We just finished the third game of Utopia a few hours ago. If you’ve been following the progress of the campaign, you’ll know the last game ended with Sergeant Salt Brauer promising his superiors they’d make amends for killing the Predator they encountered – by capturing a live one. The orders were simple: no firearms, bring the creature back alive.Off went Utopia squad 16 (“The Sweet Sixteen” as they were instantly named), armed with tasers, flashbangs and a tranquilizer rifle, to bring down a Predator in the jungles of Triton-4. The squad’s sniper Wu managed to use his contacts in the munitions department to set himself up with some heavy duty poison darts for the tranq rifle. Hey, if the Predator died, it would be the scientists’ fault for supplying the wrong kind of darts! Meanwhile, trooper “Dog” Lau stole a thermal camera to help the squad get a bead on their prey.
With Cpl. Rodriguez injured and Pvt. Iljutsh dead, two new troopers joined the squad:
Pvt. Hämäläinen – a dour, quiet Finn. Hämäläinen keeps to himself and tends to his gear meticulously. His sullen mood prompted the squad’s medic Evans to arrange for Hämäläinen to receive a call from his mother to help his wellbeing.
Pvt. Bedford – the Brit Bedford is a passionate feminist. Coming from a career in private security and joining the military due to “workplace disagreements”, Bedford is a tough woman who can hold her own.
The squad set down and spread out towards three possible target sightings (we were using three Predator models on the table, with only one being the actual creature), with the exception of Pvt. Lau, who just happened to wander off alone – right into the line of sight of all the potential attackers. A moment later there was a flash of plasma, and Lau went down screaming. Before he fell, he managed to catch a glimpse of the attacker, eliminating the other two possibilities.
While the tech Ghillian ran to check on Lau, the squad turned their attention towards their so-called prey. At this point it became painfully obvious, that their weapons had a dreadfully poor range, and they would need to close with the Predator to actually knock it out.
The Predator wasn’t going to stand around waiting. Instead it charged out and impaled Pvt. Bedford with its wristblades. As the cloaked creature raised the screaming, thrashing trooper into the air, a wave of panic rippled through the squad. Brevet Corporal Haugen-Ankerson fled into the jungle, while a few others retreated. The squad was in shock over Bedford’s fate, and they were unable to stop the now de-cloaked Predator from charging across the clearing at Pvt. Ghillian. Having just checked that Lau was ok, Ghillian barely had time to register that she was under attack before the Predator’s vicious blades slashed her apart. Covered in blood and panicking, Lau clambered away on his hands and knees.
The creature’s charge had brought it out in the open, and Wu wasted no time. The sniper selected one of his poison darts and sent it into the Predator – to apparently no effect. The alien strode towards Lau, who desperately fired his taser. Laughing, the Predator tore out the darts and wires and then promptly keeled over, Wu’s potent poison working its way through the alien’s system.
No time was wasted by the squad as they mobbed the Predator. Sgt. Brauer tased the creature once more for good measure, and they swiftly tied up its hands and feet. Meanwhile, Hämäläinen got on Ghillians radio and called the dropship in. It was now only a matter of waiting for pick-up.
Problems did appear, though. First of all, the Predator was dying, its breathing slowing down and foam coming out of its mouth. Secondly, as if the Predator wasn’t enough, it was becoming apparent what they had been hunting, as Xenomorphs were suddenly appearing and could be seen skulking in the jungle.
The medic Evans did what she could with the Predator. Whether it was due to her xenobiologist ex-boyfriend or just luck, she managed to actually stabilize the creature. Around her the rest of the squad were throwing flashbangs and frag grenades (that weren’t expressly forbidden in the mission briefing) to keep the Aliens at bay as they waited for the dropship to arrive. Amidst all the chaos, Hämäläinen managed to establish radio contact with Haugen-Ankerson, who was returning from her panicked flight. The only problem was that Haugen-Ankerson’s way back brought her very close to one of the approaching Aliens…
Finally the dropship roared in, guns blazing. Sgt. Brauer quickly gave the order to fall back, and the squad packed itself into the dropship. Brauer himself heroically stood in the doorway as his second in command Haugen-Ankerson sprinted through the jungle and dived in the ship with the Xenomorphs snapping at her heels. The dropship soared into the sky, and squad 16 finally left Triton-4 behind. While their two missions had both been successful, victory had come at a heavy price: two troopers were dead and one missing and presumed dead. It was now apparent why ghost stories were told about the planet.
The third game of Utopia was as fun as the previous two, and for the same reasons. It was filled with drama, excitement and cinematic moments. I was a bit worried that I might’ve made the Predator a bit too powerful as it slashed its way through two troopers in two consecutive turns, but luckily our heroes turned the tide and put the creature down. The small RPG session at the start of the game are an essential part of the game, and they really breathe life into the characters. Sgt. Brauer’s drinking problem has evolved to the point where he simply eats powdered beer without bothering with the water anymore, while Pvt. Haugen-Ankerson is busy writing her wedding invitations and the Sweet Sixteen fight with Sgt. Hiroshi’s 12th squad over bragging rights.
Yes, I think this game actually works.