Megagame Report -- Watch The Skies: Second Sight (Reading)
Anthony Howgego is a board game designer by day and a regular megagamer in the UK. Here Anthony gives us his Megagame Report on Watch The Skies: Second Sight that he played in Reading, UK in July 2019.
This is a megagame report for Watch the Skies: Second Sight run by Southwest Megagames in Reading last Saturday. I’d played Watch the Skies a bunch before, and probably wouldn’t have played it again under normal circumstances. However, I saw a couple of days before that the Brazil team was empty, and thought that playing a team on my own posed an interesting challenge. John Mizon, who runs SW Megagames, was happy for me to give it a go, so into the deep end I went.
I had two big objectives on the day. The first was not to put too big a burden on control. The second was to make Brazil relevant. Too often in this game, I’d seen smaller countries fall into step behind bigger ones, and have quiet and uneventful games because of it. Today, I was going to be different!
Chatting with the other world leaders on turn one, I quickly realised being different in this game would mean being pro alien. Every other leader I spoke to seemed intent on shooting down as many UFOs as they could get their hands on. Thus, it was decided. Brazil, for one, was going to welcome our new alien overlords.
In order to position Brazil as a friend to the Aliens, I had to let them know we were open to speaking with them, and then facilitate them safely landing on Brazilian soil. To achieve the former, I sent a couple of pictures into space on turns 1 and 2, showing a world map with arrow pointing to Brazil. Achieving the latter was going to pose more of a problem, particularly given the time constraints I was operating under as a one person team with a lot to do.
In the first 80% of a Watch the Skies game, in my experience, the person with the most intercept aircraft dictates the direction of the game. Interceptors can either shoot down UFOs, gaining valuable tech and increasing public order in the country that owns them, or can shoot down other interceptors. If I was going to facilitate the aliens landing in Brazil safety, I needed enough interceptors to escort them down safely, and to deter attacks from foreign powers that might want to enforce a more anti-alien agenda. To this end, I built a really strong relationship with Forward Dynamics, one of the two corps in the game that could produce these aircraft. Every turn, almost all of Brazil’s entire disposable income went to Forward dynamics. In exchange, the production of Brazilian interceptors was prioritised over any other country, and the HQ of the company moved to Rio.
In the intervening turns, the Aliens began visiting Brazil. With the new Brazilian air-force still in production, I relied on other countries not wanting to stir up trouble by violating Brazilian airspace. I promised anyone that would listen that I’d share what I learned about the Aliens with them. This, in combination with the one interceptor I started the game with standing ready to defend the aliens, proved just enough of a deterrent. Had someone more experienced been controlling the US or Chinese air force, I suspect it would not have.
One side effect of having to be active on the map, and having to answer increasingly pointed questions about my relationship with the Aliens in the UN and from other world leaders, was that I didn’t really have time to figure out what the aliens were actually doing in Brazil. In fact, with all my income going to forward dynamics, I was one of the few countries that couldn’t afford to have intelligence assets poking around in Brazil investigating! I heard through the media that some number of people were being abducted, this was at a small enough scale that I was comfortable allowing the aliens to continue to operate with impunity.
Around this point, with Brazil having a section of each news broadcast dedicated to it, one of my friends on team China decided she’d like to defect. Great, I thought! While I’d been able to manage on my own just about, having someone to attend the UN more regularly and begin to open a proper dialogue with the aliens was going to be super useful. And so it turned out to be (Thanks Kneace!).
One factor to consider when taking a pro alien stance in Watch the Skies is that, for each intercepted alien craft above your airspace, you lose public order. In turn, income each turn is tied to public order. As such, I was beginning to worry about running out of money. It’d be all very well having lots of interceptors, but if we couldn't afford to put them in the air, it wasn’t going to do any good! Having already built a strong relationship with the guys from Forward Dynamics, I approached them about working together more closely. I’d been laying the groundwork for this deal since turn 1, and, for them, the chances of getting to play with the interceptors and units they’d thus far been making for others proved enticing.
In what was almost certainly a flagrant violation of multiple international financial regulations, the CEO tanked the share price of the company. Brazil beat out Russia to bid for a controlling share of the company, and the guys from Forward Dynamics were granted Brazilian citizenship and appointed to senior positions within the government. For the rest of the game, Forward Dynamics, now renamed Brazilian Dynamics, contributed enormously to the Brazilian economy.
As a result of our early investments, and the acquisition of Forward Dynamics, but turn five, Brazil had the largest air force on the planet. This was fortuitous as, around the time the first wave of new interceptors went into service, other countries stopped worrying about violating Brazilian airspace. Between turns 5 and 8, multiple countries, including Russia, and China, attempted to shoot down UFOs destined for Brazil. The interceptors they sent, now outnumbered, were shot down or beaten back without loss, and Brazil looked better and better in the eyes of the visiting aliens.
With the game now slowing down for me, and my teammates begin to take on the jobs I’d been doing myself a few turns earlier, I now had time to actually speak to these aliens. With alien craft being escorted down to earth reliably, it seemed like an appropriate time to visit the moon. Having put Brazilian affairs in order, and delegated responsibility for running the country to the appropriate people, off I went. I was greeted reasonably warmly on my arrival. The aliens could communicate well by this point, and we were able to have a productive dialog. The Aliens explained that they wanted Earth to take its place amongst the intergalactic community. In order to do so, they said, we needed to stop fighting each other. I warned the aliens that it would take time, maybe even centuries, for humanity to reach the required maturity. Nevertheless, when I returned to earth, I passed on this message of peace to all who would hear it.
Down on earth, speculation about the relationship between the aliens and Brazil only increased. Through the coming turns, as Brazil’s relationship with our off planet friends was further strengthened, we began receiving alien tech which we were able to distribute via the UN in an attempt to spread good will.
Despite this, we were increasingly concerned about invasion from China. The Chinese team, not unreasonably, seemed wholly dissatisfied that Brazil had become the defacto representatives of humanity in the eyes of the Aliens. Because of this threat, Brazil formed an alliance with the US, brokered by the CEO of Brazilian Dynamics, and sealed by their buying in as co-owners of our corporation, renamed this time to Pan American Dynamics. That will confuse some history majors in a couple of centuries time!
After this alliance, a period of relative stability for Brazil followed. But, as many veterans of megagames know all too well, there is no more dangerous thing in a megagame than a stable situation. In the final turn, for what I think were some quite arbitrary reasons, the US military player, who had been having reservations about working with the aliens, felt that now was the time to act. Selling misinformation to the rest of his team about a fictional alien attack on mainland US, he decided to invade Brazil. Oh dear. Quickly, sensing an opportunity, China followed suit.
In the end, thanks to a timely intervention on behalf of a battalion of aliens mechs stationed in an alien base in Rio, Brazil was able to resist the initial invasion. However, beyond the coast of Brazil, damage was being done that could not be undone. Nukes were fired at Alien bases on the moon and Mars. Interplanetary warships, whose production had been pioneered by the other corporation in the game, took to the sky. Humanity, it seemed, had proved itself unworthy of joining the intergalactic community.
What this would have meant for Brazil, I cannot say. What I can say is that the entire Brazil team did a great job, after having been brought in to a weird and chaotic situation and having to learn on the fly. Thanks to them, and to John Mizon for running the game, and to Jim Wallman whose original design this game was based on.
Sounds like Anthony had a great time at Watch The Skies: Second Sight! Were you there and do you have a different take on the events as they happened? If so, let us know in our Facebook group.
We really appreciate Anthony taking the time to write this megagame report. We’d love to publish more of your stories so please get in touch if you have one you’d like to see featured here.