I really like the Alien deckbuilding game. The second scenario is the Aliens movie, so I had a go at hunting the alien queen in the lost colony.
The basic game is the same as before. You have a hive deck and the aliens and hazards advance through the complex. There are three objectives you have to complete in order to win, and you buy better cards from the barracks deck.
The difference is that the objectives are specific to the second movie, and so is the hive deck and the barracks deck, which is made up of new cards based on characters from Aliens – Hudson, Hicks, Bishop, and a different Ripley. There is no overlap with the first game, which is nice as the challenges and strategies are different.
There are new types of barracks cards which have interesting effects on play. An example is ‘vigilant’ cards.
These cards hang around once they are played, so you can save them and play them on a later turn.
Coordinate cards have a new twist. In the first game, they allowed one player to add a card to another player’s turn, which allowed for bigger turns. Here they are more powerful, adding special abilities as well as points.
One type of card that is significantly different is healing.
In the first game, there was a Ripley card that healed an alien strike. In this game, there is a Bishop healing card but it requires you to clear the Med Lab space in the complex. This is obviously more awkward and means healing is harder.
This lack of healing is a real problem because the event for the second objective gives a player two strikes and they can really add up.
To help make up for this we have the Body Armor vigilant card, which can stop strikes before they happen, and the Newt hive card (if you can find her) who can also avoid a strike.
The hive cards seemed to be tougher in general, but to counteract this there are objectives that help you out. The best (and best themed for the movie) are the sentry guns. Their objective needs you to find them and set them up on two spaces in the complex. Once in place they stay for the rest of the game and weaken any alien in their spaces.
The first movie had an effect in the third objective that required you to still have plenty of recruit points (the self destruct could only be stopped with recruit points), and the same is true in this movie.
In this game’s third objective, your cards and even one of your players can be captured and cocooned. You have to spend recruit points to get them back, and you have to get them back because you can’t kill the queen if any card is still cocooned.
All of these changes (and there are loads of other new effects, too) mean that the game plays very differently, and shows how good the basic game system is. If you want, you could mix characters from the different films to customise your barracks deck. Not much good for flavour, but probably fun from a gameplay point of view.
In my game, I eventually found the queen but had amassed a huge pile of strikes and my gunner soon died. When you die you just stop playing and the others continue on. I can see this being a bit boring for the person knocked out, which is why they probably introduced the advanced rules for alien players.
So I had one player left, the queen was in the combat zone and more and more aliens were marching through the complex. Each turn I barely had the combat points to kill each new alien as it arrived in the combat zone alongside the queen. There was no chance of doing any scanning, or killing the queen who has a strength of 12.
Not only that, but some of the aliens capture more of your cards, so you keep having to rescue them from cocoons while fending off strikes and trying to keep the combat zone under control.
In the end I emptied the hive deck. At this point you shuffle all the dead aliens back in to make a new deck and start again. You don’t get all the events and hazards again, but have plenty of aliens to fight. If you empty the hive deck a second time, you lose. So you can’t keep stringing the game out.
I actually found I managed to get a kind of soft lock by having a Body Armour vigilant card or a Newt in play almost every turn which avoided most of the queen’s strikes.
Each turn a new alien arrived in the combat zone and I mostly managed to kill it and turns went by and occasionally I took a strike or had to spend recruit points to free a captive and eventually I hit a good turn and totalled 12 combat points to kill the queen.
I can’t tell if the Aliens game is harder than the Alien game. I think the cards in the first were simpler rather than easier, so you can learn the principles. There are references in the rulebook to keywords that I haven’t seen yet, so I can imagine even more new card types will be introduced in the third and fourth films. I didn’t like the third film and I don’t remember the fourth so I don’t know if I will bother with them. A strong part of the appeal of the game is playing through the movies. But only if I really like the movies.