Watch the Skies 3: perspectives from a Brazilian ambassador

The fact that our group constituted a complete team meant that we had ample opportunity to discuss strategy long before the day itself. Our briefing stated that Brazil was a peaceful nation which wanted to emphasise cooperation and discussion over military action, and was willing to contribute it’s fair share to UN initiatives. It also noted that we wanted to be taken seriously as a power, that we believed Brazilians were better at leading South American affairs than Argentina, and a major goal was to exploit alien technology, ideally not allowing China to obtain a major tech advantage. We agreed that we would embody these principles in game and extend our stance of peaceful cooperation and dialogue to alien teams as well as humans. Brazil does have a dormant nuclear programme and we could have brought that into the game at great cost. We vigorously debated whether to do this (in order to meet our ‘Brazil is taken seriously’ objective, and also in case the alien presence required a strategic response) but ultimately we did not reach consensus and a nuclear armed Brazil was never a serious possibility.

The game kicked off, and our diplomatic team consisting of myself, our Foreign Minister (FM) and the other Senior Ambassador (SA) split up to achieve our main initial objectives. FM went to the UN: there was a crisis bubbling away in Uganda we were keen to do our bit to support. SA had the most important job of making contact with the aliens, and I was off to chat up the Pope: Brazil is the largest Catholic nation in the world and so the Vatican was potentially a key ally, and also it seemed the big man already had lines of communication in place with the aliens. However, on the way I was side-tracked: Brazil is an observer state for the Arab League, and they were having their first meeting, so I went along to that instead. The Arabs were all a pretty friendly bunch, and were mainly concerned with their local affairs: Egypt wanted African issues like Uganda to be handled by African nations without outside interference. Everyone was a bit worried about Iran. No-one seemed that bothered by the alien presence: I brought up the issue and felt a bit like Lembit Opik going on one of his asteroid impact rants in the House of Commons. In what time I had left, I scooted over to the Vatican and made the appropriate overtures to a friendly Cardinal. They appreciated our support, but had their own plans for alien engagement. Hmmm. Some mild panic towards the end of turn 1 when our chief scientist (CS) went missing. Each turn features periods of ‘team time’ when everyone must return to their team table. Our man was missing for a good ten minutes and we genuinely convinced ourselves he had been abducted. Turned out in fact that he didn’t know he had to come back and was just sitting in a different room.

Diplomatic efforts proceeded, and our team made contact with the other American nations around the table, and various other key players. The US didn’t seem that bothered about dealing with small-fry such as us, but Mexico and Canada were much more friendly and we agreed on a formalised alliance of mutual defence and sharing of tech. All of us were interested in peaceful overtures to the aliens, and so we agreed to work together towards that goal. We made some initial contact with some of the alien factions, and tried to arrange a meeting. All going well. Towards the end of the second turn I realised that there was a whole phase of the game when diplomatic players could go to the map and either ally with NPC nations or protect them from alien attack. I had read about this in the rulebook then completely forgotten it. I arrived at the map to find it festooned with flags from other nations. Oops. Peru had been largely left alone (mainly I think because it was a hard nut to crack: +2 on the resistance roll) but there was evidence of alien activity so I went in there.

Things were going well on the alien front. We had a vist from one of the factions and they assured us they were peaceful: all they wanted were soil samples and the like. We were down with that, helped collect what they needed, and our president along with the Mexican (and Canadian?) presidents were taken up into space to deliver them, and were appropriately rewarded. All very cordial. Our president also negotiated with the Reticulans, who were also friendly but wanted human samples, which was slightly more sinister. El presidente went with the deal, which was basically to supply two ‘volunteers’ to help with the Reticulan’s ‘slightly invasive’ research. In return we got some juicy tech: we were chiefly interested in learning alien languages so we could help further the cause of intergalactic diplomacy. Later on it seemed there might have been a bit of a communications breakdown, and ‘two’ was more like ‘two units of 10,000 people each’ and volunteers was more like ‘economic migrants who are also orphans’. Whoops. I didn’t realise this until after the game, so when the Reticulans came back later and asked for three more people, my response was along the lines of ‘no worries mate, just let us lube them up and then we’ll help load them onto your flying saucer’. Huge apologies to the peoples of South America. Unsuprisingly the people were getting scared and the terror track advanced, bringing PR (and income) levels down for nations all across the Americas. One of the main issues was Peru, in which the government had been completely infiltrated by aliens. Working with our Defence Minister (DM) I completed our Peruvian alliance, reinforced their national defence and he sent in an agent to clear out the bad apples in the government. In an attempt to reduce continental terror our president made a reasurring statement to the press, the result of which was an absolute drubbing, in which a front page news story about alien concentration camps in South America was printed alongside our president saying everything was fine and the aliens were our friends, in best Comical Ali fashion.

Meanwhile, diplomacy with the other Earth nations was not going as well. Canada, Mexico and ourselves had been talking about inviting Argentina into our little club, but they were antagonising our new alien friends by shooting lots of them down, so we decided to hold off. Relations with Argentina was never unfriendly, but had perhaps cooled a little. My fellow SA had attended the second meeting of the Arab League, but from that point on we completely forgot they existed. Sorry arab dudes – nothing personal. However, we were getting on great with the Vatican, thanks to the sterling efforts of our other SA and our FM. Work was proceeding on inviting the aliens to a peace conference on Earth in Brasilia, then disaster! The pope caught an alien virus and was quarantined, putting peace plans on hold. Our FM was in dialogue with him at the time, and narrowly avoided catching it himself. Fortunately he’s an atheist so he probably didn’t do any unhygienic ring kissing or anything like that while he was over there. It was my turn to sit in at the UN (we were rotating it between our three diplomats) and so I got my own taste of how pointless the whole body was. Work was proceeding slowly on getting the Cetaceans representation at the council. The working plan was to gift them Antarctica but there was a lot of resistance to that idea: I wasn’t keen myself as I knew our DM had agents running all over chasing after Red Mercury. We dropped another point on the PR track: the people of the Americas were cowering in their beds as vast fleets of UFOs passed unopposed overhead. To get a bit of positivity going and push us back up the track the Brazil government agreed to stop all deforestation in the rainforest. This was our contribution to solving global warming and according to Control it was Big News, but we tried and failed to get anyone outside of Brazil to give even the tiniest shit.

Fortunately, a better opportunity presented itself: the Pope was out of quarantine and so our peace conference was back on. By this point we spoke all alien languages fluently in Brazil and so we sent party invites to every alien faction. We circulated the room trying to pass the word to as many human nations as possible. The Vatican were on board and the Pope agreed to chair. Much tension when the big event rolled around but it came off without a hitch. Lots of human nations represented. Disappointingly only one alien faction was represented, but he was joined by two more later on: apparently being fashionably late is a thing in space as well. More disappointing we didn’t really get any closer to knowing what the aliens wanted: they just spoke in vague platitudes about wanting peace. Ho hum. At a similar time in the game, word broke out that aliens had visited the UN and had told the assembled nations that peace was going to be essentially enforced on the planet from on high. Good news all round then.

For the first time in the game, things were looking unstable in the Americas. The US had neglected their citizens to the point where they were on the brink of civil war. We had the card in hand to push them over the edge and debated doing just that (for the lulz) but resisted as it was contrary to our ethos. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan president had been mismanaging affairs to such a huge extent (to the point of donating his entire army to the aliens and then inviting the Argentinians in to occupy his country) that the funsters in his government organised a military coup. The new president, the former Venezuelan defence minister, circulated the Americas to press the flesh, and cheerily announced his intention to invade Mexico. The Canada-Mexico-Brazil alliance immediately started moving towards a war footing, pushing for UN approval for military mobilization. Things were looking dodgy for the world in general: reports were circulating regarding various alien battleships arriving in orbit. Even more worrying was the news that the Cetaceans were off: one of the alien factions has offered them asylum off of the planet. It was looking like things were going to go a bit Hitchhiker’s Guide: one of the last actions of the Brazil government was to broadcast a message to all alien factions which basically said ‘we’ve always supported peace, we’ve done the environmentalism stuff, we sent you those orphans you wanted. Can we come too?’. And around that point the game ended! Humanity faced an uncertain future…

End of game awards

  • Our biggest success was undoubtedly the First Intergalactic Peace Conference. I think we can say we did more to further the cause of human-alien relations than any other nation on the planet. In my professional life I’ve been involved in organising a few academic meetings and conferences, and I’ve often fretted beforehand about no-one turning up, invited speakers pulling out etc. The relief when it comes off is palpable, and I felt the same relief when our peace conference was attended by humans and aliens alike! Slightly disappointing that the conference was just a talking shop for mindless platitudes and didn’t actually achieve anything at all, but that’s pretty realistic as well, to be honest.
  • Our biggest cock-ups were many. From a personal point of view, I think I made a big error burning lots of cards to force an alliance with the Peru NPC. I was late coming to this aspect of the game and was short on time to act, and thought that allying with a nation gave us various benefits: letting our agents act there, letting us view the alien activity cards and so on. I now realise that in fact the only benefit is letting us move military forces through the country, which we never did. I don’t think I was the only one who made this mistake as the Americas were festooned with alliance flags. What we should have done was harden the NPCs against alien infiltration, which was half the cost and would have helped us with the terror track. I did this for a few NPC nations: not sure if any other Americans did it at all. We should have banded together and done it early. An honourable mention to our stragey of giving loads of money to corporations to upgrade our armed forces. Our forces never left the hutch over the entire game. In fact they only mobilised on the last turn!
  • Our closest allies would have to be the Vatican, who we worked with throughout the game to further the cause of peace, and helped us bring off the peace conference. A great bunch of lads. Honourable mentions to our Mexican and Canadian brothers and sisters. They were straight shooters, and we pretty much agreed on every issue that came before us. Our alliance will likely outlast the planet itself.
  • Our biggest enemies were probably the press! During the game we were convinced they were set against us: we aimed to do nothing but good works throughout the game: pushing cooperation between all nations and species, committing to global warming solutions, organising peaceful conferences, and the only time we made a splash in the news we were portrayed as human-betraying collaborators! In hindsight, we know of course that the press didn’t have any particular axe to grind (the bad press was because We Were Playing It Wrong, as I will discuss in my next post, and Control were telling the press we were), and our enmity towards the press was in fact a real highlight of the day. I have a new-found sympathy for fresh faced politicians who go into the public eye full of idealism, and then get absolutely torn apart because they can’t solve all the world’s problems. We should also have known of course that bad news always makes the best stories.
  • Best roleplaying award has to go to the Venezuelan Defense Minister who took over his government in a military coup. After the game he told us he had no intention of going to war with Mexico really, but he played the role of charismatic, genocidal maniac so well that we completely bought into it, went into a bit of a flap and had our forces mobilised to face him by the game end. Good effort that man!

So that’s my summary of the day. In general we were happy with the way things went for Brazil: I think we made the best progress we could towards achieving our objectives. We showed leadership and were committed to peace throughout, and were true to our values, with perhaps a slight black mark being when we sent all those orphans up to be probed by slimy aliens.

In my next post I will discuss the game itself, and my perception of the major problems in this version of WTS.

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