How to fight Awful Green Things from Outer Space, part 1

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That’s the opening setup, I mean that’s how things looked on the actual Znutar when the crew discovered the Awful Green Things. The monsters started out in the Cockboat Bay (ha!) and spread out one per unoccupied space: 6 eggs, 4 babies, 2 adults. This was determined by the stars, or by 2d6. In the end, does it matter?

After the jump, no.

The scripture of the saga of the Znutar, hereafter known as the rulebook, has this to say under the heading “Discovering the Awful Green Things:”

After all monsters are placed, the crew player must move one or two crewmembers up to their printed movement allowance, so as to discover the Awful Green Things. Discovery consists of moving into an area or areas containing an Awful Green Thing. Once in an area containing a monster, the two crewmembers may endeavor to kill it (or them, if in two separate areas) using hand-to-hand combat. Weapons may not be grabbed before this move. Whether this combat succeeds or fails, the alarm is raised and the game is on.

The Engineer and the Machinist each step out into the hall at opposite ends of the Engine Room, and each find an egg, with 5 hit points. Since these crew are roly-poly Smbalites, they each roll two dice. Hand-to-hand combat is just rolling all the dice you have and trying to equal the opposing hit points. How hard is it to get 5 hits on two dice? Too hard for the Machinist, who rolls a 4.

discovery

Now the game begins in earnest. Each turn, the Green Things can grow, but have to choose a single type to do so. This turn they choose eggs because the resulting babies can then converge on the two crewmembers who discovered them, and otherwise the eggs are sitting ducks. So each egg is replaced by a baby, which can move one space. Now the Green Things move and attack. The babies in the fuel pods emerge, while the newly grown babies in the hallways team up on the Engineer and the hapless Machinist. Four dice to get 13 in one case, and in the other four dice to get 14. Both die.

In each case one Green Thing gets to eat the fallen crewmember and grow to the next level. That’s two new adults. In the Sick Bay, a single adult surprises Doc and rolls four dice and needs to get 11. He gets 22. The adult eats Doc and lays an egg. Three casualties on the first turn. The discovery is always a shock, and some adversity is bound to happen, but I find that the crew is pretty resilient in the end.

The crew has been alerted by the sacrifice of the Engineer and Machinist. Doc probably never saw it coming.

That’s it for the greenies. Here the fun begins for the crew, where everyone grabs whatever weapon is within reach. The crew has no chance of winning the game by fighting hand-to-hand, so they need to test as many items as possible. One of these has gotta work!

The crew picks up weapons first, then moves, then attacks. There are a limited number of each type of weapon, and as mentioned before it makes sense to grab as many and test them as soon as possible.

first_crew_attack

The first weapon we test is a Comm Beamer. The Technician fires it out of #1 Sensor all the way down the main hallway of the ship, to where Captain Yid and his First Officer have run out to engage a baby Green Thing. He figures if the weapon makes it grow or something, the Captain and his Number Two will still have five dice in hand-to-hand combat to get 12, which is very reasonable odds. I draw the first chit out of the cup.

“1 DIE FRAGMENTS”

Blurk. The Green Thing explodes. It’s raining green. That sounds great, except those fragments aren’t dead — they’re just pieces of Green Thing that can all grow into new ones. And I rolled a 6, so that’s six new enemies to deal with. Well, five, as the Captain and the First Officer finish off one of the fragments with their fists. The Technician tosses his comm beamer out the garbage hatch as pieces of Green Thing now coat the hallway. The word spreads around the ship: Don’t use the comm beamers to shoot the Green Things! Oh, ok. Great. Thanks for telling us now.

Meanwhile, the Cook and Sarge are holding canisters of Zgwortz in the corridor outside the sick bay, where the Coxswain is standing over Doc’s body, frantically defending himself against an adult and a baby with a Hypodermic Needle he picked up. Zgwortz is an all-purpose food substance introduced in the comic. On the count of three, Sarge and the Cook open the door to the sick bay and the cockboat bay simultaneously, and lob a canister inside. Sarge targets the egg in the sick bay, while the Cook targets the baby in the Cockboat Bay. The chit draw is “5 dice to kill.”

That’s the best result in the mug, but the combination isn’t the best result for the crew. While Zgwortz can be thrown, it only affects one monster, and worse still, is only available in the Galley and Mess Deck, which will force the crew to concentrate in the center of the ship. Still, it kills Green Things. The crew just thought it killed their stomachs.

The monsters die, and the Coxswain, newly emboldened by the success of Sarge’s Zgwortz against the former egg at his feet, drives the hypodermic needle into the adult Green Thing about to devour him.

“1 DIE FRAGMENTS”

The Green Thing pops like a balloon. Greednabit. Five more fragments. Fragments don’t move, but have one attack die, and grow into babies along with eggs. The next turn’s growth choice is now obvious. The Coxswain ponders his options, and delicately discards the hypodermic in the sharps bin. Even if it doesn’t work against Green Things, there’s no use sticking yourself.

The Comm Officer down the hall hears a lot of explosions behind him. But they don’t sound so much like explosions — more like someone popping giant balloons full of Slurpee. That’s weird, he thinks, as he fires the Stun Pistol he picked up on the bridge at a baby slithering down the corridor outside the After Machine Shop.

“1 DIE FRAGMENTS”

Suddenly, the Comm Officer realizes what those noises were behind him.

This is turning into a parody of a game of Green Things. The crew’s best chance to win is to find an effective weapon early while avoiding just the thing I had happen, which is a sudden explosion in the Green Thing population. Because Green Things only grow one “level” at a time, their population expansion is pretty linear. Unless, of course, the crew does something to help them, like suddenly gifting them 15 fragments.

The two marines were playing pool in the Pool Room when the intruder alert went off. One of them grabbed a pool stick (basically a baseball bat, given the unusual variant of “pool” described in that wonderful comic) and the other grabbed a fire extinguisher, which is one of the few “available anywhere” weapons. Because the fire extinguisher affects everything in a space, one of the marines hung back to see what the fire extinguisher would do. If you use two untried weapons simultaneously on the same monster, you choose an effect chit but then return it to the cup, presumably because no one can actually tell what did what. So the first marine pulls the pin, aims at the base of the Green Things, squeezes the lever, and sweeps from side to side.

“3 DICE TO KILL”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Just a few seconds later, the Engineer opens the door from the engine room and sprays down the hallway with his own fire extinguisher where the Machinist met his demise, right at an adult and a baby. He misses both.

Having an available-anywhere, area-effect weapon like the fire extinguisher do 3 dice to kill might sound great, but it’s less great than it sounds, simply because 3 dice aren’t often going to take out an adult Green Thing, which has 16 hit points, and need above-average luck to take out a baby, which has 12. Which we just saw. But the fragments we made earlier only have 8 hit points, and they are a juicy (no pun intended) target for anyone who can grab a fire extinguisher and hose them down before they grow.

Sadly, that’s not going to happen, because with 15 new fragments on board, the Green Things choose the fragment/egg level (they’re equivalent in this phase) for growth, and suddenly the crew has 13 new babies to deal with. Wait, 13? Yes, actually. There were only 13 left in the box. According to the rules:

If there are not enough pieces to grow all creatures of a given level, as many may be grown as pieces are provided for. Players are restricted to the number of pieces provided with the game.

That’s small comfort, but at least it puts an upper limit on the demoralization you feel when you get 20+ new fragments.

If the crew needs a morale boost, it might come from the Robot, who marches into Damage Control Central from the Machine Shop and attacks the biggest, meanest Green Thing there. The Robot has more attack dice than any other crewmember. Probably in part due to the fnudding. It also has the effect of forcing the Green Things to concentrate their attacks on it whenever they are in same space during combat. Given the right circumstances, the crew can sometimes rally around the Robot and use it as a tank while they do the DPS.

On its own right now, the Robot misses the adult Green Thing it attacks. Badly. Must need new fnudding.

green_attack

The Green Things grow. The new babies in the corridors converge on the fearsome fire-extinguisher-wielding crew, with adults joining in. The Marine and the Engineering Officer both succumb, with the adults laying eggs because there won’t be enough adults to grow all the babies next turn anyway, so it makes no sense to use them now and further deplete the counter mix. That’s some canny reproductive strategy on the part of the aliens.

The ones facing Captain Yid and his intrepid first officer turn around swarm into Damage Control Central, where the Robot is locked in battle with an adult Green Thing. Five babies and an adult roll 14 dice against the Robot’s 44 hit points. A bunch of hits later, the Robot is down, and the Green Things are dismantling his limbs like some sort of C3PO re-enactment. When the Green Things eat a crew member, they grow, but when they eat the Robot, they draw a one-time effect chit, which is then returned to the cup. The adult starts stuffing robot parts into its mouth. Not a smart monster. The effect is 4 dice to kill against the adult’s 16 hit points. The roll of 14 just leaves it with indigestion.

In the sick bay, three babies make short work of the Coxswain, while in the corridor outside, the Comm Officer pays for his rash fragmentation on the earlier turn.

Things are looking grim for the crew. The Supply Officer grabs a can of Zgwortz and rushes out of the galley to confront the monsters, while Sparks and the Yeoman converge on the mess deck to pick up the most powerful weapon they have, which is essentially weaponized Spam.

Meanwhile, the two pilots who had been hiding in #3 Sensor hatch a plan. No one has tried using rocket fuel, which is a large area-effect weapon that can clear an entire corridor (blast is only stopped by hatches) but can only be found in the fuel pods. With the Green Things in the Engine Room gorging themselves on the Engineering Officer, the pilots grab one remaining fire extinguisher and head that way, hoping to douse the engine room as they go by and slow down the monsters. “Whichever one of us lives should make for the fuel pod,” they tell each other.

The medic’s back is against the wall in the hospital ward. Two baby Green Things are more than a match for him, so he snatches a fire extinguisher and opens the hatch to sick bay, hoping to fight his way out, or at least take a lot of monsters with him.

Not all of the crew is immediately engaged. Captain Yid and his First Officer, realizing they have no way of fighting the horrors now inhabiting Damage Control, head forward and then down into the Saucer Bay. The belly of the ship! On the way they encounter the Ops Officer and the Technician, and the four of them prepare to fight their way aft to help the rest of the crew.

crew_moves

Sarge and the Cook, without any weapons, head into the Scout Bay to face down the single baby monster there. And near the #1 fuel pod, the Marine repeatedly smacks his palm with the barrel of his pool stick as he advances on four Green Things in the corridor. “Let’s do this,” he says in Snudalian.

In the far future, Super-K (potassium chloride) dry chemical fire extinguishers are still pretty super. The Medic hoses down the sick bay, killing three babies and almost wiping out the adult as well. Unfortunately, in Awful Green Things from Outer Space, close does not count.

Sarge and the Cook make short work of the baby in the scout bay. They quickly check the Scout itself, which is still under its tarp. “She’s a-workin’, says Sarge, with his Snudl-2 accent. The Cook just smiles and nods. He can never quite tell what Sarge is saying, because he’s from Snudl-1.

The Ops Officer heaves a canister of Zgwortz at the adult advancing on him in the corridor. It vaporizes. But the baby next to it keeps coming. And it will probably be a lot bigger next turn.

The pilots approach #2 fuel pod. “Go! Go! Go!” yells one as he opens the door to the Engine Room, spraying the contents of the fire extinguisher inside. There were an adult, baby, and egg in there, but that was before the ferocious onslaught of dry chemical, now known to be toxic to vile green aliens. When the smoke clears, something is different. The egg is gone.

The Marine near #1 fuel pod advances into the fray and with all his might, delivers a prodigious blow to the side of the adult lurking there with his lucky pool stick.

“NO EFFECT.”

It figures,” mutters the Marine to himself, as four Green Things overwhelm him. “I was never good at pool either.”

There are only seven adult counters left in the box, so the Green Things use them to grow the babies in places where they can use the extra movement point that adults have to quickly engage the crew. They are brutally efficient this turn. The Supply Officer, the Medic, both Pilots, and that stubborn Marine all earn an engraved place on the Znutar Memorial back on Snudl-1, if anyone gets back there to report on the exploration ship’s sad demise.

requiem_for_the_crew

Only in the saucer bay do the monsters meet their match, as they underestimated the pluck of the Znutar’s finest. The Ops Officer and the Technician found themselves singled out as the weakest of the group (probably by their thin arms protruding out of their polo shirts), but neither attack succeeded. The shaken crew make ready to beat off another attack.

It is then that Captain Yid finally realizes that the end has come for his beloved ship, but he isn’t ready to give up. They could still get back to Snudl-1.

Wait, you can get back to Snudl-1? Maybe, just maybe.

And here is where Tom Wham proves that he is not just a very good game designer, but a truly elite papersmith of dice and counters.* Because I don’t have to just fight to the bitter end on the Znutar. I can abandon ship. The rules say so:

When none of the weapons work and the Robot and most of the crew are dead, it may become apparent that the remaining crew doesn’t stand a chance of stopping the Awful Green Things. At a time like this, any crew who can make it back to the ship’s boats may leave the Znutar and attempt to get back home on their own. The Scout will carry up to 2 crewmembers, the Saucer 4, and the Cockboat will carry any number.

To leave, the crewmembers simply move into the appropriate boat bay, climb aboard the boat, and leave during their attack phase. Any monsters in the boat bay may be ignored. All the boats do not need to leave on the same turn. Once the crew leaves in the boats, they concede 111 victory points to the monsters. They are gambling that some of them will make it home with the sad news about the Znutar.

And right now, the situation is hopeless. While the 3-dice-to-kill ferocity of the fire extinguishers is powerful, there are only two of them, and the Green Things will be able to send some monsters to lay eggs in more remote areas of the ship until they finally come crush the crew. This has happened before. I’m like a passenger on that ship in the Twilight Zone episode that keeps getting sunk over and over by the German submarine. Except this ship is the Znutar, and I’m perpetually thirteen years old.

The cockboat (ha!) is the escape vehicle of choice, and everyone piles in. You can leave in the ship’s boats during the attack phase, even if there are Green Things in the same space. But there aren’t. If you use more than one boat, each one has to make it back independently. Might as well put all our eggs into one, er … cockboat. The scout can carry two and the saucer can carry four. Yid decides to leave those for the remaining crew, in case they can fight their way down here.

But they don’t. Sparks and the Yeoman step into the corridor with canisters of Zgwortz, and each kill one adult before the inevitable end. The Mascot retreats back to the Captain’s Cabin, where he started, and dies alone, the last living creature on a ship he never meant to board.**

And so the surviving Snudalians, Frathms, and Redundans (no surviving Smbalites, unfortunately) blast off into the unknown. They carry with them victory points equal to their constitution/hit points, to the tune of Captain Yid (27), First Officer (19), Sarge (21), Cook (21), Ops Officer (12), and Technician (11) for a total of 111. Wait, what? Really? Yep.***

Where do they go? Into … the Epilogue.

Tomorrow: Our exciting conclusion!

*Tooling around the Internet, you might get a different impression. A lot of people hate the epilogue, it seems, presumably because whether or not the surviving crew make it back to Snudl-1 comes down solely to chance. This makes the mistake (in my opinion) of assigning a pedestrian gameplay function to an inspired mechanic that almost exclusively serves the game’s narrative. Anyone who abandons ship with enough points worth of crew to beat the 111 they lost for leaving the Znutar, but “loses” because the die rolls prevent some of them from getting home, and then blames the game for being too random and arbitrary, is seriously missing the point.
**The comic establishes that the Mascot, an inhabitant of a world visited by the Znutar’s saucer, “volunteered” to go back to Snudl by falling asleep and being the only one left when his compatriots fled. In effect, he was kidnapped. He also violated the rules for saucer occupancy, as the rules state that it can only carry four and the comic clearly shows it arriving full, and no one was left behind.
***I swear this was not fixed. The first time I counted points was after I had decided to abandon ship, and written up the comments. Imagine my surprise!
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