Aliens: This Time is War
This is a review based on five or six games of “Aliens: This Time It’s War”. To put it into context, I don’t generally go for card based games, but I LOVE the subject matter. This will only be a short review without a full rules description, since these are available in the files section.
My interest was first piqued when I came across the game on the Geek by accident. The creator is clearly a huge fan of the film(s), and after a peek at the rules file and some of the sample cards in the images section I took the plunge. When the cards arrived from ArtsCow I was pleasantly surprised. It was the first time I have used the service, and I was unsure what to expect in terms of quality. Each card is well printed, with only a few fuzzy edges, and all the information you need to use is clearly printed.
As to the design of the cards themselves, these are a great combination of functional and evocative of the theme. As you play through the game, with all the marine cards lain out and being flipped to their flat line status, you really get a feel for the Colonial Marines finest being reduced to easy to chewable chunks by the raging xenomorphs. The character portraits are well chosen (although I swear that the Hicks picture is used in any and everything with ALIENS printed on it), and the few special rules for each marine are clearly shown. I may have chosen badly with regard to the glue I used to back the Marine cards onto each other, which resulted in a couple having barely noticeable greasy mark on them. Be wary though, and perhaps take the good advice of other posters and use sleeves.
As for the other cards, these are all well presented and the text is minimal but easy to understand, there is very little excess baggage here. This suits the fast pace of the game well. As for the gameplay, again I was very happy with the results. When I initially read the rules before I had the cards in front of me I was concerned that the game may not flow – there seemed to be a lack of meat to the main mechanic, and too many extra and special rules that would make the game fiddly. I’m happy to report that this fear was unfounded – play flows well, and much quicker than I expected. The Marines rush from battlefield to battlefield, never with enough cards in their hand to successfully slay all the bugs. Likewise, the marines represent a real threat when they can arrange their firepower to cover their weak quarters, not leaving the bugs anywhere to go.
If I was to cite a negative, it would be that you are very much at the whim of the cards you draw. You can get both exceptionally lucky and exceptionally unlucky with your cards. This, of course, is the nature of a card game – if you knew what you were going to draw then there would be no challenge. I must confess feeling hard done by the deck on occasion, but the beauty of the game is that when my marines have all been stuck to the wall of the reactor room we’ll swap decks, and I’ll be the one coming out the godamn walls and floors.
There’s been a lot of discussion on the forums about the balance in this game. I want to say that I agree, and that it feels like you have no chance to win sometimes. The thing is, I’ve won equally with both Alien and Marine, so I can’t really say this. Instead I think it’s in many cases due to the feeling of pressure you feel in the game. This fits the theme perfectly – if your marines aren’t sweating when (if) they get to the Sulaco, then something’s wrong. Sure, this will happen sometimes, but I’d like to see you do it again after the deck’s been reshuffled.
And that, I think, is the real strength. It captures the films very well for a short, easy to play game. I’m a big fan of the board game, which I still play to this day, and this is a worthy addition to the pantheon of Aliens games. I defy any fan of the film not to yell the titles of the cards as they play them – “Lets ROCK!”, “Short, controlled bursts” and “Maybe they don’t show up on infrared at all” (I’m pretty sure they’re all cards in the deck). When you lose Gorman you can’t help but comment on how you always thought of him, and when you lose it’s always GAME OVER, MAN!
In conclusion, a great game which I foresee playing a lot, probably with the film blasting away in the back-ground…