Eighty First session - Mars Attacks!

St. Ives Tabletop

26th June 2024

Fifteen gamers turned out on a hot evening to support the clubs charity night. Between the donations, bake sale and games raffle we raised £250 on the night to support the St Ives Corn Exchange which has been our host since the start of the club back in September 2019. So thanks to everyone that supported the event. The club has matched every £2 so we have increased the donation to £375!

We started the night with getting stuck into some games with big player counts so there were only three long games played but one was a two table filler with six players.

Lost Ruins of Arnak

Following the principle of “If you get it ready on a table then people will join” Kathy J. set up Lost Ruins of Arnak with the Expedition Leaders expansion and soon had a full game of four. As there was one new player, Dave took the Captain as the easiest character role, Kathy the Explorer, Iain the Professor and Steph the Falconer, and we played on the Monkey temple research track.

Lost Ruins of Arnak

It was soon a master class from Steph on collecting enough resources to get both the magnifying glass and notebook to the top of their research tracks without neglecting the exploring and guardian taming. The other three players all finished about twenty points behind with similar scores and the island had been comprehensively looted and tamed. Always popular on the tables Arnak won over another first time player with its fairly simple mechanics but multiple options for actions and scoring points.

Three players then stayed on for a quick game of Subastral a card set collecting game with a few nuances on how to maximise your scores themed around collecting biomes with scores based on diversity of biomes researched or depth of the same biomes collected. See blog 44 for a more detailed description and photo.

Terraforming Mars

The next table setup another popular game, the 8th time out at club, so five CEOs stepped up to the challenge of Terraforming Mars (with the Prelude expansion to kick start the endeavours). Ryan (hosting the game) was head of Helion a heat management corporation, Jeremy was part of a greening focussed company called Ecoline, Jyo was leading a science group called Valley Trust, Richie was advising the United Nations Mars Initiative (UNMI) and Simon was playing as an innovator as part of the Vitor Corp.

With the prelude expansion, Mars was already partly covered by two seas and a city at the start of the game. Things went very quickly from there, and by the time everyone had been the first player Mars was nearly terraformed. The temperature had raised enough for Mangroves to be placed, nearly all the seas had been defrosted/created and all the greening had made the oxygen very high. The last couple of rounds were spent building more cities, enabling awards, adding some more green touches and playing as many victory point project cards as possible.

Terraforming Mars

The game ended with UNMI having the largest Terraforming Rating, and everyone else was reasonably close behind apart from the Valley Trust. The final scoring had UNMI and Ecoline raking in the points from greenery and cities, with them sharing the Landlord award with Vitor. Then the Banker and Science awards were shared between Vitor, Helion and the Valley Trust. The milestones of Mayor, Gardener and Builder went to Ecoline, UNMI and Valley Trust respectively. Everything was looking quite close, but then the project cards played during the game were counted and though the Valley Trust had a huge increase (23) from their science projects, Ecoline swung it with 16 pets (8 points) from all the cities built during the game due to the luck of getting this card out at the start of the game.

Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!

The final table had pitched in advance on Discord and had six seats booked for its first time out at club Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!. Billed as a co-operative survival game, players assume the role of Colonial Marine characters (mainly) from the sci-fi blockbuster, Aliens, as they try to complete missions on Hadley’s Hope, overcome the Xenomorph horde and perhaps rescue grateful colonists’ daughters from something or other. A squad of ultimate badasses including Neil O (Vasquez, wielding a powerful Smart gun), Darren C (Hudson, the tech whiz), Nathan B (Cpl. Hicks, with his combat shotgun as a backup weapon for close encounters), Reynaldo A (Crowe) and James T (“Frosty” Frost, armed with a potentially devastating incinerator plus a largely ineffective pistol) joined a slightly rules-rusty Steve L (Sgt Apone) on an express elevator to hell, going down! Of Lt Gorman there was no sign, but no one seemed to miss him. As no one had selected Ripley (and you can’t have Aliens without Ripley!), Steve unilaterally added her to the mission as an NPC with lower value stats (firing, combat, tech skills). However, the player character Marines were all on their higher value hero side, giving a nice boost to key stats. Unfortunately, as the players would soon find out, this came at a price as the game balances the number of heroes in the squad by increasing the frequency with which Xenomorphs appear.

The mission was to enter the atmosphere processing plant, locate and rescue Newt (small, orphaned girl and the only survivor of the colonists, for anyone who hasn’t seen the film), then exit the board at a specified location near the start point to end the scenario. The map configuration resembled an angular capital C, with the Marines entering at the end of the top arm and potential locations for Newt mostly in the bottom arm (although with one tantalising possibility much closer). Xenomorphs are initially represented by a few face-down ‘blip’ counters (representing unknown moving objects on Crowe’s motion tracker scanner), which move towards the Marines every turn. The scenario gives the Marines four turns to make as much progress as they can before the motion tracker cards start to bring in additional Xenomorph waves. These spawn at four designated spaces scattered across the board and become more numerous as the game progresses. Spawn points can be barricaded though, which might just keep the Xenomorphs from getting through. A big might.

Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!

Any hopes the Marines had that this would be just another bug hunt rather than a stand-up fight were soon dashed as they encountered the first two swarms of Xenomorphs blocking the entrance to the plant. However, the squad moved swiftly into kick ass mode and the combined firepower of Vasquez’s Smart gun and the others’ Pulse rifles dealt with these fairly quickly, without needing to trouble Frost and his trusty incinerator. This left the way clear for Hudson to do his tech thing and run a bypass to open the main entrance, which had been sealed by the colonists in a vain attempt to keep the alien menace out. While the rest of the squad entered the plant, Apone lingered outside with Ripley to barricade the spawn point and (hopefully) prevent more Xenomorphs appearing behind them.

A few lurking Xenomorphs were quickly finished off and a plan of sorts was made. Cpl Hicks and Frost would check out the closest of Newt’s potential locations, while Hudson headed for a nearby computer terminal. This could be used to scan one of the other possible locations per turn, subject to passing a tech test. Meanwhile the rest of the squad and Ripley would remain in the main north-south corridor to await developments and keep a watchful eye on a menacing looking spawn point located at the south end. In order to reach the closest blip that might be Newt, Hicks and Frost had to navigate some narrow corridors which would take them close to one of the spawn points just as the motion tracker cards started to kick in. And this was where things started to get tough, with Xenomorphs seemingly coming through the walls to get at the Marines. In this time of potential crisis, Hicks showed his leadership qualities by pushing Frost to the front and hiding behind him (although Hicks would probably say he was in a great position to provide covering fire, if needed). This left Frost a clear field of fire for his short-range incinerator and over the next three turns, he used this to good effect to toast upwards of twenty Xenomorphs and keep the horde at bay. While this drama was playing out, Hudson had managed to reach the terminal and after a few failed attempts to log in, guessed right first time and located Newt. Unfortunately, this put her at the furthest and most inaccessible point on the board, with the motion tracker already showing numerous blips in between with more likely to follow.

Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!

As if things weren’t bad enough already, the spawn point at bottom end of the main corridor had come alive and was churning out Xenomorph swarms like there was no tomorrow (which might well be the case for the Marines, who were now in danger of being overrun). With a cry of “Let’s rock”, Vasquez unleashed the Smart gun in full auto, mowing down Xeno after Xeno to thin out the horde a bit. Then, as the swarms began to move up the main corridor, the previously passive Pvt. Crowe was suddenly overcome by blood lust and ran towards them, firing his Pulse rifle and following up with the grenade launcher for good measure. Although this onslaught reduced the onrushing horde to a single Xenomorph, it was able to get up close and personal with Crowe with the aim of totally ruining his day. However, Crowe was not finished yet and, to the surprise of the rest of the squad, he managed to finish off the Xenomorph with his knife.

This gave the Marines a brief breathing space to take stock before any more new swarms arrived and those already blocking the way to Newt made it onto the main corridor. The game’s key mechanism involves a deck of endurance cards, which must be exhausted every time a character fires their weapon and for certain other game effects. The players must manage the endurance deck to make sure it doesn’t completely exhaust (representing ammo used up and/or a collapse of morale if it does), as this would result in an immediate loss however well things are going on the board. This can be mitigated by having characters/NPCs take a rest action to recycle cards and Ripley rested a lot in the game to keep the others going! However, with the endurance deck running very low (in part because Steve got the rule wrong) and plenty more blips heading towards the squad, the Marines decided to just bug out and call it even, OK? Sorry Newt, hang tough and we’ll get back to you soon. Or maybe we’ll just nuke the site from orbit to make sure?

The next session is the 10th of July, as always let us know in advance if there are some games you want to play and we can try and arrange that, you can make suggestions on our Discord channel and get some pre-session interest going. Or just turn up and see what varied games our regulars have brought along to teach and share.