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They mostly come at night, Barbara – mostly. Aliens and Night of the Living Dead – The Board Games

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

(This article was originally published on Ginger Nuts of Horror in February 2021)

Delightful Related Anecdote #1:

Back in 1989, armed with a bundle of money from my recent 18th birthday, I ventured into the wilds of Birmingham. I’d recently become a little obsessed with the Greatest Movie Ever™ Aliens (1986) and, there on the shelf, I saw it; the official Aliens Board game by Leading Edge. It cost a king’s ransom back then, I recall, but it was worth it. Many an hour was spent with friends recreating the events of the movie.

It was relatively basic by today’s gaming standards – all flimsy cardboard pieces – but it was brilliantly designed and executed with gameplay that I believe would still stand up today.

Two years later I went to Leicester Polytechnic (which magically transformed into De Montfort University during my time there) and I lent the game out to a friend of a friend. Said acquaintance got kicked off the course, vanished from the face of the Earth, and my copy of the board game vanished with him. Like Ripley’s shuttle Narcissus, it had vanished into the void.

I spent the next two decades searching for it, but it was now out of print and as rare as hens’ teeth. Dear even back then, it was prohibitively expensive now, and I could never justify spending 2 ton on what was effectively a box of cardboard pieces – even though, if I’m to be honest, my finger had hovered over the eBay ‘Buy now’ button on more than one occasion…

But one day, mooching around Coventry City Centre and stumbling into Oxfam to escape the rain, there it was. Staring down at me from a high shelf, beckoning me with its £9.99 price tag. I snapped it up, giddy with joy, explaining my history with the game to my bewildered wife who had wondered why I’d spent nearly ten pounds on a battered second-hand board game in a charity shop.

I took the box home, eagerly looking forward to reminding myself of it and playing it again. There was a bonus, in that the previous owner had purchased the expansion pack and it too was in the box, just like I’d done with mine. I then saw something that stopped me dead. My initials in my handwriting – DJC – scrawled inside the box lid.

It was my own copy of the game, somehow made its way back to me, across twenty years and even more miles.

As a rule, licensed games are customarily fucking awful. Typically rushed out to accompany a successful TV series or film, they’re more than often poorly-thought out games destined to be played once and then confined to a shelf (“Your Peaky Blinder has lost his flat cap. Miss a turn whilst you go look for it”). And that’s not to mention the myriad of bizarre tie-in themed monopoly sets out there – Much as I can see the financial benefits of attaching the game to the lucrative Mandalorian or Walking Dead Universes, I can’t help but think that neither of those franchises featured a great deal of property management. Perhaps I missed those episodes.

There are exceptions, however. Battlestar Galactica is still one of the best board games around, and its publisher Fantasy Flight have created some wonderful gaming experiences with both the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars licenses.

Two new licensed board games with a horror theme have recently been released, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play both of them.


“All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! Day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal's a banquet. Every pay check a fortune. Every formation a parade. I love the Corps!” - Sergeant Al Apone

Gale Force Nine are no strangers to giving licensed games the love they deserve, having excelled themselves with games in the Dune, Star Trek and Firefly Universes – as well as an excellent game (I hear) set in the world of the Spartacus TV series (2010-2013).

Another Glorious Day in the Corps is Gale Force Nine’s official Aliens board game, released towards the end of 2020. Originally announced in 2018 but delayed time and time again, it’s a co-operative game for between one and six people in which players (each playing one or more characters) work together through various scenarios based on the events of James Cameron’s 1986 movie.

Contact has been lost with the colony of Hadley’s Hope on LV-426, one of the three moons of Calpamos in the Zeta Riticuli system. Ellen Ripley, last survivor of the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, is sent to the moon in an advisory capacity with a platoon of Colonial Marines. They arrive to find all one hundred and fifty-eight colonists missing, and signs of a recent battle for survival…

Delightful Related Anecdote #2

I used to be part of a costume charity group – the Galactic Knights. Before everybody and their dog (literally, in some cases) started going to conventions in costume, events would often request official costumers to liven up the place. Being a huge fan of the British comic 2000AD since the late seventies, I was typically found wandering about in a Mega City Street Judge Costume. Being a part of this group gave me a great deal of wonderful opportunities – being at a secret screening of Dredd (2012) with cast and crew in the surprisingly un-dingy basement of a Soho hotel, as well as attending the Leicester Square premiere of said movie.

At one particular Comic Con myself and another “Judge” found ourselves outside, our passes giving us access to the crew area. Some of the cast of Walking Dead were out there – including Peter Dinklage and Norman Reedus (who offered me a slice of pineapple) - but we got chatting to an old chap sitting down who looked thoroughly miserable.

In a deep American accent, he was moaning about how every time he came to the UK he’d end up with a terrible cold. “It used to be better when they let you smoke on planes,” he lamented, “because the air-conditioning used to get rid of all the bugs flying about. Now I just pick up every cold germ on every flight.”

We spoke for a little while, and it was only halfway through our conversation I realised I was speaking to. It was only bloody Al Matthews, better known to me as Sergeant Apone from Aliens.

You’ll take your turn moving your characters around the map, trying to complete objectives whilst staying alive. The aliens – their movement and actions controlled by the boardgame – appear on the map as blips on your motion tracker, scurrying towards your hapless team. The number of aliens that a blip contains is unknown until you can see them – it could represent a lone warrior, or a vicious swarm of half a dozen.

One particularly nice touch is that you can send your squad of plucky Marines into battle with whatever equipment you see fit; any combination of weapons, armour and equipment. As the doomed Marine Hudson boasts in the dropship, the marines have everything. But your tactical smart missiles, phased plasma pulse rifles, RPGS and sharp sticks don’t count for anything when a Xenomorph is inches away from you, grinning with you with two sets of teeth.

The ‘blip’ rule may be familiar to those of you who have played any edition of Games Workshop’s Space Hulk (1989). It’s a great mechanism to provide tension, in that they’re constantly appearing, and you’re never gifted with any breathing space to relax. However, rule plagiarism is fully permissible when you consider that Space Hulk was just a blatant rip off of the Aliens movie in the first place.

Another Glorious Day in the Corps is great fun. It has a lovely mechanism whereby the hand of cards you use to play with dwindles through the game, rarely to be replenished. As you move between the three scenarios, cards are permanently lost from your hand – this effectively represents your team becoming both demoralised and exhausted, your resources (both physical and mental) reducing gradually.

And, at the end of each scenario, you’re faced with an interesting choice. If you lost any characters, they’re considered cocooned and out of play. (“The sarge and Dietrich aren't dead, man. Their signs are real low, but they ain’t dead”). You can set forth on an optional rescue scenario to get them back from the hive - but this runs the risk of losing your other marines in the process.

Another Glorious Day in the Corps already has two expansion sets; Ultimate Badasses (which adds the remaining Marines not featured in the main game, and Weyland Yutani sleazebag Carter Burke – boo hiss - and experience rules), and Get Away Her You Bitch (which adds a few more scenarios, Bishop the Android, The Power loader and the Alien Queen).

A word of warning for newcomers to the hobby; All of the figures that come with the game are self-assembly. This might not sound like much, but most of them – especially the Xenomorphs – are an absolute pain in the arse to glue together. They’re as beautiful and accurate as they are fiddly and delicate, and you – especially if you’re cursed with my apparent lack of co-ordination – will end up gluing everything except for the miniatures. They all took a good six hours to glue together, and Games Workshop’s Citadel Plastic Glue was the only thing I found that worked on them. Be warned!


“It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life, and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims. It’s hard for us here to be reporting this to you, but it does seem to be a fact.” – Reporter

For those of you familiar with the (many) Zombicide games, which take the joy of killing zombies through the dark ages to the depths of outer space, this might feel like an odd combination of licenses. The Zombicide series of games have always been more about ploughing through hordes of the undead with reckless abandon, than the downbeat and relentless siege atmosphere of the 1968 movie.

To those unfamiliar with the George A. Romero 1968 classic which kicked off the Dead Trilogy (followed later on by Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead), it sees a group of disparate mismatched survivors attempting to both defend themselves and ultimately escape from rampaging hordes of the undead.

Ground-breaking for the era in more than one way, these ‘ghouls’ (the word ‘Zombie’ is, notably, never used in the film) have our survivors trapped, and they’re forced to cooperate to survive. Despite being half a century old, the movie still stands up relatively well. It’s a masterclass in building drama and tension, and probably one of the first of the now common “besieged” trope, star of a dozen zombie movie imitations as well as Assault on Precinct 13 (which is effectively a zombie movie, anyway).

As with Another Glorious Day in the Corps, Night of the Living Dead is a co-operative game for one to six players. Like that game also, the scenarios in the rule booklet take you through – and beyond – the events of the film. The ongoing storyline will see you forced to barricade yourselves in before endeavouring to learn how to defeat the throng of ghouls, managing to escape – and eventually taking the fight back to them.

The games with sculpted miniatures of the cast (no assembly required!) and more zombies ghouls than you could shake a broken table-leg at. Each character has two figures; a “Romero” mode (scared, demoralised) and a “Zombicide” variant (kick-ass, ready to fight). A character in Zombicide mode is more skilful (extra turns, extra attacks, etc.) and is in a much more capable position to both defend the house and attack the rampaging hordes. The character will be forced to shift between these two modes as the same progresses; a ‘Zombicide’ character can quickly be demoralised if he spots one of his relatives amongst the walking dead.

Night of the Living Dead thrives in its unpredictability; where a well organised and executed plan can be thwarted by a sudden run of bad luck. In a recent game, we were doing exceptionally well right up until the end. We’d boarded up the house and were carrying out hit and run tactics to clear the zombies from outside and doing very well at it too. Then the game decided to suddenly spawn several “fatties” (bloated ghouls that can take twice as much damage as your common or garden strolling cadaver). Not only that, but the game also spawned two of our relatives, now joined the shambling dead – the demoralising effect of which made us all weaker, and less equipped to deal with the hordes. We won. Just.

Oh, and a note to the publishers – if you ever want to make a Return of the Living Dead Zombicide, put me on the list as “very interested”. It’d be a perfect fit – punks, warehouse employees and a (possibly Nazi) mortician cutting a swathe through the undead? Perfect. And a Tarman figure? My wife’d love it. It’s a no-brainer.

No pun intended.

The Verdict

Both Another Glorious Day in the Corps and Night of the Living Dead: Zombicide are fine games, and majestic examples of how licensed games can be great. Both have exceptionally high production values – look at those miniatures! – and are clearly made by designers with great love for the source material.

I can see both these games getting dragged out onto the gaming table quite a lot, but I suspect that Night of the Living Dead will make more appearances. The Aliens game is a lot more involved and involves a lot more setting up – it’s got more depth than Night of the Living Dead, but it can be quite punishing. The scenarios tend to be shorter in Night of the Living Dead, and it’ll have more appeal to the less hard-core gamer. The rules are very straightforward, and it’ll be the more tempting proposition to the casual player – on a more basic level, it’s the more fun out of the two.

It’s also worth noting that, like a great many co-operative games, both these can be played solo. In these days of lockdown when it’s next to impossible to get groups together, this is more of a tempting prospect.

And on a related note, if your gaming group is the people you share a house with, a co-operative game is less likely to cause fights or rivalries. You either all win, or you all lose.

Further reading

Not board game related, but if you’re a fan of Aliens you could do a lot worse than immerse yourself in the frankly brilliant arguments over which is the Best Film Ever™ (Aliens or Robocop) between writers Kit Power and Tabatha Wood. It all kicked off here at everyone’s favourite horror website Ginger Nuts of Horror, and escalated through here, here and here.

Want an Alien gaming experience but don’t have/want any friends? Check out my review of “The Wretched” which can be found here.

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