Carnage Amongst the Stars is a fascinating read, primarily because it takes roleplaying and pares it back to its absolute essentials within the context of its own particular focus.
Its primary focus is the epic Humans vs Aliens kill-a-thon stories portrayed in fiction and movies, with particular emphasis on the movie-version of Starship Troopers. If you think of armoured humans dropping down on to an alien planet to destroy everything in site you’re not too far wrong.
The rules make it very easy to generate missions (each mission is the destruction of another alien world), and make the game very simple to play. There are only two statistics; Fighting Ability (FA) for when you’re shooting aliens and Non-Fighting Ability (NFA) for when you’re doing anything else. The kill count rises rapidly with the potential for each soldier to be killing dozens, or even hundreds of aliens in each mission, earning themselves promotions and access to bigger, badder weapons and equipment as they go.
Simplistic and gung-ho as this sounds, the game actually grows surprisingly deep the longer you play. We’ve run two sessions now and the game quickly becomes quite confronting. The ‘flashback’ system that the game uses to define “Strengths” (which allow a one-shot chance for your soldier to end an encounter as an overwhelming victory) and “Weaknesses” (which save your soldier from dying, but only by losing the encounter and being taken out in some manner) require the players to narrate a snapshot of the soldier’s past and explain how it affects their current situation. This simple mechanic alone allows a great deal of characterisation to be built around a formerly two-dimensional character.
As well as this, as the game progresses the characters (and players) have to gradually face up to the fact that this is not a game where the death-toll and violence can be attributed to the heroic defense of a country/planet/race or the needs of a moment. The characters are not heroes, as gradually becomes plain, but flawed human cogs in a monstrous machine dedicated to exterminating all non-human life in the universe.
It’s an excellent and simple game and I highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interesting in science fiction roleplaying, excellent storytelling, and hack-and-slash gaming pared back to its absolute essentials.