Saturday witnessed a rarity in these days of Plague confinement– almost the entire Second Saturday Scrum Club come together in one place at one time (well, virtually). The meeting was conducted via Zoom and roll20.com. We had no problems with connectivity and didn’t have any dropouts that I can recall. Roll20 was the usual challenge but everything worked as ordered.
The game being played was the new ALIENS RPG from a Swedish outfit, Free League Publishing. As you might guess it has a license to take place in the universe of the Aliens franchise. This is a great place to hang out, being hard, semi-dystopian Science Fiction, not bright and shiny like Star Trek, but kind of grungy and dirty, like it probably will be some day (fingers crossed).
The game was run by Rich Mckee (GM extrordinaire) and featured a canned scenario that would be standard faire in this setting. The crew is on a commercial/surveying vessel en route to a destination when they are awoken from cryosleep by the computer telling them they have fifteen minutes to adjust course to adjust for collision with a foreign object. To the crew’s surprise it’s an 80 year old derelict ship sending out a distress call (very faintly). The course was corrected, we matched course and speed with the derelict and a lively conversation ensued about how to enter the ship. Docking umbilical or shuttle in the landing bay. Our stern captain figure, played by Zach, decided we should use the docking umbilical.. After an hour of character development, lively discussion and experimentation, we finally got on the derelict. I played Lyron Cham, a “roughneck” who specialized in heavy machinery. I played him as surly, hating the corporation and cooperative to a point. He’s constantly complaining about his lack of a bonus. That’s right.. I played the Yaphet Kato part in this adventure. He was buddies with Rye, played by Josh, who was a tech specialist. Buddies mean something in the wider campaign but it didn’t really play into this intro adventure. We didn’t get a chance. The ship had two pilots, Bien (John Sears) and Davis (Joe Procopio). Zach played the Captain, Josh played Rye, and Steve played Wilson, the Corporate Dweeb. We all got “motivations”.. mine was boring, basically be a nice guy and support everyone. I played against character.
Rich actually bought the commercial Roll20 module for this game from the company, and it was very well designed. The character sheets were dynamic and hyperlinked all over the place. It really worked well. If you are going to give this game a try, GET THIS MODULE.
During our little scrap with the Alien, Bien ran away and ran away fast. Wilson followed after him, trying to get him to slow down and see reason. He eventually managed to calm his fears and that group (Rye, Bien and Wilson) descended one deck to get to the air scrubbers and the armory. In a larger sense we wanted to get to the reactor to restore power so we could breathe again and wake up the sleeping crew. We decided to move down to the next room which had some lockers and EVA suits. We killed another alien. We also got three suits each for our crew mates.
Downstairs on the next deck there was a Charley Foxtrot going on . Wilson fired at a weird looking former human alien RED alien. He missed, and explosively decompressed the room. Uh oh! Our EVA suits were in there. Hmmmmmm…. Anyway the other, more chicken guys made a strategic retreat and we linked up with them. We decided at that point that the game was called because Joe had to leave.
Summary: The game played very well. The rules and setting evoke the movies very well indeed. The mechanics were unique and very simple to pick up. The mechanics featured scarcity and resources. We were constantly marking off oxygen and power, which forced our actions. Or built up Stress, which made us perform poorly. Aliens is basically a dice pool game, with special dice to show success or failure in most situations. It has a boardgamey feel but that is truly a good thing. I really enjoyed this game and want to play it again soon.