This Time It’s War

Apr 27, 2010

My favorite board game ever has to be Aliens, published in 1989 by Leading Edge Games.

aliens

If you’ve never played it, there is a Flash adaptation available, which seems to be free.

I was introduced to the game in the early 90s by the same guy who taught me how to play Dungeons & Dragons – an afterschool counselor named Juan. Thus I entered the hallowed halls of Geekery. On the days Juan worked, a group of Aliens-addicted kids would beg him to break out the game and let us try the suicide mission of the Reactor Room or the even-deadlier Operations & Air Ducts.

I don’t remember if we ever “won” the game (a certain number of characters have to survive for that to happen), but the taste of imminent-if-unrealized-victory and the crazy teamwork the game inspired left a lasting impression on me.

The game was out of print even when I first played. For years, as a teenager, I looked for it in comic and hobby shops around southern California, to no avail. So I gave up – and time went on, as it does. Then, several years ago, I started trolling Ebay, and I eventually snagged a good condition set for $70. Apparently it had become a collector’s item.

Since then, I have played it three times (and won twice). The last was tonight, with my wife, who for some odd reason felt compelled to indulge me.

Unpacking the box, I felt like that same excited middle-school kid explaining all of the rules to her: the aliens’ acid spray, the characters’ movement, the layout of the board. I remembered Juan explaining the same rules to me, so many years ago.

It’s a goofy game, sure – a Sci-Fi combat strategy. But it’s fast-paced and fun, and I consider it part of my childhood. After all, I spent so many days and nights thinking through possible ways to beat the game – more time than I spent on my homework! And you can’t beat the team play in a game that forces you to carry around incapacitated team members to win.

So, about tonight … Maybe having a new recruit set me back, but when we finally called it quits, we were down four characters. All of them were mine! Part of the reason, I think, was that after a bad run-in with some aliens in the southeastern quadrant of the board, I retreated my team and we changed from a split formation tactic into one group. Always a bad move.

If you play the game, I suggest splitting into two columns, and remember to always bring either Drake or Vasquez.

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