I feel the need at this time to write a little something about the philosophy of Saucer War One.
I’ve no desire to pontificate, but events in the United States this June serve to remind me that as a creator, I have a responsibility to portray my fellow humans without prejudice or presumption. It is a responsibility I aim to take very seriously.
The ‘good guys’ in Saucer War One are ANTIC: An air force that operates under a shroud of deep secrecy to defend all the Earth. This is a little insight into not how but why I created ANTIC.
When I first conceived of Saucer War One a few years ago, I was very aware that its story and historical setting came with an ‘elephant in the room’: The racism and sexism of the era in which it is set: The 1950’s.
It was a time when unmarried Australian women needed their father’s written permission to attend universities. When black Americans lived in fear of church burnings and lynch mobs. When Jews were still subjected to pogroms in Europe and Asia. When most of Africa was ruled by white minority or colonial governments.
I chose to not ignore these things, but instead created ANTIC as the super-secret organisation dedicated to defending ALL Humanity, willingly recruiting anyone with the courage and skill to fight. An ANTIC recruit’s colour, gender, sexuality, or belief is irrelevant. No-one cares who they last voted for. Or if they’re socialist or capitalist. Or who they sleep with. Or whom they pray to.
All that counts is their love of their fellow Human Beings, and their Earth.
Even though Saucer War One is just a sci-fi wargame about flying saucers zooming and zapping, it is my sincere hope that one day all Humanity might be like ANTIC: United beyond the barricades of prejudice, in the fight to make our real world a better place.
Trigger Cards and why there are no dice in Saucer War One
Hello, Miniaturists! Welcome back for another game design-related article, as we navigate through the process of bringing Saucer War One to reality. Today, I’m revealing the Trigger Card, which provides the mechanism for random events. Let’s take a look.
In terms of the ‘look’ of the cards, I’m trying for a ‘nose art pin-up’ feel, but with a retro sci-fi vibe. The illustrations are not mine; they are the work of the talented Dan Morton, (part of his Stellar Queens folio), and are there entirely as ‘placeholder’ art, until I commission some bespoke artworks. But, they give you a feel for what I’m aiming at.
Incidentally, if anyone has a website for Mr. Morton, I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a link in the comments; I’d intended to provide a link in this article, but no site can I find.
I’ll talk more about the artwork later, but right now, let’s break down the symbols on a Trigger Card…
Each Trigger Card displays a Randomizer Number from 1 – 12 in three places. (That’s just to make it easier to read the number regardless of the card’s orientation.) This is used in the same way as a normal twelve-sided dice (D12) and most commonly tells us if a Crew Check has passed or failed.
The Grav Shield Result tells you if your Saucer’s Grav Shield bounced an incoming Hit, or if the Hit got through the Shield, inflicting Damage.
The Damage Result tells us how many Pulses a Saucer loses as a result of taking Damage. The number is sometimes replaced with a Critical Hit Symbol, which is bad for whoever is on the receiving end, as Critical Hits inflict special effects such as disabling a Weapon, bashing the Crew around, or making you explode, scattering you as debris all over a ranch in New Mexico. (What, again??)
“So why not just include a D12 in the game? Wouldn’t that cover all these random elements, aided by a written table or three?” I hear you growl.
Fair question! Read on, and things will become clear.
Fractions for Factions
Trigger Cards come in decks of 36 cards, with each deck customised for each faction; Hence the changes in colours and Faction Icons. This is not merely for appearances’ sake. The proportions of certain results change from Faction to Faction, reflecting their different technologies and doctrines.
For example, the Noordicans have the best Grav Shields, so their Trigger Deck has a higher number of ‘bounce’ results than the Grav Shield Results of the other Factions.
Similarly, there are features on some Faction’s Saucers that just don’t appear on those of their rivals, so those features need only appear as Critical Hits on that Faction’s Cards.
In other words, customising a Deck to its Faction elegantly avoids many of the ‘special rules’ that are such a feature of wargames which utilise one dice type as their randomiser. It also allows a lot more finesse when fine-tuning results to achieve factional balance, without the need to add more rules to ‘beef up’ or ‘nerf’ a faction which becomes too powerful.
And, if players agree, they can swap certain cards in and out of the Decks, customising results to their tastes! Does your gaming group like to see Saucers exploding in droves? Add more lethal Critical Hit Cards! Using Saucer War One for combat in a RPG, but don’t want to kill your characters too easily? Take out the Crew Hit results. The possibilities are endless.
Yes Cheesecake but no Beefcake?
Now that we’ve looked under the hood of the Trigger Cards, let’s take another look at the bodywork.
When I went Googling for images of sci-fi pin-up art, I knew I wouldn’t find much material in the masculine form. Pin-ups are overwhelmingly female in subject, and sadly, often demeaning.
This may be perfectly fine from an historical perspective. Much of the past was a sexist place, the 1950’s doubly so.
But for the men and women fighting side-by-side in Saucer War One, there’s no room for such nonsense!
ANTIC in particular has a deliberate policy of ignoring a pilot’s sex during selection; either you’re good enough, or you’re not, genitals notwithstanding.
The Mondreich can hardly pick and choose, up there on the Moon, and besides, they’re ruled by a mysterious woman with remarkably long hair…
The Noordicans have been through the population-shrinking horror of nuclear war, and have no time to debate the roles of the sexes. For the denizens of Venus, the grains in the hourglass are running out…
This is a little closer to what I have in mind; a character who can appear sexy, dynamic and in control of her situation, unlike the Fay Dunaway stand-in below.
So, I liked the idea of adding beefcake to my cards, alongside the cheesecake. But there’s an acute lack of good-looking beaus in goldfish bowl helmets from this era. Most of them are portrayed wearing very unsexy rubber diving suits. Who the heck was their tailor?
So, I seem to have a quest in the future, to find an artist who can create a balance of male and female pin-ups, each equally appealing and dynamic. If you can think of someone, I would love to get their details!
I’m also thinking it might be neat to offer a Kickstarter stretch goal that enables a backer to become immortalised in a card. Do you think that might be a fun option?
That’s all for today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the mechanics and philosophy of Saucer War One. Next time, we will move onto the Weapons with which the Saucers blast each other out of contention!
Inspiration for game design comes in all shapes and colours. Books, sports, warfare and the monopolistic hoarding of wealth have all been the spark for a vast array of board and miniature games. When you’re writing a game about flying saucers though, most of those inspiring shapes are letterbox format, and the colours are RGB, accompanied by words formed into astonishing claims and underlaid with the spooky oscillations of a Theremin.
I’m talking about the remarkable collection of UFO documentaries that chart the wobbly course of modern Ufology. You only need to Google “UFO Documentary” to open a virtual rabbit’s warren of theories, hypotheses, conspiracies and beliefs about what flying saucers are, why they’re here, and who’s book on the subject you should rush out and buy.
Many take themselves and their subject seriously. Some take both way too seriously. Several have the good sense to maintain a healthily cocked eyebrow of skepticism as they offer their angle on the matter. Several are nothing but snide ‘debunking’ attempts which childishly flail away at 70 years of sightings with footage of twerps dressed in sad alien cosplays while wheeling out the old ‘explanations’ of weather balloons, swamp gas, and weather balloons filled with swamp gas.
Sadly, there are many that have tied themselves to the mast of the S.S. Lunatic Fringe, and are eager to smash themselves on rocky claims of Nazi Hollow Earth Reptiloids who are running NASA. (I kid you not.)
A few are utterly and firmly shackled inside the realm of the Nutty Confessor, with pseudo-spirituality and religion confabulated with alien saviours who will take us away on the tail of a comet, as long as we’re all wearing matching shoes.
So, if you do go mining the internet to perform your own visual research into the weird and wonderful galaxy of Ufology, be sure to carry a skeptical canary and the flashlight of reason; There are some very deep, dark holes you can fall into.
But enough warnings! Let me expose you to the enlightening rays of my top 5 UFO documentaries. I think you’ll be entertained, and might even find your mind prised open just a bit…
Bob Lazar is either the most important whistle-blower in human history, or merely a pretty good fraud. Lazar claims to have been employed at the infamous Area 51 (or its adjoining Area S4, to be precise), back-engineering captured alien spacecraft. His story might be pure fantasy, and yet there are intriguing snippets of truth peppered though his story, suggesting there might be more than meets the eye. His technical descriptions of anti-gravity technology are manna to lovers of sci-fi hardware.
A very serious, factual account of a series of UFO encounters, all of which yielded physical, measurable evidence that debunkers constantly insist does not exist. No-nonsense, compelling, and convincing. Put the beer down, because this one is not Ufology-lite.
A lighter look at Ufology, starting right back with Kenneth Arnold’s iconic sighting in 1947. This is a great documentary about the historical side of UFO investigation; of Air Force bungling, the struggle for scientific credibility, and the personalities on both sides of this titanic fight for the truth. (Actually, now I think about it, there’s another game in that!)
An affectionate, and somewhat whimsical exploration of the contactee phenomenon that was such a feature of the 1950’s. Contactees were the precursors of modern day ‘experiencers’ and ‘abductees’, but they happily walked aboard the flying saucers rather than being dematerialised off their beds in the night. (One has to wonder why the aliens didn’t just go right on asking nicely…) This one is a giggle, but in a nice way.
Picture a man on a journey beyond sight and sound… he’s entered… the UFO Zone! Yes, it’s Rod Serling in one of the true classic UFO documentaries, and my absolute favourite. Full of appearances by some true luminaries of Ufological history including Dr. J Allan Hynek, and Jacques Vallée with his fantastic hair.
So important is UFOs: It Has Begun that it has become a part of the UFO conspiracy mythos. In later years, writer Bob Emenegger claimed the show was created with the help of the U.S. Air Force who wished to use it to air footage of a saucer landing at Holloman Air Base in the 60’s. But, according the Emenegger, at the last moment the Air Force pulled the footage, and some rushed illustrations of the incident were all that were shown. Make of that what you will!
I hope you have enjoyed this, the first of my “Top 5” lists. Tune in again, because future instalments will include my top Ufology Heroes, Villains, Books, the Most Compelling UFO Cases and the Worst Hoaxes.
Saucer-Jockeys Brave Extreme G-Forces in Deadly Sky-Fights!
It’s time for another look at one of the key components of Saucer War One.
You’ll remember last time, we met the Saucer Data Disc and learned that it connects to a series of smaller Discs that provide information about Weapons, Equipment, and, most importantly, the Saucer’s Crew. Let’s start our examination of these discs with the Crew Disc, and see how it interacts with the Data Disc.
I wonder what ANTIC’s Crew Familiarisation Course teach about these things…?
From the ANTIC Lenticular Vehicle Handbook (TD-34.1)
As mysterious and even ethereal as flying saucers may seem to Earthbound witnesses who gape at their impossible maneuvers, these marvels of super-science are nothing without their most essential components: The flesh and blood beings at their controls.
Being the Crew of a Saucer is no easy job. Regardless of their affiliation, all ‘Saucernauts’ share a common bond formed through their courage, skill, and willingness to risk death in the skies.
To the Noordicans they are Charioteers; chosen Priests of Technology entrusted with the most valued artefacts left by the gods. In Mondreich society, the Untertasseflieger is a hero, the ideal of Mondmenschen Perfektion and defender of Lunar Nationalism.
But the pilots of ANTIC are the cast-offs of Earth’s airforces; The misfits, the non-conservatives, the people whose politics, race or gender ostracises them in the narrow minds of generals and politicians. However, most ANTIC pilots have few professional regrets; they may never get to fly fast in their nations’ jets, but as Saucer Crew these mavericks fly a helluva lot faster.
Unfortunately, the faster one goes, the greater the G-force one is subjected to when you suddenly change direction. Anyone who has swerved in a fast moving car knows this G-force, and how it can feel as if one has been suddenly shoved aside by a huge, invisible hand. In a Saucer flying at several thousands of miles per hour, such a ‘shove’ is colossal, and can be as lethal as colliding with an express train.
So how do Saucer Crews survive these immense forces? With their Gravitic propulsion systems keeping them aloft, all Saucers generate their own gravitational field. Without going into the physics in detail, it is sufficient to say that this field insulates a Saucer’s Crew from the G-forces generated by the maneuvers of their amazing machines. In fact without this field, such maneuvers would kill anyone in a Saucer in a heartbeat, crushed and broken by the tremendous physical stresses.
As long as a Saucer keeps within the limits of its gravity field it can neutralise most of the effects of extreme G-force. ANTIC Crews call this ‘pointing it in the green’ or just ‘staying green’ after the triangular, green G-Stress Indicator on their instrument panels. If a maneuver pushes the ‘pip’ on this indicator outside its triangle, then the G-forces upon the Saucer have exceeded the field’s capacity, and the Crew might feel the full power of the G-force on their bodies. If that force becomes strong enough, unconsciousness — or even death — is certain.
Of course, pilots will be pilots, and cannot be prevented from dancing on the edge, chancing death. The very nature of combat flying requires the acceptance of terrible risk, and victory sometimes requires ferocious maneuvers, subjecting Saucer Crews to dreadful G-stress. To help guard against this, every G-Stress Indicator has a G-Stress Ring that is specifically calibrated to its Crew. As G-Stress rises, so the Ring rotates, giving the Crew a visual guide to the danger they are in. If the Ring stays at ‘0’ then there is no danger. As the value rises between ‘1’ and ‘4’, the Crew will experience sluggish reactions and impaired vision. If it reaches ‘G-LOC’ the Crew have reached their consciousness threshold, and will pass out. Should it reach ‘G-FIN’ then it is likely they will be killed by the crushing force they endure.
So, that’s the background to the Crew Disc; In short, G-Forces are scary, but the super-science of a Saucer’s propulsion enables its Crew to get away with crazy moves.
Now let’s describe it in game terms. We’ll start with a break-down of the icons and what they mean:
Crew Check Target Number
Central to a Crew’s role in a Saucer is the Crew Check. This is the number you’re trying to beat when you want to Hit a Target, pull off a Stunt, attempt a Repair, and other tasks.
As you can probably guess, this bonus improves your chance of beating the Crew Check whenever you perform an Attack with a Weapon.
These characterful additions provide some flavour to their game, and maybe give a little edge to the better, more experienced Crews like Herr Nowotny here. There are also negative Abilities, so watch out! More about Abilities in a future article.
Points Value and Allegiance
Exactly what they say. A Crew’s Points Value is added to that of its Saucer, along with any Weapons and Equipment to determine its Full Points Value. Allegiance is simply the symbol of the nation that can use this Crew in the game. Hauptmann Nowotny is a Mondreich Crew.
Arguably the most important part of a Crew Disc, this ring records a Crew’s current G-Stress Penalty. This penalty reduces your chance of beating the Crew Check.
Here’s how the G-Stress Ring interacts with a Saucer’s Data Disc: At the start of a game, a Crew Disc is usually aligned to its Connector Point at the lowest number (0) on its G-Stress Ring.
A Crew Disc rotates with the amount of G-Stress that a Saucer generates: Clockwise when G-Stress increases…
and Anti-clockwise when it decreases…
A Crew’s G-Stress rises by +1 for each extreme Maneuver.
Usually, an extreme Maneuver is a Pivot that exceeds a Saucer’s Safe Zone, as described in this earlier article about the Maneuver Disc. (There are also Stunt Maneuvers intended to give a feel of 3D air combat, but we’ll discuss these another time.)
So, performing an extreme Maneuver requires a trade: It might give you a bead on an enemy Saucer, but your Crew take a penalty to their chance of scoring a Hit. Too many extreme Maneuvers, and you risk the Crew blacking out, or even being killed!
But its not all bad; a safe Pivot (Inside the Green) causes no increase to G-Stress.
Finishing a Maneuver with no Pivot at all (following the Exit Disc’s Centerline), reduces G-Stress by -1. (A very good thing.)
As ANTIC’s Handbook warns us: If G-Stress rises too high, the Crew can be imperilled as they reach G-LOC (Loss of Consciousness) and G-FIN (Final). (A very bad thing!)
Mix ‘n Match
Many Crew Discs are interchangeable with their nation’s saucers. This means you can switch them between Saucers to achieve certain outcomes, such as putting a hot-shot Beta Saucer’s Crew into a big Alpha Type to see what they do. (Rather akin to giving a B-29 bomber to a Mustang fighter pilot and telling them “Have fun!”)
Likewise, Weapons and Equipment are interchangeable, allowing a huge variety of configurations, each with its benefits and disadvantages. I’m hoping players of Saucer War One will enjoy experimenting with various combinations, and pitting their favourite ‘combos’ against those of their opponents.
We’ll be looking at Weapon and Equipment Discs in a new article soon, but what’s coming up before that? Put away your dice, folks, you won’t be needing them when I reveal the Fate Deck for Saucer War One…
Last time we previewed one of Saucer War One’s game mechanics, we looked at the Maneuver Disc and how it is used to move a Saucer miniature. For this week’s preview, we’ll eavesdrop on an ANTIC training lecture somewhere in the central Asian CAPER RED operations area, in 1955…
Welcome back, eager. young saucer-cadets! For today’s lesson, I’d like to introduce you to the most fundamental instrument in the cockpit of any saucer: The Data Disc. This multi-purpose dial tells a pilot at a glance the essential information they need to keep in the air, and fight their foes. No matter what saucer you are flying, you will learn to rely on your Data Disc, so let’s take a good look at this vital component.
Our example is a Data Disc for a Mondreich Haunebu II-C, which is essentially a simplified copy of the Noordican Biga. Are you listening at the back there?
We’ll begin with the most important read-out on the Data Disc. Pulses define how many Actions a Saucer can take during a game Turn. While a saucer’s Pulses are in the healthy, Optimum range (OPT), all is good. But, damage from enemy weapons, or risky maneuvers (like ramming somebody else’s saucer!) can force down the number of Pulses a saucer can generate. If Pulses drop to 0, (CUT) then a Saucer’s reactor, gravimetric drive, and physical structure are so compromised that it cannot stay airborne and will crash. (Probably onto a ranch in New Mexico…)
Should a pilot find themselves in dire need, it is possible to push a saucer’s reactor to its Emergency (EMRG) setting. This allows the saucer an extra Pulse or Pulses, but there is the danger of the extreme pressure shattering the reactor vessel, blowing the saucer to pieces! (Which then definitely crashes onto a ranch in New Mexico…)
Below the Pulse Track are these three numbers which tell us how the saucer can ‘spend’ its Pulses on Actions. Actions are use to do, well, anything really. Usually, one Action allows you to do one thing, such as place a single Maneuver Disc, or fire a single Weapon. It always costs at least one Pulse to perform one Action.
The Distributor numbers show the maximum Pulses that can be spent on a particular Action: Maneuver (MNV); Attack (ATK) and Special (SPC). Because this is only an introduction to the Data Disc, I won’t go into details about Actions just now. Let’s move onto some other parts… Miss Konstantinova, are you flirting with your fellow cadet? I expect better from a Hero of the Soviet Union, you know!
Each Saucer in the game has its own callsign, to make it easier to keep track of each one during the game.
How much the ‘basic’ saucer costs when constructing a force of Saucers and Assets for a game.
This orange circle has a number of what we call Connector Points around its rim. The Connector Points are: Crew; Special; Hardpoint 1 and Hardpoint 2. At each of these Connectors are placed an associated, smaller Disc;
The Crew Disc aligns with the Crew Connector Point.
‘Special’ things like Equipment Discs, and the Discs of Assets being transported, connect to the Special Connector.
And finally, at each Hardpoint a Weapon Disc can be placed.
The Gravitic Drive was probably the Annunaki’s most important invention. It enables Saucers to zip around at thousands of miles per hour, making impossible break-neck turns without breaking necks. This seemingly impossible device generates intense gravitational fields. By focusing the fields at a point above you, it is possible to offset local gravity and up you fly, chasing the intense gravitational point you are generating.
One of the benefits of a Gravitic Drive is that the field deflects projectiles and energy, acting like a force field. This gives a saucer a sort of armour that can save it from damaging cannon shells and explosions. In game terms, this provides a ‘saving throw’ against damage.
This is the number of Critical Damage results that a saucer can absorb before it falls apart. Generally speaking, the bigger the saucer, the more Criticals it can endure. However, some Critical Damage is serious enough to force a saucer’s crew to turn tail and run for home, before they become exhibits in the Area 51 museum!
Saucer class and Type
The designation for this class of Saucer (Haunebu II-C), and its Type — either Alpha (the biggest of Saucers), Beta (middleweight all-rounders), or Gamma (small fighters and scout Saucers).
And that’s all you need to know to read a Data Disc. Next time, we’ll see how the Crew and Weapon Discs interact with the Data Disc, but that’s all for this lesson, cadets. Dismissed! Break out the vodka and spin me some Charlie Parker sides, Cats!
Yes folks, we have our first sighting of a Saucer War One miniature-in-the-making! Here’s a couple of renders of the Biga that Chris has digitally sculpted. Charioteers of Venus, rejoice! Chris says he blitzed out this beautiful sculpt in a mere six hours. Only six hours? I suspect alien mind control!
Chris has done a superb job of capturing the classic ‘Adamski saucer’ lines of the Biga, but with all the engraved detail that is such a hallmark of Annunaki technology.
Chris is also the creative genius whose Protokraken business has a very cool Kickstarter project called Necrossia that just successfully funded.
Necrossia is a set of 3D printing files of alien artefact scenery for 28mm wargaming. I think a lot of the files are quite ‘scale agnostic’ and could be suitable for 15mm or even micro-scale wargames, too.
Although the Necrossia Kickstarter has successfully concluded, you can still get aboard for late pledges. Grab a 3D printer, and you’ll soon be surrounded by ancient alien monoliths!
Speaking of 3D printing, I suspect many of you will be excited to hear this:
Grow your own Flying Saucers from Vats of Chemicals
Inspired by Chris’ excellent Biga sculpt, I’m bring forward an announcement. The free print n’ play playtest version of Saucer War One is scheduled to be available for download in June-July this year. When it launches, we will also launch a set of six .STL files of ANTIC and Noordican saucers for home printing!
This will give budding UFO-jockeys a leg-up into getting their saucer fleets into action, well before physical miniatures are released.
Keep your eyes peeled for more previews of Noordican Sky Chariots soon!
A treat for you all today – here’s a nice 3-view illustration of a stalwart of the Noordican’s sky-fleet: the Biga Gamma-Type Scout Saucer.
10.6m (35ft) in diameter with a crew of three, the Biga is the smallest of the ‘sky chariots’ inherited by the Noordicans from the Annunaki after their alien ‘gods’ fled from Venus and Earth 16,000 years ago. It is a very limited, short-ranged design that is dependant upon the giant Great Galley motherships for interplanetary travel. Usually armed with only a single Gravgun chamber which can fire through either of two emitters, the Biga is not exactly a terror of the skies. Its compact ‘turret’-style cabin is equipped with basic flight controls and average sensors.
Yet in spite of these limitations, the Biga is the most successful of all Annunaki saucers. Possibly built in the millions during the multi-millennia reign of the Annunaki, the Biga is durable, dependable, and perfectly capable of matching just about anything that ANTIC can build of the same size. Even with an average pilot at its helm, a Biga can run rings around anything larger than itself, and outdistance anything else.
Sadly, Bigas have developed an undeserved reputation as unsafe and unstable craft because they seem to have a propensity for crashing all over the Earth. In fact, since 1936, it is estimated that no less that 41 Bigas have come down in forests, smacked into mountains, or scattered themselves all over New Mexican ranches. In truth, these incidents were almost always because of the inexperience of their pilots, or an encounter with some unexpected Earthling technology that blew a Biga’s ancient fuses.
Biga’s have become infamous for their role in the Noordican campaign to return to Earth, and the often disastrous mistakes made along the way. It was a Biga that was naively handed over to the Nazi Thule Society, and was retro-engineered into the Haunebu saucer programme. A Biga crashed outside the town of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, its gravity field inverting and compressing its crew into small, deformed corpses.
And most notoriously, it was a Biga that delivered Orthon, commander of the Earth Expedition, to Desert Center, California, in 1952. There, Orthon met one George Adamski, and started the Contactee Movement which led to riots, massed marches, and nearly succeeded in overthrowing several governments in the early 50’s.
What’s that? You never heard of any of this stuff? You think it’s all just a pile of debunkable looniness? Good. That means ANTIC has done its job really well…
More 3-views to follow soon, including ANTIC’s super-secret Silverhound fighter-saucer, and the Mondreich’s huge Maria class Koenigsuntertasse battle-saucer!