We were invited to Colony Wars Larp, to join up with a band of colonial marines. So Stuart and I travelled to a venue running alongside Stansted airport runway to find out more. What we encountered were colonial marines, morally ambiguous synthetics, apes and giant spiders. It was a good larp.
Of course a good larp, doesn’t say much. So what do I mean.
Aliens hints a large number if surveyed worlds, terraforming projects and drops by marines. Couple this with the strong 80’s vibe that permeates the Aliens universe, the existence of the Engineers, and Predators and we have a rich mythos that is lightly explored on screen. This is what Colony Wars tapped into – quite successfully.
Of course one universe is never enough. So for this event the feel and attitude of the Apes from Planet of the Apes is also added. Interestingly the more thoughtful Apes and gung-ho marines made an interesting combination. Also when I say Planet of the Apes this is not a literal taking from the movie. The humanoid apes are there. This variation saw a shamanistic religion being developed by the Ape players. Which is great – just the sort of thing Weyland-Yutani likes exploiting.
Ok so that’s the vibe –
What about the game itself ?
First of all – I loved the Ape masks. These were all specially created for this event and were very comfortable to wear. Instead of having latex in contact with skin, we had the inside of a motorcycle balaclava. Great idea as this a fair more breathable and friendly material. It meant that the masks could be worn all day, which definitely aided immersion.
Next up I’ve got to shout out the guys playing marines. Great combat gear and also a superb level of Nerf modification. My favourite had to be the M41A Pulse Rifle, Made from 3D printed parts mounted over a nerf chassis this really looked and felt the part.
Also the marines and Weyland-Yutani (insert expletive here) staff, put together a great camp with cooking on an open fire. There was a kind of Vietnam feel here and that to me that hit the mark.
The rules themselves were minimal. There were safety considerations and it the outcomes of combat and technology use were quickly apparent. The device of having one of the game refs play a synthetic really helped glue things together.
An aspect to this game that really stood out was the use puppeteering. It worked like this. In game there were creatures (face huggers and giant spiders) that the players encountered. The actions of these were controlled by a puppeteer who wore black. The idea was that players would focus on the beastie and not on the crew member. This worked supremely well. The players role-played keeping their focus on the creatures and ignored the crew. Speaking to them later it looks as if they were genuinely only observing the puppets.
Oddly during my time playing a spider I found myself remembering and channelling the amazing spiders from Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time. Brilliant book and seriously recommended.
Colony Wars is a great example of what a small larp can achieve. Good plot, well organised but above all run with the players very much in mind. This was a first class event.
My final view is that of the players and organisers. Fantastic people. Very friendly and I can’t thank them enough for asking us in.
Will there be more?
At the end of the game the organisers said no more. This was the last. I later saw the words never say never crop up online. So this is why no link to the organisers. At least no until they say they want to more. Should that happen I’ll be more than happy to report back to you.