02 December 2015

Solo Playtest AAR - New Sci Fi

Last week while I was enjoying doing nothing I had a chance to test out a game idea I'd been kicking around for a little while. This is a result of StarDust: Ground. SD:G is a fine game but parts of it are slow, which limits the practical number of units on the tabletop - too many units = really damn slow. All gamers want more stuff on the tabletop and a game that MOVES. No constant stopping and starting. To that end, I again poached bits of my favorite games and reassembled them into a Frankenstein's Monster.

Design Goal 1 - single die roll resolves a combat event. No Hit/Wound/Save crap. I'm going to use a d20 this time around; 5% per pip is a dream to work with.

Design Goal 2 - short weapon ranges means movement becomes more important. I like dynamic battles featuring dramatic flanking, etc.

Design Goal 3 - adaptability. I hope to be able to use the game for multiple genres at some point in the future.

So, what I did was crank out some mathematically appropriate stats for my small collection of Epic Space Marine minis, put together a 4 X 4 table and gave it a go!

The table layout. The Space Wolves are defending two objectives - a farm and a bridge. They've got what amounts to a partial company at each location. They also have two Razorbacks coming up the road in reserve and two Whirlwind rocket launchers on the hill to the rear.

The Marines are all dug-in, expecting trouble.

The Orks enter the battlefield. There are loads of boyz in those vehicles heading up the road.

The Whirldwinds are accurate but ineffective.

The Kult of Speed's next move is to get out of sight! No point charging a dug-in opponent.

Space Marine fire again is spotty. Two battlewagons are suppressed as is one Katapult. These Space Wolves are going to have a serious problem with such bad shooting early on!

The following turn, the Death Skulls make it to the bridge and disembark! The Kult of Speed swings to their right to support the assault. The Space Wolves at the bridge are in big trouble.

I'd put the Ork leaders in the front battlewagons, figuring they're the type of guys to lead from the front. They were fortunate to not get picked off my Land Raiders' Lascannons on the ride in.

The thin grey line is getting swamped.

After the initial round of shooting and melee, the Space Wolves have lost two stands and a Land Raider, the Orks lost a boss, some boyz and taken a few suppression hits. WAAAAAGH!

Overview at the end of turn 4. The right side is getting overrun. I was very much tempted to uproot the group guarding the farm, but figured they were better off in their positions and would likely be outmaneuvered anyway.

But on turn 5, some Blood Claws reserves arrive and pounce on the big guns in the back! This is exactly what the Space Wolves needed to let some of the steam out of the Ork attack.

An apocalyptic wall of gunfire from the Orks is unleashed at the beleaguered Space Marines as greenskin vehicles cross the bridge.

The Razorbacks have moved in behind the Kult. 

The Trakor Kannons are destroyed, but the Katapults are not fazed by the Land Speeders' melta weapons!

The defenders at the bridge are virtually wiped out. The only remaining Marine unit is a single Land Raider. Space Wolves are tenacious as hell and this crew is no exception - the morale test is passed and they howl "bring it on!" to the green horde!

Crucially, the Space Wolves win initiative and the Orks must move first. They begin to move towards the farm, having bagged the bridge. The Blood Claw bikers and speeders get away from the Ork artillery who had pivoted to attack and slam into the back of the Death Skulls and Kult! Classic wolves, nipping at the heels of their foes.

The Razorbacks quickly dispatch two Kult vehicles. Wow!

Meanwhile, the Blood Claws make in immediate impact accounting for another Kult vehicle and boyz stand.

A moment later, the Orks get some revenge, the Kult swarms the Razorbacks destroying one, but the Blood Claws continue their reign of terror amongst the Death Skulls, taking out three more stands and a battlewagon, but lost a Biker in the fighting. 

The following turn, the Orks have the farm surrounded and prepare to start bombarding them.

The Katapults, avenging their earlier misfortunes, catch the surviving Razorback, exposed on the hill. 

Great dice rolls result in its destruction. So much for the Razorbacks! 

But the rest of the Space Wolves offer up a terrific round of shooting (for a change!) and the massive Death Skulls mob is taken under 50% strength. They promptly fail their morale test. The Kult of Speed joins the Death Skulls battlewagons in retreat, always eager to drive Drive DRIVE!

Wow, what a fun little game that turned into. For what was supposed to be a simple test of game mechanics, it evolved into a great swirling battle. The Space Wolves who got absolutely crushed at the outset and had the WORST dice roll imaginable, really managed to get it turned around and kept it together long enough to run off the Orks. The Space Marines only consistently good die rolls were morale - they never failed once. The Orks were shockingly good at recovering from Suppressions, but I'm chalking that up to dumb dice.

So what did I learn? I like the way the game handled a lot. I could run this for strangers and not have to explain much at all. I need to put rules for calling in artillery, morale and a few other things on paper. I also need to adjust a few specific stats. The Whirlwinds were miserable, which may have just been shabby dice, but I still think I'll improve their ability to kill infantry. I also need to re-do the defensive values for the Kult of Speed stuff - they need to be vulnerable to anti-infantry weapons as well as anti-vehicle. Easy enough.

I hope to show it off again some time soon!


  1. Will these rules be made available for public consumption? :)

    1. I'm sure. They're very rough right now and I need to make time to type what I've come up with into a format that "just anyone" could pick up and use. Bad part is, I've discovered I'm an insufferable perfectionist with rules-writing and have a history of sitting on a well-written set of rules because there are tiny flaws that bug me. I'll do my best to perhaps generate a short few pages of basic outline for folks like yourself to test.

      I know you like testing any rules you can get your hands on and that you have a knack for finding problems so I'll make sure you get a copy when I'm "done."

    2. Ski,
      Certainly- no hurries at all. I just love exploring rules concepts! I probably am more interested in rules than gaming - which is a perverse way of looking at the world...

      Anyways, if you would like to share when you reach a point where you're happy with them, I'd be happy to read them :)