I established the theme of my tactical miniatures game: Bug-eyed alien saucer-men at war against Earth's military might. That sounded like a fun, gonzo opportunity for some light-hearted wargaming. One goal I kept in mind was to keep the violence toned down. These are cartoony toys going to war, not hardened soldiers mired in a battlefield of blood.
Inspiration from Tex Avery
I decided that no character would ever get "killed," only knocked out when they are defeated. Much like in Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes cartoons, characters would be knocked to the ground with tweeting birds flitting around their heads, only to recover soon after. This is the concept behind the role-playing game Toon (created by game design legends Greg Costikyan and Warren Spector).
As a game mechanic, being "knocked out" is the same as "killed" unless there is a way for a character to recover. I allowed characters to revive knocked out allies by spending one game turn next to them. However, this could make the games run long as it takes longer to knock out each and every enemy unit. I needed a different game objective other than wiping out all enemy forces.
Capture to Win
The mechanic I needed came from the Alien Conquest storyline itself: Capture. The Alien forces are working to capture us Earthlings to use our big brains as power sources (most aliens have teeny-tiny brains). Earth's defenders, the ADU (Alien Defense Unit), wants to capture as many aliens as possible to study them and better understand their enemy. I decided that capturing enemy units and bringing them to a player's "home base" on one side of the table would be the game's main objective.
|Aliens round up Earthlings
|ADU Forces study captured aliens
Study for Advantage
As further incentive to capture Alien units, I plan to include mechanics allowing the Earth player to find weaknesses to exploit. This is partially inspired by the Alien Cyborg's defeat after someone illogically offered it a birthday cake. Tom Wham's fantastically fun The Awful Green Things from Outer Space is a game all about trying different weapons to fight an unknown, invading alien force with unexpected and hilarious results ("I tried the fire extinguisher on the creature but that just made it grow bigger. Then I threw a bottle of acid at it, causing it to burst into 5 smaller aliens!"). I plan to use something similar for using improvised weapons like oil cans, pizza, birthday cake, etc.
Please note: LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group of companies. This website is not affiliated, authorized, or sponsored by The LEGO Group. I do not claim to represent The LEGO Group and this game is completely my creation. While the project may use the LEGO® Alien Conquest world as a theme, any text about the game's mechanics are under my copyright.