The Alien Invasion plotline is a well documented fiction device, but in tabletop games it seems to be a surprisingly rare one. The new game by Patrick Todoroff, Insurgent Earth, helps to rectify that gap. And does so in a fun, simple to play game. Be warned….this is a long article!
Of course, people who follow my blog know about my dabbles in Zona Alfa, a game I really like! STALKER(the game specifically, but the movie is great too!) is of course a favourite of mine, and that post-soviet flair was masterfully captured.
But that setting is awfully specific. While many got the idea to relocate the zone to somewhere else, which the rules did support due to his fairly general nature, it was a looting in a Zone game, which wasn’t for everyone. Kontraband, which shifted the focus to Co-Op, intrigued a few people I know, including myself, by allowing for a more cooperative experience out of the box.
Insurgent Earth I expected to get a lukewarm reception to when I asked around if anyone would like to try it. As I have been pushing hard to get some Horus Heresy games going, asking people to jump into another game I figured may not work. However, the cooperative angle of the game, and the relative ease of getting a table together for it, appealed to some of my friends, and before long I had a group chat and plans for a game ready! A fairly eclectic collection of resistance fighters was put together.
I kitbashed my starting two(one is a backup for now, but may be recruited at some point!) resistance fighters out of the Special Artizan Miniatures Service War Correspondents set, as they are pretty unique civilian sculpts. But the Aliens….I needed them quickly if I wanted to keep momentum going.
Luckily, the Giddy Goblin in Hanover was blowing out its Gates of Antares stock.
While in Gates of Antare’s lore, the Algoryn and Concord models are human offshoots, I’m playing the Algoryns as “aliens”. They read quickly at a glance as alienish troops, and almost look like Turians from Mass Effect. With quite a few to use, I got ten assembled for our demo game. The Concord troops I have plans for down the road!
The Aliens in Insurgent Earth are split into several “castes”, with each being stronger then the tier before it. Grunt, Line, Elite, etc, all make up different tiers of the Alien occupation troops. For the Algoryn models, they would serve as the Line Caste troops, using a D8 in all tests they are called to make.
For the Grunt Tier, I had different plans. Throwing a mere D6 in their rolls, I wanted something different then a highly advanced alien. Thinking of WW2, I decided a “Milice” style human collaborators unit. Called the Provosts, these human auxiliaries would be plentiful, baseline humans with no augmentation and decent training and equipment raised by the collaborating “Quisling” government serving their Alien masters as administrators.
For this game, I went with the Black Powder Red Earth models I had just recieved as a quick proxy, but they will be replaced in that role as soon as they arrive by CP Models Near Future Troopers, a fantastic range of models that look quite realistic and plausible, with the hint of Sci-Fi flair that was required. I might play around with some headswaps to further modernize the range, but that is a future Andrew’s job.
Before we jump into the game, lemme show you the table we were using. I had gotten a very interesting battle-mat from a store in Barrie, Ontario, that looked like a really big flocked base. It was really nice to play on, once cut to size! We unfortunately are not quite at the point of playing with fully painted stuff with this game, but I’ve enlisted the help of my friends to make that process faster. I want to be playing cinematic games of this as soon as I can, but you’ll have to accept my apologies for now.
As well, anyone looking for a deep dive of rules mechanics….you’ll probably be best served elsewhere. I’m not as much of a rules guy, and while I know what I like in games, explaining why I do is one thing, explaining why it works is another entirely. But, suffice to say, I do get the gist of what’s going on. What matters more is how the game feels and plays for me, not the exact nitty gritty of mechanics! Suffice to say, it uses the Exploit Zero/Nightwatch system of one of each of D6, D8, and D10 dice, using them to pass tests, with all tests needing a 4+ most of the time. Players get three actions and a free move, while the Alien Menace get a number of actions based on their Caste. Of course, players get skills, abilities, items and weapons based on their choices, but no real “statline” to worry about! Players are resilient with 3 wounds and a reroll(Luck), but pushing your luck can lead to casualties, which are permanently dead.
With that out of the way, lets get to the game!
Now onto our merry band of Resistance Fighters! These are far from finished; while I got mine done everyone else was extremely busy, and painting or printing the figures had yet to happen. But the main thing is, everyone playing had at least one figure.
We rolled up a mission, and Insurgent Earth decided to start us off strong; we had to kill 2 full enemy units! A patrol started on the nearest corner to us, and was making its way to the other corner on our side…directly crossing our path. There would be blood today.
In Insurgent Earth, the Alien forces do not know your on the table immediately. They will roll for detection, looking for signs of human presence, and follow a series of AI prompts. These models are on a Sector Patrol, and will therefore patrol until they find something, following their route.
We therefore decided to ambush them; Lucas had brought Fabio and his .50 Cal Sniper rifle, and was eager to use it.
The Alien first turn saw them move up, not detecting us yet, along their patrol route. Nothing exciting yet, but they began crossing the road, offering an opportunity…thus began Turn 2.
Turn 3 saw the arrival of reinforcements; the Collaborators had called for help(any sector patrol under fire does this automatically)! Two Alien troops, in imposing red armour and armed with powerful weaponry, arrived on the scene. While I intend to get a few drop pods or gunships as markers, it was imagined for now that they arrived via a dropship of some sort, which took off as fast as it arrived.
Honestly, we were having a bit of a blast, and since I was running on 3 hours of sleep, I was getting sloppy with my pictures, and didn’t document the rest of the game particularly well.
But Turn 3 saw the arrival of Recce Overflight reinforcements, another two Line Caste aliens! We decided to have Fabio and Pike finish off the Sector Patrol, and left Medic and Gopnik to deal with the newly arrived aliens. Fabio easily killed his target, leaving the journalist to take care of the other one. I had Pike take a long burst with his Sten at long range, taking a severe penalty to do so. However, I somehow landed the shot, and took down the last Provost.
It was at this point that we retreated. The mission objective was complete, no Aliens were left on the board….but with the chance for Recce Overflights catching us, and getting more likely every turn, we decided to get the hell out of there.
While I didn’t document it, we did search Points of Interest while doing the shooty shooty. We found enough food to keep us going, and a couple more surplus of it to potentially recruit a new fighter!
So, our thoughts? Honestly, it was a really fun time! The simple Exploit Zero/Nightwatch system carries over well, and we spent maybe 5 minutes reading the rules and checking them over, and the rest…actually playing the game. Playing the narrative, and not fighting the rules, is the hallmark of a great beer and pretzels game. We all came away extremely motivated to get more stuff done, and each of us had some “homework” of figures to get done, terrain, etc. The next game will be played fully painted!
The narrative we are developing for our Clubhouse’s Invaded Earth is pretty neat! My friend Lucas is the other driven, most motivated member for this game, and with access to a printer as well, can easily finish up tons of scatter terrain.
We played the game on Saturday, and I spent Sunday morning painting up the Aliens! A simple paint job…as I had yet again only gotten 3 hours of sleep. Not wanting to burn out, I intended to keep it simple today.
Also on the docket was a Dodge Ram pickup truck. I picked up a diecast Siku model from a boutique toy store in town. Marked as 1/50th scale, it looks pretty good. Modern stuff can be hit or miss scalewise for 28mm so having everything match is a chore anyways, so I’m not too fussed about precision here.
Finally, a couple close ups of my own two Resistance Fighters I’ve been working on. One we have already met, Ernest Pike. A small town newspaper reporter before the Invasion, with his most difficult assignments being town hall protests, he’s risen to the occasion to try and keep hope alive in the location population, and keep them informed of the aliens true intentions.
The second Resistance fighter we didn’t get to see, and I’m hoping she’s recruited soon. A former addictions councilor, Charlotte Kennedy was one of many that was recruited in the last few days before the surrender by elements of the military. Far too late to be trained as a soldier, she was simply given an older model C7 Rifle (an M16a3 analogue to you Yanks, although the differences are more then that) and a few magazines and reloads, and told to resist as best she can. When the Surrender happened, she and a few other militiamen fled into the rural countryside. Her first engagement led to a serious plasma burn(how I’m explaining a bad cast on one side of her face) and she luckily survived. The last survivor of that cell, it’s only a matter of time before she comes out of hiding to join Pike’s group. She brings a dogged determination and skills as someone trained in Psychology to the Resistance.
I am super excited to get to playing! The author is very active on his Facebook group for his games, and has already off the cuff written some rules for Photography and Human Collaborators that I will definitely be using, with some minor tweaks that my group suggested to fit what we want to do. You just don’t get that with bigger games! The Exploit Zero/Nightwatch system works a treat here as well. A fun, simple to play, narrative experience. A good palette cleanse between games of Horus Heresy, a much more rules dense system!
I hope you enjoyed this review, initial thoughts, and general ramblings of someone who really likes this game! Insurgent Earth should be a fun and lightweight game in my library, providing for a nice ongoing campaign. The system is loose enough with terminology to set the game in different periods from the 1920’s onward I’d say. One friend in Scotland is already considering using the system for a classic B-Movie inspired 1950’s alien invasion, featuring the US and British Armies and civilians fighting Greys and Martians.
I wasn’t planning on diving into Cyberpunk games either, but given that this system is also used for Exploit Zero I really want to give that a try with my Infinity figures!
Patrick Todoroff, you’ve done it again!
But anyways, that is all for now. Thanks for stopping by! I do hope this helps you consider this game. Happy Wargaming wherever you are, and give the Alien menace a good old fashioned Human welcome!