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GF9’s Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps Loses its Aim - Review

Hot
MB Updated December 10, 2020
 
2.0
 
0.0 (0)
4879 0
Aliens: Another Glorious  Day in the Corps

Game Information

Players
1 - 6
There Will Be Games

Inglorious bastardization.

I would argue that Aliens – specifically the 1986 James Cameron classic and not the entire, uneven franchise – has influenced gaming more than Star Wars. From Space Hulk to DOOM to Nemesis, the ideas, concepts, scenarios, from the film are as gameable and inspirational as the Battle of the Bulge were for earlier generations of grognards. There aren’t exactly a lot of Aliens-branded games however, and Gale Force 9 is giving it a go with Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps. Designed by Andrew Haught (who also helmed the disappointing Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks), the game somehow manages to give us exactly the dungeoncrawl-y Aliens experience we always wanted while also landing with a sloppy thud like a Xeno ripped apart by pulse rifle fire. It breaks my heart to state that it is one of the most unrefined and poorly executed games that I’ve played in recent memory. I was excited about this game given GF9’s mostly stellar track record with licensed properties but I’m left actually more disappointed than I was with their Doctor Who game.

Now, I want to be clear that for the first couple of games, I was ensorcelled by the Aliens livery. I was repeating the quotes as prompted by the cards, I was letting out a Vasquez “let’s rock” when unloading a smartgun into a horde of Xenos.  We saved Newt at Hadley’s Hope and escaped in the APC. It felt like Aliens – and it seemed like the endurance card mechanism, which finds players exhausting cards out of a deck that also acts as a timer with every shot, was a strongly conceptual piece of design that captured the desperation of the situation on LV426. It was fun to see the plastic aliens (which come on sprues and you have to glue together) swarming the board, and since it uses the classic Space Hulk blips in concert with a stack of Motion Detector cards to hide exactly how many monsters are spawning and coming to kill you there was some great tension and drama.

But then I found that I was struggling to actually enjoy the design, despite responding favorably to the subject matter. It was chafing my sensibilities despite it being a fairly standard dungeoncrawler, a genre which I tend to be amenable to as long as it’s done well. I started noticing irritants – like how the whole game is low roll except for when aliens try to break a barricade, and then it’s roll high. Designers – never do this. It’s one or the other. I wasn’t really feeling how the game scales – if you play with less than a full complement of marines, some of them are resigned to “Grunt” status and have lower stats and abilities, to be ordered around by players that have a rank value if they are military (which is to say everyone but Ripley and Newt). Then I started getting annoyed by some of the nomenclature, like how each character has an Aim dial which tracks a metric that is really more like “Nerves” or “Resolve” or “Frostiness”. Why else would Ripley have one of the highest “Aim” stats? I noticed that in some scenarios, there were characters who best served the team by simply repeating the Rest action, which allows for card draws from the Endurance deck, which also includes all of the equipment, events, and occasional hazards while also recycling cards back into it from the exhausted pile, thus slowing down the internal clock.

And that Endurance deck – it’s just incredibly gamey, and you’ve got cards getting Revealed, Exhausted, Reshuffled, Discarded, held in hand, played out of hand, equipped to others, then someone rifles through the exhausted pile to find a card- the whole scheme feels entirely over-complicated and fussy. Worse, because running out the Endurance deck after a full reshuffle ends the game, it seems almost as if managing this deck and all these card states is really the focus of the game moreso than the on-board play. Yes, you move miniature marines around the board, barricade doors, set up sentry guns, and all that fun stuff. But it all loops back to this Endurance card thing and managing these card states.

There are elements of the card mechanisms that I really like – if you shoot a pulse rifle, you have to exhaust a card.  It has a Full Auto keyword, so you can choose to exhaust another card and keep doing that to keep shooting. But then if you are firing with a smartgun (and are not Vasquez), you are tossing three cards into the exhausted pile so when you are gunning down a lot of Aliens, shit can go south really quick. This neatly simulates limited ammo and it’s even better that with every shot that “Aim” stat (whatever it actually means) goes down, and that’s your to-hit number. So as the situation gets more desperate and the Aliens get thicker, you hit less and start running out of bullets and then when it’s the Alien turn, you might find yourself on the back heel with a low Aim number trying to fire your Overwatch shots at 10 Aliens moving in on your position or you might be so shaken that you have trouble hitting the Aliens about to eat Newt. But you might be fortunate enough to have a backup pistol or shotgun (for close encounters, of course) that have a base Aim number overriding your character’s Aim dial. This stuff is all pretty neat, no doubt.

But the really exciting moments are few and far between. The narrative scenarios are straight from the movie and they were OK if obvious. There are also a number of “Bug Hunt” missions wherein the marines have no objective other than to survive the entire Motion Tracker deck and every spawn that is thrown at them – a pretty daunting task given that each player draws one or more of these cards every round. But in these Bug Hunt games where there is not a narrative objective, I’ve found play to be boring, static, and undynamic. You barricade the doors, which requires a Tech skill roll, and sort of hunker down – which means resting to draw cards and look for weapons and armor to suit everyone up. For like, five rounds if you roll low on the Blip movement. The scenario design as a whole is not good, especially considering the more compelling games of this type that are available that offer more story-driven or campaign-driven setups.

And that is another issue. Had this game come out in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I’d say that it would have been more of a success but then again, there were already games like perennial genre high mark Space Hulk, Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel, and others available that captured some of Aliens’ spirit. These days we have Space Marines Adventures: Labyrinth of the Necrons which could easily be reskinned as a superior Aliens game. There’s Nemesis on the high end of detail and price and FFG’s excellent 2016 version of DOOM, which is still available and highly recommended. There’s also the incredible Free League Alien RPG and its cinematic module Destroyer of Worlds, which is almost the perfect Aliens game.

It's all just so unrefined, that is the word I keep coming back to. It feels like the sign-off on the design and its production was at a “good enough” level rather than a “let’s make this something really special” one. The miniatures are OK but not great. The production is mediocre, but somewhat excused given that it is a $60 retail title. The rulebook isn’t very good and there is a lack of clarity between it and the cards – it’s the kind of thing where in the middle of the first session you are looking for the FAQ. The game is filled with tons of “waitaminute” moments where you’ve got to squint at the card and flip through the rulebook because it simply isn’t designed or presented on par with today’s’ best games.

But worse than all of that, like Doctor Who: Time of the Dalek this game doesn’t seem to understand exactly what players want from a board game experience featuring its IP. It’s almost as if there is a cynical assumption that the stills and card titles will carry a rather perfunctory, unrefined game to success with a fan audience. This is in sharp contrast to the GF9 designs of old – Spartacus, Firefly, and Star Trek: Ascendancy in particular – that seemed to be designed with a brief that prioritized recontextualizing themes, settings, and characters in ways that expanded their potential into the gaming space in creative ways. Firefly actually made me like the show because it gave me a different angle on its story and characters. Although Aliens succeeds as fan service – I was especially charitable to it in the first outings – those looking for a more inniovative or inspired experience won’t find it here.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
2.0
Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps
A disappointing, unrefined design that feels like it was not developed past the “good enough” state.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 137 reviews
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #317021 10 Dec 2020 15:47
The minis are a major fail IMO. Not all press to fit, they require some effort to assemble. Some require basically balancing a head the size of a pea on top i a figure then gluing in place. Other connection points are very thin. WTF.
mads b.'s Avatar
mads b. replied the topic: #317022 10 Dec 2020 15:47
I think I've only seen the movie once or maybe twice, but I've played the flash-version of the solo board game a lot. And as I rewatched the movie the other day I noticed how well the game not only captures the story of the movie, but also the feel.

You can find it right here: www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/408816
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #317023 10 Dec 2020 16:01
Yeah, I think the minis are going to be a major problem for a lot of folks. They aren’t as difficult as some GW stuff, but for board gamers who are going to have to buy clippers, a file, and glue...yikes. I haven’t seen the Queen or Powerloader figures but I am guessing they are multipart and likely pretty fussy.The minis also aren’t great. The quality/detail level is well below many BG minis these days. The only really good thing about them is they have the characters’ names molded on the base, which I love.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #317026 10 Dec 2020 16:40
The Queen and Power Loader models are about a dozen parts apiece. For the latter, I am gluing a section, letting it dry, then adding more pieces. In a day and age where KS gives you better models fully put together, this is a fail IMO. Past GF9 minis have been fine, this is a step back. I’m sure it’s cost related, but it’s gonna bite them in the ass.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #317030 10 Dec 2020 17:00
My wife asked for the preorder bundle--and it just arrived today--to paint, so I'm hoping this plays a bit better with us than with Michael. We knew the minis had to be removed from the sprues and assembled, and she has done some assembly for Space Hulk (though she never finished the painting process, and I've never actually played the game ...), but this does sound somewhat daunting. She did a good job with the low-detail Mansions of Madness base game minis, so I'm really only concerned about her frustration level on what's supposed to be a fun activity.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #317032 10 Dec 2020 17:16
Excellent review Michael, with the maybe unintentional point that GF9 is now in the also-rans since its main designers left as a strong secondary in it. I think your points of they aren't designing at today's level and it is only a $60 retail game were both poignant but the former is the most important.
And I stopped making models when I was 11 or 12, even when I had a brief foray into Warhammer Underworlds I assembled two packs slowly (and got very bored) then palmed the others off to one of my gaming mates who does Warhammer normally, so that would stop me cold anyway.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #317036 10 Dec 2020 17:59

jpat wrote: My wife asked for the preorder bundle--and it just arrived today--to paint, so I'm hoping this plays a bit better with us than with Michael. We knew the minis had to be removed from the sprues and assembled, and she has done some assembly for Space Hulk (though she never finished the painting process, and I've never actually played the game ...), but this does sound somewhat daunting. She did a good job with the low-detail Mansions of Madness base game minis, so I'm really only concerned about her frustration level on what's supposed to be a fun activity.


These minis are more fiddly than SPACE HULK. I’m almost done with the Marines. Fuck the aliens, I’ll just use tokens I’m so frustrated. This is gonna piss off a lot of people.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #317037 10 Dec 2020 18:05

Msample wrote: These minis are more fiddly than SPACE HULK. I’m almost done with the Marines. Fuck the aliens, I’ll just use tokens I’m so frustrated. This is gonna piss off a lot of people.

Wow :ohmy:
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #317038 10 Dec 2020 18:31

Msample wrote: These minis are more fiddly than SPACE HULK. I’m almost done with the Marines. Fuck the aliens, I’ll just use tokens I’m so frustrated. This is gonna piss off a lot of people.


If you use tokens, you can use screen shots of the character's faces on the tokens. Here, this will get you started:

www.writeups.org/wp-content/uploads/Vasq...enette-Goldstein.jpg
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #317043 10 Dec 2020 19:17
I have Robotech:Tactics, what are you guys complaining about? :p
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #317066 11 Dec 2020 10:37
I came to read Michael's review, but stayed for the comments.
Well done everyone! I'll just pull down my shelf toad SPACE HULK 3rd Edition and rekindle my fondness for it.

MB & Co. - this is a bit of a deep dive, but how would the ol' MB/GW joint "Space Crusade" hold up in 2020?
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #317084 11 Dec 2020 13:21

drewcula wrote: ...
MB & Co. - this is a bit of a deep dive, but how would the ol' MB/GW joint "Space Crusade" hold up in 2020?

I played it last year and it was reasonable fun still but for these times probably lacking missions. I think if GW are in on it the price of the game, for what you get, because of their minis may limit its uptake. I think they would need to be allowed to put it out with more normal minis to keep the price down a bit.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #317094 11 Dec 2020 18:40
The last time I played Space Crusade (maybe 2 years ago?) I could really feel it’s age. It was still fun though, and occasionally I do regret selling it because it is so simple and direct while also having huge toy appeal.

The Space Marine Adventure games are the real descendants of Space Crusade- but modernized and streamlined a bit with son nods to current trends. They are really fun, not of them, and capture some of the same conceptual ground as an Aliens game should.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #317198 15 Dec 2020 11:12
LMAAAAAAO I just saw that this review is being discussed on BGG. Don’t bother going over there, here are the takeways:

- some guy doesn’t know who this “joker” is
- I played the game wrong. (Note- I did not)
- Some other people liked it so what does this guy know
- I’m talking out of “both sides of my ass” when I state that the game succeeds as fan service but fails to deliver the gameplay I want from an Aliens game
- I rated the game a 2 on a 10 point scale (although we have a 5 point scale)- therefore, lower than Tic Tac Toe
- OMG you have to glue the minis
- numerous posts discussing the nuances of the BGG rating system

OMG that fucking site...
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #317202 15 Dec 2020 11:29
Once you think of BGG as a series of countless fan site forums, I think all the content there makes a lot more sense.
Erik Twice's Avatar
Erik Twice replied the topic: #317208 15 Dec 2020 12:18
Remember, most of these people haven't actually played the game.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #317209 15 Dec 2020 12:42
It's hard for someone to hear negative news for a product they've already purchased.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #317210 15 Dec 2020 12:59

Gary Sax wrote: Once you think of BGG as a series of countless fan site forums, I think all the content there makes a lot more sense.


This is true from a usability perspective as well as an emotional perspective. BGG's interface has become so fractured (by their source material as much as their design) that the only effective way to use it is to subscribe to specific games that interest you. So the only people seeing a thread appear are people that have decided a game is worth following.

The concern used to be that BGG drove sales, now they're at best following them.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #317214 15 Dec 2020 15:36
Slightly off topic, and I'm sure it makes a lot of money, but I wouldn't want to run BGG if I were Scott Alden given how it has changed... I'd be waiting for some sort of good buyout offer. It's a very different animal than the euro community site that it started out as.

Sort of a microcosm for the turn the entire internet has taken in the 2010s, honestly.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #317219 15 Dec 2020 18:08
Thing is how to establish value of the site . I have no doubt that if Aldie sold it and walked away, the "donations" would drop off, thus diminishing the value of the site . If he sells but stays on...kind of makes selling a non issue unless he needs/wants a lump sum of money now.

The other thing that has no doubt put a dent in their cash flow recently is the ceasing of all FtF conventions. I have no doubt those were a decent profit generator for BGG. They sold out fast, charged top dollar and didn't have the overhead of some other cons.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #317239 16 Dec 2020 09:31

Sagrilarus wrote: It's hard for someone to hear negative news for a product they've already purchased.

I'm surprised this game ended up atop ye olde Hotness list. Also surprised it sold out at Miniature Market within hours. Was the world really clamoring for yet another Space Hulk knockoff, albeit an officially licensed one?
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #317244 16 Dec 2020 10:25
I think the price of Space Hulk pushes it out of sight for many people. Additionally, this is fully coop which is a huge market, and that also means solo gamers will pick it up. The license is certainly a huge pull as well. With the pandemic, I think people are looking for any semblance of hope or positivity, and this serves as some good retail therapy. You can play it right away, even if your group isn't meeting (well, after you assemble the minis).

Lot of stuff going in it's favor.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #317245 16 Dec 2020 10:29
Are you reviewing it, charlest?
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #317248 16 Dec 2020 10:37

Gary Sax wrote: Are you reviewing it, charlest?


I requested a copy but it looks like too late.

Almost bought it but decided I shouldn't spend the money as our spending is already out of control this time of year, plus I plan on backing ISS Vanguard and just backed Core Space First Born.

I pitched it to my editor at Ars but he's been non responsive lately. If he's interested I'll go ahead and just buy it, as the cost will then be worth it with the pay.

I may check it out eventually if that doesn't work out.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #317251 16 Dec 2020 10:45

fightcitymayor wrote: Was the world really clamoring for yet another Space Hulk knockoff, albeit an officially licensed one?


I'm always amazed at how much of a difference that makes for people. I must be missing a gene, because I just have no interest in it at all. If someone licensed Van Camps Pork and Beans for a game theme there would be people pre-ordering it sight-unseen. That layer of paint is very important to a portion of the buying public.