This week, my wife expressed a lot of interest in The Awful Green Things From Outer Space. The non-occult theme and cartoonish violence meant that it didn’t trigger any negative reactions from her. That, and the kids have had their noses in books almost constantly due to library sponsored summer reading programs. Thanks to that, I have carte blanche to make the kids do just about anything else. These are the factors that lead this game to finally get “on the table.”
I tried playing this once with my son with him playing the crew. He’s ten… and communicating any sort of tactical ideas behind how to run the them seemed next to impossible as we went through it. I played the Green Things… but with one less egg, baby, and adult at the start. He wiped me off the board fairly quickly, but I wasn’t satisfied with how my attempt to balance our skill levels seemed to upset the game’s feel.
In our next game, I played the crew… hoping that my demonstration of the the various weapons would sink into his skull indirectly. There were some amusing moments when piles of fragments were generated… but I was able to pin them down with the rocket fuel– in this game, they functioned as “5 dice to stun.” Eventually I cleaned out the monsters… and my son was a little frustrated by the fact there was so little he could do in the end game. But every time he killed a crew member, he always seemed to get a kick out of the fact that his alien would either grow or lay an egg.
My daughter walked in on us both times that we were playing and (as has happened a few times now the past couple of months) expressed pointed disdain at being left out. Later… when I had a chance to just do something just me and her… she had her nose in a book and/or wanted to just play outside. Not this time! I forced her to sit down and play the game. At age seven, I wonder if this one is a bit much for her, though she has done a marvelous job picking up Incan Gold and Revolution!. I took the crew again… and she had a particularly violent early game against me, wiping out four or five crewmen that had constitutions in the 11 to 14 range. But then the com beamer turned out to be “5 Dice to Kill.”. This was a really fortuitous turn for me, and the tide turned against horrible Green Things.
I’d scored 170 points against my son… and only 167 against my daughter. Playing in some rematches, I scored 205 points against my son… and 139 against my daughter. My son was actually pretty happy with that third game of his even though he technically did a lot worse. He’d killed the robot and rushed around the house to tell everyone about it.
My daughter was a little more skeptical, though. She seemed to think this was turning out more like Revolution! where I was completely unbeatable. If that were the case, she would be inclined to shop around for a game where she has a chance to win fairly often– Incan Gold, say. Well, I set up another game with her. I was cruising along using my epic-level moves and exterminating Green Things right and left. She was actually getting a bit cross about it, too. Then I took a chance and used the fire extinguisher on an area with three babies. They all blew into fragments… and she rolled seventeen. In the subsequent turns, the “Five Dice to Kill” and/or “Five Dice to Stun” area affect weapon never materialized. That pile of fragments quickly grew into a pile of adults and we fought until we had just a few characters on either side. Then she eliminated my last couple marines and won the game.
There’s a lot of games on the market right now that would get old after this many plays, but I gotta say… Awful Green Things really holds up. The crew steadily dwindles while the monsters can replenish their numbers and multiply. The crew slowly becomes more effective over the course of the game… but they only get more powerful if you’re willing to take some calculated risks. That’s a really interesting dynamic… and there are many, many tactics to uncover as you play.
I like this game a lot. That it was a throwaway magazine game that originally appeared in Dragon by in 1980 only makes it better.