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FANS of the ALIEN movies can now play through using the excellent VS SYSTEM rules to see how Ripley's battles really would have played out had they (the players) and not them (the scriptwriters/director) been at the helm (of the Nostradamo ? or camera). Here in this stand-alone (or play as expansion) card game there are FOUR Ripleys for your to control: There is the Warrant Officer Ripley, the famous Lieutenant Ripley, Sister Ripley and Ripley #8 each being Main Hero characters with two copies of each card at L1 and L2 as is normal for a VS System 200 card set.

However, my first game using the cards from this pack was not Ripley & co versus the Queen and her minions but instead I selected my Predator Deck from the PREDATOR BATTLES pack and went straight into a Predator versus Aliens game, and it was awesome. Of course this means that to play this you will also have to purchase both sets but I can assure you if you enjoy the VS System you will be fascinated by the depth of battle you can be part of. This is a super 2-player (One vs One) challenge which is enhanced by using the flip-side of these two game packs and setting Ripley up against the Predators. I have also had some fun playing a "training exercise" style game where Ripley and the Predator's Prey (led by Dutch) take on each other to test their strength and skills- there are no deaths in our "training exercise" games, just sore losers. Despite Dutch and Co being stronger Ripley's team really hold their own, and offer a few surprises too.

 

All the card types are in this boxed set, colour coded as normal so that they can be integrated when possible. On integrating sets, most cards in every set have a specific symbol to show their team affiliation and by the laws of the game any Support cards you use, be they Supporting Characters, Plot Twists or whatever, may only be on the team of other cards with the same affiliation symbol. This doesn't mean you cannot mix any cards from other sets together but if/when you do then you need more than one Main Character so that their support is useful. This means playing with either 2 Main characters out in front to begin with, or starting with one Main character out front and one in the deck so only useful (along with their support cards) when they are drawn from the deck and put into play. The latter way of playing isn't an easy way of playing, even when against an opponent who is using the same deck set up as you, because if one player gets both Mains out quickly and the other player doesn't it can become one-sided very quickly, but then it's also more of a challenge.

As you would expect from the way the Alien movies were filmed the associated cards are all deeply dark in their design. Because there is so much necessary information on the cards and the Alien Creatures are larger than (human) life-size, the brilliant illustrations of the wonderful Geiger (and Geiger-style) creations are often truncated. I can understand why, though, because if the artists(s) had drawn them to show full frontal (don't snigger) illustrations they would have been so small and without most of the exotic detail. 

 

I realise that artwork costs are high but it's a shame that, in all sets not just ALIEN BATTLES, the likenesses of the Main Characters and the same characters as Support, are exactly the same illustration. It's a pity this has to be because in all decks there is a case for making them different as the framework of the cards is colour coded for the card's type, Blue for Plot Twists, Green for Locations etc. As is usual in VS System themed packs, the Supporting Characters (Red border) are in groups of four identical cards; there are a couple of exceptions to this on the Alien's side - The FACEHUGGER Token has only 3 cards and the ADOLESCENT XENOMORPH support is comprised of the same eight cards.

Throughout the VS SYSTEM's rules there are mentions of Good and Evil and it has been left to the player to decide whether one or the other side is actually evil. In ALIEN BATTLES the Xenomorphs are definitely defined as Evil so that makes the Company the Good guys by default. This box set also introduces Equipment which will be appreciated by the Company player when they get their hands on M41A Pulse Rifle , MU-TH-ER 6000 and the Power Loader. Unfortunately for them, Creature (Keyword) characters cannot have or use equipment. Some Locations have the new Amplify power but this can only be brought into play when you discard the Location. Finally on the new additions there is in fact an old Keyword brought back into the fold. SWARM has been used before but it is now the very definition of the Xenomorph race. Also introduced are the Humanity and Alien symbols and these new Power Symbols work just like the original four: Energy Vs-Energy, Intellect Vs-Intellect, Skill Vs-Skill, Might Vs-Might

The Main Characters L1 & L2 for both sides are: the Ripleys, as mentioned earlier, and the Xenomorphic creatures from outer space: The Queen, The Dragon, The Newborn and the Perfect Organism (think carefully before saying that last one out loud). All four of these Alien Mains also appear as Supporting Character cards, each having the Aliens symbol and so each Supporting Character can support each Main character.

Some of the Locations will be known to a few players and all will be known by Alien movie fans. Both teams have The Nostromo and the Auliga as Locations, then each has two entirely different regions; The Sulaco and Earth for the Company with Fury 161 and Space for the Xenomorphs. Special Location "LV-426" is special for the Aliens and for The Company there is the "Special Location" - the Wyland-Yutani Compler. The Alien's have "Extended Incubation" with the Blue Border but no defining text as a Plot Twist, though there are three other Blue Bordered cards which are Plot Twists - Chestburst (just had to be in there somewhere), Spook and Build the Hive. Only one Plot Twist for the Company and that is "Let's Rock".

 

See how many of the Supporting Characters for the Company you remember: Newt, Vriess, Kane, Captain Dallas, Call, CMO Clemens, Parker, Bishop, Christie, Brother Dillon, Private Hudson, Johner, Corporal Hicks and of course, Ash.

Now try again with the Xenomorphs: (Ovomorph), Adolescent, Ambusher, Leading, Ferocious, Salivating, Acid Blood, Spitter and Screeching (apart from the Ovomorph) add "Xenomorph" either as an affix or a prefix to the other 8 descriptive adjectives.

Players set out their cards in the normal battles manner, A Front Row, Back Row and Resource Row. Cards in the Front Row are able to melee with opponents in the same area but cards in the Back Row can only fly over its own Front Row as well as the Opposing Front Row if it has the Flight symbol (looks like a pair of wings). However if the opposing Front Row has its own Flight Symbol characters in it then they cannot be flown over and the attack must be aimed at them. In this edition there are no creatures that can Fly but there are characters with "Leap" and they have the Flight Symbols to indicate that they can jump over their opponent's Front Row to attack their Back Row, once again Leapers in the opposing Front Row can prevent the Leap over.

No game featuring Aliens would be complete without the infamous FaceHuggers and the Alien Battles is no exception. Ovomorphs produce FaceHugger Tokens (supporting characters) which begin to one side (ie not in any deck except their own 4 card stack - 3 Tokens and 1 Extended Incubation). Aliens like to tease and experiment on their victims so there is an Action that allows you as the Alien player to Capture opposing characters by using FaceHuggers. I have to admit that since this action isn't written in Bold Text as most actions are we keep forgetting to use it. It is on the FaceHugger card under the Hug action but just as plain text and not emphasised.

It's going to be fun in the near future when I start using some of the Super-Hero decks first against the Aliens and then against the Predators.

Check out your local game store for the VS SYSTEM and its many themed expansions and stand-alone games. This system is a thoroughly enjoyable combat based card game that makes a cracking difference and alternative from MtG without being compared to it.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015