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The ‘Aliens’ Board Game Might Be the Best Movie Tie-In Game Ever

4 Minute Read
May 1 2024
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The Aliens franchise is hugely popular. But the first official Aliens board game went mostly unnoticed. Not sure why. It’s fantastic.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Aliens franchise has released several board games. Most recently, by Gale Force 9. However, today, we’re covering the 1989 version by Leading Edge Games. The Leading Edge Aliens board game does an amazing job of keeping gameplay simple and easy to learn while still keeping tension and suspense high. Overall, the basic gameplay mechanics are dead simple.

Aliens Board Game Gameplay

The Aliens board game comes with a scenario book that runs players through the story of Aliens. The game can be played in a legacy campaign style. Where marines that survive make it to the next scenario and so on. For a game made in 1986, that’s pretty advanced stuff.

The game plays on a grid-based board with tons of images from the movie. This doesn’t add anything to the gameplay, but it does make it look pretty rad.

However, you don’t use the whole map all at once. The scenario book guides you through the map as you play, starting in the Reactor Room, then moving through the Air Ducts before finally facing the Queen with Ripley in the Powerloader.

Images via The Gentleman Gamer and Board Game Geek

Scenarios obviously vary in difficulty and objective. But in the first scenario, the marines all start on the right side of the reactor room and have to get to the EXIT on the left side.

It says EXIT. Trust me.

Easier said than done when you got xenomorphs popping out of the floors and walls. On each turn, more of those jerks appear on the board. They appear randomly as determined by two d10 rolls. The first roll determines which row the alien appears, listed in orange. The second roll determines which space they appear in, noted by the blue number on the board itself. This means that aliens can appear anywhere at anytime!

I feel ya, buddy.

Game Over, Man

On each of their turns, the marines can attempt to erroneously make themselves think they have even the slightest chance of survival in the face of inevitable destruction.

Marines all have different weapons with different stats. To hit a target, the player chooses their weapon and determines their range in order to determine the number they must roll below. Marines can take the Aim action to improve their chances of hitting their target.

Rolling low is good? What is this? THAC0?

The game goes above and beyond to make sure it stays true to every aspect of the movie. They do this with a number of optional rules.  Players can either add these rules or they can be cowards and bad fans of the series.

  • Dietrich Rule: If a marine with a flamer is grappled, that marine lets loose their flamer, shooting wildly, immolating a nearby marine.
  • Drake Rule: Anytime a marine is wounded while next to a stairwell, they risk falling down into the stairs, and dying immediately.
Spoilers, I guess. Sorry.

Alright, so you’ve killed yourself some aliens. Good job. Hope they weren’t too close when you shot them up, though. If an alien dies while adjacent to a marine, the player must make an Acid Spray roll.

The game keeps every aspect of the movie within the game, making sure nothing is overlooked. There are multiple other charts for how xenomorphs and facehuggers attack and how melee combat can go down. But in general, the answer is “poorly”, at least from the marine’s perspective.

Final Thoughts

What I really love about this game is the simplicity. There are extra rules you can throw in but in general, it’s very straightforward. The game provides the right level of challenge while giving players the option to tweak the difficulty to their liking.

Getting to play through the multiple scenarios is the icing on the cake. This sort of RPG element in a board game was fairly unknown at the time. Sure, there were games like Hero Quest, but getting an officially licensed movie like Aliens to go that far is pretty wild. You have to remember, most movie tie-in games are not great.

If you’re curious to learn more about the Gale Force 9 version of the game, check out our How To Play video on that and enjoy that lost moment in time when I thought I could pull off a mustache.


Author: Matt Sall
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    Ripley Cosplay with permission from Vampisaurus