This month's installment of Tabletop Co-Op will be a bit different than usual. Generally, I cover board game card games that are currently in print, or at least easy to track down. Today, though, I'm going to share a recent experience I had playing a decades-old board game that has been modified and tricked out into something special: a one of a kind version of the Aliens board game.
The Aliens board game was published way back in 1989. Based on the mega-popular sci-fi action movie of the same name, the board game was in essence a small scale wargame. Think cardboard chits and a thick rulebook. Unlike most wargames, however, Aliens was intended to be played cooperatively. Aliens followed a set of rules similar to those of the D&D Adventure board games like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon. Move to the nearest marine, attack if in range, that sort of thing. Marine players worked together to meet the objectives of the included scenarios. Though the game was well designed, and certainly appealing due to the license and unique ruleset, it fell out of print long ago.
Fast forward to last month, when I attended a wargame convention with my son and a friend of mine. Looking through the list of events running, we saw that Aliens was running every two hours. As a fan of the movie, I knew I had to try it. When we approached the table and saw the setup, my jaw dropped. I had never seen anything like it before.
Two gentlemen were running the event, and they had boxes and boxes of custom terrain, dozens of marine and alien figures, player aid cards, and more. I was so astonished I asked them how they had managed to create it. They told me that they had obtained these glorious pieces from Aliens-based toylines, mainly a Palisades series released in 2004. They had lovingly painted each marine, alien, and even an incredibly impressive queen alien "miniature". Paired with these amazing components was a streamlined ruleset based on the 1989 game. To say that we were impressed with the fruits of their labors would be an understatement.
As you might expect, the Aliens session had drawn quite a crowd. When it came time to begin, the game masters counted players. Thirteen eager fans had assembled for some xenomorph slaying action. I was a bit apprehensive, sure that they would have to turn away someone. But this was not to be so. In fact, all but a couple players got to control two marines. Once we had deployed to our side of the table, no less than two dozen heavily armed marines stood, flamethrowers and pulse rifles at the ready.
With so many players, it was decided that we would move and act simultaneously. A marine had so many actions to spend on movement, shooting, or a combination. We tactically placed ourselves on the high ground, around corners, and in other relatively safe locations, Then, the aliens spawned, and the cycle began anew. Within a few short turns, the action was intense. Deadly alien blood sprayed. Marines were wounded. Slowly, we advanced to the objective, the egg nests.
And then, she arrived. The alien queen, annoyed by our intrusion into her lair, and by the deaths of so many of her children, appeared. Towering over the marines, she managed to skew a few victims with her wicked tail and claws. After a round of concentrated fire, though, she was slain, though she managed to take out a few more marines who had been to close with her acidic blood. The marines had completed the objective, and many high fives were exchanged and cheers exclaimed.
I had a great timing playing this version of Aliens. To see such a fantastic tabletop setup was a true privilege. You can't help but appreciate the passion the game masters had to spend so much time, money, and effort in crafting such a masterpiece. I've never played anything like it, but you can bet I will be first in line at the next convention, spewing Hudson quotes and loving every minute of it.