Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Cars & Touchdowns - February Gaming


Been a while since I posted here, but then it's been a while since I did anything miniature-related.  I haven't played much or painted much recently - for the usual mixture of faintly pathetic reasons.  A winter bug that kept me off work and in bed a couple of days; work for my Justice League RPG reaching it's finale; a weekend away in Edinburgh visiting the Games Masters museum...

And some of you probably thought Warren Spector was only relevant to computer game nerds... but he also did some RPG work.
 I also managed to knacker my hand for a bit when, emerging from a pharmacy of all places, I slipped on an ice patch and fell backwards.  No serious injury - nothing broken, as I discovered after waiting in A&E - but it's still a little sensitive and I'm still struggling to carry anything heavy in just that hand.

God, I HATE slippidy slidy ice levels. both electronic and real life.
However this is the week to catch up, because I have taken a week off work with Sister Superior.  We aren't going anywhere, just having a lazy time in the house.... and 40K Dave, when he found about that, jumped at the chance to meet up and play some nerdy games with me of a Tuesday afternoon.

 So read on as I play two games for the first time: Dark Future and Dreadball Xtreme

Tina Turner soundtrack somewhere between "optional" and "necessary"
First up was Dark Future, which are you may recall I picked up at the end of last year.  This seemed the ideal time to get involved because there's been a real spike in interest in Dark Future in the last wee while - a fairly active Facebook group is full of painting, modelling and gaming advice for what was just six months ago a footnote in GW's history.

Last time Dave came over we were planning on playing this but we spent too long talking nerdity, politics and family to actually get much gaming in - we generated vehicles and learned the basics of the rules.  This time we were actually going to give it a spin, so the tables were set up in the Fungeon and some random starting track layout was rolled.

Straight out of my eBay purchase, some vintage 1980s painted cars from the original owner.  I'm the white Interceptor, Dave is the black and green Renegades.
 Dave had assembled a gang on two Renegades, each armed with a Combat Laser and Machine Gun facing forward.  Ammunition is tracked in this game, so Dave has twelve shots per machine gun and unlimited shots (albeit one per turn) on the combat laser.

I, on the other hand, have a single car - Angry Austin, with a Chain Gun facing forward.  A chain gun is high destruction but low ammo at just six shots per game.  In my rear I have passive weapons, which can leave oil and smoke trailing behind me if anyone is following.  (Forcing them to dodge out the way or possible slow down/miss at shooting)   My car is individually better - can take more damage, more maneuverable - but of course they have two so can do things a single car can't do.

Setup rolls mean Dave ends up in front so I end up taking the first shots of the game.  Dave accelerates with his green car to get clear and slows down with his black car, hoping to get behind me.  The green car unfortunately ends up dead in my sights and a lucky critical hit sees it very quickly spewing oil and slowing down.  Under a hail of fire I use half my ammo but wreck the car, which trundles forward out of control.

A rather quick end for this ganger as Angry Austin wrecks his machine and leaves him limping to a standstill.

This move doesn't mark the end of the game, of course, because Dave is still packing a second vehicle.  It U-turns to get behind me then U-turns again, meaning the hunter is now the hunted.

Two U-Turns back to back?  What would Maggie say?
Unfortunately I now find myself scuppered: I'm moving onto a curve and you can't U-Turn on a curve, nor can you go too fast.    Dave therefore has several turns for his Maniax Renegade to take pot shots at me with his full arsenal of weaponry.  I don't take huge amounts of damage, but it does cause a critical that wrecks my rear axle - I've lost acceleration, so if I slow down I'm not going to get back up again.
My defensive maneuvers can't get out of Maniax's line of fire as I leave the second bend.
Desperate, I attempt a U-Turn, which forces me to slow down.... and puts me right in front of Dave's car, forcing us both to ram into each other.  Each of us takes a pounding from this head-on ram, left with just a few damage points and our brakes totally shot.  It also drops us to 0mph, and of course I can't get back up.  Dave may be wounded but I'm dead in the water!

I fear I may have miscalculated...
But as my life flashes before my eyes, I get to move again first before Dave does.  Dead in front of me, I open fire with my chain gun and destroy his engine.  At close range I hit with no problem and Dave finds his car wrecked.  My operative may be in a functionally grounded vehicle.... but I am the winner of this grim altercation.

All praise the mighty chain gun!

Overall, a lot of fun was had. I think we could have done with slightly larger teams - three versus two would probably make for a slightly more varied set of tactics.  That said the core rules are pretty minimal so game play is quick and violent.  The ammunition tracking isn't too onerous but does create tactical problems as my huge chain gun, as good as it was, would run out of ammo quickly if I just shot all the time - missing feels more frustrating than just "a missed shot", it's "a wasted use of ammo.

I'd definitely like to play again, and hopefully I can find more people to give me a go!  If nothing else I'd like to try the campaign rules and see how drivers and vehicles progress over time.

The Futuristic Sports Game Goes XTREME
 Next up: Dreadball Xtreme.  I'm afraid this is less impressive to look at because I haven't touched any of the figures - it's all bare unpainted plastic which is a little underwhelming.  I don't normally like playing with unpainted figures if I can avoid it but I've owned this a couple of months without playing it, so it felt acceptable in this instance.

A whole lot of grey on the playmat as we start our game.
 Dave took the sample Warden team - so a bunch of convicts teamed up with a bug alien - and I took the sample alien team made of Dark Elf-type lithe but weak aliens with the aid of a single-eyed pig beast for some muscle.  We skipped a couple of rules to keep things fast - no bets, no sponsors shouting at players to inspire/scare them - but had a good knock around the table as we slammed, dodged and even occasionally threw the ball.

Now, the core rules of Dreadball are still present in Xtreme but with some notable changes.  For one thing, only 4 players start on the table and the rest come in as the game progresses - no maximum number of players on the table, if you have a swarm you can deploy a swarm.  That is one of the simplest changes, though...


 For one thing, as long as you have no opposition next to you then you don't have to roll to score immediately next to a Strike Post.  This is called a "dunk" and is worth 1 point.  Throwing from the strike zone is 2 points; throwing from the end of the strike zone is 3.

The end result is Dave scored a lot of little dunks while I gambled and paid off with a few throws in the first half of the game, keeping me a couple of points ahead for a chunk of the game.

Dave swarms one strike post where he manages to score a few times.

Speaking of strike posts, you don't have standardized table layout - the strike targets vary in different games, with each player having one or two places they could score out of a possible six - (three strike zones, each with two possible places for the posts.)  Combined with the terrain of small and large obstacles of which both slow down movement and the other blocks line of sight, even the same two teams will find a very different match-up based on the terrain.

In the strike hex, a smug Asterian scores a three-point strike while a pig-monster and a human punch each other.

That terrain has another little surprise: the lids and bodies of the crates are seperate and are randomly allocated at the start of the match.  When you go next to the lids you flip them over to see the symbol beneath which determines what happens.  Some crates explode, attacking adjacent players as though they've been punched; some crates fall apart, leaving the table; some crates stay exactly where they are.

The end result is that moving is a bit of a gamble, which can even lead to death  - one of my two injuries was caused when an exploding box got two damage through my armour and dropped an Asatrian Jack to the ground.  A lot of the time it's minor, but the risk element keeps just moving around the table a scary prospect.

Very nimble, but not very strong

Seriously injured players don't leave the table; they stay on, slowly bleeding to death unless they can pass a strength test.  This was a bit of a problem for me as the Asterian team have a pretty poor Strength score so if an injury floored me, it tended to keep me floored; I took two deaths in the game.

This one was embarrassing.
 Neither of my deaths were Dave created - he did strike me and my players got knocked down, but they got up again.  No, the second death was caused by the ball appearing on the table.  There's six possible appearance points (numbered on the pitch - above photo shows the Asterian on 3 and number 2 is visible as well.) and you roll every time the ball reappears to see where it will pop out.  

If you are on top of the rolled one when the ball appears.... it flies into your noggin, doing a fair bit of damage.  And if it so happens that you take 2 points of damage from the ball, hit the ground and then get hit by the ball AGAIN next turn because your opponent scores quickly..... well, you are left with a dead player and a mixture of annoyance and laughter.

What do you mean, sportsmanship?  Haven't you heard "She Who Draws The Sword Last Always Comes Off Worst"?
Other changes are fairly minor.  Hitting people when they are down is just the same as a Slam, but the opponent has negatives to their dice roll to dodge for being on the ground and for being injured.   There's no extra dice roll for Guards for their armour; they have to rely on 3 dice and their stats like everyone else.  There's two separate decks of cards rather than one - Special Plays which give you extra actions and Sabotage which impedes your opponent - but they are used much as before.

Alas, not all cards are created equal.  I used a Dart Gun to try and knock down an opponent near the ball.  Unfortunately it only worked on a 3+ on the dice - when I got a 2, he instead got a free move, meaning my attempt to stop Dave getting the ball actually got him the ball on my turn

Cure you, Random Number God!

The final result of the game, though?  Well, Dave scored several dunks but he struggled to actually bag any thrown balls while I did far better there.  He tried a risky maneuver to throw the ball between players and score a 3 pointer with his Jacks - his Strikers being tied up together in one place, hounded by my jacks.  Unfortunately the risk didn't pay off, and he found himself without any way of gaining big points.

It was worth a go.... but in the end, it was not to be, and the ball sailed past him.
 Instead I managed to score enough to end the game at 6 points to me - something like 9-3 overall, I think - which meant not a landslide win but a pretty solid victory.  It also meant I won two games in a row of a nerdy game.

Oh, and did I mention I finally played a 4 player game of Ticket To Ride on Thursday and for the first time I and not Sister Superior won?

Dreadball Xtreme was a lot of fun and I'd definitely like to paint up models and play it again.  I'd be curious to see how it goes in campaign play since that's where some of the biggest changes are - you don't advance the team, who in fact can change between games, but you enhance the sponsor who gains access to more money and tricks as he progresses.  I feel that it might suffer from only have two sponsors in the core rules and could really use more and access to more players to broaden the game out, something we'll need to wait until the expansion comes out later this year.

I'll try tomorrow or Thursday to update you on the Chaos Dwarfs, which I've neglected but am trying to get painting on again.  I'll play Warhammer Fantasy Battles before an edition change yet!

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