After years of delays, Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps has finally burst from the chest of board game developer Gale Force Nine. Aliens fans have long had to scratch their tabletop itch with a handful of smaller adaptations (Aliens: Bug Hunt, Legendary Encounters) or unlicensed games borrowing heavily from the Aliens universe (Nemesis). Now, though, comes the promise of everything board gamers love – miniatures, strategy and shooting – in an official Aliens package. And I’m here to say that it mostly lives up to the hype. Mostly.
The gameplay of Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps is split across two different modes. In campaign mode, players tackle three scenarios ripped directly from the movie. Meanwhile, the Bug Hunt missions are the more “cinematic” scenarios, forcing you and your ragtag group of Colonial Marines to fight to the last (hu)man. Both modes centre on motion tracker cards, a deck that generates “blips” – you know the noise – on the board. Eventually, these blips will be revealed as swarms of xenomorphs, and the shooting, running and screaming will begin in earnest.
No matter the game mode, players take turns activating their characters and queuing up actions. Most of your time will be spent managing your endurance cards, the deck that provides you with resources and doubles as your party’s stamina. Meanwhile, combat compares dice rolls to the individual statistics of each character. During setup, each marine equips an aim dial that corresponds to that character’s aim ability. Each round of ammunition you fire – hit or miss – causes that character to turn the dial down another number. Characters hit what they’re aiming at when the number rolled is lower than the number on the dial. In other words: the more you shoot, the less accurate you’ll be.
The shorter campaign mode of Aliens feels like a smart common ground between casual and committed players.
In an industry trending towards legacy games and years-long campaigns, the shorter campaign mode of Aliens feels like a smart common ground between casual and committed players. Should you be lucky enough to survive an entire playthrough, your group will only need to commit to three sessions (and perhaps a few shorter rescue missions, the game’s optional side quests, if things don’t go your way) to beat the campaign. The permanence of the missions – dead or captured characters remain dead or captured, discarded cards are removed from the game – makes you feel like you’re advancing a storyline, and the optional side quests offered between missions add a nice element of randomness. Did Hudson get dragged off by xenomorphs in your last round? You can gamble your diminishing resources to save his life or push ahead, knowing that one of the aliens you encounter in a future session probably came from inside his chest.
For those looking for longevity, the four standalone Bug Hunt scenarios will be the real draw. Your goal is to survive every card in the motion tracker deck, and unlike in the campaign mode, your characters will start with only their pistols to defend them. Your only real strategy? Arm your soldiers and survive. If you are less interested in replaying the events of Aliens and more interested in unleashing the full potential of characters such as Vazquez, these one-and-done missions will be a strong addition to your game night rotation.
In both modes, the game structure seems to mimic the film’s confidence-to-chaos arc. For the first three or four turns of each playthrough, I would move my characters methodically across the board, sweeping corridors with assault rifles and keeping a few points of aim in reserve (“for close encounters,” as Hicks would say). Any blips on the board during setup would quickly be revealed and riddled with bullet holes; with this much firepower at my disposal, I spent more time resetting pieces on the board than I did sighting down hostiles. But this advantage would not last and I would soon be surrounded by swarms of xenomorphs.
On paper, this unending assault is meant to mirror the narrative of the movie. It takes more than an hour for the colonial marines to encounter the aliens on LV-426 in James Cameron’s 1986 classic; similarly, it typically took an hour for my playthroughs to reach a point where strategic dice-rolling gave way to tabletop anarchy. While that build may be one of the film’s greatest strengths, however, it represents the biggest hurdle for tabletop players to overcome.
With six characters on the table in Bug Hunt missions – and a seventh, Newt, available in campaign mode – the game mechanics often demand too much of your attention. In the campaign, you can equip your characters however you see fit before missions. This is a creative variation from other games that challenges your management of the endurance deck out of the gate. But six characters with upwards of four cards each makes for a lot of decisions – especially in a rulebook that is frustratingly light on use cases and card definitions – and there were times when I would send a character out underequipped just to simplify my options.
Another Glorious Day in the Corps is a game that requires just the right balance of players to truly shine.
Granted, that character was Gorman, so no jury in the world would convict me. But because of the size of your party, Another Glorious Day in the Corps is a game that requires just the right balance of players to truly shine. In my one- and two-player playthroughs – all that my household could muster during a global pandemic – I often felt like we spent more time executing the game than playing it. Worse, when all of the characters are an extension of one player, the diversity of reactions to the threat xenomorphs present – so integral to the movie – are entirely lost. Aliens feels like a game designed to work best with three players, splitting the load equally without slowing the pace down too much.
Even if the game requires a little trial-and-error to find the right combination of players, it supports its cause with some name recognition. In standard times, friends who would never let you drag them into an afternoon of Nemesis will show up, beer in hand, ready to dive headfirst into their favourite blend of science-fiction and horror. That’s the hook that something like Another Glorious Day in the Corps offers. Seasoned board game veterans may seek out more sophisticated systems, but those looking to recreate our favorite franchises will always be more forgiving.
Despite a lot of character busywork – and a rulebook in desperate need of a few more rounds of editing – the core elements here are strong enough to carry the day. It may never replace the big-box dungeon-crawlers in your collection entirely, but when you love a franchise, the rules are a little different. Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps only needed to be “good enough” to earn its way onto my shelf. Instead, it’s not bad at all. You know, for a human.