By Ben Weiner, West Coast Megagames, Sacramento, California
I had the opportunity to fly out to Indianapolis this year for Gen Con 50, and got to take part in the Megagame Coalition’s run of six games which ran over the course of four days. What follows is a brief recap: what went down in the three games I controlled, and a few of my takeaways from the exposure to other groups’ rulesets.
The first megagame of Gen Con was Colossus of Atlantis, organized by Red Vizier. Colossus features a power struggle between the ancient noble houses of Atlantis. Competing for resources and glory against one another, as well as, rival empires and titanic monsters, each team had to split their players between serving on various councils to maintain order, draft laws, research spells, build wonders, and spy on other teams.
- FIVE map tables, at which a member of each team fought for control of one region of the world.
- An exponential research system that meant that at each turn players brought increasingly large stockpiles of upgrades, wonders, and spells to the map table.
- Constitutional amendments through which players could alter the rules of the game.
- Balanced against the players’ mad race to acquire ever-more devastating combinations of abilities and roll back restrictive rules was the steady buildup of DOOM, a ticking time bomb similar to the terror track in Watch the Skies. If DOOM ever got too high, Atlantis would sink and all would be lost. Fortunately, the players managed to avoid said catastrophe, though they did “accidentally” destroy the European subcontinent.
The second game I controlled for was the genre’s old faithful, Watch the Skies, run by Grey Squirrel Games. As far as Watch the Skies goes, it was an on-par run, rife with misinformation, chaos, and surprise invasions. I won’t go into too much detail here, as most megagamers have experienced Watch the Skies, but I will mention the final turn’s notable ending, in which:
- The leaders of Japan and several other nations boarded and launched a sabotaged but FTL-capable ship that hurled them into the depths of space.
- Only a single nuclear warhead was launched by Brazil, at Japan. Fortunately, Russia intervened and sent the missile off course. Unfortunately, the missile then hit Russia.
- Aliens dropped a giant drill on Italy (as one does) in an attempt to reach some sort of subterranean bio-seed artifact that threatened galactic life. The resulting quakes destroyed Italy and other parts of Europe, which all the humans misinterpreted as a direct attack (can you blame them?), prompting a cataclysmic aerial battle in the skies over the Mediterranean.
Like I said, a normal game of Watch the Skies.
I played as the Non-Player Country Controller, which was a new experience for me. Free to roleplay, I had an absolute blast interacting with the teams and acting as a go-between as various crises developed.
The third and final game I controlled for was Ironmark Games’ The World Turned Upside Down. In a Hamilton-themed revolutionary fashion, multiple small teams of unruly Colonials squared off against the single but better-funded British team for control of America. The game split teams into three groups. The first, Congress, had representatives from each colony drafting laws, piecing together a constitution, and establishing a continental army (the Brits replaced this with a colony management minigame). Second was the military, which ingeniously forced players to work together and coordinate due to limits on the amount of troops any single person could command. Last, in the spy game, intelligence agents fought to interfere with their opponent’s subterfuge actions while protecting their own.
The game was a true treat to control for and watch. The rulebook was simple and short (refreshing, given the tendency for megagame rulebooks to push thirty pages – guilty as charged) while the rules allowed for complexity and creativity on the players’ parts. In the end, the Americans gave the British a rather severe whipping in the fight for the colonies. Unity was short lived, however, as the southern colonies fractured off to form their own nation, and in a weird twist, Benedict Arnold was elected the first President of the United States.
The British team meanwhile suffered more than a few defectors, one of whom sailed to Britain with his troops, staged a coup, and shot King George. The King survived, but subsequently abdicated in shame. The biggest takeaway from Gen Con 50 for me was the megagame exposure. Seeing other games designed by other people in action made me excited to get back to work. The Con itself was a blast, and I’m glad I got to go, but the Megagame Coalition area is where I spent most of my time, and should the stars align, where I’ll spend the majority of my time next year. It’s a shame, really, that megagames take so much out of a person. Seven or more hours is a lot ask a player to take in, let alone control. It’s exhausting, but I’ll definitely try to control more than three games next year. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll try caffeine pills….
by Ben Basuni
I went to Watch the Skies 2 in August 2016 in West Sacramento. Here’s a brief testimony on what the game is like.
A little bit of background, I graduated with a Philosophy major from UC Santa Barbara so I am super into critical thinking, global politics, and how the game of power is played between various countries and individuals.
Watch the Skies was a little skirmish on all of these things played through a little bit over 8 hours (we played from 10a – 7.30pm with a half-hour lunch in between, I believe).
There were four main playing fields
- Assembly Hall (main gathering)
- The United Nations Council (mainly where I played)
- Scientific Area
- Alien Area
I played as an Ambassador for Italy. I had a vote in the United Nations Council and I had to use my own creativity and knowledge to try and help the bigger nations achieve their goals.
Long story short, I thought up of selling my ‘scientific research base’ to Japan, India, and China [they would get a turn in the scientific area much cheaper than if they paid the science department]. In return, they would pay me a sum of money, and with the money I had, I used to buy things from the ‘grey market’ which are basically cards for upgrades for the different nations. Then I would go to the different countries and sell them for profit.
It was pretty awesome.
There is so much that goes on during the game and even throughout ‘turns,’ I can’t even put it into text how complex and difficult it gets to keep up with everything and achieve your own purpose. I’m pretty sure this is how real life politicians feel at times!
At the end, I helped out Japan/China invade India which was ironic because I sold all three countries my scientific research base. I ended up supporting India by giving them all of my Megabucks and cards because Italy’s purpose was to promote peace, but at the end of it, I was the one that was supporting the war! It was pretty disappointing, but I learned so much from the experience.
2 – 3 days after the game, I was still analyzing the different ‘moves’ that I made throughout the turns and I was constantly thinking on how I could have played it better. It was really fun.
In conclusion, anyone who likes cosplay, politics, public speaking, or even getting into the reality of Presidents, Council Members, Military Leaders, and the complexity of the human race, should definitely come out and play this game. I highly recommend spending a Saturday challenging yourself to attain your nation’s purpose–whether it’s all-out war or scientific advancement, or to promote world peace. All of this can happen within Watch the Skies 2. Plus there are aliens, too, which is cool.
by Helen Jordan
A little over a week ago I went to Watch the Skies 2 [Megagame]. Here’s a little(ish) summation of my experience for anyone who is curious: I evacuated Argentina into space! It wasn’t entirely intentional. What I had considered merely a personal plea for rescue from the nightmare the world was devolving into became a massive Operation Ark undertaking.
I evacuated Argentina into space!
Pretty much sums up my Watch the Skies 2 experience with West Coast MegaGames: crazy, hectic, zany, and a whole lot of fun.
I discovered that what you put into a megagame is what you will get out of it. As part of the UN Security Council I got to watch infighting, corruption, deals being made, backdoor politics, and misunderstandings blossom. There were a lot of “wait, I need to confirm that with my country” and “my country did what!” moments. We diplomats argued, fought, debated, and schemed to solve the conflicts put before us. It was amazing to see sometimes how much time was spent or wasted on discussion, and how big an impact a single vocal member could make. We wasted practically an entire session on debating US monetary contribution with an Alien (first ever!!) in the background.
I enjoyed the aspects of debate. Call me a nerd :), but seeing the reflection of real world attitudes and difficulties, and experiencing how I could influence them, was just plain fun. My favorite part was interacting with the aliens, though. I loved the cloak and dagger correspondence that arose and found myself incredibly reluctant to play nice and cooperative with other countries.
The aliens became my hidden dagger, the defense I could call on if negotiations broke down. However, at the same time, I recognized the incredible diplomatic ramifications if they intervened. At one point, Argentinian rebels were being financed by the French government. Naturally, when I found out about this, my country was infuriated. The aliens were perfectly willing (perhaps too much so) to find and destroy the rebels. But I insisted on dealing with it diplomatically by forcing France to co-fund a UN Peacekeeping Force to disperse the rebels. Hey, the people who caused the problem should help pay for its resolution right? Plus, aliens killing people? Color that a misunderstanding/war waiting to happen. Finding out about this atrocity, becoming understandably indignant, confronting, insisting upon a resolution, figuring out a resolution, convincing (okay maybe demanding) the French government to cooperate, and then pushing it quickly through the UN was a pretty heady rush. I was especially pleased with how quickly I was able to get it through the UN. It was pretty much a fait accompli when I presented it, but at that point in the game getting anything resolved in the UN quickly felt fantastic!
The icing on the cake was the sudden and terrifying chaos which arose at the end due to what seemed a tiny and inconsequential discovery: queue everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off, potential world war, and national evacuation. It was a great ending to a long and eventful day. The debriefing after the game was also incredibly interesting. Hearing the reality behind decisions certain countries had made was surprising. Other revelations included: finding out the truth of who had really assassinated the Iranian diplomat, that the US wasn’t actually responsible for ¾ of what they were blamed for, and that the US was not actually as sketchy as they appeared (!!!!). Overall, Watch the Skies 2 was a wonderful way to spend a day.
World News Media
Media Teams in Watch the Skies represent different, competing international news agencies.
Media Correspondents (media players) are encouraged to report on events as they unfold using both Twitter and print media in the game. They also hold press conferences as they attempt to sway national governments through their reporting.
Media players circulate among the teams, recording interviews and videos, and produce materials that reflect the current world situation. These team players are all serious journalists who will be busy all day, reporting or tweaking the game’s unfolding events in their own unique perspective. Player teams can help them by providing press releases – though there are no guarantees that those press releases will be published unedited. The players represent a news service, rather than individual reporters – so arresting reporters has no effect – they just get replaced by another one (who might look very like the one arrested!).
by Marie Hayden and Brian Graham
Are they among us? I call on all Sky Watchers of the world to catch up on my blog and decide for themselves. Some believers even say the aliens have infiltrated the government and corporations and it’s too late for mankind.
Our sources tell us that documentation of extraterrestrial life is complex and quite extensive.
Still think we might be making this up? Check out just a sample of some of what we uncovered.
Yes, we think they’re among us. Yes, we’re watching the skies.