Thursday, July 6, 2017

Blood and Spectacles on the Wargames Vault

If you look to the right hand side of the Blog, you will see a list of Free Wargames.  I encourage you to take a look at the list and see if anything strikes your fancy.  Currently, I have 3 titles available on the Wargames Vault for your downloading pleasure.  Today, I am going to dive in a bit to each one and give some Designer's Notes to these three games.

The game that got me started on the Vault was a car combat game called Total CARnage.  The topic of car combat games came up on the Delta Vector discussion group.  For those who do not know, the EvilMonkeigh has a great series of wargames design blogs that helped me think deeper about my own designs.  I credit much of my effort and drive to complete projects to him and his group.  It is a great blog and I recommend it and the discussion group heartily.  Sadly, I do not get to participate as much as I used to.

Much of the discussion was circling around the old Car Wars from Steve Jackson games.  I never got to play, but it sounded like a fun game but one that was pointed closer to a simulationist bent.  I prefer my games to be a bit less crunchy.  However, the concept of car combat was put in my head.

A bit later, my brother-in-law introduced me to a game called Flick'em Up by Z-man games.  This game was novel to me as it used a mechanic called a "Flick".  It also billed itself as a tactical wargame.  At first, the purist in me rejected the idea that this could be a wargame.  Then I played, and the basic rthymns of the wargame were there, the only difference was the moving and shooting resolution methods.  It was not resolved by dice or cards.  Instead, it was resolved by player dexterity.
I quickly made the connection to car games and the basic skeleton of Total CARnage was born.  From there, I made a few other design decisions.  One of the most influential was that I did not want to use any specialty wargamin gear like templates, rulers, dice, etc.  I wanted it so a person could pick up the rules and be ready to play with found items.  Therefore, it uses toy cars, loose change, and your own two hands to resolve all key actions.

This ruleset was the first one I published, but it was a huge departure from my traditional design style.  I had been wedded to a more traditional approach to wargaming and Total CARnage is not that approach.

The next game I published was born when I was organizing my gaming area.  I kept running across all these great old Warhammer 40K and Necromunda models that I wanted to use again.  I still play Necromunda relatively frequently, but I have not played 40K since 5th edition.  I really have no intention of going back despite the rumors of an 8th edition dropping.  However, I had all these awesome (and painted, but not as awesome) models that I wanted to use.  That was the impetus for Rampant Stars.

In a moment of fevered inspiration I wrote out Rampant Stars based on Daniel Mersey's work on Dragon Rampant, Lion Rampant, and The Men Who Would Be Kings.  Since reading those works and Dux Bellorum I have been heavily influenced by Mr. Mersey's design ethos.  I like to think that Rampant Stars is the sci-fi off shoot of those ideas.  It includes a simple activation system where troops do no always perform as intended, traits to customize generic units, scale agnostic, bring what you have, simple morale, and everything is based of straight forward versions of the 4Ms.  These are all signatures of Mr. Mersey's ideas and I have customized or modified them to fit my vision for a simple and generic set of Sci-fi rules that can be played in a single hour.   

There is one area where I break from Mr. Mersey's work dramatically is in mission generation.  I lookd to inspiration to two major sources.  The first was the old Rogue Trader which had awesome scenario generation tables, and the more modern Rogue Stars.  In Rampant Stars a group of players can quickly and easily determine a mission, location, and complication that will make each battle unique!  In addition, each game has a built in time limit of 1 hour, so these games are short and sharp affairs.

The final game on my Vault is The Games: Blood and Spectacle.  This is a game of Roman Gladiators fighting in the arena for profit and fame.  The player is a Lanista and controls a Ludus of Gladiators of different skill level and styles.  The main inspirations for this game were Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Crom, and Super System.  I wanted a game that was a campaign game, but was filled with decision making and choice at all levels.  I think this game delivers as you decide during list building, in each event, and during the campaign elements.

My initial attempts at this game were less than flattering.  Gladiators ended up locked in close combat simply swinging away at each other mindlessly as an exercise in pointless dice rolling.  Boring.  Later versions had intricate maneuvers that allowed Gladiators to get bonuses based on position etc.  This led to too much "If This/Than That".  Thankfully, Crom and Super Systems pointed me to a solution.

Instead, of these other methods that I had used in other Gladiator games I would use a resource management approach of diminishing dice pools combined with a striking success mechanism.  Essentially, Gladiators in combat had to choose how may of their dice to use to attack or defend in opposed skill rolls.  6's would allow them to activate a special maneuver.  This allowed each player a great deal of choice but still allowed for cinematic action.  Was it better to use your dice to push home an attack, or to save it for a defense later?  Choice was the name of the game.

There is list building, roster management, skill development, ludus enhancements, and even dirty tricks you can play on your rivals.  I tried to merge the awesome campaign systems of Games Workshops Specialist Games system into the campaign system in The Games: Blood and Spectacle.  Gladiators can be injured, die, gain skills, earn freedom, or be buffed/de-buffed.  It depended on how you spent your dinarri and who you decided to use in the Arena during the Games.
Before publishing, this game was available for free for download at the Free Wargames Wikia.  It managed to get its own Board Game Geek page.  It was downloaded about 2,000 times.  I made some minor adjustments and then put it up on the Wargames Vault.

These three games are not the only ones I have made, but so far they are the only ones to make it to the Wargames Vault.  If you look to the right side of the Blog, you will see to categories of games to try.  The first is Free Games and the second is Work-In-Progress Games.

Free Games are games that are complete and fully-fleshed out.  Theyonly require my time to do some proof reading on.  However, they are full formed and ready for you to play.  Work-in-Progress games just have the basic mechanic in place and I am still developing.  They are ready to play, but maybe missing one or two elements such as a campaign system or mission generator.  On the Message Board, there are also threads to discuss all of these games.  

I hope you take the time to enjoy my games.    

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