Saturday, October 22, 2011

Arriving in New Hope City

I've finally got to a point while reading 5150: New Beginnings that I felt secure to try a first game. Note that this doesn't mean I've thoroughly read and grokked every detail of the game; that will take a while. However, I really wanted to try the character creation, encounter system and other immersion features of the game.

So here's my first crew for New Beginnings. Meet Ken Folstom, a computer tech who decided to start running his own shady operations [Star, Rep: 5. Class: dropout. Motivation: profit. Skills: fit 3, pep 4, sav 5, sci 0. Attributes: steely eyes, dim. Equip: BA machine pistol, armored jacket, CPU (5) with lock-on loop, local com-link, apartment (LL3) with alarm system, old car, 8 items saved]. After generating the Star, it was time to randomly recruit his assistants.

Ken, Orson and Ella

Ken's main associates are Orson, an attorney (rep 3 dropout) and his trophy wife Ella (rep 4 dropout), a married couple of thrill seekers. He has also recruited the help of a car mechanic and overall "fixer" of stuff, May (rep 4 LWC) and Rally, a bounty hunter dangerously close to the limits imposed by the law (rep 3 LWC).

With crew ready, it was time to look for a job. A smuggler named Karl wants someone to break into a police depot in the space port district (law level 2) and grab some goods that were recently aprehended. Obviously the best time for this action is late at night. Karl says that the depot is not heavily guarded as confiscated weapons and drugs are not stored there (he's interested in some expensive medical supplies). A dangerous job, but it should give Ken some fame and money.

Since this is a "black job," I decide that Ken will not involve May and Rally since, as law-abiding citizens, there's no telling about how they will react. Instead, it will be just him, Ella and Orson. He will spend four items to purchase tranquilizer guns for the three of them (lethal guns will be carried as backup if things go really wrong) and an SUV for the job.

The depot is divided into six storage rooms connected by a central hallway. There is a double door at the front and a normal door at the back. [I decided that, to find the goods to steal, they must roll 1-2 upon entering a storage room for the first time. According to the rules for the type and location of the encounter, there will be two PEFs (possible enemy forces) in the map and two per building  Any PEF in the depot will resolve into police. There is one police officer by each door but they won't be aggressive outright.] The plan is to park the SUV nearby, enter through the back door, grab what they can and leave quickly. Here is how it went.

No plan survives intact...
Here is the map at the start. My crew is still offboard in the SUV. The two PEFs were spawned in the (3, 3) sector of the map. I placed the policemen outside the building but they won't attack on sight.

In the first turn, my team and the police tied in activation. The PEFs activated and rolled "split into two PEFs". Afterwards my team entered and parked the vehicle on the other side of the block, and the PEFs repeated the annoying "split in two" pattern. Honestly, there is too much chance of this occurring in the PEF Movement table. Even if most PEFs will resolve into nothing, it's still bad to have to place and move more and more tokens.

Starting at the third turn, I simply ignored additional "split" results on the PEF Movement. If I didn't, I might have more than a dozen PEF markers stuck in the same map sector, which really isn't cool. Eventually my team managed to leave the SUV and move around the back of another warehouse to face the cop guarding the back of the depot. As they move out with their tranquilizer guns out, the policeman pulls out his gun and everyobody makes their In Sight tests. All shots are missed and Orson ducks back. Ken fires again hitting the guard in the head with a dart, taking him out of the fight. Since shots were fired, the other policemen around will call for reinforcements.

On the following turn, Ken and friends enter the depot. The PEFs are on the main corridor so they must be resolved. This is the first PEF I have to resolve so it's time for the First Contact roll. I get an "Encounter goes wrong: We've been set up!" result, creating additional PEFs in the building. After all PEFs are resolved, this is the situation:

So now the question is whether they can get to the SUV before they get captured. Unfortunately, resolving the PEFs triggers the In Sight test for nearly all of them. Ella takes a shot to the gut and is stunned, Orson freaks out and runs but is shot in the back twice and is stunned (due to his Resilient attribute!) On the following In Sight round Ken surrenders.

Ken and friends are accused and tried for brandishing a weapon, endangerment and mayhem. Ken is considered not guilty (but burns every item in his savings to pay for counseling and court expenses,) Orson gets 3 months of jail time and a fine of 4 items and Ella gets one month of jail time and a fine of 3 items.

It was clear that the characters weren't up to the job but I wanted to try it anyway. It was good because I got a chance to try the basic rules, plus vehicles, buildings and the justice system. All good stuff.

This was the first THW game I played with more than two activation dice. The odds of having your dice rolling equal results with one of the others aren't that low and that forced me to skip activation with annoying frequency (but I admit that my "bad luck" with dice should be considered.)

The PEF splitting effect also wasn't great. There's about 20% chance of a PEF outside of a building to split in two every turn in which they act. Combining that with the PEF generation caused by rolling doubles on activation, suddenly you have a (potentially) busy space port district in the middle of the night...

On the other hand, I found that the new In Sight mechanic (which seems complex in the book) is actually simple and fast to use in practice.

In any case, 5150: New Beginnings is great to play solo. There are lots of options for character types and lots of possibilities for missions with the encounter system. The game keeps surprising you on every turn and it gives ample opportunity for narrative interpretation of the results. In future games, I'll try to keep only two sides in play: my team and everything else (resolved enemies and PEFs together) to reduce the frequency of rolled doubles and thus, of extra PEFs and skipped activations.


Ed the THW Guy said...

Just a few comments.
There should have been only 2 activation dice, your side and the opposing PEFs. As you are a Rep 5 you'll be activating more than the PEFs.
I wouldn't have started with any police as the PEFs would represent them making their rounds.
Having that many PEFs generated is just bad luck. It's also good to go after PEFs as fast as possible to "secure" the area. Not all will be bad things.
Thanks for posting and be sure to ask questions on the Yahoo Group as they come up. Thanks again,

Ricardo said...

Hey Ed, thanks for the comment. I should have imagined that I had got something wrong. As for bad luck, from the evidence I have, I'll never come close to a casino :)