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.
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.
Missing Persons… Magic and Witchcraft… Myths and Legends… … Extraterrestrials…
With the aid of a time-dilating, anti-gravity generator hidden in Area 51, let’s travel back to 2016. I am lying in bed, unable to sleep. Something is interfering with my circadian rhythms. Something sinister and harmful. Something… alien.
It calls itself cancer. And it is trying to kill me.
Thankfully, I have a battery of high-tech weapons with which to take the battle to this single-minded enemy. Chemotherapy, keyhole surgery, and particle-beam radiotherapy are all unleashed upon it. In the end, I win the war. But the wounds of the fight dig deep, in both body and mind.
Sleep is a casualty of the war. To this day, if I manage four hours of zizzing in a row at night, I call people up to tell them the happy news. But back then, I had to accept that post-treatment pain and the collateral damage my organs endured meant an hour or two with eyes closed, followed by another wide awake.
And that’s when In Search Of… stepped in, and helped keep me sane.
Hooray for Youtube. Legally or otherwise, there’s a lot of stuff from the golden age of television that’s been loaded to the most-viewed video platform in the world. (There’s also a terrifying amount of utter drivel, mostly advocating the views of flat-earthers, free-energy gurus, and people who think Tesla was smarter than Einstein. Guards, seize them.) An iPad and Youtube did wonders for keeping my brain distracted in the small hours, waiting for the latest round of painkillers to kick in. And when I found a channel filled with all six seasons of In Search Of… I found the nostalgia and wonder of this old show released waves of endorphins, just when I needed them most.
Hosted throughout its run by Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame, In Search Of… was a half-hourly exploration of the unexplained. It covered a spectrum of topics we’d nowadays associate with the bizarre; The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, The Bermuda Triangle.
It also dabbled in religions, both old and new. Who remembers the episode The Man Who Would Not Die about The Count of Saint-Germaine, and the kooky cult that grew around his legend in California?
It was a smorgasbord of the weird, with delicious sides of spooky music, hammy re-enactments, and very 70’s pseudo-science and spirituality. And to an eight-year-old me, it was glorious. It was my introduction to many sources of inspiration, and I happily filled my burgeoning brain with as much nonsense as it could carry.
One of those inspirations was the episode simply entitled: UFOs.
Having been bitten by the sci-fi bug at a very young and impressionable age, the idea of visitors to the Earth from distant worlds wasn’t something new. But the mystery of their origins and purpose was. Nature abhors a vacuum, and thus my neurones fired off dozens of ideas to fill the gaps in the story. Why are the aliens coming here? How can they get to Earth? And are they really that desperate for beefsteak? I needed answers, and went in search of… my own.
Which is why this all began. Sort of. But as I said at the start, we need to travel back to 2016 to really get to the beginning of how. You see, if you’re a gamer like me — incapable of contentedly staying within the confines of rules and mechanics that game designers spend hours slavishly honing to perfection, because you just know you can do better… *ahem* — then you might be familiar with what was percolating to the surface of my brain while watching the UFO episodes of In Search Of… Up rose those infamous words that have launched a thousand sets of wargames rules: There’s a game in that!
Thus I was soon sketching out ideas for a miniatures wargame of battling UFOs — flying saucers, if you will — duking it out in the skies of the Earth.
As you can probably guess from this long-winded diatribe, A single spark of inspiration makes not a worthy game. There’s a lot more to the process of creating something like this. Any creative endeavour is a lengthy, often costly, task. With game design, weeks of research, writing, designing, playtesting, revising and re-writing go into the process.
But in my next post, I’ll take you through the initial stages I went through in charting my course to creating the past you never knew; the secret history of Saucer War One.