Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Flying Lead

Flying Lead, by Rich Jones and Andrea Sfiligoi, can be seen as the modern conflict version of Song of Blades and Heroes. From reading the official forums and the rules, it becomes apparent that it is the most sophisticated rules-wise among the Song of Blades "children" (I've played so far SoBH, Mutants and Death Ray Guns, Fear and Faith and Song of Drums and Shakos.) So let's get to the review:

Contents: Flying Lead is a 48-page standalone rulebook that is chock-full with rules, rosters, scenarios and optional systems. It doesn't hold back on information and is enough on its own to play modern or near-future conflicts with the Song of Blades engine. It includes general rules for vehicles that with a little work might be adapted to include small mecha or powered armor too.

Presentation: As with other Ganesha books, it's laid out in two columns with grayscale illustrations. The exception are a few brownish "watermark"-style silhouettes on a few pages. These, and the bullets on the margins of all pages, were a little annoying while reading and a waste of printer ink but still not enough to cause grief. Font sizes are still good enough to read in booklet format.

Writing: the style is mostly conversational and an easy read. There are lots of examples, comments from the authors, recommendations for play and notes of differences to other Song of Blades games. The latter might confound readers not familiar with the other games but they are great to those who have played them.

Solo-friendliness: as with other games from Ganesha, there is no explicit support for solo play but the activation mechanic is helpful in keeping things risky and a little unpredictable even if you just play both sides. There are also other house rules for solo play, such as Dogui's activation roll and Aleksandar Šaranac's solo rules for Song of Drums and Shakos, which could be adapted to this game.

Playtest report: for this playtest I set up a cenario where a small group of infiltrators must place explosives to destroy some cargo. However, they have been spotted and some enemy soldiers are coming to intercept them. It was also a chance to make use of my industrial zone board, including two very nice warehouses from Finger and Toe Models.
To keep things simple, all figures are Q3+ C3, carrying assault rifles. There are four infiltrators, with body armor, and six defending soldiers split in two groups of three.
The objective of the infiltrators is to reach the blue container from the ramp, place explosives and leave the map through the edge they entered from. To set the explosives a figure must stand next to the container, activate and succeed on a medium difficulty task (using the Task Resolution system from Flying Lead.) The objective of the defenders is to eliminate the infiltrators. They cannot disarm the explosives once they are set.

Both sides started moving towards the objective. On their second turn, the infiltrators managed to fail on two dice on the first figure. This allowed the defenders to set up some areas of overwatch on the platform. The other defender team moved forward and, using the Move and Shoot special rule, managed to take one of the infiltrators out of action. Surprisingly, the other two figures managed to empty their clips without effect (two rolls with "out of ammo results," very lucky for the infiltrators.)
After that, one of the infiltrators moved forward and shot the soldier who had the overwatch on the ramp. He got a "goes to ground" result causing him to run for cover. Two infiltrators set their own overwatch areas and the third one went up the ramp to set the explosives. [Note: thinking back now, the infiltrator should have counted only partial cover from the containers while on the platform, and thus the soldier in overwatch should have been able to shoot him.]

One of the soldiers moved around the buildings and fired at the closest infiltrator who was in overwatch. However, his body armor avoided the damage. In the following turn the other infiltrator fired back and got a "shaken" result, sending the soldier to the ground scared that he might have been hit.
Eventually, one of the soldiers managed to take out the infiltrator on the platform, but by then the explosives had already been set. The two remaining infiltrators ran to the board edge and one of them was once more saved by the body armor. All that was left to the defending soldiers was to take cover as the containers were blown to pieces.

As expected from the game's title, firearms have the spotlight in Flying Lead. Of particular note are the increased ranges for firearms, suppression results from gunfire and overwatch rules. The result is that it plays quite differently from the other Ganesha games -- even from Fear and Faith, which is also geared towards modern settings but still keeps elements of fantasy in the supernatural creatures.
 The downside of the additional rules is the need for bookkeeping. Overwatch counters are a necessity, and markers for states such as prone, shaken and out of action, as well as for malfunctioning weapons, are useful. In the end, I think that the extra work is worth it for those interested in keeping to the Song of Blades engine for both fantasy and "realistic" skirmishes.


Monty said...

Very interesting and a great AAR, never used these rules, but you have
a fantastic set-up here!

Ricardo said...

Thanks for the comment!

Dale said...

Rich Jones also produces Bushi No Yume, which is based on Flying Lead and thus on the "Song" engine. It is a little more complicated than FL, and is for "cinematic samurai" play.

I really like your all paper setup. It shows well in the pictures. I take it that even the mat is printed paper?

I look forward to the FL supplement for WW II, but it is way overdue. I hope that it will not have the superfluous graphics, so it saves on printer ink (as you noted with FL).

I think merging THW's reaction system with GG's activation method would make for a great solo game. I need to give it a whirl myself, sometime.

I agree with your conclusion: you need a lot of markers for FL.

Ricardo said...

Thanks for the comments. The mat is paper, based on TopoSolitario's industrial zone. The idea of joining THW reactions and GG activation really sounds promising.