Posted in Background Writing, Inspiration

Virginia Hall: Real-life Super-Spy, and ANTIC’s ‘GLAMOR’ girl

Or: The inspiration to make an incredible woman a pivotal character of Saucer War One

Greetings, everyone, and happy International Women’s Day! In honour of this celebration, I thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to one of the personalities of ANTIC, the defenders of Earth.

Virginia Hall is a name wargamers might not know as readily as Lord Dowding or his right-hand man Keith Park, but I hope that by the end of this article you will appreciate this amazing woman as much as I do. Read on, and enjoy the Girl’s Own adventure that was the real life of Virginia Hall, ‘the limping lady’.

Virginia Hall; Spy par excellence

Virginia was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1906, and schooled at the liberal, all-women Radcliffe and Barnard colleges before university and further studies in Europe. She had a ear for languages, a quality which would suit her well working as a clerk for the Consular Service, and later, for both the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in much more deadly roles.

A shooting accident while on assignment to the Consulate in Istanbul led to the amputation of Virginia’s left leg. Undaunted, she named its wooden replacement ‘Cuthbert’, and carried on her duties. Alas, her attempts to rise to the position of a diplomat were thwarted, discriminated against because of her disability, and probably also because of her sex.

When war erupted again in Europe, Virginia refused to sit on the sidelines. Infuriated by America’s reluctance to enter the fight, she headed for France, joined up, and drove an ambulance for the French Army until that nation fell to the Nazis in June, 1940. Still showing the same determination to fight, she escaped into Spain where fate intervened; Here, Virginia met George Bellows — an Intelligence Officer for the British Secret Service. Impressed by Virginia, Bellows brought her to the attention of Nicolas Bodington, an unsung hero of the war, and the man who set up the SOE. He was equally impressed, put Virginia through the SOE’s gruelling spy training programme – wooden leg not withstanding – and sent her to Vichy France, where she would spend the next 16 months causing the Gestapo to have a collective nervous break-down.

Virginia Hall built a network of informers – including a patriotic brothel madame whose girls passed on all that their German clients blabbed in bed – which kept the British up-to-date with what the Germans were doing in France. She slipped from the clutches of the Germans repeatedly, helped dozens of downed Allied airmen to escape capture, and, when she learned that the Vichy police had captured 12 agents, set in motion a plan that smuggled in all the tools the agents needed to escape (including a radio!) All succeeded in breaking out, and were smuggled to England, and safety.

A poignant self-portrait of Virginia Hall speaks of the loneliness of an agent

The Germans were understandably upset by this. The Gestapo redoubled its efforts to capture ‘the limping lady’, and came close by infiltrating a collaborator into Virginia’s circle of contacts. Warned just in time, Virginia fled for the Spanish border once again. This time, the only way across was to walk – on her wooden leg 50 miles across the Pyrenees mountains. So, she did.

When she returned to England, the SOE refused to send Virginia back to France. They feared she had been compromised, and the risk to her was too great. But by now the United States was in the war, so Virginia packed her cloak and dagger and went to work for the OSS instead.

In the lead-up to D-Day, (June 6, 1944), Virginia, convincingly disguised as an old milkmaid (she sold cheeses to German soldiers), returned to France, where she organised and armed cells of the French Resistance. She had to overcome the obstinate reluctance of many Frenchmen, who refused to take orders from a woman, even one with Virginia’s record of fighting the occupiers.

Eventually she won the French to her side, and with 1500 Resistance fighters, Virginia blew up German trains, bridges, fuel dumps, and anything else she didn’t like.

Locomotive wrecked by the Resistance in 1944

After the war, Virginia was rehired by the then-new CIA, working to undermine Russian influence in Europe. She married fellow OSS officer Paul Goillot; six inches shorter and eight years younger than his former boss, Virginia.

The CIA, however, was quickly forgetting its origins in the War, and the critical roles played by the OSS’s female operatives; It rapidly degraded into a ‘boy’s club’, and men who hadn’t served in the front lines resented Virginia’s enviable record, and her justly deserved recognition. (Virginia Hall received the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross, the British Member of the British Empire, and France’s Croix de Guerre.) Left ‘piloting a desk’ for the rest of her career, Virginia soon disappeared into obscurity.

Virginia Hall receives her DFC from General Donovan, OSS

Or at least, that’s the official story.

In the reality revealed in Saucer War One, we discover that the postwar world had even greater need for Virginia Hall. With the Earth threatened by a danger perhaps even greater than that of fascism, Virginia was put forward by Majestic 12 as a candidate for recruitment by ANTIC – the new, ultra-secret agency tasked with tackling the Venusian threat. Lord Dowding, the organisational genius who led the RAF to victory in the Battle of Britain, had been selected to command ANTIC, and he knew of Virginia’s exploits against the Nazis. To the surprise of most, he did not merely choose Virginia Hall to assist with ANTIC’s intelligence operations (PRANK), but to control them.

It was a brilliant decision. Dowding recognised that his Head of Intelligence (code-named GLAMOR), must be ruthless, cautious, insightful and unstoppable. He got just what he needed in Virginia Hall. Taking to the job with gusto, Virginia recognised the danger the Noordicans presented as easily as she had sensed when the Gestapo crept too close back in France. Using her CIA desk job as the perfect cover, Virginia recruited her PRANK agents from all walks of life, and all nationalities. Being charged with saving the world, she knew ANTIC needed eyes and ears everywhere. (Rumours persist that among her recruits were residents of the White House, Buckingham Palace, and even the Kremlin.)

When the Saucer War One timeline ‘kicks off’ in mid-1952, Virginia Hall is still racing to build her massive network of agents, informants, and contacts. To keep track of the volumes of data these people feed into PRANK, Virginia is ably assisted by the unique, self-aware Cryotronic Mega-Computer she named ‘Cuthbert’, after her faithful wooden leg. “Cuthbert’s” opinion regarding its name is a secret it keeps to itself!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about both the real and (maybe?) fictitious Virginia Hall. When I discovered her story, it fired my imagination, and the whole idea of GLAMOR and PRANK flowed from there. From small seeds, and all that.

Next time, I hope to finally show off the first 3D prints of miniature saucers, so stay tuned for that!

See you then, and — Watch the Skies!

Posted in Rules Design

Hostile Saucers : Weapon Disc Preview for Saucer War One

A look at Weapon Discs to make your Saucers fighty

Welcome back, everyone! It’s time for another glimpse into the game design work that’s going into Saucer War One. Today, we’re taking a quick look at Weapon Discs, which turn our friendly, neighbourhood flying saucers into the terrors of the sky. Let’s see what these discs do…

As before with earlier previews, we begin with an explanation of what all these symbols and numbers mean. It might look like there’s a lot here, but it’s all very simple when you break it down.

In the left side of each Disc shown above, you can see a column of readout numbers — CHK (Check), RNG (Range) and DAM (Damage).

Check is a modifier to the Saucer’s Crew Check test when it attacks with this weapon.

Range is the distance that the weapon can reach, in Range Discs. (A Range Disc is essentially the same as a Maneuver Disc, which we met in this article.)

Damage is a modifier to the amount of Damage the weapon inflicts on its Target. This is usually a fixed amount (0; +1, +2, etc.), but Energy Weapons (like the Gravgun here), can also be V (Variable) because a player can select the amount of additional Damage caused.

Along the bottom of the Connection Ring are three boxes. What are these for, then?

The box on the Left shows what Types of Saucer can be given this Weapon (Alpha, Beta or Gamma). In the case of the 30mm Cannons this shows both the Beta and Gamma letters, because either Type can be given this Weapon.

The middle box gives the Weapon’s Points Value.

The right-hand box tells us which Faction or Factions can use this Weapon. In Saucer War One, Gravguns are initially exclusive to Noordicans, but we can see that ANTIC and Das Mondreich both deploy 30mm Cannons.

With all that out of the way, let’s see a couple of Weapon Discs connected to their Saucer’s Data Disc:

Like the Crew Disc, a Weapon Disc’s current status is determined by its orientation relative to its Data Disc. The Connection Ring aligns with the Connector Point on the Data Disc, and it is rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on what is happening in the game. This tracks the number of Attacks available with that Weapon as ammunition or power charge is expended. You have to watch your ammo with some weapons, because they chew through rounds, or have limited capacitors.

There is also an ! (Exclamation Mark) on the Connection Ring which marks a Weapon Jammed Critical Hit. Fortunately, this can be repaired by a skilful Crew. (“Hey, the Gravgun’s not charging! Send Furkon out onto the dome with jump cables, will you?”)

Lastly, let’s take a look at some of the Attack Arc and Weapon Attribute icons.

The Attack Arcs of a Saucer, you may remember from this earlier article. In brief, the three supporting Pegs that keep a model Saucer ‘flying’ also mark the edges of the Saucer’s 120° Arcs; Forward, Left and Right.

Weapon Attributes are a new concept, however. To add some flavour to the weapons available in Saucer War One, we use an Attribute to describe a quality or behaviour of a weapon that sets it apart. Rockets Explode, for example, while Gravguns are Gravitic, meaning a hit from one might crush the target’s Crew.

I’ve revealed only four Attributes for now, but more will be added as the game develops. Some will be obvious, but many will be rather fun, in a science-gone-mad kind of way…

And that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this new peek into Saucer War One‘s development. More articles will follow soon, including more Data Discs, artwork, and there’s going to be pictures of actual, physical miniatures very soon!

Watch the Skies!

Posted in Miniatures Design

Triga-nometry: The Noordicans get serious

Progress continues apace on the sculpts of Saucer War One’s miniatures; Today, I’d like to show you the mighty Triga Beta type saucer, heavy-hitter of the Noordican sky-fleet.

Armed and ancient — The Noordican Triga

Bigger and more versatile than its Biga stablemate, the Triga was the Annunaki’s enforcer. Rebellious worlds or provinces were brought to heel by clouds of Trigas descending upon them, dealing out the wrath of the gods with crushing Gravitic Beams and merciless Surdu hunter-drones.

Triple Gravitic Beam emitters crown the Triga

The Triga can also be equipped with power-draining beams and terror field generators, which the Noordicans deploy against their barbarous cousins on Earth, in their efforts to end their savage, warlike ways.

The Triga — Bringing the benefits of Venusian civilisation to your primitive world!

In 1/200th scale, the Triga is 73mm across and will be available as both a downloadable, 3D printable file and as a resin miniature.

Unlike the government, I’m not afraid of UFO Disclosure, and to prove it, here’s the production image of the Triga for a small behind-the-scenes look at how a Saucer War One sculpt begins. All the Noordican saucers are being sculpted by the very talented Chris Osapai of Protokraken, who, I think you’ll agree, has done a cracking job with the Triga.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed another look at what’s in the works here at Miniature Martin right now. There’s also been progress with the rules and mechanics, so I think next week, we’ll take a look at the Weapon Discs, and how the dangerous devices of Saucer War One are deployed for deadly duels.

Triga with Biga escorts doing their best impressions of swamp gas

Until next time, everyone — Watch the Skies!

Posted in Uncategorized

Progress! The Silvercat gets Sculpted

After a long hiatus, (sorry, folks!), we have some new progress with Saucer War One! In a mad flurry of sculpting, I’ve hammered out the Silvercat in a mere three days!

The Silvercat is the primary interceptor-saucer for the forces of ANTIC, defending the skies of Earth against the predations of Das Mondreich and the Noordicans.

It will come with magnetisable weapon pods of 30mm cannons or ‘Mighty Mouse’ 70mm aerial rockets. Very much the weapons of choice for fighting flying saucers in the 1950’s!

The Silvercat will be available as a print-ready STL file, or as a complete resin miniature when Saucer War One launches later this year.

I’ll have my Elegoo Mars 2 Pro 3D printer soon, so I hope to show off some printed, and then painted, samples of the ‘cat in a short while. No more vapourware!

A bit excited, because I can see the opposing fleets of saucers starting to assemble as concepts become sculpts, and will soon be real, actual models.

The rules themselves are coming along now; I ran into a probability wall months ago, and it killed my enthusiasm for writing the durned thing, but letting it simmer on the back of the stove for a while did the trick. Now I aim to offer the beta-level rules, cards, tokens etc. as free Print-n-Play PDFs in a short(ish) while.

So, that is the current situation with Saucer War One. Thank you for keeping up with the journey I’m taking as I move towards being an actual game publisher. It’s proving a tough road, but I think it will be worth it all. I hope you’ll soon have good reason to agree!

More to come soon, so until next time;

Watch the Skies!

Posted in Background Writing

Saucer War One Faction Sketch #1: ANTIC

Defending the Earth from the Truth…?

Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a fantastic weekend. Things have been a big disorganised here in the Miniature Martin bunker, which led to a delay in this week’s article. But, here it is now, and its the first in a look at the ‘factions’ vying for victory in the world of Saucer War One. Join me as we peek inside the locked filing cabinet containing the secrets of ANTIC!

The ANTIC logo is based on an African symbol of Anansi, a mythical spider notorious for deception

“Actually, Mr. President — You don’t ‘need to know.’ “

ANTIC is the ultra-secret, international organisation behind all the UFO conspiracies. Formed in 1952 as the world’s governments scrambled to stop the Noordican and Nazi threats from space, ANTIC maintains squadrons of human-made saucers in hidden bases all over the world. Concealed beneath a cloak of misinformation and deception, ANTIC is not afraid to take extreme measures in the name of defeating the alien menace. 

Forever caught in a delicate balancing act, ANTIC must take the fight to the skies but never reveal the reality of its covert war. Therefore, as this leaked Order of Battle reveals, ANTIC is split into three Commands: JAPE, CAPER and PRANK.

JAPE is the arm of ANTIC charged with forging the arms of war. All the saucers and super-technology essential for fighting the Noordicans comes from JAPE’s secret factories, buried beneath the Canadian Rockies or hidden in Siberian forests.

CAPER is the operational command of ANTIC. It controls the actual saucer squadrons and their bases, assigning personnel and machines to respond to any threat anywhere in the world.

PRANK is ANTIC’s espionage arm. Many of its operations read like the most outlandish spy novels, filled with the dark dealings of CLOWN agents out to steal the best R&D projects, or silence anyone who have seen too much. PRANK has fingers in many nations’ intelligence services and news agencies, and they use these connections to ‘control the narrative’ about flying saucers, ensuring the general public consider them the ravings of crackpots and hoaxers. Ridiculing and humiliating witnesses, destroying evidence, paying off scientists and politicians are all part of PRANK’s sinister but necessary duty.

It takes all kinds of people to fight a war that is as much about what we believe as it is about hammering Venusian saucers full of 30mm cannon rounds. Because of this, ANTIC have a recruitment policy of turning away no-one as long as they can contribute to the fight. (While keeping their mouths shut). Neither colour, creed, race nor sex are reasons to reject someone from the ranks of the most important force-at-arms in Human history.

ANTIC pilots are real cool cats.

ANTIC has several distinct saucers it can bring to the table, all inspired by real-world lenticular aircraft: We’ve already revealed the sleek NS-97 ‘Silvercat’, and it has several stablemates including the big, spearhead-shaped ‘Omega’, the two-crew ‘Silverhound’ and the Russian ‘Diska’: A brutal, buzz-saw ramming-saucer! 

(We’ll be seeing more of the other ANTIC saucers as work on Saucer War One progresses. Stay tuned…)

Why play as ANTIC?

ANTIC saucers are highly customisable compared to those of other factions.
Their experimental saucers and weapons permit strange and unpredictable combinations that ensure an ANTIC force always has a surprise up its sleeve. Also, playing an ANTIC force will appeal to fans of classic jet aircraft of the postwar era. All those silver discs people saw in the 50’s? Yep, that was ANTIC, lifting from hidden underground or underwater bases to tangle with the Noordican invaders.

For all their dubious morality, ANTIC can rightly claim to be the defenders of the Earth, and they look cool while defending it too!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this first glimpse into the factions of Saucer War One. You can probably guess from their Table of Organisation that there is a lot more yet to be revealed about ANTIC, and the people who keep us safe from alien invasion (and the truth…)

Next time we will explore the incredible, ancient history of the Noordicans, and what has forced them to come to Earth, thousands of years after being abandoned upon the hell-world of Venus. Until then, fellow Miniaturists:

Watch the Skies!


Posted in Artwork

Know Your Flying Saucers: The Silvercat!

ANTIC’S Answer to the Alien Threat Leaked!

Hello again, everyone! Today, I thought I’d share some new artwork from the Saucer War One Invasion ’52 sourcebook which will be released with the actual game when it becomes a physical reality. (Stay tuned to find out just when that should be.)
Let me reveal the blueprints of the NS-97 Silvercat!

Right-click to open a bigger image of the plans

This was ANTIC’s primary fighter in the opening days of Saucer War One. Rushed into service just in time to thwart the Noordican attempt to land on Washington DC in July, 1952, it was lightly armed and slow compared to the incredible machines thrown into the fray towards the war’s end. Nevertheless, the Silvercat was well liked by its pilots, and many of CAPER RED’s aces scored their first kills in this agile craft, defending the skies of North America.

When it becomes a 1/200 scale miniature, the Silvercat will be 53mm in diameter. It will have the option to carry an armament of either four 30mm cannons, or twenty air-to-air rockets.

Credit where Credit is Due

The Silvercat is very heavily based on a real lenticular aircraft design from 1950. Or more accurately, on a model of that design, which was a concept by this man – Nick Stasinos (in bowtie).

Stasinos was a graduate of a college programme run by Northrop Aviation — the people who built iconic American aircraft such as the P-61 Black Widow, the F-5 Freedom Fighter, and more recently, the suspiciously alien-looking B2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Clearly influenced by the sudden and dramatic rise in flying disc sightings since 1947, in 1950 Stasinos designed and built this neat study model of his NS-97 fighter. Sadly, it seems Jack Northrop wasn’t that impressed, because the NS-97 was never taken further than this. (Or was it…?)

Sadly, Nick Stasinos left behind a promising career in aeronautics for the life of an insurance salesman. Or maybe he actually went to work for JAPE — ANTIC’s R & D department — and the insurance gig was merely the cover he was given by the agents of PRANK to conceal his part in the war to protect the Earth?

You’ll have to wait for the Invasion ’52 sourcebook to discover the incredible truth of this and other secrets of the war we never knew!

See you next time, and remember: Watch the Skies!


Posted in Background Writing, Inspiration

Humanity United against a Common Foe? I Have a Dream.

ANTIC and the real fight for Humankind

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.


Posted in Artwork, Rules Design

Triggered! Random Events in SW1

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!

Until then: Watch the Skies!


Posted in Inspiration

My Top 5 UFO Documentaries

Is The Truth Out There on Youtube?

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…


5: The Bob Lazar Story

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.


4: Secret Access – UFOs on the Record

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.


3: UFOs The Secret History

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!)


2: Farewell, Good Brothers

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.


1: UFOs: It Has Begun

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.

Until then: Watch the Skies!


Posted in Rules Design

They Rode the Flying Saucers

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.


Gunsight Bonus

As you can probably guess, this bonus improves your chance of beating the Crew Check whenever you perform an Attack with a Weapon. 


Abilities 

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. 


G-Stress Ring

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