‘Excuse me sir. A xeno-what?’ Ever since Ridley Scott first unleashed the original xenomorph onto an unsuspecting world in 1979, that world has been obsessed with loving the Alien. Over the past forty plus years, Alien has spawned sequels, comic books, toys and action figures and even computer games, as well as more merchandise than you can shake a Chestburster at and even a just announced television show from the folks at Disney.
Yes while in space nobody may be able to hear you scream, down here on Earth its a different matter and it seems that the entire internet is going mad over a brand new game from Gale Force Nine, Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps which has just been released.
Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps is a brand new cooperative survival game which lovingly and very accurately recreates one of the most iconic movies in cinematic history, (the sequel to Scotts 1979 masterpiece Alien) Aliens!
Games based around the Alien franchise are not a new thing, in fact way back just after the original movie was released Kenner released a really good board game simply called Alien, which was a fantastic game. Moving along and Aliens came out in 1986 and took the world by storm and where its predecessor was a haunted house, Aliens was a rollercoaster ride, you knew something bad was coming up but couldn’t get off and hide and it rushed you head long.
There was no real official game based on James Camerons sequel as far as I am aware (though there was an offically licensed roleplaying game from Leading Edge Games a couple of years later) and the closest we could get to recreating the tension of the movie was Jervis Johsons excellent Space Hulk from Games Workshop, which carried more than a few passing resemblances over from the Aliens movie, albeit with a Warhammer 40,000 twist.
So the years come and go and there have been other attemps at games based on the franchise, most recently AvP from Prodos Games, which although it had excellently scuplted and detailed miniatures, the game was pretty lack luster and didn’t do anything to capture the feel of the movies.
Enter Gale Force Nine and their own take on the Aliens movie with Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps, the core set boardgame that follows very, very closely to Camerons movie plot and allows for the players to survive the horrors of LV-426 as they go up against the xenomorph hordes.
The game is designed to be a cooperative effort, with each player controlling a character from the movie and playing through a series of scenarios that follow the narrative structure of the film very closely. From rescuing the sole survivor of Hadleys Hope, Rebecca ‘Newt;Jordan; to calling down a dropship to take off from the doomed planet, with each scenario having its own mission objectives and goals, which utimately see the players just fighting to stay alive.
Cooperative games are pretty common these days, especially Euro games which are often built on the premise of players helping each other out. Here however cooperation is paramount and while each player controls a single character (more on that in a moment), they will be doomed if they try to act on their own and don’t think of the collective teams wellbeing and work together as a team!
Each scenario could be played as a standalone encounter and players would still have a fantastic and fun time doing so, but the mechanics of the game, while quite simple; allow for the story to be continued from one encounter to the next, with characters who have died not being replaced, ammo running very low, and more and more aliens appearing, adding extra tension and pressure onto the players.
Each of the three main scenarios gives you all the conditions that you will need to play it, from the set up on the excellent painted double-sided game boards to victory conditions and any special rules that the marine players must follow in order to progress to the next scenario. Of course, while this sounds dead simple on paper, it is much harder to achieve and the cards can literally be stacked against the marines as they fight to explore and ultimately escape the doomed planet.
Driving all the action of the game is the Endurance deck, which is a sort of currency that the players use to augment attacks and defense every turn, lower the chance of xenomorphs attacking or even burning to equip special weapons that have a devastating effect on the aliens. The deck is not infinate however and has only sixty cards in it, and though you are allowed one free reshuffle per game, once that is done all cards that are spent will be gone for good, cutting down your chances of winning drastically and making you think more tactically. Sometimes it may be worth your while burning off cards to get a bonus that allows you to complete a mission, but if you are very low on Endurance cards think carefully before you cut off your own escape plan or its Game Over Man!
The gameplay is pretty straight forward and repeats throughout the rounds. At the start of the game, each player takes control of a single character from the six movie characters found within the core set (other characters are found in Ultimate Badasses and Get Away from Her you B***H expansions more on those later) and the remaining characters are then under the control of the players who may activate any of them during their turn if they haven’t already been activated.
Characters activate by the highest rank and work downwards and may perform two actions each, such as moving or shooting or welding a barricade shut. Some actions cost only one point to do such as movement, while others cost both actions and sometimes a skill check. Once each player has made all their characters actions and if they don’t wish to activate any of the npc characters (who use the flip side titled Grunts for their non-heroic abilities) then the activation token passes on to the next player. I will take a deeper look at this in a moment
Once all players have gone their turn ends and it moves over to the xenomorphs which follow a set pattern of moving the aliens themselves, then moving blips and coming onto the board through entry spawn points. Each alien appears as a blip token and the players are unaware of exactly how many aliens are represented by the token, it could be a false reading and have no aliens or it could contain as many as five xenomorphs climbing over each other as they attempt to reach the humans. Once they are in line of sight of any of the players (regardless of which way they are facing) then the counter is flipped to reveal how many aliens are present. For each alien revealed a token is placed under a xenomorph miniature which means that the players will need to destroy each token to rid the threat.
Once all of the alien tokens and models have been moved and activated, the board is tidied up and victory conditions are checked, and then play will either carry on or a winner will be declared.
Thats just a very basic break down of how the game plays, and there is far more indepth games mechanics that above. For example each player must draw a motion tracker card during their turn and play it. These are drawn face down and only revealed at the start of the xenomorph turn, and each card will either activate more blips and bring them onto the board, or cause some event to happen at random.
Likewise as mentioned above, during the marine players activation they can spend cards from the Endurance deck to direct gameplay in a way that will help the players hopefully. Some cards are weapons or equipment and recure the sacrifice of a set number of cards to activate and put into play, other cards are events that can change the course of the game when played such as enviromental hazzards.
Each players character is represented on the board by a miniature which in turn has its own profile card. Each of the cards is double sided with one side being the chracters details and any special abilities they may have (such as Frost has an ability that allows him to move two squares for free) and you can equip each marine before play with various weapons and equipment that will aid them in their fight for survival. The flip side of each profile card is the basic or ‘Grunt’ version of that character who will be a controllable asset during the rest of the game. Some characters are fast, while others are much slower, but each has its own thing that makes it stand out from the others.
The Endurance deck is an amazing tool that really can push the limits of what do, or how they should react to threats. Burn through these too quickly and you risk losing the game, too slowly and you risk being overrun by the aliens.
If a players character or a grunt is killed by a xenomorph or event then they are out of the game, but if you are playing the campaign version of the game with each of the scenarios being run in order, then you can mount a rescue mission and going and search for the character who may be right now being turned into a human incubator for the xenomorphs hive mind.
These rescue missions are often short but fast paced and along with the Bug Hunt missions which see you going out of your way to kill as many aliens as you can, they add an extra element to game play.
The game utilises two types of dice, the standard D6 which is used by the ailens and a D10 which is used by the marines and characters. Each attack roll is done using the characters profile and any bonuses they may have such as special effects from cards in their hand, and the player must roll under that number on their die. The lower the roll the better for both aliens and marines and a roll of six or ten is always a failure.
So how does it play? Well the mechanics of the game are pretty simple, but not too simple that players will get bored. At the start of the game you choose a mission to play from the three provided or if you fancy just getting stuck in choose one of the Bug Hunt missions that branch away from the main narrative of the movie. Place the boards down as per the instructions on the scenario and choose your force from the marines and civilians in the game (Ripley and Burke). Each player gets to choose a character to play and takes their profile card from the set. Each character card is double-sided with one side depicting the hero version of the charcter and the reverse featuring the grunt side of the character, once all players have chosen their characters they then choose grunts (the flip of any characters card) and as long as there are no more than six characters in play (unless the scenario or rules allow it) then play can begin,
Each player equips their character with armour, weapons and equipment from the Endurance deck, makes sure that their Aim dial is set to their characters Aim level and then equips their grunts in a similar fashion.
Each of the characters and grunts are placed on the board in the location shown on the scenario and each scenario will have victory conditions that the players need to meet to win, what the Game Over Man outcomes will be and we are ready to rock and roll.
The turn is split into two segments, the Marine player and the Aliens (which are controlled by the games mechanics in the standard core rules). Players activate one at a time with the highest-ranking player going first, and the follow the structure of the turn which is as follows:
- Reset Aim Dial
- Resolve All On Activation Abilities
- Equip Endurance Cards
- Perform Two Actions
- Resolve all End of Activation Abilities
- Use Rank to Activate Grunts
- Pass Activation Token.
Reset the Aim Dial: Each character in the game has their own aim dial to which moves up and down to represent the character expending ammo or taking aim.
Resolve All On Activation Abilities: Some characters have abilities that must be undertaken on activation, example is Lt Gorman who has to draw 2 Endurance cards from the deck each turn. Seeing as the deck also contains hazards this can be a risky move.
Equip Endurance Cards: During this part of the Marine phase, the player can equip or unequip their character or if they are up to two spaces away on the board pass equip another character.
Use Rank to Activate Grunts: After the player has gone, they get another chance to act using their Grunts. Each point of Rank will allow the character to control up to three grunts and issue them orders for their activation. Lowest ranking NCO’s such as Corperals get 1 point of Rank while others such as Sargents can get 3. The player may control and activate any grunt who has not yet activated even if they are not within line of sight. Sometimes its a great idea to steal forward and get yourself into position, while you order your grunts to cover your rear or set barracades to keep you safe (well as relativly safe as the universe will allow)
Perform Two Actions: Each Marine phase every character will get the chance to make two actions unless they have been knocked down in the previous turn or are attempting something that takes two actions to complete. Characters may move, fire, aim attack rest (which lets them darw or recycle cards) interact with something or barracde an entry point such as a door or spawning point for the Aliens. Most of these actions can be done twice (such as move, move, or fire, fire but at a cost to the character. Each time the character makes an attack, their Aim value for that turn goes down by 1 and though some weapons have a Fully Auto mode which allows mulitiple shots, for each shot taken the following shot will hit at one point lower.
Resolve all End of Activation Abilities: Once a character has done all of its actions it must then do any End of Activation Abilities that it may have, some characters may advance or move a couple of squares, while others such as Gorman are forced to draw Endurance cards from the deck to represent how green they are. This will of course lower the deck over time and once there are no more Endurance cards left (following the free shuffle deck action) then the Marine players lose.
Pass Activation Token: Finally, once the player has made all of their actions and activated anyone else that they can, then their turn is over and the activation token (the bug stomper counter) is then passed to the next Marine player if there are no more Marine players left to activate then play moves on to the aliens.
Much like the Marine phase of the game, the aliens get to move and act during their own phase, which again is broken down:
- Activate Aliens
- Activate Blips
- Draw Motion Tracker Cards
Activate Aliens: This step always goes in a particualr order, All aliens must move towards the closest marine or non marine model, with each alien having a movement of six squares. When the aliens move towards a character the character may lay down Defensive Fire as they approach in reaction to them moving, this also takes into account previous attempts to fire this turn which will have lowered the aim dial of the character, Finally aliens will attack if they are within range to do so and characters must make a defensive roll to avoid death or capture.
Activate Blips: Blips are tokens use to represent the movement of aliens on the board, with each blip ranging from 0-5 aliens. Blips are placed number down so the exact amount of each blip is unknown till it is within line of sight of any of the players when it is then flipped over and the number revealed. Once revealed an alien model is placed in the square with a number of tokens equal to the blip minus the alien below it, so for a blip of four you would place three tokens under that miniature its that simple. Blips don’t move the same as aliens and you roll the Aliens dice for movement for the first blip and all other blips on that section of the game board move at the same number of squares from 1-6. If a blip is flipped due to line of sight, players may still be able to get a reactionary defensive shot against them.
Draw Motion Tracker Cards: Each player must draw and resolve a motion tracker card or in the case of a single player or two player game, the players must draw and resolve two motion tracker cards each. Some of the results of the motion tracker cards can be false readings that lead to nothing, or swarms of aliens coming from unseen tunnels or through the ceilings.
Once both the Marine and Alien Phases are over, the last thing to do is move onto the Final Phase which is a house keeping segment.
- Resolve any Finsh Phase Effects
- Check for Victory or Defeat
- Clean Up
Resolve any Finsh Phase Effects: Some of the cards will have abilites that only take place during this phase and they must be resolved before the next turn.
Check for Victory or Defeat: Though each scenario will have specific paramaters that will let you know if the players have won or not (in the first scenario Newt and at least 2 other characters need to make it through the Exit tile for example). If all the characters have been killed, knocked down or captured then the game ens with the aliens winning, If the players met the goals of the scenario, then the marines win. Finally if the players exhaust their Endurance cards and have no more to shuffle, then the game ends with the aliens winning.
Clean Up: The mission turn dial is advanced to the next number along to help keep a track of how many turns have gone. The play then goes to the highest ranking marine player and starts again with the fresh turn.
That of course is a very basic and quick overview of how the game plays, there is far much more to it than just that. You will find that the Endurance deck is the key to working out your stratergies for approaching each scenario, do you go in guns blazing and burn through your deck and hope that you can draw more non event cards than event cards, or do you play it safe and hope to skirt around the aliens and escape. Likewise every shot you take at the xenomorphs will cost you from your Endurance deck, unless you have a card that states it can be used to do so instead. Some weapons such as the trusty M41A Pulse Rifle can fire on full auto which means that they can roll to hit again if they hit and do more damage, each time you fire however you burn up those precious Endurance cards, making your chances of surviving the entire campaign (not including the rescue or bug hunt missions) that much more difficult.
Some scenarios will allow the Marine players to take Sentry guns, these are automated turrets as seen in the Directors Cut of Aliens and can mow down hordes of aliens very easily, but be warned if a marine character gets caught in the crosshairs of one of these deadly guns then they are at high risk of dying too.
The Motiion Tracker deck is your worst enemy in the game and can deal some pretty nasty surprises to you, and the more players you have, then the higher the risks of drawing more aliens and them literally coming out of the walls. Some of the cards may have no aliens at all on them, a false reading by the motion tracker, while others can have up to five aliens which really can turn the tide against the players
Of course we all know that the xenomorphs have molecular acid for blood, whch can eat through nearly any substance and this is still the case, but the rules for acid damage are not found in the core boxed set but are in the Get Away from Her You Bitch expansion (see my review of that game).
Another Glorius Day in the Corps comes with six characters from the movie, and an extra NPC character Newt, These are:
- Ellen Ripley
- Cpl Dwayne Hicks
- Pvt William L Hudson
- Pvt Jenette Vasquez
- Pvt Rico ‘Frosty’ Frost
- Lt Scott Gorman
The miniatures are first rate and as noted assemble so easily that even the most novice of gamer can put the entire box together in a few hours. Each character is simple to put together and assemble but if you are not familiar with hobby products you will need some polystyrene cement or hobby glue to assemble them, and follow the instructions. On the whole its just a case of gluing one piece to the main body such as an arm and then gluing each miniature to is corresponding base, with only Vasquez having extra parts and even she is simple to assemble.
The xenomorphs are also very simple put together, with each consisting of two body halves, a head and tail plus the arms. There are four plastic sprues of four different posed models to give you sixteen models in total, and due to the fact that each model has a choice of two heads and you can reposition the arms and tails to how you deem fit, you can assemble a full box and no two models will look exactly the same.
You do need to take care though when assembling the aliens as only the heads for each model will fit that pose, so head A will only fit body A and B fit body B, etc. The arms and tails you are free to mix and match as much as you would like to. I have a planned video showing how to build your ailen models and how to paint them extremely quickly that I hope to get live very soon.
Another Glorious Day in the Corps is an outstanding game, that at times can become so fast paced you will be forgiven for thinking you’re acutally in the movie itself. The mechanics are pretty solid and do offer a great style of game play, albeit frantic at times, but also help add to the tension of survival horror. You will see your Endurance deck start to deminish and know that you are several turns from wining and must work out is it worth birning cards, or do you have to make sacrifices and hope for the best!
The artwork on the cards is first rate and the game boards look outstanding with some really great details such as Wayland-Yutani logos on walls or access panels giving a feel of the movie. Each board is also double-sided which again adds that extra bit of immersion into the game.
Expansions and more
Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps is the core set in the game with two further expansions released along side the main core set. I have already reviewed Ultimate Badasseswhich introduces new marine characters and new ways to play such as gaining experience in much the same way as a roleplaying game, and the use of fireteams which allow for up to six players at once. The second expansion is the Aliens Get Away from Her You B***H which I will be fully reviewing in the next few days. This expansion adds even more depth to the game and immersion of the players into the hostile world of LV-426, with the introduction of the Alien Queen, a powerhouse of a creature that can quite easily rip a player in two, and we also get the synthetic lifeform Bishop and not one but two versions of Ripley, with one carrying Newt and the other in the powerloader from the final showdown on board the Sulaco.
Add to this new missions, which also includes the APC (que the music up) and the fact that now one player can actually play as the xenomorphs and you have a hell of an expansion, and I havent even gotten to the extra game boards that can be added to the Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps core set to give you truely epic games!
Finally there is the Aliens Assests and Hazards set which is a set of plastic spures that give you a more 3d aspect to the game in keeping with the amazing miniatures. The set comes with computer consoles, crates and two Sentry guns (as detailed above) as well as alien eggs and even two facehuggers, all of which will go perfectly with your marines and xenomorphs!
Game Over Man!
2020 has been a strange year for everyone, and while there have been some great games released this year, I do feel that this is one of the best by far and is a game that has a lot of replay value and and best of all the fun factor that makes great games stand out from others. Last year I awarded my Gamers Web Game of the Year award to Atomic Mass Games excellent Marvel Crisis Protocol, and now extremely pleased to award Aliens Another Glorious Day in the Corps the Gamers Web Game of the Year Award for 2020. Kudos Gale Force Nine on such an outstanding game. Now if you will excuse me I need to get to Medical as there seems to have been some sort of incident that I need to check out, now where did I put my shotgun, you know for close encounters?