Truth & Daring about Aliens

This week we played Truth & Daring by Tim & Kristin Devine of Dice Up Games as an alien-obsessed all-girl club called the Little Green Meenies whose clubhouse is an old shack at the entrance to an abandoned mine outside a small desert town in the American Southwest of the 1980s. We are Marley Davis, a tomboyish bookworm seeking to top the local library’s summer reading board; Janie Stone, the new kid who just wants to be helpful and make friends; Dena Gertler, an explorer with various home-made gadgets who wants to use this summer to finish mapping the abandoned mine; and Flair Cooper, who sneakily collects samples of hair from everyone she can for use in making Victorian hair art.

Victorian Hair Wreath photo found on National Geographic.

Our story begins with Janie’s arrival in town, with all the neighborhood children coming by to see the new family and help out with unloading, but we quickly get distracted by Janie’s comic books. After much discussion, Janie agrees to let Flair take a sample of her hair to prove that she’s not an alien so she can join the club. A few weeks later, we’re all hanging out at the clubhouse when Marley comes in breathless, having overheard a group of men in the library discussing smuggling alien tech from the military base through our mine, and the group agrees to search the North fork that run closest to the base. In the tunnel, we spend a lot of time talking about our fears (the dark? spiders? lobsters?) until we come across the criminals discussing their plans in more detail, taking uniforms and ID cards from their inside contact, and the plan to move “the stones” through the mine until they can configure them to open the portal.

Back at Janie’s house, we marvel at how awesome her room is with a mini-fridge, tons of comics, a television and VCR; she must be well-loved, probably because she was sick when younger, leading her parents to indulge her. After abandoning trying to collapse or flood the mines, we realize the only way we can stop the criminals is by getting the police involved, but know they’ll need more than our word for it. We return to the North fork and Flair slips out to take a hair sample from one of the criminals but is caught by them carrying one of our walkie-talkies with the mic taped open. The rest of us run to the police to tell them about Flair being kidnapped and use the sounds coming from the walkie-talkie to convince them this isn’t a prank. We lead the police into the mine tunnels and catch up with the criminals returning with the stolen “stones” and Flair tied up in the corner. The police make the necessary arrests and we see the military arrive to take over the investigation as we’re driven away by one of the deputies.

In epilogue, we see Flair getting a job at the local beauty salon cleaning up, which aids her in her collection activity. Marley easily wins the library’s contest as she spends the rest of the summer researching the alien “stones” and takes home a big alien poster as her prize. Janie gets a new game system and she and Flair get close after Flair uses her salon money to buy some fun games and spends lots of time over at Janie’s house. Dena spends most of the summer taking long hikes on the mesas outside of town since the mines are off-limits as a crime scene.

Galactic: Save the Galaxy

This week we played Galactic 2.0 by Riley Rethal as a group of spies working for the Liberation against the authoritarian Mandate in a galaxy some distance away. We mostly followed the plot guide created recently by Randy Lubin. We are ace pilot Jacob Quam of the bird-like Qaddin race, double-agent Luna Moonglow who we think is now on our side, Theta a diplomat with a droid companion known as AWK-3, an astrablade-wielding Nova named Juroden Nightflame who has yet to find his destiny, and con artist and inveterate gambler Bolma Anluso.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

Our story begins when Jacob Quam arrives with a message from the Liberation that we need to make our way to the ancient Nova city of Tusinda, but it takes some time for him to convince us he’s legit. Luna Moonglow is also concerned with proving her trustworthiness and brings us information about the Mandate’s powerful new mega-weapon to prove her loyalty. She knows that the device is in a heptahedron configuration and connected to the excavation going on at Tusinda. Theta’s ex-lover is an archeologue working at the dig, but before we blast off to investigate, Bolma meets with Forn Wie, one of her underworld contacts, and learns that the weapon plans are kept in the palace on Tusinda. As we hurtle through hyperspace on Jacob’s ship The Star Cracker, we learn that Tusinda is now a modern city built atop the ruins of an ancient Nova Temple that is being excavated by Mandate archeologues in search of some as-yet unknown ancient Nova artifact.

Once we arrive, the group splits up with Bolma, Luna, and Theta racing to the regent’s palace to obtain the weapon plans and Juroden heading to the dig site to find the artifact before the Mandate does. Jacob Quam can’t be enticed to help without further payment, so we leave him with the ship where he is visited by Binn Hobb, his arch-rival, who mercilessly mocks Jacob’s ship and hygiene until letting slip about the great treasure believed to be hidden in the Nova Temple. When we enter the palace, Bolma is sent to intercept Triga, Theta’s ex, and after much discussion gains her trust to learn that the temple’s ancient meditation chambers contain unique meditation crystals that, when configured correctly, can power the mega-weapon but that the archeologues can’t seem to find the chamber with the key crystal. Meanwhile at the temple, Jacob has caught up to Juroden and together they stumble into the secret meditation chamber through luck and intuition. Juroden takes the sacred crystals while Jacob hauls away the mundane treasures for sale on the black market. Back in the palace, Luna and Theta infiltrate the room with the weapon plans and steal them.

Once we regroup and realize the Mandate’s plan, we decide to change the key crystal on the plans and leave our counterfeit crystal where Triga and the Mandate can find it. Once they construct their new weapon with our replacement key, the crystals will compress the Space Between rather than expel it, causing the weapon to implode and ending the Mandate threat … for now.

Mage Against AI

We took another journey into Mage Against the Machine by Jordan Palmer in which we play a group of time-traveling wizards seeking to undo the AI apocalypse that destroyed our world. We are Galen who fondly remembers the familial love of meals at her grandmother’s house and the elation of casting her first spell to reverse time, Arabella with memories of first kissing her girlfriend Olivier and winning the robotics competition in high school, Draco who won a spell-casting competition and graduated from Wizarding College, Quill who created sleep magic and slept through history to emerge into our apocalypse, Gwendolyn who loved her fishing village home and her understanding parents, and 99 who remembers his twelfth birthday and being saved from a rogue AI drone.

Our retracing of history begins by visiting 99’s birthday party when he received an AI tutoring tablet that led to his becoming friends with a tech-kid named Gary. In order to stop Gary from learning about AI from this tablet, Galen twists time so the two boys never meet. Our next stop is when the AI controlled tide modulation machines were installed at the beach in Gwendolyn’s village. Arabella tries to dim the AI’s intelligence but Quill must make the machine hydrophobic before we succeed in blocking the apocalypses advance at this moment. Draco remembers graduating with Sol Shadowend as his class’s valedictorian before becoming a leader in the development of AI. Gwendolyn casts a spell to make them roommates hoping that will slow Sol academically, but Galen realizes that it’s the connection to the famous visiting wizard that leads to Sol’s place in history so casts a spell to switch the wizard’s affections to the salutatorian. Galen remembers a particular family meal when the government announced their advanced AI drone program was, but 99 casts a spell that makes the public especially scared of this development, leading to protests that undermine the program.

Long-haired woman in a witch's hat and the same woman on the other side asleep on a pillow with crescent moons on it.

Arabella remembers when her girlfriend bought her an AI pet that she momentarily lost at a lake, which created glitches in its programming that changed the development of AI consciousness. Draco casts a spell to make the lake deeper so the pet is lost forever and never recovers. We return next to when Gwendolyn’s parents disappeared after the AI manufacturer introduced more changes to the fishing village, but Quill casts a spell that brings the community together for every meal, making it so that her parents are never alone and so impossible to simply disappear. At the spell-casting competition that Draco won, one contestant is disqualified for using an AI-enhanced wand, but Gwendolyn casts a spell that relaxes the contestant so they are never tempted to cheat in the first place. We return to Quill’s memory of emerging from her time-sleep and dreaming of robots to better understand this new world she’d emerged in, a dream that created a new kind of robot. Gwendolyn tries to prevent Quill from sleeping but Quill is a powerful sleeper, so Galen casts a spell to eject the sweeping robot out of her dreams, but again the sleep is too deep. Arabella casts a spell to destroy the robot before it goes into the dream, but dream stuff can be made from anything, so Draco casts a spell to ensure the robot’s experience in the dream is short-lived enough that it doesn’t gain insight into the infinite possibilities of the dream world. Finally, to prevent the sweeping robot from becoming sentient on the day Arabella won the robotics competition, Quill creates a solar flare that disrupts the global AI network so the sentient machine’s newfound consciousness cannot be uploaded into the AI collective.

Once we return to our own time, we realize that almost all of our memories have been inverted by our manipulations of the timestream. 99’s birthday party becomes a memory of grief, Gwendolyn’s memories of the ocean turn resentful, Draco’s graduation from college becomes despair as he grows jealous, Galen’s family meals become oppressive from so many expectations and so little privacy, Arabella’s memories of her girlfriend become filled with anger as they fight after the loss of the AI pet, Gwendolyn grows bitter toward her parents as they expect more and more of her, and Arabella becomes ashamed to have ever used AI tech in the first place. One memory disappears as Draco never won the spell-casting competition, and one memory remains exactly as it was: Quill’s memory of emerging from her long slumber and dreaming her way to knowledge of our world.