Pluto Attacks from JTP Games gives gamers the chance to play out a classic B-movie alien invasion. A typical Midwestern American town faces domination by untold sci-fi powers. The heroes are, of course, teenagers. Whether it’s young Steve McQueen outwitting a blob from outer space or John Boyega defending his London neighborhood in Attack the Block, teenagers are best suited to combat secretive menaces thanks to their innate curiosity, eagerness to act, and surplus of free time. This lighthearted sense runs through Pluto Attacks perfectly, with players telling themselves the story as the game rolls on.
Gameplay in Pluto Attacks is cooperative, with all players seeking to work together to end the alien invasion. Set in 1952 Kansas, the game begins with players choosing their archetypal characters, such as Football Captain, Poindexter, Cheerleader, and Soda Jerk. Each character comes with a point value in social skills, brains, or physical strength, which determines the number of dice players can roll in those situations.
Dice in hand, players reveal cards from a deck of stacked Scenes, Plot Twists, and the big reveal. These correlate to tropes from B-movies with the mystery gradually unraveling until the end goal of the story is clear. The bulk of the cards are classic Scenes, such as the teenagers desperately trying to convince city leaders of the dangers, meeting up at a diner or science lab, stumbling across an alien probe, and even facing down drones and robot dogs.
Each Scene has a series of dice in one of the stat categories that players must roll to beat, whether alone or as teams. When players successfully roll to overcome a Scene, the winning player collects it as a trophy to be used as a bonus roll later on or as part of the yet-to-be-determined end goals.
As cards are revealed, Plot Twists appear that make things more difficult: a fire spreads, alien diseases are discovered, simple exhaustion sets in, or the inevitable “car breaks down.” Players face rolling fewer dice and other restrictions until they burn some of their trophies to remove these cards. It is a tricky choice players must make, as soon the Big Reveal card appears to show what kinds of cards must be collected to win. If 16 undefeated cards are ever out on the table at once, the aliens overrun the town, and the players lose.
Pluto Attacks is a cooperative dice game for one to six players aged 12 and up. It is a short to moderate game, lasting about half an hour depending on how quickly players choose which scene card they want to roll on that round. Play is flexible and light, and younger players might join in with some tips from older players. Expanded rules even allow for solitaire play, with one boy and his trusty dog facing off against the alien menace. With its upbeat storytelling, and suitability for a wide number of players, Pluto Attacks fits well into game night.