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Rank the Bughunt Games

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21 Dec 2010 19:03 #82702 by Shellhead
Hudson: Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?

Gorman: All we know is that there's still no contact with the colony, and that a xenomorph may be involved.

Frost: Excuse me sir, a-a what?

Gorman: A xenomorph.

Hicks: It's a bughunt.

With the addition of Death Angel to my collection, I now have a half dozen "bughunt" games in my collection. Games inspired by Alien movie franchise. And there are at least a couple more that I don't have in my collection, including the offical Aliens boardgame. Just for fun, I'm going to rank them here.

1. Death Angel (my rating = 10). Although the Warhammer 40K setting is fairly different from the setting of the Aliens movies, the Genestealers and Space Marines are clearly inspired by the second movie in the franchise. More importantly, this is the best of my bughunt games. It's a great solitaire game that also functions as a great multi-player co-op. Fast-paced, action-packed, and quite challenging.

2. Space Hulk (rating = 9). Another Warhammer 40K entry. The components are amazing, and the timer keeps the action moving along nicely. However, there seems to be limited replay value, as each of the scenarios seem to have a specific tactical solution for the Space Marine player.

3. The Vesuvius Incident (rating = 7.5). Of all my bughunt games, The Vesuvius Incident comes the closest to re-creating the setup of the outstanding Aliens movie. You've got space marines rescuing civilians from a ship overrun by fast, sneaky, violent aliens. Unfortunately, the designers weighed down the game with a lot of chrome, and the slightly disorganized rulebook makes it difficult to keep a handle on that chrome. Still, there are some interesting mechanics, and the map is great. There are too many CRTs, but at least there are arrows connecting the CRTs to help guide players through encounter resolution. Despite all the hassles in playing Vesuvius, the game ends up presenting an entertaining co-op or solitaire challenge. The need to rescue or otherwise account for all the survivors tends to support a very dramatic narrative arc, except for those games where most of the marines are slaughtered early on.

4. Intruder (rating = 7). While the Vesuvius Incident is my best bughunt game simulating Aliens, Intruder is my go-to game for simulating the first movie, Alien. There is some chrome, but the map does a nice job of including everything important except for combat resolution into a nice, handy chart. Almost everything from the movie is here, with the label peeled off: cattle prods, flamethrowers, the evolving form of the alien, even the science officer who refuses to kill the alien. An early and excellent co-op game.

5. The Awful Green Things from Outer Space (rating = 6). Technically, Awful Green Things slightly precedes Alien, but the subject matter is so similar, right down to the various life cycle stages of the alien, that it deserves inclusion in the bughunt sub-genre. The whimsical Tom Wham artwork is always entertaining, and the variable damage effects give the game decent replay value. I should probably rank this game higher, except that the game is somewhat unbalanced in favor of the green things.

6. Bug Hunter: Sniper! (rating = n/a). This was a spin-off from the Sniper game, but definitely based on the movie Aliens. It looks okay, though I'm not a fan of hex maps for indoor locations. I bought this less at GenCon less than a year before Vesuvius, and the dense, wargame-like rules kept me from learning this one before it got fired by Vesuvius. For all I know, it might be unplayable without the Sniper! basegame.

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22 Dec 2010 09:40 #82752 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
Another way to look at these bughunt games is how well they represent the xenomorph, the most interesting monster created in modern times.

Intruder does the best job of presenting the xenomorph, with a range of life stages, the full potential array of powers and immunities (though the specific ones each game are randomly determined as the creature grows), and the sheer deadliness. Given that this game was published in 1980, it's impressive the way it anticipated the Aliens movie of 1987, with the potential for additional aliens, and a second scenario involving space marines.

The Awful Green Things slightly preceded the first Alien movie, but happened to get the life stages approximately right. And the random weapon effects do almost as good a job as Intruder in making the aliens a mysterious threat.

The rest of my bughunt games all present the aliens as basically the same: fast, deadly monsters in overwhelming numbers.

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22 Dec 2010 09:46 #82753 by san il defanso
The only ones of these games I've played are the two Space Hulk games, but I agree that they are fantastic outings. I'd switch the ratings on them, though.

The original Space Hulk has not yet hit that point of being solveable, even though I've played about 10 games. I can see how it would, but I don't think it'd be hard to tweak a scenario to make it more challenging (by removing the autocannon guy, for example). For me, it's an absolute 10.

Death Angel is a highly addictive game, and the thing it DOES do better than Space Hulk is the cooperative feel of desperate survival, simply by virtue of being a cooperative game. I do have concerns about the replayability, particularly as a solitaire game. My win percentage is about 50%, maybe slightly higher, and that feels too easy. (The ideal being around 30%).

Both are great games though. Death Angel is probably my favorite game of 2010, even though I assume that better games have come out.

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22 Dec 2010 11:15 #82758 by Rliyen
Replied by Rliyen on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
I have Intruder, but I found it to be dry. Yes, it covers the Alien movie nigh exactly, but I still felt that it was too much work for too little payout. I remember playing this and Aliens solo during my manning the phones in my film professor's office. Aliens got more play.

Intruder: 6

Aliens: 9. The reactor fight is the best, and most brutal, scenario in the game. The random spawn points for the Aliens gives it a lot of replay value, especially if you end up with a TPK. My wife and I play this one, and it's always tense. Just when you think you'll get your marine out, out pops a xenomorph to nom nom nom on your head.

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22 Dec 2010 17:18 #82817 by Merkles
Replied by Merkles on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
I hear "bughunt" and all I can think of is Starship Troopers...the book and the game (and the movie, I guess...though the animated series was better)

I've had this game since like 1980---I remember getting it and staring at it. Trying to figure it out...but I have NEVER played it. I want to--but haven't gotten around to it (30 years is a LONG time). It still stares at me from my shelf and mocks me. It intimdated me when I was a little kid...its sorta like that clown from Poltergeist, I think.
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22 Dec 2010 17:36 #82820 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
Merkles wrote:

I hear "bughunt" and all I can think of is Starship Troopers...the book and the game (and the movie, I guess...though the animated series was better)

I've had this game since like 1980---I remember getting it and staring at it. Trying to figure it out...but I have NEVER played it. I want to--but haven't gotten around to it (30 years is a LONG time). It still stares at me from my shelf and mocks me. It intimdated me when I was a little kid...its sorta like that clown from Poltergeist, I think.


I almost put the Starship Troopers wargame on my list. I have it, and I've played the early scenarios a few times. But they don't really match up with the xenomorph archetype of the movies. That said, I remember Starship Troopers being pretty good. Yeah, it's a wargame, but the scenarios gradually introduce players to the complexity if you play them in order.

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26 Dec 2010 11:22 #83019 by seanmac31
Replied by seanmac31 on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
I'm finding Death Angel to be a rather easy solo experience as well. Five games in and I've only lost once, and the wins have not been all that tense. I've actually never played Space Hulk, but I just bought a copy and should be rectifying that situation over break.

One bug hunt game that should get added in is Forlorn Hope, which looks to have some interesting rules for the aliens, including allowing them to spawn out of the bodies of fallen marines.

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08 Jul 2015 23:45 #205784 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Rank the Bughunt Games
The Alien movie discussion got me thinking about bughunt boardgames again.

I feel that Death Angel has fired Space Hulk for my group. Setup and takedown is faster with Death Angel, and dollar for dollar, Death Angel offers a lot more game. Space Hulk 3rd looks great, but the Genestealer player usually doesn't face any interesting decisions, and each scenario feels like a puzzle to be solved. Once the puzzle is solved, the replay value is mostly gone.

The Kickstarter version of The Vesuvius Incident surpassed the original in every possible way, including a better rulebook, but I still don't know if I can rate it higher than maybe an 8. The rules are still overly complex, and setup is still a bit of a hassle.

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09 Jul 2015 10:12 #205810 by Mr. White
Replied by Mr. White on topic Rank the Bughunt Games
I've also come to appreciate Death Angel quite a bit. It's made me consider purchasing Space Hulk again, but I know better.

I do need to pick up the little expansions though.

Man, I'd love if FFG would have been able to swing a similar playing cardame for Warhammer Quest prior to the Old World getting destroyed. To have a version of Warhammer Quest in a little box that plays sort of like Death Angel would have been awesome. Heck, Advanced Heroquest would have been a better fit (it has henchmen - which would make a good 'second marine' to the main character with unique powers,),but AHQ doesn't have the pull WHQ seems to. Buying expansion packs that were new monsters/dungeon locations (orc and goblin lair, undead tomb, skaven lair, etc) would have been cool. Man, would have been a great little dungeoncrawler.

Anyway, that's all unnecessary as DA is great itself.

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09 Jul 2015 10:34 #205818 by Ochobee
Replied by Ochobee on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games

Shellhead wrote: Merkles wrote:
I almost put the Starship Troopers wargame on my list. I have it, and I've played the early scenarios a few times. But they don't really match up with the xenomorph archetype of the movies. That said, I remember Starship Troopers being pretty good. Yeah, it's a wargame, but the scenarios gradually introduce players to the complexity if you play them in order.


The later scenarios where you have bugs against Terrans really do a great job of generating that feeling, at least for the Terran player. Not knowing where the bug player has placed his tunnels, or where the hive complex is, and having to probe around while knowing that at any moment you might have a hole open up with bugs piling out (harmless workers? Deadly warriors?) or a secret nuke popping on your squad makes for a fun game of cat and mouse. Especially when both sides think they're the cat.

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09 Jul 2015 11:16 #205839 by SebastianBludd
This thread makes me want to get my copy of Intruder out and give it another go. I don't think it's necessarily a great game but I like how several of the rules evoke the movie: you can't try to kill the Intruder until it has grown, the self-destruct countdown, the random roll to see if the Intruder is a stowaway on the shuttle, etc. My absolute favorite rule is how all the surviving crewmembers gather in the command module after someone is killed. It's thematic and it's a clever way to re-randomize the Intruder/escaped lab animal blips.

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09 Jul 2015 11:23 #205840 by mikecl
Replied by mikecl on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games



Richard Launius put out a pretty decent Bughunt game last year in Alien Uprising which has gone virtually unnoticed. It's a co-op and it's a tough one. You're a military mission that's crash landed on a bug planet in the middle of a war Your ship has been severely damaged. Pieces of the wreckage are strewn all over the map. There's a nicely illustrated game board showing the crashed ship in the furrow it plowed into the planet when it crashed.

Your mission: activate the ship's homing beacon, recover the pieces of debris and use them to either repair and repower the ship's drives and take off, or to hold off until a rescue ship arrives in 18 days. Your crew consists of a captain with command and melee skills, a scout with a powerful sniper rifle, a heavy weapons specialist, a pilot and an engineer, The engineer's job is to keep the shields placed around the ship intact against the hordes of bugs, who literally throw themselves at and fry on the shields trying to reach the ship (killing some) until they're down, which is often.

In my opinion, the game is an over looked little gem even if it is Ghost Stories tough .... and it is. It has randomness which can be frustrating: roll for weapon hits, roll for the shields holding, draw five different types and strengths of Aliens randomly from a bag, draw the Alien placement and numbers from random cards. The pieces of debris are randomly strewn around. You might get something good right away or you might never find what you were planning on and have to change strategies -- with sometimes fatal consequences.

Some of this stuff can be mitigated with the player's special equipment: binoculars that allow you to survey debris from a distance for instance.

There is no player elimination. Instead when you "die," you're wounded and come back with less life and lose some stuff. The Alien Gestation marker moves (it moves for many other reasons too) and eventually you're overrun. In fact, you're often overrun, but you always have a chance and there is a lot of room for planning and strategy. The characters have asymmetric skills and the game really demands a cooperative approach in order to maximize the players' turn. It's no walk in the park and losing can sometime be really frustrating ... as in I just played this game for two-and-a-half hours only to lose due to circumstances beyond my control. However, as a simulation of survival in a hostile, unpredictable, unforgiving alien environment where the odds are stacked against you, it provides some tense, pulse-pounding moments far better than most co-ops I've played.

It's an adventure and classic Ameritrash: messy, but fun.
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09 Jul 2015 11:31 #205843 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Re:Rank the Bughunt Games
That looks pretty interesting Mike. I remember when that came out to ho-hum reviews and I quickly passed by. Will check it out.
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09 Jul 2015 12:25 #205850 by Motorik
Replied by Motorik on topic Rank the Bughunt Games
That Aliens game from the 80s is in a class by itself. I've never owned it but I've played it three times over the span of a couple decades and I still viscerally recall every little beat that occurred in those games. That thing is a fucking masterpiece.

I have both AH Starship Troopers games (unless there are more that I'm not aware of), the old school one and the movie tie-in. Neither one is great but I've always have a real soft spot for 'em.

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09 Jul 2015 13:30 #205865 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Rank the Bughunt Games
Alien Uprising sounds interesting. It also sounds like it might have been inspired by Pitch Black as well as the Alien franchise.

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