The morning began early and, fortified with bananas, I donned my tie of office and headed towards the NEC, ready to assume my role as Prime Minister of Japan for Watch The Skies: Second Sight, an event organised by John Mizon of South West Megagames and Alex Beck from Horizon Megagames on the final day of UK Games Expo 2019. I would best describe a Megagame as a heady mixture of a roleplaying game, a board game and a LARP (Live-Action Role Play).
Throughout this piece you will find mechanical information in bold in the text. There is some strong language in the piece. Jamie paid for the Watch the Skies ticket himself, his money is moderately hard earned.
In Watch The Skies: Second Sight, players would be taking on one of various roles:
- Senior Ministers in a world country . Every country would have at least a Head of State, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and a Science Minister, with larger countries including a Deputy Head of State.
- Senior members of a Corporation, who would spend the game researching and selling technology to the countries, all the while fighting to keep ahead of their competitors.
- The Press, who compiled stories from around the world every turn and presented them at the end in a quick round-up of world event.
- The Aliens, who have come to Earth for reasons unknown to us puny humans.
- Alongside these, there were various Control members, who acted as referees/Games Mastering the area they were allotted.
Every turn in the game represents 3 months and is 30 mins long. It consists of two phases: 18 minutes 'Action Phase'(doing things) and 12 minutes 'Team Phase' (planning for next turn, updating the Public Opinion (PO) track (which determines how many Resource Points the nation gets per turn), and listening to the News broadcasts by the Press team, who circled the room during turns, asking for comment on events that unfolded. During the Action Phase, Scientists went to the science conferences, Foreign Ministers went to the UN to debate and resolve motions, Defence Ministers went to the world map to deploy forces, and the Heads of State met other Heads of State for chats.
I had picked up provisions in my diplomatic bag, including Japanese delicacies like Sprite, Flapjacks, Malt loaf and a box of diplomatic Malteasers just in case. After some hassle involving Sunday trains, I made my way to the room set aside for the diplomatic negotiations and events that would occur later in the day.
Before arriving, I was examining the Japanese brief that had been provided by the Game Control. As well as beginning with a strong ally in the USA, and secret information not suitable for prying eyes, the Japanese team had three objectives:
- Make sure Japanese culture and heritage survives at all costs.
- Do not enter into military conflicts unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't let China get better technology, or get more scientific accolades than us.
Emboldened by these, I entered the lion's den of the game room. Our nation table awaited, but sadly my compatriots did not. As I waited for my other senior ministers I was able to make polite conversation with others in the room. After a brief introduction and chat with the Chinese and Indian Defence Ministers, I was approached by my Chinese opposite number, who (after a courteous introduction), began to discuss with me the sticky subject of airspace intrusion. I politely offered the solution that should such an unfortunate event occur, then the discussion would continue. It seemed to placate him for now.
Each nation has a cadre of Interceptors to deal with incoming aerial (and extra-terrestrial) threats, and violation of another country's airspace without prior permission is a no-no.
With the clock ticking down until we started, I was heartened by the arrival of the other senior figures of Japan. First was Dave, the Minister of Science, then Scott (Foreign Minister) and Andrew (Chief of Defence). Scott had brought a Japanese flag to drape across the table, and flag pins for us all to wear.
The upper echelons of Japan, ready for anything. From left to right: Jamie (Prime Minister); Andrew (Defence Minister); Scott (Foreign Minister) and Dave (Science Minister)
The briefing was brisk and thorough. With its conclusion we immediately jumped into the planning for our first three months of office, otherwise known as Turn 1. Already we had a crisis on our hands: a tsunami had struck the Philippines, very close to Japan, and they needed help. We agreed that we would provide whatever aid we could, through motions at the UN.
As a small nation, we felt that going on the charm offensive was probably the best thing to do to score some more alliances, and stay a major figure in political circles. My advisors suggested I approach France for a possible Franco/Japanese alliance, as well as strengthening our bonds of friendship with our American counterparts.
We also decided to try and approach one of the three Corporations that were also present, Axiom Systems Inc., to inquire about purchasing some new Interceptors for Japan, and see about upgrading our current air force. For our initial deployment of military forces Andrew placed our armies in Japan itself (in keeping with our non-hostile policies), and our navies in a training fishing exercise, which 'coincidentally' screened Japan from the Chinese mainland. We were taking no chances. We had a small corner, and we had to fight for it.
With the others heading to their respective areas, I made a beeline for the French President, resplendent in a beret, striped vest and clutching a glass of wine (that was never less than half full throughout the game). One offer of a non-military alliance (and a diplomatic Malteaser) later, we had written up two copies of our treaty. As we were chatting, the German Chancellor (gloriously bedecked in a suit with a Germany flag tie) came over and inquired about the two country alliance becoming a three country alliance. After some more Maltesers, we drew up a third copy and all signed.
Just as the ink was drying, the UK Prime Minister was called over and three became four. With our Pan-European/Japanese, non-military, pro-science ideas alliance in place (and all four nations having copies), we alerted the press to our new formation, and rejoiced in making some progress. The Asian correspondent was skeptical about our new alliance, suggesting that a Japanese and German alliance 'hadn't gone so well in the past'. I simply retorted this was an alliance of ideas and science, with no military plans behind it. Must keep an eye on the press.
Leaving my new allies briefly, I approached the CEO of Axiom Systems, and found out they had no military technology in development. However, I heard that the Crane Group (another Corporation) might have some Interceptor technology, so I planned to go and speak to them next turn.
As I made to go back to my nation table, I was approached by the Indian Prime Minister, who took me aside and quietly expressed concern at the apparent aggressiveness of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean. He suggested an alliance in case of rapid Chinese expansion and both countries coming under threat. Although I wasn't prepared to commit to anything at this time, we agreed to keep an eye on the situation and intimated we would form an alliance in a later turn.
Dave, Scott and Andrew returned and brought generally good news. The UN overwhelmingly voted to send various forms of aid to the Philippines; the science council had voted to improve global Technology & Infrastructure, and Andrew's attempt to conduct Intelligence in China as to their technological capabilities were sadly unsuccessful.
Each turn, the Scientists voted on improving either Biology & Medicine, Technology & Infrastructure or Military. The nation who provides most Science Credits wins an award each turn
In our planning for Turn 2, we received a new UN issue: Civil War in Nigeria. It's not close by, but Foreign Minister Scott said he'd keep an eye on it.
Our new alliance of nations met up again, and discussed plans for a Pan-European/Japanese Space Programme. We checked with the Control, and found out that it would be impossible in the timeframe of the game for such a programme to come to proper fruition. It would however be a handy cover for any dealing with *ahem* weather balloons (our preferred term for UFOs) should any cause trouble. We made the decision to announce our programme to the press next turn.
I was taken aside by the US President, who offered us membership in NATO. Whilst it was a grand gesture (and I was unaware that NATO was an organisation in this), I politely declined on two grounds- one of which being that Japan was not in the North Atlantic, the other being our commitment to not deploying military forces unless necessary (as per our national objective). Considering NATO's military origins, I believed this wouldn't be the best for the country. He did say he would keep the offer open should I change my mind. What a nice President.
The Indian PM and I finally agreed and signed our treaty of alliance. Unlike the European treaty, this one did include military support, but only in a defensive capacity. This alliance was to help keep East Asia (as we saw it) from becoming homogenised (ie. stop China getting at us).
Returning from the UN, our Foreign Minister brought news that they had passed a resolution for peacekeepers and aid to enter Nigeria, but the problem was not going away and would have to be closely watched. Defence Minister Andrew brought news that Intelligence in China had failed again, and there were some military maneuverings that had nothing to do with Japan so we seemed ok for now.
Science Minister Dave brought back the news that not only had the Scientists voted to increase global Biology and Medicine, but by contributing the most science credits, he'd won a certificate and a medal. It was great news and a great start to our goal to get more scientific accolades than China.
It also seemed that there was troubling brewing in Ukraine. Although nothing really to do with us, another hotspot to keep our eyes on.
Rumours began circulating that Bioweapons had been used against the populace in Nigeria (to which the UN were strong to condemn and agreed to send in weapons inspectors), but more pressing problems arose when the skies about Nigeria were filled (filled I tell you!) with UFOs! I mean weather balloons! Then Interceptors! It was a race to see who could shoot down alien craft and gather valuable Alien Tech first. Japan did not violate Nigerian airspace, as we had no allied nations nearby to lean on diplomatically to make it more ok. Our Defence Minister planned to try and get Chad on our side. More rumours started kicking about that China had gotten hold of some alien technology, although they were keeping their cards very close to their chest.
The situation in the Ukraine began to spiral rapidly. Russia was making military inroads to the territory and arguing that Russia should help the most, whilst the US was pushing on both the world map and in the UN for a combat to these inroads. This was not going to quieten down.
On the corporation front, I returned to the Crane Group and ordered some Holo Entertainment, and finally spoke to Forward Dynamics. Not only were they selling Interceptors, but also a Repair Pack in case one got damaged, and upgrades for our national Intelligence levels, allowing for more cards played on the world map. I paid up front for all three items, and the representative I spoke to mentioned their contract with China was ending in several turns, and they might look at moving to another country. Japan would welcome them with open arms.
And one last event occurred within Turn 3, as we sat planning for Turn 4. On all our tables we had some sheets of paper with which to contact the aliens. We decided that might be a good idea to send a message to them and try and ascertain their intentions in a peaceful, open manner. Having no grasp of the alien language they used, we send a simple message skywards: "Japan friend. Meet? "
Communication between Countries/Corporations and the Aliens was limited until a more direct line of dialogue could be established resulting in deliberate mistranslation and garbled words. The Earth had to research Basic & Advanced Alien Language data before we could clearly communicate.
The Indian PM signs a copy of the treaty at our table
Before we could do anything, a mysterious message was issued all around the world from sources as yet unknown: "Good words follow from friends." What words? What good words? What friends? That needs to be investigated. However, more important matters were pressed into my Prime Ministerial hand, in the form of a reply from the *ahem* owners of weather balloons. It simply read "Build home on home soil?" Assuming the Alien grasp of Earth languages was on a par with our knowledge of theirs, cue panicked faces all round the table. Do they want to build some sort of embassy? We sent back the only message we could think of: "Meet Japan?" Very quickly another message was sent back: "We send friendly envoy soon." Soon? How soon? Where? Cue mild panic.
Panic was also occurring in Nigeria, as the skies filled with uninvited Interceptors of (almost) all nations, something the UN was not too happy about. Sanctions were threatened against nations who violated Nigerian airspace from this moment on. Peacekeepers and aid were rolling in, but the civil war was still raging.
This turn, we saw our investments bear fruit. Not only did the Crane Group deliver Holographic Entertainment (for a one-time +1 to our end-of-turn dice rolls to measure PO level) but also Forward Dynamics approached us and gave us the promised Repair Pack and Intelligence Upgrade, allowing Defence Minister Andrew to do more on the World Map, and our promised second Interceptor.
In the midst of discussions, I was taken aside by the US Vice President and asked, as an ally, if we would support military intervention in Ukraine against the Russian incursions. As politely as I could, I agreed that it was serious, but surely if we could come to diplomatic terms, that would be infinitely more preferable as Japan would not want to be seen condoning military engagements.
The UN announced they had passed 3 resolutions:
- Peacekeepers were being deployed to Ukraine in an effort to calm international tensions
- A ban on civilian drone usage. This was proposed by Germany and backed by Japan. Scott the Foreign Minister didn't seem to think it was too bad a proposal, and I couldn't help but agree.
- A plan to investigate these strange global messages, which the press has put down to hackers and "fake news."
As we headed for our tables, the Indian PM called me over and told me there was a rumour circulating that I, your humble Prime Minister, was in league with aliens. I looked him straight in the eye, and denied it. I wasn't in league, I was just in very brief communication. That's not the same thing, surely?
With the Terror Track rising slightly to 41, events began to snowball. The first (and most important) of which was the sight of UFOs over Japan! So that "soon" in the message was cleared up, as was the where. Oh dear.
As expected, almost every nation rushed to intercept the crafts, at which point both the Defence Minister Andrew and myself were hurriedly given separate scraps of paper with the same message scribbled furiously: "ENVOY ON NIPPON SHIPS!" A clear message required swift action, so Andrew politely yet firmly told every defence minister to get out of our airspace. Cue all my allies surrounding me with polite but firm questions along the lines of: "What the hell?" I told them we had things in hand and it was nothing to worry about. They didn't seem satisfied, but that's the perils of diplomacy.
"Build. Ambassador. Hut. Buds. Japan. Buds. Japan. Good. Ally. Protect us. " (ok so maybe we squeaked over the thee syllables in the heat of the moment). The intentions seemed peaceful, but with our limited vocabulary it was touch and go. We had made First Contact!
Returning to the international stage, I felt I had to come clean to the members of the Pan-European/Japanese Alliance. The cover story I suggested was that initial tests for the Europa Space Programme were being tested off Japanese waters, and were performing below expectations. Whilst I knew almost no one would buy it, it was some fortuitous forward planning we had set in motion for a semi-reasonable cover story. I also personally came clean to the Indian PM, mentioning I had met "the owners of the weather balloons". I didn't like the feeling that I had lied to him (but was it really lying?).
In their end of turn announcement, Forward Dynamics announced they would not be moving their base of operations from China. I have to say, we were rather disappointed and somewhat suspicious in China's military capabilities. This was compounded with the news from Foreign Minister Scott that Pakistan was making aggressive inroads in the Kashmir region against our military allies in India. A promise is a promise, and a signed treaty is a signed treaty. We weren’t too enthused about it, but time to fight.
After the fiasco of the last turn, the Terror Track had risen to 50. Things began to look bad for Japan and the world. Our Public Opinion began to take a hit as tensions rose, and dropped again as we made the executive decision to mobilise Japan's military. Defence Minister Andrew deployed forces in a broad defensive arc and awaited the Pakistani assault.
I made another “trip to Hokkaido” and spoke to the Aliens once more. Again our communication was extremely limited, but I gathered from this interaction that one of them was leaving (at the time I didn't know where), one of them was staying, and that their intentions were peaceful and that they wanted to help humanity. No matter how many times they repeated it, I still harboured some reservations about their motives. Nevertheless, I passed all the information on to the British, French, German, Indian and the USA, who had been feeling slightly left out.
I cannot remember the exact circumstances, but I was speaking to Andrew after the successful defence of Kashmir, and he mentioned about Nigeria. Seeing the confusion on my face, he informed me that it was apparently common knowledge that the government in Nigeria was comprised of aliens, and the civil war we had been hearing about and intervening in was the human populace violently resisting this occupation. Well now, that would be top of the list for next time I got to speak to the Alien.
In order to get our messages across in a clearer fashion, we needed to research their language or, as it turned out, speak to our allies. The USA had developed Basic Alien Language Data, and after a friendly chat, allowed us to copy their Data, giving us a card of our own. (Aren't the USA great?) I shared this data with the British, French and German PMs and gave them a copy each- a magnanimous gesture that would end up being very handy indeed.
As we watched the Terror Track increase to 61, I was approached by a Japanese journalist who bluntly informed me that he was in fact aware of not only the existence of aliens, but that we as a government had been holding them and interacting with them for several months without public knowledge [we had been holding them in as much as they were our honoured guests but weren't allowed to wander freely]. Despite my reassurances that we were withholding the information for security reasons, the journalist left threatening to tell the world about the aliens unless I went public with it first (before the end of the turn).
Resisting the urge to ask Control if I could have the journalist assassinated, I positively flew over to my allies and told them immediately. As it turned out, the French President had also been contacted by one of his journalists and the same demands were issued. We collectively panicked, but ultimately decided that we would have to break the news officially to the world. The French President volunteered to be the bearer, and insisted that a single world leader would be better. We all wished him well.
Wishing to continue my dialogue with the now singular extraterrestrial, I journeyed and spoke to them with our new level of language. They explained that the situation in Nigeria was an attempt at First Contact that went awry, but when I asked them what they wanted protection from they were evasive. I began to have some doubts as to the stated peaceful intentions.
Back in the situation room, I was approached by Defence Minister Andrew who relayed that both China and Russia had mobilised Interceptors into Japanese airspace without permission, and he had scrambled our aircraft to intercept. Cue more panic and a bit of anger. You'll recall that I had spoken to the Chinese Premier before the game started, and the words came back to me. My first call of action was to approach our allies and ask them to standby for military assistance. My second was to immediately try and speak to the Chinese PM, but he was very busy. So I spoke to the Vice President instead, who claimed he had no knowledge of this intrusion. I was skeptical.
The UN had voted on the previous turn to bring in peacekeepers to the Kashmir region to mediate the Pakistan/India conflict, but India wanted to push for invasion. As our alliance was built upon defensive military aid only, I asked Andrew to withdraw the Japanese troops from Kashmir. It seemed the message got lost in transit because we didn't actually retreat our troops, but I was sure we'd do it next turn. The Indian PM said he owed us one. That would come in very handy in the turns to come.
As well as telling the press we had pulled our troops out of Kashmir, I triumphantly told the reporter about a new global translator that would hopefully avoid any misunderstandings in the future that might unintentionally lead to global conflicts. The fact that this 'translator' had the capacity for alien language data as well was purely coincidental I assure you.
Just before we reconvened, I was approached by Axiom Systems who offered me some of their new technologies, including Advanced Vaccines and an AI Supercomputer. As I wasn't aware of our situation regarding our vaccine supply, I paid (with our ubiquitous Resource points) for an AI Supercomputer which would be delivered to us in 2 turns. I would have to wait and find out what it could be capable of.
All eyes were on the French President as he stood alone amongst us all, and announced to the world that we are not alone in this universe. It was a good speech. No, it was an excellent speech. After thunderous applause we were informed the Terror Track had galloped up to a worrying 155. Bugger.
I entered the world of global politics with honourable intentions. I hoped to make sure Japan maintained a prominent place on the world stage and keep good and open relations with most of the world's leaders. But it was all too easy to slip into slightly duplicitous dealings and selectively withholding information for the sake of keeping the country relevant. How well I thought I was doing that remained to be seen, but rumblings seemed to be about that I was untrustworthy. Imagine that! Me? your humble narrator? Untrustworthy?
Wasting no time, I spoke to the Chinese PM in no uncertain terms about their sortie into our airspace and reminding him that we'd talked about these things earlier. His explanation was that things had happened in 'the heat of the moment' and left it at that. In a show of good faith, I offered to share the Basic Alien Language technology with him, but he politely declined as his government had already acquired it. We'll have to keep an eye on them.
Defence Minister Andrew reported back that the Russians had also backed down, and would play ball with us if they were kept in the loop regarding information. Of course I agreed, but of course it'd be information we thought pertinent.
I spoke once more to the Alien, who said they want to swap cultural artifacts (what they are/wanted I could not fathom). He also reiterated that Nigeria was a mistake and that their intentions were peaceful. "Alliance, World." I was getting nowhere with my lines of questioning that were scraped together with the rest of the team before the new turn started. It was time for someone else to speak to him- that someone being Science Minister Dave.
After four turns (that's one year of narrative time, or two hours of real time), I remembered that the aliens original message to Japan had the words "build home on home soil". An embassy! Of course! How could I have been so stupid?. The plan became to build a fancy embassy in Tokyo for our extra-terrestrial guests. Due to the outpouring of Resource Points, we currently had a dearth and I needed to go to our allies and ask for assistance. The UK Prime Minister agreed to lend us a bit of Resource Points, but would have to wait until next turn as I only hit upon the idea towards the end of the turn.
In other news, for the first time in the game the scientific community (spearheaded by China, according to Dave) voted to increase military research. There was almost nothing else to work towards, and things were beginning to heat up.
I'm stressed and lost.
The Aliens were now sitting in on the UN Council. They had one appeal: "No more Big Bombs" which Japan saw no problem with. I gave Science Minister Dave our Alien Language data, all ready to speak to our Alien, but Dave came back abruptly. The Alien had left Japanese soil, with no explanation and no knowledge of where he was going. Cue panic and stress.
I tried to get the embassy plan going again. The UK gave me some Resource Points to joint-fund the embassy (the plan was for a European/Japanese embassy), but when I approached the French President for assistance I was informed by him that in fact the French had already built an embassy. Well shit. I dejectedly handed back the RPs to the UK and explained. The French President hadn't told me. I thought we had agreed to share information and developments. It seemed like the alliance was slowly disintegrating. Things got more strained when it transpired that the Germans had accidentally shot down a UFO travelling to Germany- thereby making a situation whereby one of our human allies was firing upon our alien allies.
Axiom Systems arrived and gave us our AI Supercomputer (which we installed in Kyoto). To use it, we had to tell one of the Control team what we wanted to find out and what information (data cards etc) we were programming into it to help find out this information before it would work. After delivery, the CEO spoke to me and Japan ended up entering into a manufacturing deal with Axiom, although they did not reside in our country. We would pay 2RP a turn, and in return they would give us a discount on anything we bought.
[Hi there, it's Jamie from the future. Spoiler alert: We didn't buy anything from Axiom for the rest of the game. Nice one Mr Prime Minister.]
We planned to send another message to the aliens, inquiring as to why we had lost our representative, but we had no RPs and we were about to end our turn. We seemingly had very little alien technology compared to other countries, our allies seemed to be keeping quiet and I felt we had run out of things to be helpful with. This was probably the lowest point of my presidency, and although I was still having fun it was mingled with frustration.
Then, at the lowest point, a ray of light appeared. Of sorts. Aliens were walking freely in Kyoto! They were wandering the shopping districts and buying lots of mundane things like washing machines and caps, and leaving rocks of precious metals in payment. Thankfully the Kyoto police have cordoned off the area, but the aliens have been mingling amongst the human population. This was big, but then the bombshell dropped. The aliens were then travelling out of the city all the way to a remote are of Hokkaido and through a large metal door that we had no idea was there before...
Say it with me: SECRET. ALIEN. BASE!
The clock was against us now. We had two turns left, and things had just kicked into high gear. The entire Japanese team swore that we wouldn't tell anyone else about the existence of the base. Defence Minister Andrew attempted to conduct covert intelligence on and in the secret base. Sadly it came to naught. The important thing for now was to conduct our own investigations and see how long we could hold off other nations finding out. I gave the Basic Alien Data to the AI Supercomputer and tried to extrapolate more Advanced language data, but it gave nothing back. It said I needed to give it more data.
The UN General Secretary announced that any and all alien discourse must go through them from now on [Spoiler: It didn't]. In discussion with our allies, I was told by both the French President and German Chancellor that the Aliens had been collecting Human DNA samples. The Germans had recovered some from the wreckage of the destroyed UFO. Highly suspicious, especially after the repeated protestations of 'peaceful intent'. We also found out the name of the aliens we were dealing with from either the US or French Presidents (I honestly forget), which was the Yotani. Only ten turns in you know. It might have been nice if I had actually asked them earlier on, but oh well.
I decided to try to speak to the aliens face to face at the secret base. I drove up in my presidential limo, knocked on the big door and got... the tea boy (The Alien Control). I was not allowed inside, and he wasn't able to answer many of my questions. When I asked why they were collecting Human DNA, he simply responded with: "Improve humanity." How? He wouldn't say. My suspicions began going through the roof.
From there things could only get better. Right? Wrong.
I asked the US Vice President if he had a copy of the Advanced Alien Language data (I realised that the only way we were going to get stuff done was to beg allies for a lot of help). He said yes, but his Foreign Minister had it, who was currently at the UN. In a brief intermission, I asked him for a copy of the card but he said the UN had taken it and was holding firmly onto it. I asked Foreign Minister Scott to try and see if he could get a copy from the UN for us, but alas the UN was resolute. Damn.
You think it can't get worse? Oh it can. A triple whammy of 'oh dear'. First of all was rather massive. Whilst I was fretting and wheedling, Science Wonder Dave had skipped out the science conference this turn, had been speaking to our various allies and had acquired a lot of info and data. Using these, he fed all the alien info he could get his hands on from our allies into our AI Supercomputer to try and work out the Alien's plan. What came back...
The Yotani Galactic Alliance did have peaceful intentions, so they have not been lying to us. However, the problem with this is thus: In the Yotani language, the word 'peace' is the same as 'control'.
With this new information I returned to the base and ended up speaking to the tea boy again, confronting him about the language problem and insisting we see what was in the secret base. I wasn't allowed in again, and again he vehemently cited peace and unity. I told him the world was scared:
Alien: "World is scary place."
Me: "Yes yes it is."
The aliens needed to make a global show of peace in order to allay fears.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the world was finding out about the secret base in Japan, and then the press got ahold of it. That's just great. There were several questions about the look of thunder upon my face (Note for next time: work on my poker face), which I answered as delicately as I could, except with my allies, where I was slightly more candid.
But all of this pales in comparison with the news that Defence Minister Andrew brought to my attention. A joint Japanese, Chinese and Indian Intelligence raid on the secret base had found some very interesting things. Those things being ten foot tall mechs armed with rockets. I believe I described my emotional state as: "Pissed off to fuck." Cue a great deal of running back and forth and serious talks with the heads and military chiefs of many countries including India, UK, France, Germany and the USA (funnily enough, all our allies) to plan a multinational assault of the secret base to put an end to this. From the mutterings we heard around the room, it sounded like the whole world was getting in on this. The stage was set, the players were heavily armed, and it all came down to...
This was it. Endgame. Before everything kicked off, there was another (maybe the final) global message from the extraterrestrials:
"Yotani Galactic Alliance wishes to uplift humanity."
I was afraid my repeated statements of trust in our intergalactic visitors was about to be misplaced in a horribly violent way. Through the press, word had spread and the whole world seemed to be dogpiling into Japan as if there was a sale on bullets. This was turning into a major cluster fruitcake. We were all unsure about what to do, especially Andrew being in command of Japan's military. Do we deploy in defence or support the intended assault? I needed some final information before I could give a solid order, and time was galloping away.
I managed to drive through the safety cordons and military blockades to have a few final frantic words with the Yotani tea boy at the base. I demanded he explain the existence of the mechs: "To protect world." They still insisted on their peaceful mission and when I tried confronting them about the language issue again, and he looked confused (damn the intricacies of language), but that swiftly changed when I informed him of the multi-national strike planned. He urged help in defence of the base. I left that meeting even more confused than when I entered it.
The Military Advisors began to deploy their units. As I panicked, and Defence Minister Andrew looked desparately to me for an order, one final ray of hope was shone my way. The US Vice President approached and said there was a Yotani on the White House lawn who was willing for one final meeting. Hurriedly I begged the UK PM for a copy of Advanced Alien Language, which he gave me, and myself, the UK PM and the US President and VP journeyed to talk to the Alien, who was incredibly familiar to me (having been the Alien who had been so comfortable in Tokyo for so long before buggering off with no word).
The details of that conversation have unfortunately been lost to history, so we shall never learn what took place on that White House lawn, but the result was a split in opinion from the leaders present: Half sold on peace, half unsure. In a last minute decision, I made for the map and shouted to Andrew to "Defend the aliens!" which caused some confusion from our allies, notably the Indians, whom had been asked by me to be on the attack, and shot down a UFO in response. What happened then, I do not know and cannot remember...
And with that the game was pretty much over. Outside of the Japanese dogpile there was a war between the US and China that had started up, I didn't think any of my allies would trust me again, we had no idea if the aliens had been telling the truth or not and Japanese Public Opinion was... not very high. To quote Dave: "It's all gone to shit."
Oh, there was one final global Alien message: "We invite all humans to visit our bases." What have I done? Have I doomed the world? In my vain attempt to play the big man, did I end up ending humanity.
Before we could find out, it was time for handshakes all round, and a brief wrap up from each country and company:
Brazil: They had an Alien embassy, the Alien mothership was landing in Brazil and they could claim the first Alien/Human Research Partnership. [I realise that I hadn't spoken to any Brazilian players the entire game. Maybe due to the geographical distance, but it was something I was regretful of. Their President looked magnificent in a beige linen suit and Panama Hat]
UK: Their brief was to stay a big nation in the world, which they definitely did. They helped in Kashmir and researched advanced vaccines, as well as the Europa space programme. They did however get to DEFCON 1, so swings and roundabouts.
USA: In their words, they generally "acted peacefully" (cue light-hearted jeering from many sides) despite being name-called by Russia and China. They were a major force for good in the world, and had researched Alien-supplied vaccines.
France: Major diplomatic force throughout (as per their brief). Had early contact with Aliens, stayed at Peacetime status throughout and ended with high Public Opinion. Also, in the words of the French President: Announcing to the world that Aliens exist "is HARD."
Germany: They ended with very good Public Opinion, a very diplomatic team throughout. It was an unfortunate miscommunication that resulted in shooting down that UFO (it wasn't the first time according to the GMs).
Russia: Throughout they felt like survivors, teetering on the edge of ruination. Somehow, they ended up as Anti-Vaxxers (by refusing the Vaccines I assume?) [Another country I had no interaction with. I cannot speak for the rest of the Japanese team of course.]
China: An economic powerhouse throughout, helped greatly by Forward Dynamics which pretty much ended up a state-run company. They kept their trigger-happy General in check, who apparently was very keen to nuke us all.
India: A small nation but they fought their corner, and tried to stop China overtaking them in technology, but were "curb stomped" by them. According to the PM, he was suspicious of Japan (read: Me) due to me flip-flopping on issues and telling them to defend the Aliens after asking them to help attack them, which led to them shooting down a UFO (Me? Suspicious? Never!). The Indian PM coined the term “Prime Minister Flip-Flop” to refer to me, which I’m I only heard about it at the end of the game.
Axiom Systems Inc.: Skyrocketing profits, primarily thanks to the USA. Just prior to the game end, they had sent a message to the Aliens asking for protection for propagation of alien technology. (cue consternation and jeering from all sides)
Crane Group: Changed developmental tracks early on after competition, ended up in the centre of a bidding war between Brazil and UK for home base. They also sold an Interplanetary Battleship, which Germany bought in the closing turns.
Forward Dynamics: Ended up getting a lot of money in the closing turns from countries for no reason at all, by simply walking up to them and just asking "Can we have some money?"
UN: The delegates were snarky AF, but amazingly managed to not only get on with their jobs and pass resolutions, but actually get things done. Good job all round.
Press: "Man, you guys are easy to lead."
Aliens: Here was the big one. After all the back and forth, the translation problems and the secrets, the aliens were...peaceful after all. They wanted to improve humanity and to stop the use and building of nuclear weapons. They ended up with a lot of washing machines from France (possibly the 'cultural relics'). The two 'face-front' Aliens (who we all spoke to) spent a lot of time globetrotting [I found out afterwards that the Alien that left Japan was ordered to leave, and was as surprised as we were]. They were thankful that we all researched language data, as that could have been even more painful that it was at times.
Control: From their perspective, it was the most peaceful Megagame one Control had seen. There were no nukes used by anyone at all (they were slightly disappointed because they had nuke token ready and everything). And the scientific community was the most self-sufficient.
From the Japanese perspective, we managed to make First Contact, made ourselves a major world player and confused almost everybody. We bought quite a few products and technology from corporations, but I can’t remember what and when. Regarding our objectives:
- Make sure Japanese culture and heritage survives at all costs- SUCCESS. We weren’t invaded (really) or nuked.
- Do not enter into military conflicts unless absolutely necessary- BOTH? We helped our ally India as part of our treaty, which I saw as necessary. Apart from that, Japan stayed relatively conflict free apart from the end.
- Don't let China get better technology, or get more scientific accolades than us- FAIL. China used Forward Dynamics so much, and we drew on Scientific Accolades. (Dave won two more Accolades, giving us props in Biology/Medicine and Scientific Advancement, I'm ashamed to say I didn't note which turns they were.)
So one and a half out of three isn't bad. Not great, but not bad.
And with that, my tenure as Prime Minister Flip-Flop came to some sort of an end. After six hours of tense negotiations, frantic panic and amazing fun I am not ashamed to say I have been bitten by the Megagame bug in a major way. My role as PM put me right outside my comfort zone in regards to leading and coordinating a group, as well as being almost purely interacting with other heads of state, and that was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Next game I might hope to have a different, maybe more active role in another department. Or if I play Watch The Skies: Second Sight again, maybe I might get the chance to be behind the curtain...
Thank you so much to John Mizon of South West Megagames for creating and running the game (and being a wonderful guest on Brainwaves), thanks to all the Control team who made the game run smoothly, thanks to Andrew, Dave and Scott who put up with me and still wanted to talk to me afterwards, and thank you to everyone else who played the game alongside me. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Megagames, and I had great fun making great relationships during the game (both friendly and tense).
If I have incorrectly reported an event that occurred here, please let us know and we'll amend it accordingly.
I shall leave you with the question that was on everybody's lips at the end: "So what is actually happening in Japan right now?"
Also, I was given this beer by the German Chancellor (Other beers are available. Although none of the others were given to me by a lovely man named Paul who was the German Chancellor).
I promised myself I would drink it when the War Diary was done. It's been a long time coming.
乾杯! And keep watching the skies!
If you would like to find out more about Watch The Skies and Megagames in general you can check out the following: