the Aliens game which is up on battlegrounds. I spent pretty much my entire day playing it and it's  every bit as challenging as the original board game. I'm hoping that at some point the creator will code in all of the expansion missions.

Flash Based Aliens:  http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/408816





The game play is a little tricky at first but the tutorials explain everything pretty well and you too will be able to waste many many hours with this great game. As awesome as this is my sickness is much deeper and not sated by mere video games, so I endeavor to return to working on my 3D table.

I've seen a couple of very inspiring fan recreations, the colored map at the beginning of this entry is one that's absolutely blown me away. I also saw some cool stuff using the boards from the DOOM game.



These give me some cool new ideas for floor tile designs and ideas for an expanded set of scenarios and layouts that I'll need to sit down and pen together. I do plan on having some walls and and various objects to use for LOS blocking obstacles. It'll take me a bit to get those together, although more floor tiles should be pretty fast to piece together.

1 comment:

  1. thats awesome, i just downloaded the rules for the old aliens game, i love how it can be played solo, im gonna print out these tiles and give it a run...

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