The Tardigrade and a personal story

When I was in my early teens, one of my favorite activities was sitting down with my grandfather’s microscope and perusing tiny life-forms. I used to make hay infusions, gather mud from promising ponds, and observe animalcules for ages.

Most of what I observed were protozoans. More rarely, I got a peek at what were, to me, even more fabulous monsters – multicelled animals as tiny as protozoans. Creatures such as gastrotrichs, water fleas, rotifers, or the tardigrade.

Tardigrades have gathered some notoriety because of their resistance to extreme conditions. They form into cysts when it’s too hot, too cold, or too dry, and these cysts are particularly hard to kill. They can survive even in hard vacuum for a time, and can withstand freezing – even boiling. You can look them up if curious.

Well, my inclusion of the tardigrade is a kind of homage to the many happy hours I spent watching tiny critters frolic under my microscope’s lens.

Fighting the Tardigrade

Naturally, the Planet Apocalypse Tardigrade features this resistance. Though you may not realize it on first glance. Its toughness is a mediocre 4, and its attack a comparatively puny 4d8. Not really too fearsome at all. Of course, like all 4th circle demons, it still has 4 health so takes a little while to knock out. But any dedicated party, even in the early game, should be able to handle one.

The problem comes after it is killed. You see, it transforms into a cyst. This cyst is a cardboard counter in the basic game. Later, when we announce and show the already-intimated upgrade set of plastic counters, there is also a plastic cyst. The cyst is completely invulnerable, but does nothing. You can’t attack it, and it doesn’t attack you. It doesn’t even interfere with your First Aid attempts (any other demonic presence forces you to spend courage when you do First Aid in the area).

But, the next time a fourth circle demon spawns, the cyst opens up again and the Tardigrade reappears. The problem then becomes the fact that you are facing not just whatever other fourth circle demon is in play, but that damn Tardigrade again.

You can’t ignore it, because if it manages to exit the map, you’ll lose 4 doom. If you focus on killing it, then you lose precious time and effort needed to kill the OTHER fourth circle demon that is on the map. It presents a knotty strategic conundrum. And of course even if you do manage to kill it again, then it just becomes another cyst. You can never eliminate it.

In theory, if a game lasted long enough, the Tardigrade would always make it to the exit and escape, eventually. In practice, the game can well end before this moment, either because the players in desperation manage to kill the demon lord and win, or because in their efforts to block the tardigrade and other demons they are overwhelmed and defeated.

The Tardigrade is in it for the long haul.