This is an after action report written with the assistance of the highest officials in the United States. Namely:
- Carrie Morris, head of science and thinkology
- Michael Crabb, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Unhinged Military Psychopath
- Mike Ritchie, Secretary of State for Wrangling the UN
- Debbie Thain, Director of Homeland Security and Vice Presidential Badass. Debbie also has a fuller accounting of the events of the day.
Thank you to all of them for their memories and photographs from the day!
Note that we were playing this in a church – if the photos take on something of an evangelical air at times, that’s indicative only of the venue! There is also some salty language in some of the photos, so bear that in mind!
If you’re interested in finding out about the Megagames Dundee events (of which this was one), you might want to check out their Facebook group.
When I signed up for our second alien misadventure in Watch the Skies Two I was supposed to be taking on the role of the Vice-President. In our last encounter with the alien forces I had been serving as the Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs, and had distinguished myself with a number of staggering military successes best described as ‘accidental’. That was presumably the ticket upon which I ran in the intervening election. In America, the role of the Vice President is essentially whatever you make of it. Your authority extends exactly to the point the President tells you to stop stealing his power. Your one constitutionally defined role is to be available to step up to the plate if the President dies or is deposed. It’s a job that reinvents itself with every incumbent – that’s only to be expected for a position where the only necessary skill on the person specification is ‘have a heartbeat’.
I figured with Mr Meeple once again assuming the presidency I would have a pretty easy day of it, hiding behind his vast experience and enviable political nous. I don’t know why I figured that because his approach to the Presidency last time was like what would happen if someone fired a railway spike through the reasoning centre of Donald Trump’s brain. That is to say – a marked improvement over the current state of affairs. It was not to be though – Mr Meeple was taken deathly ill with an extra-terrestrial virus of remarkable potency. I don’t know the human word for it, but in the alien tongue it is rendered as something like Ma-NFl-U. As a result, I received a swift battlefield promotion to the Leader of the Free World. The president asked ‘All volunteers, step forward’ and I was the only one that didn’t take a neat step back.
We had decided our backstory to explain Michael’s absence was that the President had been assassinated by the Cylon traitor, James Boyden. James, the Vice President in our previous game, was also unavailable this time around. Control however decided our President had been impeached. I suspect this was part narrative convenience and part ardent wish fulfilment. We were left to handle the release of the news story and the political fallout, or be left to potentially take a public relations hit. Within the context of the game that’s less stability in your country and less money to play about with. That’s the great thing about Watch the Skies – even team absences can be worked into the story on the fly.
When a GNN Reporter arrived to ask us about it I made up some convincing guff about how the President had been ‘fixed’ by the last lot of aliens, and had been acting oddly ever since. This had caused the American public to question his leadership. Bear in mind the current state of leadership in the US and imagine just how odd his behaviour must have been to lead to impeachment. Michael was understandably a little put out by the official line on his absence, protesting that it made him sound like a puppy that had been spayed. However, his involvement during the day was largely just occasionally sending plaintive whimpers via Facebook chat and as such we didn’t pay him all that much attention.
Part of the story we told was that the Vice President (that was me!) had definitely not been fixed, had kept the old President in check as much as possible, and was hugely popular with the voters. America could look forward to a stable and prosperous future under her wise and noble governance. It was a stirring, impressive story let down only by the fact you don’t get a lot of time to craft the message. Usually you only manage to get off a few semi-coherent lines before the reporter snaps shut their notebook and heads back to the news-desk to type up whatever random nonsense you said. It must have been okay though – we didn’t take a PR hit. GNN accepted and published the news of my popularity. Who would have thought it was that easy? Other nations were unfazed. Insultingly so. The Chinese President’s reaction seemed to capture the general diplomatic zeitgeist: “Oh well.”
Our alliance with the UK which had been so strong in the first iteration of Watch the Skies was renewed. Japan weren’t nearly as interested in an agreement this time: non-aggression, sure, but not a military alliance. They quickly turned out to be researching a whole lot of advanced tech which they were selfishly keeping to themselves. They also appeared to have an unknown and unspecified relationship with the shady and mysterious Long Watch organisation – a global paramilitary collective aimed at keeping the damn aliens off of our planet. We agreed an informal non-aggression pact with China and Russia, and then instantly set about defending our borders against all the nations we’d signed pacts with. It’s not that we didn’t trust them. It’s just that we knew first-hand how easy it was to start a war without evening meaning it or knowing that’s what you were doing. The legacy of the Gump Administration rolled on merrily into my newly elected Presidency. It wasn’t until a few turns into the game that we realised we could deploy all our military units for free – only deploying them outside our borders cost money. Doh! I should have remembered that from last time but to be fair I was too busy in that iteration of the game shooting down the aliens we had cheerfully invited to settle in the Rockies. American Exceptionalism and sheer bloody luck managed to see off the aliens in Canada and South America even with our reduced troop deployment, so no harm done. USA! USA!
Long Watch approached us very early on seeking a mutually beneficial working relationship. They, like us, wanted to defend the planet from aliens. I was concerned about negotiating any formal agreements or getting too close to them because we knew nothing about the aliens and their intentions at that point. I mean, sure – last time they had wiped out cities and sent massive war robots to slaughter our military forces in bulk. But you know – people change, and I assume aliens do too. Debbie Thain, our stalwart Vice President, was not keen to get too friendly with the anti-alien side so early on. The Belford Administration Executive branch then decided we would remain neutral. Our nobility was unbroken, our nation unsullied. We withstood temptation and took the side of the angels. Unbeknown to us though, our Head of Joint Chiefs had already donated $4 million to this para-military organisation and didn’t think to tell us. Essentially he embezzled large amounts of governmental funding and put it into the hands of unaccountable revolutionaries of dubious trusthworthiness. Basically he was playing his role to historical perfection. We didn’t know that was going on though. As usual, the USA was functioning like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, none of the parts of that machine were in alignment so it mostly spat out sizzling hot cogs and sharp bits of loose metal into anyone unfortunate enough to get close.
This Long Watch arrangement got us lots of useful tech but also led to a few odd stories about us in the newspapers. Here again, American paranoia started us down a path of outright hostility with the free press of the world. We read about Long Watch expecting help from the American Security Council – but that was bullshit. We had made our position clear. Long Watch in the meantime were cheerfully enthusiastic about American support in the abstract, but baffled by the cool relations we maintained in the concrete. We hadn’t jumped into bed with them, but as far as Long Watch were concerned they had no idea if they’d even made it as far as the friendzone. We kept them at a disinterested arm’s length. That is an interesting diplomatic stance to adopt when you’ve just funnelled millions into their war chest.
As a result, the US executive was at a loss to understand the weirdly erratic interactions of GNN and Long Watch. The news seemed planted, designed to make us look as crooked as a bag of snakes. Fake news! Alt facts! SAD!
What was actually happening though was Long Watch was reporting on their successful diplomatic efforts with the American military, which in turn was operating completely unaware of our executive stance of neutrality. Yep – we hit the ground running here.
Long Watch had also somehow brought about a citizen uprising in the Western USA earlier on in the game. Their Dear Leader came to reassure us that although those citizens no longer recognised our government, Long Watch were merely interested in alien activity and would share any information they obtained with us. That put us in the position of having to contemplate outright attacks on sovereign citizens of the United States. We were a little reluctant to put that plan into action, so we did what all good politicians do when they are called upon to make the hard decisions. We pretended it wasn’t happening until the press stopped talking about it. Even now I’m not sure if we ever regained the confidence of the American people. My understanding of what was going on during the day is – murky.
These early intrigues encouraged us to take up a somewhat isolationist stance in our approach politically. Asides from our alliance with the UK we did vaguely keep tabs on the other EU nations but remained very hands off. You can imagine though – if I had no idea how little control I had over our own citizens, I knew even less about was happening everywhere else. The first I found out about the sneaky alliance between Japan and Long Watch was when I attended the world summit for the Japanese leader’s birthday. I discovered over Minstrels and jammie dodgers that Japan was where Long Watch was headquartered. We very decently agreed not to invade Japan, reasoning it was safer to know where Long Watch were based than to have then flushed underground. We were promised updates on what they were doing, and our great nations came together in a spirit of international co-operation.
Ha, only kidding. We didn’t get any updates and even the intensely dangerous biomass weaponry they had been constructing was a surprise to me right up to the point they came panhandling around for funding to support its completion. Seriously Japan – we were supposed to be buddies.
There really is a lot to keep track of in the presidency. There’s always more to find out than you have time to find it, and always more to assimilate than you have time for assimilation. Things get missed. Little things. Small things like weapons of mass destruction and a national civil war. I know it doesn’t sound like much but the little things add up over time into a few big things that keep you awake during the metaphorical night.
Our effort wasn’t lacking its successes though. We met one of our major objectives – we got our own Hugo Drax style moonbase. ON THE MOON. This was quite an accomplishment because it took us a little time to get to grips with the new research landscape. Now it cost money to share research for both parties in the transaction. That put a severe bottleneck on the international academic community. In order to share a piece of research, both parties needed to pay one research credit per level of technology. So to share a level two technology would cost both countries 2 research credits. You only got 1 credit per research lab per turn, you only start with one lab, and we only built one additional lab (at a cost of $6 million and 2 turns). We couldn’t afford to share many findings even if we wanted to. We did, too – but other countries were understandably uneasy given the cost to them to do so. You often needed to provide sweeteners, or extra benefits on top of the tech. If someone knew you were thirsty for something particularly juicy, they’d hold that over you until you barked like a dog.
Ah, but Carrie (our Chief Scientist once again) became very skilful at a kind of scientific subterfuge. She’d look disinterestedly at dead aliens and alien metals, shrug and say ‘Meh, I could take it or leave it’. She’d then just stare passively at her fingertips until other countries broke and started to offer tech out of the sheer hope of her approval. In that way she got access to many of the technologies we were secretly desperate to research. This helped with a lot of things, but the main thing it gave us was a welcome element of surprise. Nobody was more surprised than Russia when we pipped them to building a base on the moon. They did achieve it later in the same turn, but on alien interrogation the Russian motives were deemed dangerous and one of the alien factions flattened their moon base killing all those working there. Still, it’s the effort that counts.
Some of our deals, as we got increasingly desperate as the alien menace started to overtake the defensive forces of the earth, started to shuffle a little towards the ‘questionably ethical’. We investigated buying an additional research lab from the Bett and Gamble multi-national corporation but they wanted nuclear technologies in exchange. That wasn’t the problem, it was how evasive they were about their reasons for it. I mean, c’mon – we already know you’re not buying them to build the world’s quickest kettle. What exactly do you have in mind that can be worse than ‘hurl them at some places and see what’s standing at the end’? We were willing to deal, we just wanted to know the parameters of our moral collapse.
Bett and Gamble also wanted us to denounce their competitors, the Weyland Corporation. They had seemed reluctant to trade with us but it’s hard to say why – we had few formal points of contact during the campaign. In the end we helped Bett and Gamble set up a factory in Canada (a nation with which we had a trade agreement) and tried to spin the story as great news for North America in the hope our popularity rating with our citizens would increase. Were they still rioting? Were any of them even still alive? I had no idea. For all I knew this was the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln tweeting the confederate forces saying ‘Good news! We have established a new textile mill in Mexico!’ and expecting for them to go ‘Huh, he’s not so bad after all’. Still, our relationship with Bett and Gamble was useful – we could call upon them whenever we needed to spy on other nations without letting anyone knowing what we were doing. Bett and Gamble are very much the Google of Watch the Skies, it seems.
All of this meant we didn’t have a generous research budget and had to be very selective with what we shared. That was true of everyone, so people were really only sharing where absolutely necessary. It’s possible within Watch the Skies to gain research credits by publishing papers, hosting conferences, and winning Nobel prizes. Last time, our erstwhile scientist won several Nobel prizes and a whole pile of other awards. Japan, who had been our greatest scientific partner in the first Watch the Skies stabbed her in the back this time. The five Asian countries all agreed from turn one to vote as a unit to outvote their western counterparts. There were only four of those. This meant it was impossible for the Western nations to get hosting opportunities or Nobel prizes. The irony in this is… well, inescapable. This was the research equivalent of the Balkan voting bloc screwing up Eurovision for the rest of us
Despite all these significant constraints Carrie did a fantastic job of staying focused on the long goal. That’s good, because I wasn’t even sure from turn to turn which of the short goals were most vital. Every round of Watch the Skies is like a scenario where someone lights ten fires and instead of giving you nine buckets they give you a box of matches and a can of gasoline. We couldn’t spend our research credits frivolously, but Carrie was laser focused on the technologies we needed to get our lunar base. Her façade of indifference let her manipulate other scientists and corporations into devaluing the tech they had too. She’d get them to discard choice tech onto the grey market, all the while bemoaning that America didn’t have whatever crucial components were needed to build the lunar base. She did this with a poker face, lying cheerfully to everyone she met. Our Military Chief had just as cheerfully handed her the required metals at the start of the previous turn. After she got the lunar base built on the moon she actually skipped back from the control map because she was so happy to have accomplished our goals. In that respect she was just like every other scientist I know after a great day at the lab bench. I’d say that comparatively few real scientists spend quite so long lying, cheating, and bluffing their colleagues but I know too many scientists to make a claim like that.
Hilariously this happened the turn after we were approached about the Russian rumours of our faked moon landing. Debbie (our VP) quickly knocked up a press release for GNN about our ‘irrefutable evidence’ of the 1969 Apollo mission. GNN didn’t publish it, but to be fair a story that was seventy years old perhaps didn’t seem quite like the hot scoop we had intended. It’s also possible, maybe, they were a little annoyed at us because our Military Commander had blown up the aliens they had been cosying up to in Algeria. GNN had been on to a nice little earner, charging countries $2-$3 million a pop to send messages to the aliens. Our Military Commander didn’t know that at the time, and when asked he told the reporter that we had shot down the alien spaceships in the interests of all humanity. We were asked, somewhat sulkily, what we had to say about the action. Our Chief of Defence said that the US was happy with our involvement. That – probably didn’t smooth over ruffled feathers as much as we might have hoped.
One of our scientists was also kidnapped and interrogated by one of the alien factions – the Federation. She had to give them valuable information about the state of AI technologies and nuclear weapons on earth. The Federation seemed disgruntled that the citizens of Earth had refused to follow their ordinances of no AI and no weapons of mass destruction. As such they refused to release our scientist. To be fair, we weren’t entirely sure what these ordinances were because GNN had gone rogue quite early on in the game and decided a free press was less profitable than an informational cartel. GNN rapidly became something between alien propagandists and Brietbart-esque agitators for the alien state. Not so much GNN as Faux News.
Thankfully our scientist managed to escape and persuaded our Secretary of State to push for an invasion of Brazil on the grounds that they were hosting the Federation. This was to be followed up by an attempt at a pan-world peace treaty. I know, right? This is real diplomacy at the barrel of a laser cannon.
During the same turn as our scientist was being interrogated by the Federation, we were invited to meet with the other faction – the Reticulans. They were also interested in our moon base. No reason they wouldn’t be – spacious, airy – good access to schools and public transport links. I’d intended to send our Secretary of State to the meeting. I had sent him off with a list of questions and some live aliens that Carrie had been carrying around for several turns because we couldn’t decide what to do with them. I can’t help but think she had them perpetually strapped to her stomach like a new mother with a baby carrier. And, like a new mother, she was happy to pass them on to a strange diplomat for a dangerous mission of uncertain utility.
While this was going on, we realised Secretary of State Mike wouldn’t have time to meet with the aliens as he was tied up with the UN Security Council meeting. Our VP somehow retrieved the live aliens from him (perhaps by insisting they needed to be changed and fed) without anyone at the Council noticing. She then headed off to meet the Reticulans. They seemed much more chilled than the Federation, and had a less obnoxious set of demands. They wanted us to be less violent, stop fighting each other, and disarm all nuclear weapons. In return, we’d be permitted out into the wider universe. Given that we were currently at war with Federation aliens, we made a reasonable argument that this was intensely bloody stupid. They equally reasonably agreed that we could defend ourselves against the Federation.
That was good, because our battle there wasn’t getting any less frantic. On the last turn of the game, Mike took a different tack with our alien guests and strapped one to the front of a jet fighter. In this he behaved like any sane 7 star general would do. He’d been left unchecked at the war room for a while, and perhaps the escalating state of the world disaster unfolding had dislodged something important in his mind. In any case, this might have been the defining moment of our entire game. In that sense, a live alien used as a hood ornament for an advanced jet fighter isn’t the kind of thing likely to de-escalate tensions.
We left the Reticulans in a more positive frame of mind because they let our VP leave. She didn’t have to escape or anything. When you’re being held at ransom by unfathomably advanced alien beings, it’s the little things that matter. It seems like a small gesture (not holding one of our most important world leaders hostage), but even so we decided to continue our fight against the Federation and try to then befriend the more avuncular Reticulans. At least until we got a live Reticulan we could dismember on live television for an art project or something. Seriously, we were all getting a bit punch drunk at this point.
It was a good plan, but we were fast running out of time. The moon base opened up a lot of new avenues of research, and our scientist was able to investigate quantum mass spectrometry which, you know, lifelong dream fulfilled. It turned out our moon base data was being hacked by advanced technology surveillance never seen before in our universe. Well, never before seen by us. To be fair, we hadn’t really managed to see much of the universe. Perhaps this technology was as common as mobile phones or Fitbits. Carrie investigated the technology and it turned out that Germany was spying on our space station – the sheer nerve! They had presumably accomplished this with technology they had received through their friendships, or perhaps with the assistance of one of the military whistleblowers America seems to breed in the thousands. Germany had formed some strong alliances with one of the factions in return for their going to war against Long Watch. By the time we had found all this out though the German Chancellor had already died in unfortunate circumstances. The world was in complete chaos, so really it didn’t help anyone much to know that America was as confused and un-coordinated as the rest of humanity. ‘America doesn’t know what’s going on’, yells the director of intelligence. ‘Neither do we!’, everyone yells back.
Our Military Commander was still doing a damn fine job of keeping America safe. Although we only signed up to one official defence treaty agreement during the game he spent a lot of time early on reassuring several other nations that we were there to provide support whenever they needed, and backed this up with actions. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever actually told him about our formal defence treaty. Meh, I’m sure it’s fine. He’d have read it in the news. So much American foreign and domestic policy is announced via twitter these days that he shouldn’t be surprised.
Our ad hoc alliances came in phenomenally useful in keeping us on good terms with the UK, Germany and France. That was true even though we did refuse to join their Eco-alliance. No way was America keen on a post-oil economy. Renewable energy? Absolute garbage. Global warming? A commie plot! Climate change? ALTERNATE FACTS. I think I probably made life harder for our Chief Scientist by refusing to join that grouping as they freely shared research like the disgusting socialists they were. It was our moon base investigations though that led to the discovery that there was a German space station orbiting the moon. When I relayed this information to the UK Prime Minister he was rather surprised as the station had been jointly funded by all three nations in their alliance. Those tricksy Germans, eh? The UK premier later reported that there had been an “error” with the instructions for painting the station, and that the error had been rectified. Painting the station? I don’t know. Perhaps he liked taupe and everyone else held out for cerulean blue.
Secretary of State Mike spent the vast majority of his time in UN meetings and putting up with the shockingly egregiously obvious sabotage from Russia and India. They filibustered their way through meetings to an extent that prevented the crisis in Thailand being resolved, and then prevented the crisis in Afganistan from being addressed. Luckily the monotony of endless diplomatic meetings to no purpose was broken up by West Africa demanding that the UN brought down sanctions upon the US for the unilateral invasion of their airspace. This was a particularly interesting development since Secretary Mike had no idea Military Mike had been so active in West African airspace, or why he might have been there, or what his intentions might have been. Military Mike had been acting for the defence of the continent, but Secretary Mike’s understandable response was ‘Wait, what? We invaded someone?’ As ways to smooth over political controversies go, this was a few Ferrero Rocher short of a golden pyramid. We can’t at all blame him though – it just showed the relatively poor job the President was doing of keeping him informed of important events.
The UN, true to its historical form, proved itself a slow and inefficient body for the effecting of change and the endless parade of developing crises ebbed away at the trust the world had installed in us. With encroaching alien activity it became clear the international community needed to be proactive. As a unified force leading the world they agreed upon meeting an alien group in Nevada. Agents from the USA, China and Japan would initiate and open a dialogue. In this they’d be protected by two US battalions. I forget whether they were carrying battle-standards made up of flayed alien bodies, but I wouldn’t have been at all surprised at this point. This would turn out to be a turning point for the UN, for the world and indeed for humanity’s ambitions in the galaxy.
The Long Watch though didn’t think we had brought enough military and fired upon the aliens as they came to meet. Well, shit. I’d like to be more pronounced in my condemnation, but really given the events in Watch the Skies #1 I didn’t have much of a moral high-ground upon which to stand. Really, if there’s a lesson for the aliens in all of this it’s ‘don’t accept an invitation to peacefully visit the United States’. We’ll tell you the scenery is lovely, but that’s only so you’re looking at it while we aim our nukes at your exhaust ports.
In light of this diplomatic setback we discussed further proactive measures. The end result of this was the unanimous and unilateral adoption of severe climate change policy. I forget why that seemed to be the solution to our problems, but this is the UN after all. It probably began as a motion for from which restaurant we were ordering dinner. The treaty passed though, much to the relief of the world – presumably. I’m not sure there was much left of it at this point. Secretary Mike put forward a motion to develop a UN military body with a particular mandate to interact with alien forces. We hoped this would mitigate the increasingly violent fears of the world’s population. We tabled this whilst we met with the Long Watch. Whilst they as a force were a paramilitary without authority Mike and his other suspicious colleagues warmed to the idea of incorporating them into this new UN led task force. I mean, when has direct US involvement in supporting violent, ideologically motivated paramilitaries ever gone wrong? I can’t think of a single time that’s been a problem for us in the long turn.
We didn’t let them off the leash though – they were beholden to a command controlled by a joint-body comprised of US and French military authorities. This new organisation was called (suggested by Mike) Short Look. That seemed – suitably emasculating.
Meanwhile alien monoliths were being deployed throughout the world. They raised considerable discussion and debate until India brought a friendly alien to a closed council session to better describe the purpose of the monoliths. So many diplomatic problems could be solved if we’d just talk about them, right?
No, not really. The alien, perhaps not being fully conversant with international parliamentary procedure, broke Mike’s KitKat into crumbs, drew all over a map, pretended to be China and then spent the rest of the session drawing lots of pictures of monkeys. This may well have still been the single most productive session there has ever been of the United Nations Security Council.
As a body, the UN concluded that the creature was trying to tell us that these monoliths were going to evolve us into these aliens as we were linked as a species. This did not sit well with the US Secretary of State as he knew our God fearing Bible belt citizens would not be on board with evolution in any form. We needed to better understand the monoliths and their purpose – reports had emerged that they were both offensive and defensive in nature. The newly developed Short Look, along with Russia and the US, would capture and decode one of these newly erected monoliths. That’s when the main body of the Long Watch came in, demanded that they be involved, and then assassinated the foreign ministers of France and the USA. As pitches for involvement go, it wasn’t a strong one. It would later transpire that Japan, our good friend and ally, was behind this. Honestly, you just can’t trust anyone.
Throughout this whole scenario the US, the UK and France all shared a vision for the purpose of the UN and in so supported one another. Russia was needlessly difficult. Japan quickly became untrustworthy. China were surprisingly good. Germany did nothing except for vote against a motion only to then fund it in its entirety. India was pedantic and did little to further nuclear disarmament or world peace. France was great until they got sent to space jail. The UK couldn’t have done a better job. Things finally seemed to be turning around for the good old US of A. And the world, I suppose – but really, my responsibility was to the American voters.
Despite the progress we were making there were still a few out of the loop moments. The whole UN roasted China and Japan for taking a dead alien out of the Canadian world heritage site. Or rather China had a live alien that crashed in China – they took the alien to the Canadian heritage site to decipher the language in direct opposition to UN Resolutions. This didn’t work quite as well as they might have hoped – the alien exploded, leaving China with something less like the Rosetta stone and something more like the scrapings bin of a sub-rate butcher. Japan then revealed to the world that the US had been harbouring at least 3 live aliens, 2 dead and several captured spacecraft. Mike perhaps wouldn’t have been quite so keen to make an enemy out of them had he known that. Look, mistakes were made in our information flow. Bigly mistakes. Yuge mistakes. Don’t make me show you a map of my electoral victories. I’ve got the best information.
It was about this time that the game began to wind down to a halt – despite the diplomatic leaders and military chiefs bringing about near apocalyptic destruction of the Earth, we had a lot of positives we could look back on. The UN prevailed in saving the bees, resolved many civil wars, and managed to install democracy around the world. They even created Short Look, which seemed like such a good idea at the time. I mean sure, the planet was a glowing nuclear ember and whole countries had been wiped off the map – but you can’t win them all.
It all kicked off in the final round though as shown in this no-expenses spared recreation:
France, China and India all fired nukes at the Reticulans, and immediately got taken out of the game – their Leaders teleported to space jail and their capital cities ‘removed’ from the planet. At this point, several nations plus Weyland started throwing money and tech at our Military Commander. He put up a great fight. Unfortunately, at the end of the exchange we had bankrupted our nation, and most of the rest of the planet, and the aliens were still out there. We took such a massive PR hit that our PR dropped to zero and another civil war broke out. We couldn’t decide whether to quash the uprising and install a dictatorship, and so we asked for a couple of minutes to decide on a course of action. This is how liberty dies – with thunderous applause. Or rather, with minutes of frantic indecision.
At this point when all hope was lost, GNN approached us with a tantalising offer. They would pay $30 million for our moon base. $30 cool million. I mean, it’s not a lot – $30m barely buys you a space suit these days. I was keen though, although in retrospect maybe I should have considered that we were likely going to be facing a very long nuclear winter. With that in mind, keeping a comparatively unspoiled moon base might have been the wiser course of action. The problem was that we didn’t have any money or the means to get there. Within WTS you can buy PR points for $8 million per point, and PR had been capped at 6 points. This was important because we needed to save the bees.
Look, there’s a lot about what happened that I don’t fully understand. When your Secretary of State is insisting that the bees need to be saved, then you take him at his word even if it means civil war.
The $30m offer wasn’t enough – I had (mis)calculated that we needed at least $36 million. I was expecting GNN to haggle so I counter offered at a ludicrous $50 million. They immediately gave us the $50 million and our population stopped fighting and loved us again. Who would have thought owning a moon base would have been so politically contentious?
It was nice to be popular. That is at least for the few weeks they stayed alive before the radiation sickness took all those who hadn’t received the vaccine in time. On the whole, I thought this was a good outcome. Our impeached President, safe in his sickbed in Guantanamo (I don’t know what happens when a president is impeached) pointed out that we essentially destroyed Earth then sold a militarized moonbase to a Rupert Murdoch style supervillain. He felt, not unreasonably, that this made his leadership look spectacularly competent by comparison.
It was definitely interesting to move from being the military chief to the president. I now have more respect when world leaders don’t have the slightest idea about what’s going on around them. There was so much happening and so much we didn’t know about, and much more that we simply didn’t have the time to deal with. We spent a pretty penny spying on Russia for some information that was unspeakably vital, and then forgot that we had it until the last turn. We heard some alarming news about Long Watch, and then inadvertently assassinated our own diplomat by texting him to ‘veto’ a relevant motion regarding them at the UN. We won two civil wars, or maybe we lost both of them. We shot things we shouldn’t have shot, didn’t shoot things we should have, and generally made a massive cock up of the entire thing.
It was a great day out. If this all seems confusing and contradictory and only partially aware of the facts that’s because that’s all you ever get out of a session of Watch the Skies. You don’t play your role – you just try to survive it until the end. You don’t sign up to Watch the Skies to win – you just play it to be there. Our team this time had two newbies who hadn’t had the pleasure for the first round – I think we might well have two new converts for the next time a Scottish mega-game rolls into town.
On his deathbed, where he nursed the sniper’s bullet that was lodged in his heart, Secretary Mike stated that the day was “Messy, mad and marvellous”.
I think that pretty much sums it up for all of us.
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