Probing A.N.U.S. – Watch the Skies at UK Games Expo

Apologies for the crudity of the title, but it was unavoidable. Read on to find out why it was central to our game of Watch the Skies.

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For those of you that read regularly you’ll know that one of my passions outside of escape rooms (and rugby) is megagames. I think we’re only just scratching the surface in terms of how popular these can be, and I hope to participate and run more of them in the future. One of the reasons I think they’re so great is the ‘opportunity space’ for stories to be generated. The appeal of any role-playing game is that it’s really only limited by the imagination of those taking part. And when you have ~60 people taking part that’s a lot of imaginations. I’ll have a review of the game from a mechanical and implementation perspective later, but for now I just want to share the story I was able to be a small part of in Sunday’s game at the UK Games Expo.

The starting point was the most famous megagame of all (not that there’s much competition), Watch the Skies. You can find out a lot more about it via a quick google search, but basically it’s about mankind coming to terms with encountering aliens for the first time. I was playing as the Secretario de Relaciones Exteriores de México (Mexican Foreign Secretary, for those of you with no imaginations).

As a nation our official objectives were to establish Mexico as a significant world power, support the Pope, be at the forefront of science and technological research (particularly in competition with Brazil) and defend humanity while remaining as neutral as possible. Unofficially we wanted to takeover the USA!

The first thing we did was forge an alliance with our theoretical and literal (in the room) neighbours, Brazil. Our President, Greg, came up with the snappy title of the American Nations of the United South (ANUS). This alliance became an extremely strong bond and we essentially became a unified ANUS team for whole game. Without too much convincing Argentina, Chile, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia joined with us across a few turns to completely solidify Central and South America as one. While other nations struggled to establish anything other than minor trade deals with their untrusted ‘allies’ we’d consolidated a whole continent!

I was regularly called away to the UN to learn about and discuss the crises of the day. As a relatively poorer nation I had to stay sympathetic to the plights of all but picky on which ones we could offer to support. Helping with the earthquake in Chile was a key part of endearing ourselves to our American cousins. Helping with the civil war in Nigeria garnered friends from further afield.

Over time events became increasingly strange. Russia invading Ukraine (not again), without knowing much about it, caused outrage but also highlighted the futility of the UN as any sanctions were immediately vetoed by, unsurprisingly, Russia. Next there was a nuclear explosion in Angola. Initially it appeared that the Chinese were to blame, but as we recognised the kind-of-nation of Reticula to the table, they provided definitive ‘evidence’ that the US were to blame. With everything going so well for us, and everyone already being upset with the US for announcing the existence of aliens and sending the globe into a worldwide recession, the time looked right for us to consider our ‘expansionist plans’.

I spent the next few turns looking for support from elsewhere. Both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were quite keen to rid the world of stars and stripes, and when they announced an unlikely unison between themselves, China, the UK and someone else (Japan maybe?) we entered (ironically?) DEFCON 1. The final stroke of what would have been a masterpiece was Russia agreeing to align with us if the new world order would change its name to the American Nations of the United South and Extra States (ANUSES). Alas, as this was being agreed, and the forces of the world were being pointed towards Washington, evidence came to light that the Angolan explosion was not in fact the USA’s fault, and that they were being framed by the Extra-terrestrial Terrorists. Suddenly it became clear we may have more to worry about than Uncle Sam, and thoughts turned to science and how we would protect ourselves rather than military might.

It was at this point we noticed we hadn’t seen our Chief Scientist for a while. It transpired that the world’s scientists had felt left out by all this political and militaristic chicanery, so built themselves a space elevator in Nigeria, in which they would now be living as the independent nation of Science Alliance. Rumours circulated that they were being mind-controlled by the aliens, but no, they were just enjoying themselves. The world couldn’t function without science so we ‘encouraged’ them to come back down by cutting off their food supply and pointing a French nuke at them. Suddenly we had scientists again!

While all this was going on the world descended into anarchy and every single government was overthrown. In a surprising move, each of the existing nations and alliances opted to remain intact, and appointed the same people back into government in different positions. I would now be the General of the Mexican forces. The first issue I had to deal with was the small matter of the space elevator construction having dug too deep, and awakened an ancient evil in the form of Godzilla. Because of course it did. After inflicting a few hit points of damage, which achieved almost nothing, I was whisked away to another new role, where I would now be Mexico’s Chief Scientist. Jose of all trades?

Knowing that Godzilla was a menace we couldn’t face with conventional weapons I participated in the rapid development of a ‘solution’; Mecha-Godzilla. Every nation of the world contributed in scenes reminiscent of Pacific Rim. Just like that film, it was a terrible idea. Mecha-Godzilla was able to quickly despatch his more natural opponent, but then he was able to beat the rudimentary safeguards we’d installed in him during his accelerated development, and went rogue, rampaging all over central Africa.

Think things had gone weird? Not yet. The scientists reassembled to begin looking for a fix to the new problem they’d created. An even bigger Mecha-Godzilla was suggested but quickly ruled out. An electromagnetic pulse big enough to wipe out all the power on earth seemed ideal at first, but might have left us open to alien invasion, especially with them being parked right outside. The elimination of all sound on Earth was the next consideration was disregarded as not being practical, as well as not really achieving anything. Luckily there was a more straightforward solution. Just wait until Mecha-Godzilla gets teleported to Rome and then nuke him. Yes, that is what happened. Though if it’s any consolation they were aiming for the Pope.

So back to the aliens. They’d attempted to convince the world that they were friendly by giving us the ultimate games console, the PlaystationYOLO. Our scientific minds came together to find out how they worked, and discovered that if you could roll 11 or more on two dice then you won a trip to the alien base on the Moon (via the launch pad in Mali, of course). After doing this, I volunteered to be part of the scientific envoy which would visit the moon on a fact-finding mission.

In the least surprising twist of the day, we weren’t being invited to the moon to make friends. On arrival our bodies were placed into stasis and replaced by clones whose scientific sharpness was now overwhelmed with a desire to chill out and invite everyone else to the moon for a big party. After all, YOLO. My new Reticulan/Indian comrade was very successful in rounding up ‘volunteers’ and we set sail back to the moon. Unfortunately our plan was somehow leaked and the Earthlings objected. The shuttle before ours was rigged with a nuclear bomb which was detonated on landing, wiping out a lot of alien life and, worst of all, making us turn around and head back to Earth.

However our cover as clones was not blown and we were able to go back to work as scientists, even though we had very little scientific knowledge left. Which was a bit of a problem really as the nuclear blast on the Moon had forced it to break its orbit and it was now heading right for us. Our dull brains came up with the idea of a gravity engine that would push the Moon back to where it should be. Unfortunately we forgot about Newton’s Laws and by pushing the moon back into its orbit we pushed Earth out of its own. Oops.

With the Earth doomed our last hope was a final ambitious project. The Earth’s remaining resources were dumped into the construction of a massive Ark in China that would take everyone to Mars. However as the Chinese Scientist was one of us clones it was actually going to take everyone to be cloned by the aliens, to replace the population lost on the Moon (and a few more besides). We were awaiting construction of the Ark when unfortunately the siren sounded and we were back in a hotel in Birmingham.

What an adventure! And I didn’t even mention the Saudi’s ethnic cleansing and Holy War. Nor the embezzlement of much of the world’s funds into private islands in the Carribean. Nor the attempt to silence the World’s media being thwarted by an undercover agent who took on more individual roles than me in the game, without raising an eyebrow. Nor what the probably 50+% of people in the room I didn’t get chance to speak to were up to. But it doesn’t matter because everyone was lying anyway!


If this all sounds like a type of craziness you’d like to get involved with, check out this post to learn more about megagames (with lots of links) or my event calendar which lists those that I’m aware of.

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