The core rule book arrived two weeks ago and I brought together some relatively inexperienced role playing gamers (2-3 sessions of D&D each) to try out the Hope's Last Day scenario via a virtual tabletop (Roll 20). We had such a blast. The system was easy to teach them (less than 30 minutes) and we played through in about three hours during midday. It has me re-evaluating my GM approach. A short and punchy three hours with quick onboarding was nice contrast to the all hours of the night marathon sessions of D&D I usually run.
I've been GMing various flavors of D&D for 15 years with only minor forays as a player into other systems like Powered by the Apocalypse, but this system may be my new favorite. The unified dice pool (no sums, 6's and yellow 1's are all that matter) mechanic was easy to grasp and the stunt system creates lots of opportunities for improvisation and excitement.
The first time the players encountered a Scout Alien was epicly cinematic: most of the characters were in the armory while Hannah with the motion tracker was keeping an eye on the hallway. She spots the Scout (I labelled the token Quadrupedal Xenomorph) crawling along the wall towards them and screams -- they draw initiative. The ex-Marine Hirschel jumps into the hallway and empties both barrels of the shotgun (rolled a 1 on a stress die, but panic rolled a 4) into the monster, winging it for a spray of acid across the walls, but it is still coming. The Scout darts forward and lifts Hirschel off the ground. The android Holroyd jumps in with a wrench to try to free Hirschel but fails to connect (and can't push the roll!). The Scout head bites Hirschel. My players are silent, then their characters freak out! Didn't even need the panic rolls for them to all decide now was the time to put as many doors as possible between themselves and that thing.
As GM I was taken by surprise as to just how quick and deadly the Scout was, but we all loved it! Totally fits the theme. I had told my players we were using pregens so that we could hit the ground running, and that they shouldn't get too attached and character death on the first round of combat really drove it home. The subconscious weight of years of D&D with pretty resilient characters came up against this new system but I am hooked. Combat should be a scary last resort given that most PCs are not sociopathic killers.
To set the scene, I played them the deleted scene from Aliens of Simpson and Lydecker talking about how remote the colony is. It was nice foreshadowing for when Simpson makes the emergency announcement and when the PCs reached OPS I told the players, "This is the place you saw in the deleted scene, but now it is dark and empty, papers strewn haphazardly."
The final scene with the face huggers coming out of the escape shuttle was also a beautiful final twist (I described them leaping into the air at chest height tails rippling behind them, the way it was shown in the AVP movie) with several characters panicking, emptying entire pistol clips to no effect, one knifing a face hugger to death and getting a fateful of acid for their trouble, and other non-"optimal tactics" responses. A situation of chaos tension if ever there was one.
I was skeptical about the random roll for Alien actions, but on the encounters we had it played well, heightening the uncertainty and unknowability of the creatures.
The Roll 20 character sheet was a boon for speed and simplicity! I will probably keep the online character sheet roller even when we are back to in person games, so a big thanks to the people that put that together too.
As part of my prep I had listened to Effekt Podcast's play of Hope's Last Stand, which I can't recommend enough. Gave me great ideas for describing the atmosphere and additional events. When the characters tried to send a distress transmission from OPS I dropped the clue that the transmitter had hardware damage, which I had picked up from Effekt's scenario, but the PCs were not able to follow up. The players were already speculating about evidence of sabotage or other corporate villainy. Next time we'll try out the more combat focused "Hope's Last Stand" described by Effect and see if they can repair that transmitter.
Happy to answer questions for anyone else getting ready to Game Mother, especially re:Hadley's Hope related content.