Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Battle Armor


For some time I've been intrigued by the large amount of titles offered by Avalon Games, so I included two of their "mini-games" on my last batch of purchases from RPGNow: Battle Armor and Dark Dungeon. For now I'll write about Battle Armor. When I read the intro text, I immediately remembered the beginning of Starship Troopers (the book.) I think it gives the flavor of what the game is meant to be: battles between soldiers in power armor, wielding heavy guns and fighting endless wars. I did this quick drawing while in the mood.

 The game comes as two PDF files, a color version and a printer-friendly one. Layout is basic but readable (which is good.) The text is clear most of the time, although the style is very concise, meaning that some times you will have to look for information on the previous pages, as it will not repeat itself. Since the whole of the rules fit in about six pages, that's not much of a problem. Illustrations have an "old-school game" look that people will either love or hate. My real problem is with the diagrams that illustrate some game concepts; from wobbly lines-of-sight to a strange choice on how to depict a jumping motion, at first glance they confuse more than clarify.

Now for the game rules: each player controls one or more soldiers with power armor, which are differentiated by the gear and weapons they use. On each turn, each player moves all of his units before passing to the next (i.e. "igo-ugo") which isn't my favorite but seems fitting for a pick-up game, as it makes things simpler. Moving (including difficult terrain and obstacles,) jumping, ranged attacks, indirect fire and close combat are included in the rules.

Combat in Battle Armor is kept simple. You have a "to hit" roll with a single die, modified by factors such as range and cover, in case of ranged attacks. Most weapons cause a fixed amount of damage, although some (like missiles) use a die roll. Furthermore, all damage is applied to a hit location, which is determined by a die roll in case of ranged attacks or chosen by the attacker in close combat.

Counters representing the power suits are moved on an hex grid -- since there is no need for counter stacking, it might be possible to use miniatures too, by using a board with larger hexes. Damage is tracked by hit location on power suit cards. Other than that, bookkeeping is limited to other two counter types. The rules also include three scenario types and a point-build system to create squads of soldiers.

I played a quick simulation using MapTool, to get a better feel of the rules. Two teams of three soldiers face each other. Each team has two soldiers with plasma guns and one with a missile launcher equipped with hunter missiles. The red splotches are impassable terrain, while the green ones are hindering terrain.
A lucky roll had one of the soldiers from team purple lose his weapon at the beginning of the game. Not long after, all combatants had disabled arms or legs and then close combat proved to be very dangerous due to the ability of selecting a hit location rather than rolling. I'd say that firing from a distance, then jumping in for the kill in close combat might be a working tactic. The whole game took about forty minutes, quite good for a first test. The only problem was in the use of independent weapon systems (hunter missiles): the rules are unclear on how they should move, whether they detonate by being adjacent to or overlapping a target, how damage is dealt, and so on.

Conclusion
Battle Armor is an hex-based, "igo-ugo" turn style, counter or miniature game where players pit squads of soldiers wearing power armor to fight against each other. It seems good for pick-up games, with the advantage of needing very little space. However, I'd keep to the plasma guns and lasers and avoid the missiles, to keep the game simple and fast.

3 comments:

Slorm said...

I was thinking about for buy these ruleset, but I was not sure.

Thanks for your review, could you explain more about the combat system?

And of couerse, review the Dar Dungeon.

Slorm

Ricardo said...

Thanks for the comments. Based on your suggestion, I have added the following to the review:

"Combat in Battle Armor is kept simple. You have a "to hit" roll with a single die, modified by factors such as range and cover, in case of ranged attacks. Most weapons cause a fixed amount of damage, although some (like missiles) use a die roll. Furthermore, all damage is applied to a hit location, which is determined by a die roll in case of ranged attacks or chosen by the attacker in close combat."

Slorm said...

ok, very interesting :)

Thanks