Friday, 22 April 2016

The Voice In The Mirror: The Star Trek RPG Season Finale

One of many ace Mirror Universe scribbles on DeviantArt by Sean Peter Tourangeau

Our Star Trek game has had it’s end of season episode – which, as discussed last time, was the return of the Mirror Universe and the appearance of the I.S.S. Enterprise.  Not the conquered humanity of Deep Space Nine’s mirror universe, our encounter was with a loud and proud Terran Empire whose goal seemed to be turning the locals upon themselves before swooping in for the kill.

I briefly considered running the whole episode from theperspective of the I.S.S. Enterprise – having the players play their mirror equivalents exclusively and show them scheming against what they call the "Invert Universe" – but that was just a bit too bonkers a notion,.  I did, however, set the first scene with them playing their mirror versions which encouraged the players to set scenes using both sets of crews, jumping back and forth to deal with the misery the last scheme had inflicted on the opposition.  

There's more than a bit of the Crime Syndicate of America to my Mirror Universe - which seems fair since they're both early "evil universe versions of the main cast" stories.
This allowed us to follow the classic storytelling rule of Show, Don’t Tell when it came to the Mirror Universe.  Rather than have to deliver boring expo-speak or have extended scenes in which I nattered to myself, the players could discover how Imperial Starfleet operates by moving their dark reflections around in it.  Primetime Adventures is a game with some shared narrative duties so while I did do prep work on the Mirror Universe (including a timeline so I understood the history that had led to this invasion attempt) letting the players flesh out their own mirror versions gave them chances to quantify the mirror universe themselves. 

For example - While I had decided that Mirror-Kestra would be the Captain’s Woman for Mirror-Satlek and they’d have some sort of sexual relationship, it was left open enough that Sister Superior could choose the flavour of that relationship and whether it was consensual, abusive, political or whatever.  Similarly, I left her relationship with Mirror-Sakonna vague and up to the players to decide – is it funnier if their petty bitching in our universe became outright scheming and murder attempts, or if they were in fact best chums?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Ambull: An Oldhammer-ish Painting Adventure

Combat Cards 4 Life, Dawg

One thing notably missing from current Games Workshop design principles is a cheap and cheerful "gateway drug".  It would be impossible to get a nerdy 13 year old into the hobby without a three digit price tag and (speaking very much from personal experience here) convincing random mates of yours who haven't tried the hobby before to play a several hours long game of Warhammer is a big ask.

Back in the Ye Olden Days things were a little difference. Citadel Combat Cards were an excellent little toy that I brought to the playground on many an occasion - cheap, quick and portable.  They were basically just Games Workshop-themed Top Trumps with some suggestions for more involved, complex games to play.  Every card had a picture of a gorgeous painted Citadel Miniature on them and individual Orcs, Space Marines, Ogres etc even had names - years later I can still remember some of those names.

Most of the creatures in the Yellow-bordered "Monsters" set are fairly classic mythological beasts like Ogres, Minotaurs, Trolls, Dragons etc along but there's a few odder examples.  Front and center is perhaps the strangest in the set, a 40K monster surrounded by Warhammer Fantasy beasties - the Ambull, a creature who I now have a painted example of

First appearance... and pretty much last appearance, if we're going to be honest.
First, some history.  The Ambull, a sort of burrowing ape/insect hybrid, makes it debut in the bestiary at the back of Warhammer 40,000 1st Edition.  A book which can't quite decide if it's a skirmish wargame or a roleplaying game, it assumes your battles will include a GM and features various animals & other non-combatants to use as complications to throw into a scenario.

One important thing to know about 40K is that, as surprising as it might seem to us know, Rick Priestly informs us that it wasn't initially considered to be likely to succeed.  Sci-fi games were rare and sci-fi figures in short supply so everything had to be made assuming that players would be mostly converting Warhammer, D&D, World War II and other fantasy figures to the task.  It became quickly apparent that wasn't the case but the bulk of the 1st Ed book was written under that premise - and the classic "Space Elves/Dwarves/Orcs" conceit was there as much for easy availability of figures as a stylistic conceit.  The Adeptus Arbites aren't just inspired by the Judges of Judge Dredd - GW were making figures of those judges, so including them was just common-sense.

The Warhammer rulebook, therefore, is filled with  creatures who are Expies of other things that GW was making figures of at the time - a lot of them D&D creatures, since Games Workshop had started supporting RPGs first and foremost.  The Ferro-Beast is a fairly obvious Rust Monster proxy, both in powers and insectoid appearance, while the Enslaver feels like a fourth hand recollection of what a Beholder looks like - round body, central eye, tentacles emitting...

1st Ed and 3rd Ed Umber Hulk art: spot the family resemblance!
The Ambull has similar roots.  The Umber Hulk, a somewhat B-List D&D monster, is the inspiration of this darling.  There's a clear physical and behavioural comparison, with a little bit of changing-to-avoid-breaching-copyrights thrown in.

Now, the Ambull is fun and all but it doesn't really fit the current Warhammer game style.  Random beasties running in, controlled by a third party, and fucking shit up is not really going to fly with someone raised on 2000s era Warhammer and it's mass battle, balanced points, quasi-tournament-conditions ruleset.  To be honest, not long after 1st Edition came out they already seemed out of place with how the game was evolving - in White Dwarf 99 there was an attempt to restyle them for use as trained beasts but it fell a bit flat.

Just a few months later and this article shows how quickly 40K was changing from quasi-RPG to wargame
So, that's the history over with - what about the pretty figure?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Play Update: Space Hulk, Zombicide & Star Trek

So, I haven't given you guys a game-based updated in a wee while.  So, let's recap some board gaming I did a few weeks ago as well as current RPG and wargame plans.

First of all, let's talk Space Hulk!

Pretty Genestealers vs bare plastic Terminators.

My good chum Priestly Paul came round one day to keep me company while Sister Superior was away overnight at work.  We busted out Space Hulk and he even brought his newly painted Genestealer Horde to use.

We went to Mission 3, which involves two squads of Marines meeting up and handing off a robot to safely bring it out of the combat zone with sensory data.  Unlike previous Space Hulk games I had 10 guys on the table, including multiple heavy weapons.... Surely I would finally put in a better performance?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Hobgoblins And Golems And Paint, Oh My!

Thirty greenskins ready to be sent to their doom.
So, the Hobgoblin archers are all done.  Twenty seven repurposed Night Goblin Archers and a real metal Hobgoblin Command Team are in place and ready to do.... well, whatever their Chaos Dwarf masters tell them to do.

If they know what's good for them.

Close-up of metal Hobgoblin Command Squad
While still on a Fantasy sort of kick, I decided to paint up some more figures for the Chaos Dwarves.  This time round it was three Lesser Obsidian Golems from Mantic, which as you may recall my chum Priestly Paul donated to me.

Remember them?
Rather than paint them in flat earthy tones I was quite taken with the idea of giving them a lava effect.  At the start of the year I even posted a link to a gentleman who had posted lovely looking Lava Bloodthirsters which I wanted to try and mimic.  My hope was that they'd get a look akin to the Pyroville from Doctor Who.

Yeah, like that.
So how do I go about this?  Well, read on my friends and you'll see!