Henry and I have been talking about doing some sci-fi themed wargaming for a while now, and a couple of months back I picked up a copy of Prodos Games “Alien vs. Predator ; The Hunt Begins” board and miniatures game, the 1st edition, and painted up some of the figures. We got our first opportunity for a game last night, so we played the 1st mission from the rulebook.
AvP: THB comes with 23 resin figures representing human Colonial Marines (5), the XX121 Xenomorphs, better known as the Aliens from that movie genre (15), and the non-human hunters from the “Predator” and ”AvP” movies (3). The figures are very detailed and on the large size for 28mm, probably closer to 32mm in reality, even without their bases. In the 1st edition, the figures need considerable assembly, and I found a modelling drill useful for securely attaching the Alien’s tails. Although the Alien’s tails and claws look very fragile, I have found them in practice to be very springy, and so far, there have been no casualties.
The game is essentially a skirmish-level representation of a confrontation between these factions aboard a spaceship, although it could just as easily be a planet-based colony, such as Hadley’s Hope from the “Aliens” movie. The game includes a set of tiles which interlock like jigsaw pieces, representing corridors and rooms, and which can be mixed up to create a large number of different layouts. There are also bulkheads and air vents, which represent varying obstructions and methods of access to the different species.
Because it is a board-game, AvP:THB contains everything you need to start playing, although Prodos have also brought out a number of expansion kits, which include among others Sentry Guns and the Power-Loader from the 2nd movie for the Marines, the Alien face-huggers and warriors, the Alien Queen, several different models of Predator warriors, and commandos loyal to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (i.e. the “company” from the movies).
The 2nd edition of the game was introduced at Salute back in April, with new figures and a reprinted rule-set, although the differences we have found are just some typo corrections and rule clarifications. There is now also available a rulebook for converting the whole thing into a tabletop wargame.
Vehicle rules are promised for a future release.
With just two of us, we decided to leave the Predators out of it, so I pitched 5 Colonial Marines against Henry’s 15 Aliens. The game follows an “I Go, You Go” format, with each side activating a model, which gets a couple of Action Points to spend. Actions include obvious things such as moving, shooting, and close combat, and less obvious ones such as opening or locking bulkheads, interacting with objects in a room, etc. Each faction has its own special actions too.
There are environment rules which change from turn to turn, and each faction has its own deck of strategy cards, which provide modified move, shooting and close combat conditions and saving throws, to mix things up a bit. The game also comes with a large number of card counters to denote things such as Wounds, Activated models, etc., which we found very fiddly and quickly replaced with plastic counters.
I have played sci-fi games before where it was easy to get bogged down in the details of the weapons and armour, but AvP plays well - all dice throws are D20’s, and each combat is essentially two throws, the Attacker to hit, and then the Defender to save, so it is fast-paced once you get the stats memorised for your faction.
All figures in the basic set only take 1 Wound, so casualties mount fast, and we found the Aliens getting badly shot up in the first few rounds, not helped by some fairly dismal dice-throwing on Henry’s part. The Marine flame-thrower proved extremely effective, easily accounting for the majority of Alien casualties. However, when the Aliens get into Close Combat, their acid blood proves as nasty as it did in the movies; several Marines succumbed to acid splashes, even as they waxed their attackers.
Overall, the game balance worked fine with just two factions. It is hard to predict what would happen with three – I suspect two against three would always prove overwhelming, but since each faction has separate objectives in all of the standard missions, this is unlikely to be much of a problem.
Also, the Stalker and Juvenile Alien types in the game are the “easy” ones – the Marines would certainly need larger numbers or some more firepower if faced with Alien Warriors or a Queen.
Since this was our first time out, we played the Basic Game rules, but the rulebook also contains an Advanced rule set, which introduce some more complex rules as well as allowing for points-based force creation, and campaign play.
Endgame – the two Marine survivors are about to get lucky and kill all remaining the Aliens
In the picture, you can see that I went with a simple shades-of-green look befitting Marines. The only real departure from the colour scheme portrayed in the movies was to make their combat armour olive green instead of woodland camouflage (why assume green and brown camouflage would work on an alien planet anyway?). Apart from being a lot easier to paint, I felt it gave better contrast to the figure overall.
I went with two different colour schemes for the Alien types – the Stalkers were given a matt black base coat, dry-brushed with a metallic iron, then matt-varnished, and finally dry-brushed with gloss varnish to give them the shiny metallic highlights of all the Aliens in the movies.
For the Alien Juveniles, I went with a brown-black base coat, and dry-brushed them with metallic silver before varnishing, to give an overall lighter appearance.
As an experiment, all my Aliens have been based on Daemonscape 30mm resin bases, which give a much weightier feel than the rather flimsy, plain plastic bases supplied with the game. Although they take a bit of extra work to paint up, I am pleased with the results, and will be using them for all my sci-fi figures from now on. It’s worth pointing out that the 2nd edition game comes with one-part figures with moulded-on, detailed bases, which do look a lot nicer.
Overall, the game was very enjoyable, and we already have a return match planned, perhaps with some Predators if I can get them painted in time?