Games that stick.

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I’ve been thinking about games that have durability, replay-ability, longevity.

As anyone familiar with hobbyists and the hobby industry knows, “Shiny” comes and goes. Indeed the hobby industry is built on ‘shiny’ and every gamer worth his salt has a lead/plastic pile that bears mute witness to the fickle siren song of new figs, a new range of figs, a different scale, genre, time period… Let’s all admit that most of the war games on Kickstarter are miniatures-driven – not rules driven. Coming to my ‘end-of-year’ game room clean up this week, I’m definitely guilty as charged.

But between tidying the game room and some recent attention to my home-brew rules, I’ve been thinking about the war games that last after the shine fades and asking ‘What games do I/other gamers return to and keep playing year after year? And why?’

I know the answers are different and flavored by individual experience and preference. Some people started playing DnD decades ago when they were Stranger Things kids and have stuck with it through all its editions. Others move on to Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020 because they scratch that Neon and Mirrorshade itch and there’s no need to look elsewhere. (Ain’t that right omae?)  Some sink their teeth into 40K early on and cling to it like a Pitbull all their days. ( I think that’s what GW wants) When I posed this question on TMP, nearly 50 historical gamers listed rules like DBA, HoTT, Johnny Reb, Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, and so on.

For a SF/F gamer like me: in no particular order and off the top of my head, I’ve played VOR, Void, Celtos, Chronopia, Warzone, CAV, Stargrunt 2, and Full Thrust. I did a stint with THW’s Bugs, 5150, and After the Horsemen. I’ve tried 40K, Necromunda, Inquisitor, and Space Hulk. Then there’s Warmachine and  Hordes, Iron Ivan’s Disposable Heroes and Ambush Alley games. (I know I’m forgetting some.) Now add Board Games, RPGs, Quick Start versions and Indie rules like One Page X, and the locust swarm of games I’ve read but never played/played once, and the trail of game rules behind me looks like a the footprints of an epic quest or an addict’s detritus. (a bit of both, I suspect)

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As far as I can discern, a game’s ‘longevity’ factor has multiple ingredients ranging from brand loyalty, local availability of players, and personal experience/associations, to the quality of related miniatures. But there are also underlying currents of simplicity and versatility. Those seem to be crucial.

Across the board, the common denominator in rule sets that seem to stick is that they are a reliable, straightforward framework to hang the action/story on. Sure, there may be particular flavoring and a degree of crunch/gritty detail, but the appeal seems to be that a player can plug in their force and play the game, not the rules. Combat, Movement, Morale, Special Abilities and Genre Specifics are resolved in the background while the battle, the story, is allowed to come front and center. IMO, the primary reason DnD and RPGs remain so popular is they provide mechanisms for players to participate in a common adventure, in a story.

The challenge is to translate that robust, functional dynamic to a war game, into a mock battle. The hitch is that most miniature war games seem to have been built on the back of RPGs and the detail level that’s so enjoyable and necessary for a player character in a dungeon crawl doesn’t scale up to platoon, regiment, and brigade level. Defeating Nash-Zaroth the Liche King requires the same kind of ‘combined arms’ flexibility as taking Istvaan IV in the Andromeda system, but the fine detail needs to be abstracted and smoothed out. Otherwise, the flow of the game/battle grinds to a chart consulting, modifier algorithm factoring, special rule quoting halt. CLUNK – players are disengaged, thrown out of the story, and there goes the fun. And I contend FUN is the real reason we’re still playing with toy soldiers and making up cool stories.

So as I approach Game Room Cleaning Day, not only am I going to take a hard look at the clutter, (expect a new batch of items For Sale) but in refining Zona Perestrelkimy STALKER-flavored, home brew skirmish rules –  I want bake in the brooding, dangerous, specifics of the Exclusion Zone but always remain mindful of honing the mechanisms to support the story, the mission, the game play, not bog it down.

It’ll take time, some sweat, and not a little bit of play- testing, but whether or not ZP gets picked up, that’s going to be a goal for 2018.

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Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.

***

PS: the short story A Prayer to Saint Strelok is available at Amazon if you feel like getting in the mood. Enjoy.

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Dark Templars

“A moment of laxity spawns a lifetime of heresy.”

Bobby Jackson sculpts straight from Reaper Miniatures. These heavily armored knights in dark livery make for the  perfect band of zealous crusaders.

Led by Confessor Malcador Izzik, they are out to purge every trace of blasphemy and wickedness from the realm.

 

They were scheduled for an appearance in one of our ASOBH mini-campaigns but our sudden lurch to the neon grit of New Kowloon set them on the back burner for now.

But they’re patient…

 

Blue Rose Import/Export

Character figs for our upcoming Interface Zero 2.0 games set in New Kowloon 2069.

 

Blue Rose I/E is one of New Kowloon’s finest independent trade services, offering secure storage, fast transport, and outstanding turnaround time for all your goods and products. Stop by our warehouse at Dock 5H – 37. North Pier, Lower New Kowloon. Or visit our VR office on the Grid at BR_EI.LNK.COM. 

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Remember – Quality shows at Blue Rose! 

 

Interface Zero 2.0 @ NK69

More RPG game prep last Tuesday evening. We finished up Character Creation then read through a bit of game setting fluff on New Hong Kong in 2069. After, we ran through another simple scenario to hammer out the combat mechanics. (It’s taking me a bit to wrap my head around the granularity and pace of a RPG game)

The fight took place at the Docks in Lower New Kong with the Ebony Hand crew fending off the Trade and Transit Security forces for four turns. The TTS outnumbered the EH slightly, plus they were kitted out with Kevlar. While vicious as wharf rats, the gangers’ main advantage was their hacker, who could splice into the docks loading array and shift Conex containers to block or funnel the security into EH lanes of fire.

Here are some pictures.

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North J38 Docks, LNK
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Kheper Mac and the Ebony Hand
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New Hong Kong Trade and Transit Security force

Long story short, the Ebony Hand made quick work of the Dock rent-a-cops, blasting away and using the Conex containers to shove them aside or even squish them on a couple occasions. (Shaken cops who couldn’t crawl away fast enough were turned into tarmac pizza. Eeeew.)

Easy win for the chrome and mirror shade punks.

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That shotgun came in handy.
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Kheper Mac, chummer. Remember that name.
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EH hacker at Data Node.
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“Hey, who’s moving the containers?”

First RPG session is in two weeks.  For now, here’s the New Hong Kong fluff and a short list of cyberpunk slang to get you in the mood.

Til then, have a large one, omae.

 

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NEW HONG KONG IN 2069

Considered Asia’s premier ‘International City’ and the financial capital of the Eastern Hemisphere, New Hong Kong was originally conceived in 2027 as a large-scale urban expansion to the original city. However, explosive population growth and increasing market dominance from the development of advancing technologies ensured the new metropolitan area received formal recognition as a separate municipality in 2041.

With an estimated population of 8.3 million between the Upper and Lower sector in a total area of just over 900 square miles, New Hong Kong (or ‘NK’ as it is known) is literally a ‘City of the Future.’

The Ground Sector, or Lower City, is constructed on existing landmass south of old Hong Kong with parts extending over the South China Sea. The Sky Sector, or Upper City, is built on a massive platform called the ‘Terrace’ which rests 7,000 feet (2 kilometers) above sea level. The Terrace is supported by twelve gigantic pillars called spindles, each one covering twelve city blocks. Internationally, New Hong Kong’s dual sectors are designated LNK and UNK for Lower and Upper New Kong.

UNK is home to the world’s largest and most prestigious corporate, commercial, and financial entities. With available space at a premium, residence on the Terrace is restricted and possible only to the world’s most famous, well-connected, and affluent individuals.

LNK is divided into twelve numbered districts, designated by the Terrace Spindle inside its zone. While the Lower City contains numerous upscale residential areas and exclusive corporate arcologies, it is primarily home to a vast multitude of laborers, merchants, wage-slaves, and workers who either make the daily commute as service personnel in the Terrace, or are employed in one of the hundreds of factories and dock-related industries on the ground level. Because large portions of the Lower City are in shadow most of the day, LNK is nicknamed ‘Dark Town’ and it lives up to this moniker in more ways than one.

Aside from the usual range of carnal entertainment and distraction like casinos, bars, pharma-dens, brothels of every type, and simsense arcades, Dark Town also specializes in illicit Gray and Black Market cyberware, biotech, robotics, and nanotech. Traditional Triad families keep a tight rein on all criminal and semi-legal activity, although recently both the Japanese Yakuza and Russian Bratva have been stepping up their attempts to gain control of the docks and airports.

The team operates a legitimate cover business registered as ‘Blue Rose Import Export.’ They maintain a nice but standard virtual office staffed with a commercial level business A.I. and they lease a mid-sized warehouse near the LNK North Docks. They also have a safe house in District 5 behind the Hong Ying Rice and Noodle Shop on Shenghua Street. This safe house is reasonably secure and is equipped with additional gear, medical supplies, weapons and ammunition. The Blue Rose is fronted by Matt’s character, a Human 2.0. It falls then that this small trade and transport company operating in LNK would employ a Repair Android, a Cybernetics Technician, and a Security/Bodyguard.

The crew has a solid working relationship with the local Triad boss, having done a number of security, delivery, and exchange jobs for them over the past two years. The team, while new, is considered reliable and enjoys a reputation for quick, clean work and while having scruples, doesn’t hesitate to get stuck in if necessary.

***

CYBERPUNK SLANG (Mostly Shadowrun ‘verse)

  • Angel: usually an (unknown) benefactor
  • Biz: Business
  • Buzz: go away
  • Chipped: Senses, skills, reflexes, muscles, and so on, enhanced by cyberware.
  • Chummer: Pal, Buddy
  • Cleaner: assassin (or team) used to eliminate all traces of a mission, including the participants.
  • Comm: any device that allows direct communication
  • Corp: anything related to corporations
  • Dataslave: Corporate decker or other data processing employee.
  • Datasteal: Theft of data from a computer, usually by decking.
  • Deck: Cyberdeck or its use.
  • Decker: Cyberdeck user.
  • Deckhead: Simsense abuser; anyone with a datajack or chipjack.
  • Drek: Shit
  • Dumped: Involuntarily ejected from the Matrix.
  • Dumpshock: Nausea and disorientation from being dumped out of a simsense interface (usually the Matrix or a remote control rig)
  • Exec: Corporate executive.
  • Frag: Common swear word; Someones (desired) death in a disrespectfully rejoicing context.
  • Geek: To kill. (outdated)
  • Go-go-go: A bike gang or gang member.
  • Heatwave: Police crackdown.
  • Hoi: Hi/Hello
  • Hose: Screw up.
  • Ice: Security software. “Intrusion Countermeasures,” or IC.
  • Jack In: enter cyberspace
  • Jack out: to leave cyberspace.
  • Jander: to walk in an arrogant yet casual manner
  • Kobun: Member of a Yakuza clan.
  • Mr. Johnson: an anonymous employer or corporate agent.
  • Nutrisoy: Cheaply processed food product, derived from soybeans
  • Nuyen: World standard of currency.
  • Omae: Friend
  • Oyabun: Head of a Yakuza clan.
  • Panzer: Any ground-effect combat vehicle.
  • Paydata: A datafile worth brouzouf on the black market.
  • Plex: A metropolitan complex, or “metroplex”.
  • Poli: A policlub or policlub member.
  • Razorguy: Heavily cybered samurai or other muscle.
  • Samurai: Mercenary or muscle for hire. Implies honor code.
  • Sarariman: From “salaryman.” A corporate employee.
  • Screamer: Credstick or other ID that triggers computer alarms if used.
  • Seoul Man: A member of a Seoulpa ring.
  • Seoulpa ring: A small criminal gang with connections to others like it.
  • Shaikujin: “Honest citizen.” A corporate employee.
  • Simsense: ASIST sensory broadcast or recording.
  • SINless: Lacking a System Identification Number.
  • Slot: Mild curse word.
  • Slot and Run: Hurry up. Get to the point.
  • So ka: I understand. I get it.
  • Soykaf: Ersatz coffee substitute made from soybeans.
  • Sprawl: a metroplex
  • Squatter: to fraternize below one’s social level.
  • Suit: A “straight citizen.”
  • System Identification Number (SIN): Identification number assigned to each person in the society.
  • T-bird: Low-altitude vehicle (LAV), usually vectored thrust.
  • Trid, Trideo: Holographic animated media; Three-dimensional successor to video.
  • Vatjob: A person with extensive cyberware replacement, reference is to a portion of the process during which the patient must be submerged in nutrient fluid.
  • Wetwork: Assassination. Murder.
  • Wired: Equipped with cyberware, especially increased reflexes.
  • Yak: Yakuza. Either a clan member or a clan itself.
  • brouzouf: monetary unit
  • schway: cool
  • shazbot: dickhead

DnD characters and New Terrain

Our 5E DnD adventure began last Tuesday night with four intrepid comrades heading off to investigate the death of a mysterious stranger.

 

We have an Arab-flavored Paladin undergoing a crisis of faith, a Goblin Bard with a hording problem, an Fighter/Archer with a grudge, and a Halfling Rogue with a conscience. The evening’s shenanigans ended with the Rogue at the top of a dry well in need of a healing potion, the Bard at the bottom of said dry well, gnawing on a ham and ignoring the Rogue, while the Paladin and the Archer just loudly announced their presence inside the spooky farm house. Tune in next week…

 

Meanwhile, here is the Seer’s Hut for the upcoming SOBH mini campaign, The Fall of House Navratola. Scratch built from insulation foam scraps, foam core, coffee stirrers, and cardboard. Ranger shown for scale.

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I’m having fun gaming and making terrain. All things considered, that’s pretty good.

All for now.  Have a great day.

 

 

The Fall of House Navratola

Our gaming group is arranging mini-campaigns for our Fall game night schedule. John is currently hammering out the details on one, possibly two Dungeon Crawl RPG sessions. Derek is perusing the Pathfinder version of Interface Zero for some cyberpunk adventures, and Matt ordered the Blood Rage 5th player expansion so newcomer Anti-Patrick can join in the frenzy for glory as the worlds crumble and burn. (We all decided Blood Rage will be our go-to pick up game on those nights when no one has had time to prep.)

For my part, I’m currently writing up a three-game ASoBH campaign titled “Fall of House Navratola”, where a secret brotherhood of ‘Dusk Watchers’ – men and women sworn to hunt down the evil that preys on humankind – investigates arcane and bloody rumors in a remote province  of Trastaya.    

To that end, the Dusk Watcher party recently received some reinforcements. The Dusk Warden and Dusk Hunter are joined by a Dusk Medicae and a Dusk Quarreler. A Dusk Skean is in the queue.

 

While the Dusk Watchers are formidable, here are some of the ruinous powers that will oppose them:

 

Lastly, speaking of cyberpunk not only have I been leafing through the gorgeous Eclipse Phase rule book during lunch, I wanted to make sure I had suitable figs for whatever Derek cooked up. So here are a couple potentials I fished out of my c-punk storage case.

 

My workshop’s main table is filled with a commission for a large-ish memorial window at the moment, but outlining the third and final House Navratola game last night, I see a terrain project in my future. More on that as it happens.

Til then, have a great day.

 

3:10 to Yharma

A Song of Blades and Heroes Bat Rep

***

“That’s a ‘4’!” Brynar insisted. 

“No you thick Northman, that’s a ‘3’,” the grizzled cleric replied. “It says the caravan leaves at 3:10. The caravan we were paid to escort.” 

The barbarian shrugged his massive shoulders. “It’s not my fault the attendant scribbles. You’re the educated one in this crew. You should have deciphered the note sooner.”

Lazarus Stern bit his tongue. He looked into the faces of the rest of the party – Hrodor the Druid, the two Rangers, Quinn and Terryn, his own comrade, the Paladin Jorgen. 

“Nothing to do for it now except get a move on, he sighed. “They’re only a half hour down the Yharma road.  We hurry now, we’ll catch up before supper. I mean, what can go wrong in a half hour?”

***

A new player joined us for this week’s gaming session, bringing the total to five. He’s an old hand at DnD, so I opted for a quick ASOBH scenario. We all enjoy the rules, are very familiar with them, they’re easy for a first-timer, and we have plenty of terrain and a variety of miniatures.

We split up, 3 v 2. John and I would play the Baddies while Derek, Matt and Anti-Patrick each controlled two members of the adventuring party.

The game area was split into two sections. The first was the now looted caravan at the turn in the road. The second section was the ruined abbey. Each would trigger attacks by hostiles (Me and John)

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While Matt took his Rangers strolling through the woods toward the Abbey on the right, the other four gathered near the first wagon. This kicked off the first attack, with a small Gnoll warband coming in from either side of the table.

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While fast, ugly, and very smelly, the Gnolls failed to do any serious damage to the party.  The older Ranger (that Matt insisted on calling ‘Grandpa’) took down three attackers by his lonesome in the woods on the left, while the other Ranger watched from the hilltop. Meanwhile, the other Canines were easily dispatched near the wagon. A quick search showed signs of a struggle, as well as a trail leading to the old Abbey.  Oh and a couple of recharges for the members’ Healing amulets.

Supremely confident, the party hurried down the Abbey Road to rescue the survivors.

The second set of Hostiles rushed out from the ruins the moment the the first Adventurer neared the stone gate: a Death Priest, two Warriors of Chaos, two packs of ghouls, and a giant Were-Rat.

“Oh look, they have a Were-Rat.”

 

The battle was quickly joined. The Death Priest sent one pack of Ghouls to swarm Grandpa while the rest of the Tainted surged out of the gates and attacked in a head-long frenzy.

 

Fierce combat raged back and forth inside and outside the Abbey. The air rang with clashing steel, savage howls, and ferocious battle cries. Both Rangers died under the filthy, blood-soaked claws of the Ghouls, selling their lives dearly and buying precious time for their comrades.

Barbarian met Barbarian. Mage fought Mage. Blinded by a murderous frenzy, the monstrous Were-Rat launched itself tooth and claw at anyone in it’s line of sight.

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Slowly, surely, the Adventurers’ skill and discipline drove the forces of Darkness back, first slaying the evil barbarian. Then the Chaos Champion Gurn Gravehand fell under Jorgen’s the Paladin’s flashing coldsilver blade. Victory teetered on a razor’s edge. But it was the Druid’s Gruesome Kill of the foul Death Priest that sealed evil’s fate. The wretch’s death-scream shook the remaining forces of Darkness to their withered, blackened souls and they fled the field of battle.

Victory.

***

There’s a reason why Song of Blades and Heroes is our go-to fantasy skirmish game: fast, versatile, robust, easily learned, fun… Anti-Pat picked it up by turn three and jumped right into the flow of the game. His Druid and Barbarian were brawling it out alongside veteran players figs in no time. It was a good fun with good people. We’re all looking forward to doing it again soon.

If you’re in the market for a fast and fun fantasy skirmish game, pick up a copy of Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks and have a good week.