‘Twas a cautious start to this year’s AireCon for me: having originally planned to go along on the Thursday evening, I opted instead to stay at home because of the big C-word — putting extra Crunch-time into getting the latest issue of The SPIRIT magazine finished! Alas, various last-minute things needed doing in preparation for my demo of Aliens Ate My Planet! over this weekend, so I didn’t get quite as much as originally planned done on the magazine, although I did at least feel confident enough that I had everything I needed going into the weekend…
Friday morning started quite early, because I was picking up fellow gaming pal and designer Paul Willcox (FlickFleet), and handily remembered that Friday being a weekday means traffic on Yorkshire’s roads would be heaving! Thankfully, it wasn’t quite so bad at that time in the morning (7.20am!), so we managed to get to the venue by 8.30am in plenty of time to set stuff up for the day.
I confess to being a tad pensive about the current state of affairs with regards to the elephant in the room that is the Coronavirus crisis, and was wondering if the event could actually be cancelled before it started because of the current panic sweeping the nation. This year’s event seems to have dodged that particular bullet by the looks of it, which’ll probably come as a relief to many of the smaller, independent companies, who have no doubt already sunk a lot of time, energy and money into this weekend.
I do suspect attendance figures will be affected this year by the outbreak, but I could easily be wrong given how many people did in fact choose to brave the event… Bearing in mind that AireCon by its very nature is basically an awful lot of people packed into a relatively small space sharing the same tables and chairs, and handling the same dice, cards, meeples, game boxes, and who knows what else, there’s a niggling thought in the back of my mind this is very likely somebody’s idea of a personal nightmare in the wake of the current crisis, but it seems good old-fashioned British determination, willfulness, and outright stubbornness may yet carry the day…
I was tied to my stand for most of the day, demonstrating Aliens Ate My Planet! (see below), but I did get a chance to play Barrage in the evening. Predictably, I lost again, but that’s par for the course nowadays… lol
I’m at AireCon this weekend demo-ing one of my game designs throughout, mainly because it’s pretty much been tweaked within an inch of its life and now just needs to get out there and make some friends… preferably with a publisher that can take it off my hands, tbh!
This is going to sound painfully familiar to some (and just so cliché to others), but considering the first inklings of Aliens Ate My Planet! were literally scrawled on a napkin at work during one of my lunch breaks, this little beauty has come a long way in a few short years…
Originally designed as a simplified deck builder that takes the hassle and headache out of many other deckbuilding games by allowing players to streamline their decks ‘on the fly’, Aliens Ate My Planet! gets so many things right, imho. Not only do things you buy each turn go straight into your hand, ready to be used and played during the current turn, but there are ‘auto-upgrade’ paths for the in-game currency (Kudos), your Colony Ships, and your Combat Ships:
Have two Battleship Fleets in your hand? No problem, trade them both in for a juicy Battle Armada card instead….
Oh, you have a couple of Kudos-2 cards in your hand, eh? Chuck them in and get yourself a Kudos-4 card instead, guv’nor. No problem at all.
What’s that? You already had two Colony Ships in your hand and just bought another one? Well done, now you can trade all three of them in for a single Generation Ship… Why not, eh?
Oh, you only have enough Colony Ships to reach a Colony value of 12 and need 16 to colonise that Large Gaseous Planet? Grab yourself an FTL Drive, and boost each of those ships by an extra couple of Colony points. Voila! – you now have 16 Colony…
In short, I love this game, and am so confident it delivers where it’s supposed to: it’s quick and easy to teach, takes minutes to grasp, plays really well, and brings a lot of fun and a huge amount of decision-making to the table. The entirety of the game revolves around balance and decision-making, and players are constantly streamlining their decks and charged with that classic decision-space of having half a dozen possibilities and a wealth of options available, all of which are positive choices.
With numerous ‘on the fly’ upgrades available, and a decision-tree that multiplies very quickly, Aliens Ate My Planet! has gradually transformed into a razor sharp take on the genre, and because the numbers have been balanced so carefully, it gets players knee-deep into the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the game within a very short space of time, and doesn’t outstay its welcome at approx. 45-60 mins.
My main aim over this weekend is simply to get as many people as possible to sit down and play the game, because I’m so confident it’ll get a lot of love from players, and at the end of the day that’s one of the main reasons most game designers do what they do, and I’m certainly no different in that respect.