B and the Monkey-Poodle Virus, Part 1

Or How to Play 5150: Alien Fight Night

The cheering and applause from the crowd of cardboard cut-outs is pre-taped, the palooka in the white shirt is the referee, though you can’t understand a word he is saying through his surgical mask and that’s me, Bouncing Betty Caruso, the one on the left whose right eye is swollen shut and the left one isn’t far behind.  We’re waiting for scores from the judges who are on-line and safely at home.  My opponent is worse off than I am, I think, – if the ref were to let go of his hand, he’d collapse to the mat.  No matter who wins, we’re supposed to prove that sports are now safe.  The truth is, the only one winning on New Hope right now is the Monkey-Poodle Virus.

The virus can be directly traced back to Harriet Vanderbilt-Cornelius, the very wealthy Harriet Vanderbilt-Cornelius.  Ms. Vanderbilt-Cornelius, Harriet, that is, chartered a small trader to take her and a few select friends gambling on New Vegas and then to the races on Bhanglune III.  You know, Bhanglune III, that place where the grand pooh-bah has his family jewels in a vice – both the locals and Gaea Prime are putting the squeeze on.  Anyways, in a street market Harriet, Ms. Vanderbilt-Cornelius, bought a new poodle dog. 

Upon her return, being filthy rich and well connected, she avoided putting her pet in quarantine, which is typical among the elite where following rules and regulations are for losers and suckers – the “little” people.  Then people started getting sick and dying.  Turns out, her new poodle isn’t a dog at all, but some kind of disease carrying lemur/monkey from a planet I can’t even begin to pronounce.  Who names these places?

The virus has a scientific name, but it’s commonly called the Monkey-Poodle Virus.  I guess Harriet Vanderbilt-Cornelius Screwed Us Over Virus is too long.  The virus decimated New Hope and the city had been in lockdown for over five months when I got a call from the old man.  I was suspicious when he called, he never calls anyone.  And then when he was nice to me, I knew something was really up.  “Hey, kiddo, how’d you like to get to work and make some money?”

My reply was, “What’s the catch, chief?”

“Oh, you have to get tested every day, wear your mask, observe distancing and other health rules” he said.

Knowing there was more, I asked “And?”

“And you have to move into the gym” he replied.

“What?  That drafty old place?”  My response emphasized my disbelief.

“Health department rules, girlie.  None of us can commute between home and the gym, so if we want to work, we have to stay in the gym.  We’ll fix you up a spot in the locker room with a nice cot.  There’ll just be seven of us, so you’ll have to pitch in on some of the cooking and cleaning.  The boxing commission already has fights lined up for you and Banks, if you come in, guaranteed purses win or lose” he said.

My stomach rumbled reminding me I was getting tired of eating instant noodles.  “Okay, count me in, my pantry is getting a little bare.”

You are probably used to modern gyms owned by nameless mega-corporations where the buildings are kept at a comfortable temperature and “trainers” are those smiling people who select the appropriate settings on the work out equipment.  Svenson’s Gym was nothing like that.  It’s drafty, dark, pukey green (excuse me, “sea foam” green) paint peeling from the walls, smells like sweaty dirty laundry and if your trainer smiles – it’s because he’s a bit sadistic. 

My first day back got the old man all emotional, when I stepped on the scale, he cried “Jeezus J. Christ, what have you been eating?”

“Well, mostly instant noodles and the delivery special from Vito’s” I replied.

“And what is Vito’s delivery special?” he asked.

Even though I knew what was coming, I answered, “Your choice of a stromboli or calzone with either a side salad or a cannoli.”

He looked at the scale again and said, “Looks like you never chose the salad.”

Gary Barkley, my trainer, started laughing.  The old man said “Barkley, this is not the time.  With the virus, we can’t do any road work, go order us a treadmill.”  He then turned to me and said, “In the meantime, girlie, let’s start with some rope work.”

Over the next few weeks, the old man drove home the point to win in the longer ten round events, I had to fight smarter and smarter fighting for a woman in a boxing game where there were no weight classes or gender divisions meant being able to move. 

Boxing on New Hope walked a fine line between sport and entertainment – sometimes outlandish entertainment.  The venue for my next fight was at Redd’s Top Event Entertainment Center and Casino.  It was where I fought my first match as the first event of the evening.  Now, I was returning as the main event.  My opponent was – well, a lunatic.  He was billed as “Rampaging Rhino Roid Roy” – no kidding.  He was known for his use of steroids and stims to put him into a psychotic rage when he fought.  Though he belonged in an asylum, the roids and stims were perfectly legal as long as they were disclosed to the judges and odds-makers when the drugs were administered.  He yelled and bellowed a lot before the match while running around the ring in a – rhino suit?

“What is that on top of his head?” I asked.

Barkley, my trainer, answered “It’s supposed to be a rhinoceros’ horn.  Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be safe – it’s made of surgical grade silicon.”

“So I’m supposed to fight a three hundred pound guy with a sex toy on his head?” I asked.

“Yeah, well if I were you,” Barkley replied while giggling, “I’d avoid bending over.”

I had words for Barkley which included a string of rude expletives, but the old man interrupted, “You two can cut up later.  We got a fight to win.  Remember the game plan?”  He held my mouth guard a few inches from my face.

“Yeah, same as the last time I fought a big guy – ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee – a man’s hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see’.  Sting like a pissed-off queen bee bitch!”  I made up the last part.  The old man shoved the mouth guard in place and a few seconds later, the bell rang.

The Game

5150: Alien Fight Night is a fun little game you can still find on Wargame Vault and DriveThruRPG.  Two Hour Wargames published the game in 2013 – I even wrote a review in 2015.  After all of this time, it is still a fun game to dust off and play from time to time.  It was one of the first games to provide counters and a “battle board”, a boxing ring.  The game can even be played with pencil and paper – which you will need.

Unlike most other THW games, there’s a bit more bookkeeping and more dice rolling.  That’s because as you go through the action tables for a fight round you have to fill out the fight’s score card like you were a judge.  Kind of like when your kids play little league or girls’ fastpitch softball, parents are called upon to be scorekeepers.

Now there’s a story as to why I played a game of 5150: Alien Fight Night.  As some as you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  The idea is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  Looks as though I will be unable to do that this year.  Why?  Anxiety over the election and direction of the country plays a part and Covid-19 plays another part.  I had a mild case earlier this year and I can not bang out the words like I used to.  I still tire easily and have to spend about half the day resting.  So, with everything that’s happening, I got a little depressed.  I still want to write a story this month and my favorite upbeat character is Betty Caruso.  Betty tends to be carefree and slightly clueless, so a Betty Caruso boxing story is just the thing to chase away the blues and help me feel productive this month.

Usually, I play a game taking notes and photos, and then I sit down and write the story.  Watching a boxing movie or a Noir film containing boxing scenes can help set the mood.  A personal favorite is to listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”, the trick is to avoid listening to all of their hits and going down memory lane into the 60s.  Today, I’ll do a step-by-step play of a round or two of a fight to give you a feel for how the game plays.

Characters – Stars and Grunts

The first thing you do is to build your character.  This is not only the first step in an immersive or role playing game, but also in crafting a story whether you are a “pantser” or a “plotter.”  Pantser and plotter are two relatively new terms to describe writing styles.  A pantser is someone who writes by the “seat of his or her pants”, this kind of writer likes to have the characters explore their world on their own.  A plotter is someone who plans or outlines the plot of the story with as many details as he or she can think of.  Truth is, most of us are a combination of the two when we create our story.  When using a game to tell a story, you can think of the game’s rules as the outline structure and the roll of the dice as the explorative “pantser” part.

Anyway, you are in luck.  I can’t find my notes from the last time I played Alien Fight Night, so I need to recreate Betty Caruso.  Betty is a Star character, which gives her a few advantages over a Grunt or NPC character, but not as many as in other THW games.  Betty has a number of Star Power dice equal to each point of her Stamina and she gets to choose when and how many of her Bonus Dice she can use.  Then you choose Race, Gender, and a Name for your character.  Betty is a Basic or Basic Humanoid, she’s female and her professional name is Bouncing Betty Caruso.

The next task is to assign Attributes.  Being a Star, she rolls on the attribute tables for her first attribute and then gets to choose her second one.  Grunts have to roll for both of their attributes.  This is a minor difference from other THW rules where Stars get two attributes and Grunts get only one.  For her Attributes, Betty is Charismatic and has Quick Reflexes.  This combination gives her seven Attribute Points.

Ready for a surprise?  There’s no REP in 5150: Alien Fight Night.  The most important stat in THW games is missing – well, actually it is hiding in a different stat.  Your character is further defined by five Stats: Boxing, Aggression, Quickness, Power, and Stamina.  Stamina is where the REP is hiding.  If you bring a character from another 5150 game into Alien Fight Night, the character’s REP becomes the Stamina Stat.

When building your character, you start with 15 points you can spread across the five Stats.  There are a few restrictions.  No starting Stat can be higher than 5.  No Stat can be lower than 1.  Females can’t start with the Power Stat over 3 and females can’t start with a Quickness Stat under 3.  The Stamina Stat can never go above 5 and all other Stats can never go above 7 during the character’s career.  There’s a mechanism in the rules where you can see the start of the Increasing and Decreasing d6 mechanism – it’s the Fluctuating Stats mechanism that kicks in after a character’s third fight.  This mechanism allows a chance for a Stat to go up after a successful fight and a chance for Stats to go down if you didn’t do well in a match.

After assigning the Stats, if your character is a Basic and you desire your character to have permanent enhancements, this is where you would apply them.

The final task in character design is to calculate your character’s Skill Level and Fame.  These are based on the combining, multiplying, dividing the Stats and Attribute Points – you know, simple math stuff.  I could tell you, but if I tell you everything, you wouldn’t go spend five bucks for the rules. Betty’s Skill Level is 55 and her Fame is 11.

There are 83 Fighters to Choose from as Your Opponent

Next, it is time to build the opposing fighter.  You can use the same process, or you can select your opponent from one of 83 pre-generated fighters from the NP Fighters table.  I play solo, so selecting an opposing fighter from the list is better than building one from scratch, simply because I know the person I play against tends to cheat whenever she has the chance.  You could just choose a fighter from the NP Fighters table, but using the Next Fight Table generates are more interesting opponent.  You roll a d6 on the table, in this case I scored a 4, so my opponent will be 2 Fame Points higher than Betty’s Fame.  There are 10 boxers who have a Fame of 13 to choose from.  The mini I’m using is the Heroclix Marvel Comics Rhino – a Basic.  There are 4 Basics with a Fame of 13 and anyone of them would be a challenge for Betty.  I pick the lowest one on the chart, Fighter Number 54.

What drives your strategy and tactics in a match are the Boxing Dice and the Bonus Dice.  The Boxing Dice can be used on the Stalking, Boxing and Taking Control tables and there is a chance of recovering lost dice when the player returns to the Stalking table.  The Bonus Dice can be used on any table, but once a Bonus die is used, it’s gone.   Betty has 4 Boxing Dice and 11 Bonus Dice, while Rhoid Roy (Fighter 54) has 4 Boxing Dice and 13 Bonus Dice.

Now all that is left to do is to use the Stats and Attributes to fill out the top of the score card before starting the fight.

The Ring and the Action Table(s)

Before we start a game, we should take a look at how the ring and counters or miniatures are used.  They’re used as visual status markers as we play through a round.  There are three positions: the first is with the counters in the center of the ring, this represents your normal situations; the second is with a player’s counter against the ropes representing the situation of being on the ropes; the third position is with a player’s counter in a corner representing the situation of being backed into a corner.  The visual markers inform players to make decisions to either get out of the situation or to capitalize on the situation.

The main driver of newer rules is the Action Table.  This is a table which determines the order in which the game is played and when various actions can occur.  When you get to the end of the table, you go back to the start of the table to play the next activation.  You repeat this loop until the game is over.  Well, 5150: Alien Fight Night has 5 action tables –

  • Stalking – This is the table at the start of a round or after the referee has broken the fighters apart. They are moving around looking for an opening or timing for an attack.
  • Boxing – This is the table where punches are being thrown or parried.
  • Taking Control – When a fighter exerts control and begins to dominate his/her opponent, this table is used.
  • KO – This table is used when a potential fight ending punch is thrown.
  • Recovery  – This table is used to determine if a fighter can continue fighting after receiving a crushing blow.

While playing through one of these tables, your fighter is trying to score points with the judges, just like in a real fight.  The difference is that as you finish the actions on one table, you can be directed to return to the start of that table, or you can be redirected to different tables as a result of the actions.  For example, depending on the number of successes you have rolled on the Boxing Table, you could be directed to the Taking Control Table, or repeat the Boxing Table, or be directed to the Stalking Table. 

B and The Monkey-Poodle Virus – Part 2

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