[REVIEW] Colonial Marines Operations Manual for Alien RPG
The Alien RPG Colonial Marines Operations Manual is a monstrous book. At 350+ pages, it is almost as big as the core rulebook, and an out of this world value for the content inside. While Free League did send me both digital and physical copies, I definitely prefer the physical one. The construction of the book itself is just as solid as the core rulebook. It has a comfortable heft overall, and the pages feel sturdy enough for everyday use. I really do think you could beat a xenomorph to death with it. Or at least subdue a facehugger.
Having grown up outside a U.S. Marine Corp base, the flavor text in the Colonial Marines Operations Manual (CMOM) feels very authentic. I appreciated some of the subtleties in the language used. It felt like someone made an effort to not just recreate what you see in war movies on TV, but actually take aim at reality. Of course this is sort of a superfluous thing that doesn’t add actual content, but it makes reading this tome of a book enjoyable. It’s also worth flipping through again for the artwork. The art of the Colonial Marines Operations Manual continues the style from original core rulebook. It hits the right notes on color and tone, which is to say dark and terrifying. It’s got enough going on for GMs to take a little inspiration from it and tie that moment into their own adventure.
There are lots of great resources for your games in the Alien RPG Colonial Marines Operations Manual. From weapons and equipment to missions and campaigns. The various military forces and organizations are detailed, as well as their recent history of involvement in incidents across the known universe. It gives you a good idea of the political tensions in the Alien universe, as well as a jumping off point for creating your own missions or characters.
You’ve got enough for 2 or 3 full campaigns in this book. Maybe more. It’s designed in a way that really gives you your money’s worth. You get the full Frontier War campaign, and each mission in this campaign gives you extra ideas to adapt it for an additional use. You could use them as individual one shots, weave them into your own ongoing campaign, or you could easily create a whole new campaign with them. There are also mission generator tables you can use that will help fill out your adventures. CMOM really delivers for GMs who are pressed for time, cash, or both. The amount of content in this book is staggering, bordering on overwhelming (but in a good way).
The Frontier War campaign itself is really meaty. There is a LOT to get into, and I think your adventures will likely last beyond one night. This is perfect for groups that really like to sink into their games. Alternately the missions are constructed in a way that lets you streamline them. There are always a few parts you can skip over if your group likes a quicker pace to their games, or if your time is running a little short. For example there’s quite a bit of vehicle combat. This gives your dice happy groups something new and different to do, while your more heavy roleplay groups could easily skip the vehicle combat and get directly into more story with the random event tables. Another example are the heavily detailed missions. There are several locations in each mission that aren’t directly involved in the story. There’s enough information to reuse them in another campaign when your players don’t end up visiting them, and of course they are there if you do want to draw things out and lure your players over. The Frontier War Missions are conveniently crafted for every type of group and/or GM.
Having played both Hope’s Last Day, and now starting the Frontier War campaign, they seem pretty consistent with timing and content. I would estimate about 40-50 hours entertainment for the Frontier War campaign alone. If you take advantage of all the extras, that’ll easily put you in the neighborhood of $1 to $0.50 per hour, which makes $43.69 (depending on currency rates) a fantastic bargain for this book. It also comes with the free digital PDF if you order it from the Free League Publishing Website (which makes it worth the extra shipping cost). The Colonial Marines Operations Manual lets you drop your players off in the middle of an epic cold war struggle with the xenomorph threat looming in the shadows. It is an encyclopedia of knowledge paired with a gripping campaign story that lets you create the definitive Colonial Marines experience for your players in the Alien universe.