Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nine questions in the mutant future - part 1

Since I read JF's post of the 9Qs PDF, I have been wanting to try it. Well, over an year has passed, he released an updated 2013 edition back in March and I still had not played anything with it.

I like post-apocalyptic games and I have a number of RPGs with that theme to try... the problem is that trying two things for the first time at once increases the risk of something going wrong. So I decided go with Mutant Future, which at the same time satisfies my need for some post-apocalyptic role-playing and is based on a very familiar game system.

The PC Party
Characters were randomly rolled using the "roll four dice, drop lowest, for each ability in order" method. I just decided beforehand that I would have a party with a mutant human, an android and a mutant animal. For the character names, I googled "post apocalyptic character name generator" with little hope of finding something so specific... this led me to the Badass Mad Max Style Post Apocalyptic Nickname Generator. Some generated results are bizarre but a few clicks gave me more than enough inspiration. I also used the Universal NPC Emulator to generate some traits for each of them. Here is the party:

James 'Equalizer' O'Neal, Mutated Human (Neutral)
AC 5, HP 73, STR 18 (+3 to hit, damage, force doors), DEX 16 (-2 AC, +2 to hit with missiles), CON 17, INT 13 (+5% on tech rolls), WIL 14, CHA 11.
Damage turning, spiny growth (medium spines, 1d6 damage), ultraviolet vision.
Heavy crossbow, leather armor, long sword, 50 heavy quarrels, backpack with basic items.

Equalizer is a 6' tall bald man with tanned, dry skin. Thick black spines jut out of his forearms and legs.  Despite the scary looks, and the fame gained defending his village, his real passion is in restoring ancient technology. That puts him at odds with scavengers and junk traders, and draws him to the city states of the pure humans. [UNE description and motivations: dignified artisan, overthrow resources, associate with the wealthy, conceive pleasure.]

Artiface, Basic Android (Lawful)
AC 2, HP 50, STR 17 (+2 to hit, damage, force doors), DEX 13 (-1 AC, +1 to hit with missiles), CON 7 (-1 radiation saves), INT 7 (-5% on tech rolls), WIL 13, CHA 14 (-1 reaction adjustment.)
Control light waves, dwarfism (1' tall, -2 damage, -2 AC, +1 to hit), increased hearing.
Chain mail, short sword, backpack with basic items.

Artiface is a very short android, a product of the ancient world. Found and repaired by Equalizer, he has become his loyal companion. He enjoys aiding villagers in improving their living; at times the android will start rambling about "reconstructing the glory of civilization," which is source for amusement, and sometimes trouble. [UNE description and motivations: habitual adept, obtain the world, relate disbelief, produce expertise.]

Bandit Missle, Mutant Donkey (Neutral)
AC 4, HP 36, STR 10, DEX 14 (-1 AC, +1 to hit with missiles), CON 14, INT 5 (-10% on tech rolls), WIL 15, CHA 16 (-1 reaction adjustment.)
Body adjustment (4 times a week), capable of speech, chameleon epidermis, dual cerebellum (+10% on tech rolls), killing sphere.
No weapons, bite attack does 1d4 damage. Beast barding, also carrying provisions (rations, waterskins, rope etc.)

Artiface and Equalizer freed Bandit Missle, or BM for short, from a group of mutants that used him as a beast of burden. Since then, they take the simple-minded, two-headed stealthy donkey along with them to protect him from raiders and slavers. No one is sure why he took that name but he speaks it proudly and spells it that way. BM is fond of roaming the wasteland to learn of stories about the animals of the ancient civilization. [UNE description and motivations: unseemly gypsy, oppress pride, obtain myths, indulge enemies.]

Heroic Motivation
The characters are tied together by their interest in the ancient civilizations and their willingness to travel the wasteland to look for information and relics. Their home base is Crevace, a small village of mutants hidden in the mountains. Therefore, their main motivation is to recover ancient relics, and the opposition are scavengers and whoever might be guarding those relics. A secondary motivation is to protect Crevace from raiders and slavers.

That is all for now. Hopefully I will be able to post at least part of a session this week.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My first game of Swatters

Today I came back to Ganesha Games' Swatters, finished building my simple paper miniatures and trays and played my first game, using the provided solo rules.

The miniatures are some aliens and sci-fi soldiers from Arion Games, which I am using to represent the Marine Trooper, Marine Elite, Grunt Bug and Assault Warrior profiles from the book.

I made up a simple scenario inspired by the Meeting Engagement and Retrieval Mission scenarios from the book. The marines must reach the cargo pod in the middle of the board and spend two actions in a single turn to retrieve some important cargo. Then they must exit the board through the edge they started at.

The rules are based on the "Song of Blades and Heroes" engine, with many changes. Figures are moved as units -- groups of 2-5 miniatures on circular trays (the game recommends using old CDs.) Damage in combat can kill and suppress figures of a unit. Here is a picture of the first engagement in the game. As the assault warriors came closer, the elite marines opened fire killing two aliens and suppressing another two.

Human troops are very deadly at a range, while the aliens are stronger at close combat. In this particular scenario, a combination of starting positions and lucky rolls caused the marines to destroy most alien forces before they could reach them. In the end they lost a single figure.


This playtest game lasted for around 35 minutes. Moving the unit trays instead of individual units keeps the action fast. The "Song of Blades and Heroes" system was well adapted to this larger scale. Since you can remove and lay down miniatures to mark casualties and suppression, the game requires no bookkeeping. The game also includes rules for larger aliens and vehicles, which I still have to try. 

I am also interested in playing humans vs. humans (i.e. ranged vs. ranged) to see how well the system handles that setup. It may turn into another interesting alternative for squad or platoon-level sci-fi battles.

As for solo play, the game recommends having "spawning points" around the board for the aliens to appear. I did not use them in this test game but I will do so in the future. Having all aliens start at a single board edge makes the game too easy for the humans. I might also reduce the amount of "bonus dice" for the humans when playing solo.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Solo Wargaming Guide

It has been almost one month without updates around here!

I have been reading The Solo Wargaming Guide, by William Silvester (Precis Intermedia). This book, which was released in June, brings advice about planning and running solo wargaming campaigns. It also discusses naval and air campaigns and the effects of weather and attrition, including sieges. The ideas are independent of period, although many examples use horse and musket forces.

In my opinion it complements Featherstone's Solo Wargaming, dealing with some similar topics (e.g. war diaries, concealment) but with an emphasis in campaign play and transitioning between strategic and tactical scales for maps, distances and time. I suppose long-time solo veterans might have figured their own systems for these but I have picked up some interesting ideas from the book.

More importantly, reading again about solo campaigns has made me want to try something. I want to start with some small games of Rally Round the King (or maybe Gentlemen Generals) to remember the rules and then create a small conflict between fictional countries to see how it plays out.

In other news I also have been taking some interest in the relatively brief Empire of Brazil (1822-1889) as inspiration for both RPGs and wargaming. It was a time of political instability and social, economic and technological change with lasting consequences. Since I am not much of a historical player, this will probably get mixed with fictional elements but for now I am looking for some history books on the subject...