Sunday, May 8, 2011

Qwik - Game of the Wasteland

A few years ago I saw this movie called "Blood of Heroes," where the plot involves players of a (very violent) sport called Jugger in a post-apocalyptic world. I guess anyone who likes post-apocalyptic role-playing games would be tempted to convert that into a game setting. I toyed with the idea but didn't go far, and never found anything quite like that. So last week I was browsing the new releases at WargameVault when I saw this new book from Two Hour Wargames: Qwik, which turns out to be a strategy/board game adaptation of that blood sport. I grabbed it (in PDF form), and now I had the chance to run a playtest.

In Qwik, two teams of five characters compete against each other. Each team has one "qwik," usually a small and agile person, who is the only one who can touch the "bean" (a dog skull) and must place it on the opponent's stake at the edge of the field. Then there are three "drivers," tough guys armed with bats who may attack each other and the qwik, to protect their stake. Finally, there is one "chain," who acts as a bodyguard for the qwik, carrying one or more chains that can be used to trip the opponent's qwik or hurt the other players. Curiously enough, there are people who actually play this in the real world, check the ever useful Wikipedia for details.

One thing I find particularly attractive in Two Hour Wargames' rules is that they are explicitly meant to work for either multi-player or solo games. That same holds in the case of Qwik, where part of the book is devoted to the behavior of "non-player teams."

Learning the Rules
In this test match, I simply picked up the first two ready-made team rosters, controlling the (slightly) weaker one against the rules-driven opponent. On the following picture we can see the teams ready at the start of the game. My team (red) consisted of Allan (the qwik,) Wilkins (chain,) and Gordon, Ivana and Killer (drivers.) The blue team had Boris (qwik,) Vance (chain,) and Marc, Mr. Q. and Olivia (drivers.) Since you must choose your player in the team, i picked up Wilkins, who becomes a "star." In order to keep things simple in this first match, I didn't roll for Signatures for any team member.
The game began with a "face off" between the two qwiks. Luckily Allan, my team's qwik grabbed the bean and started running. My team's drivers moved ahead to protect the qwik, while the chain managed to knock down the opponent's qwik and even cause some damage. The blue team started by having Vance, their chain, knock down our qwik making him lose the bean. Even worse, Marc pinned the qwik down and the red team recovered the bean.
Some time later, Killer entered the same zone as Boris and hit him hard, taking him out of the game.  Having lost their qwik, the only hope for the blue team was to stall the game (and possibly hurt other team members) until the 100th stone was cast so they could get a substitution. A few turns later my team managed to stake the bean on blue team's field, losing Killer in the process (the red team really wanted revenge) and with Allan and Ivana also hurt.

Qwik is an interesting game, as it is all about tactical positioning. At first glance I thought that the tables automated too much of the game but actually, if you don't carefully move your team, defeat will come soon. The solo rules work well and do make the automated players behave consistently. I particularly like the ingenuity of the rules to determine how many "bonus dice" an automated player will risk. However, one must remember to always pick intelligent movement choices for the automated team (but I guess most solo tabletop rules require some degree of player intervention on the rules-driven opponent.) One very good thing is the fact that all resolution tables fit on four pages. Maybe one could even fit them all in a two-sided quick reference sheet to use in games (once all players know the general rules.)

There were a few spots on the rules that weren't clear but that are workable using some common sense. For instance, if during the game both qwiks are on the same zone as the bean, I used the face-off table to determine if either was able to grab it first or if they had to wrestle for it. Likewise, I assumed that since knocked down players cannot attack, another player entering their zone may opt to immediately go to the attack table.

In closing, Qwik is fun to play, even more if you have watched "Blood of Heroes" and thus remember the Jugger matches. I plan on trying a full campaign as suggested on the book but for that, I want to build a larger playing field and maybe some paper models for the teams. Maybe I'll do it for the Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month... time will tell.

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