Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First impressions: Rogue Planet

I picked this up as the "deal of the day" on WargameVault, after reading Brent Spivey's interesting suggestions for solo play in the discussion section of the product page.

Since the book is only 24 pages long, I decided to run some quick tests. I started trying to make a zombies vs. extermination team game. Since there is no way to model units with slower movement (I wanted "classic" slow zombies) they became infected mutants. My two teams were:

4x Infected Mutants (46 points each)
CQ 5 / RAT 2 / DEF 3 / ARM [Group]
Claws & teeth (melee, +1 vs. [Light])

Infected Leader (57 points)
CQ 4 / RAT 5 / DEF 6 / ARM [Light]
Claws & teeth (melee, +1 vs. [Light])
Pulse rifle (+1 vs. [Light])

4x Exterminator (41 points each)
CQ 3 / RAT 5 / DEF 4 / ARM [Light]
Infantry rifle (+1 vs. [Light])

Squad leader (68 points)
CQ 4 / RAT 6 / DEF 5 / ARM [Light]
Infantry rifle (+1 vs. [Light])

In the first test match I left out two groups of mutants and two exterminators, just to learn the rules. The game was over in about 30 minutes, and I just had to consult the quick reference sheet for damage effects and counter-actions.

In the second match, I used the entire forces, the battle lasted about the same. The exterminators won both times, although the first match was very close. Lesson learned: groups are very flexible for maneuvering but you should make them very good at either melee or ranged, because they die quite easily and do not provide energy for the team.

Here is an overview of the main game mechanics:

Turn structure is IGO-UGO, but the opposing player might be able to interrupt any action. The game uses a random number of action points per turn, so not all units may be able to activate. Actions include moving (in a straight line, up to a terrain piece), attacking, charging, and using powers or magic. Counter-moves also require action points.

Movement actions have unlimited range in a straight line, unless you contact a terrain piece or other unit. I cannot help comparing this to Song of Blades and heroes, although in this case, it is a little less fiddly (no movement sticks) and gives the game a more "cinematic" feel. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, I could not see any way to make slow-moving units (although it is possible to make faster ones.)

Task resolution uses a unified mechanic, including melee and ranged attacks. In all cases, just one die roll is needed, thus keeping the game simple and easy to learn. Damage depends on armor type and there is a clever system that allows players to spend "energy" to save some units from defeat.

The rules for leader units and their pawns (sidekicks that grant bonuses or abilities to the leader) are very cool and, like the rest of the game, strike a balance between providing tactical choices and fostering narrative in the game.

My first impression of Rogue Planet is: a fast-playing game with many interesting ideas. The short stat line, simple resolution and no measurement are inviting for some "impromptu" playing -- like statting up a handful of toy soldiers and playing on the dinner table, using napkins and whatnot as terrain pieces.

It does have some limitations in modeling units but does not feel too abstracted. The way movement and shooting work makes it necessary to scatter enough terrain pieces to break long straight corridors across the board, although I do not think the board would have to be as closed as in, say, Infinity. One interesting thing is, for the same reasons, board size is not as important.

Given its features, I think I would use Rogue Planet for narrative-inspired games, maybe a series of 4-5 battles chained together forming a story arc. I am not sure I would use it for longer campaigns.


Ivan Sorensen said...

Been really curious about this one, both for apparently having some pretty radical ideas and the amazing cover :)

Thanks for covering it!

Wouter Wolput said...

Big fan of the game myself.
The game is close to revolutionary and offers a great alternative ruleset for most settings.
Thank you for covering this!

Ricardo Nakamura said...

Thanks for the comments! Repeating myself, I really liked some ideas from this game. Because of it, I'm currently reading The Battlefield -- although I think that game won't work solo.