Monday, 27 February 2017

New Necromunda? What I'm Hoping For...

Necromunda means a lot to me.  When I was thirteen I was introduced to the game by a school friend and it was my introduction to the weird and wonderful world of miniatures wargaming.  We had our first gang fight one rainy Saturday afternoon and I haven't looked back since.

For me nothing has come close to capturing my imagination like the Underhive of Necromunda.  Every game felt like you were participating in a full fleshed out, living breathing world.  It was part 2000AD part Mad Max, it's like it was made for me!  A small scale skirmish game where you control rival gangs fighting in an almost post-apocalyptic setting.  Your gang members progressed and levelled up the more games you played and you became attached to them.  They had their own personalities you it was a real gut punch when your Gangers sustained horrible life threatening injuries.

It was announced a little while a go now that Games Workshop were bringing back what they called their "Specialist Games".  This included the legendary fantasy sports board game Blood Bowl, dungeon crawler Warhammer Quest and their 6mm scale giant robot battling game Adeptus Titanicus.  But what I was most excited for was a return of Necromunda.

The new versions of Blood Bowl and Warhammer Quest are out already and they are excellent, for me that bodes well for this new Necromunda.  There is no official release date yet but I have been thinking about what I am hoping for for the new edition.  Here are my thoughts on what I'd like to see and what I'd imagine we will see...

New Rules or not?

When Games Workshop released  Blood Bowl in November they barely touched the rules for the game.  It was pretty much the same game as the third edition from 1994 with a few tweaks here and there.  At first I was a bit disappointed as I would have love to have seen if they could have updated the game and made it a bit more streamlined and modern but it actually makes sense that they would keep the rules the same.  Blood Bowl has an extremely active fan base and tournament scene and always has, even when the game was out of production.  I think if they changed the game to much there would have been up roar and, to be honest, Blood Bowl is an extremely fun game and didn't really need much changing.

Necromunda does have a very active fan base but nothing to the scale of Blood Bowl (not hat I know of any way) so maybe we will see a more streamlined version of Necromunda.  I would actual be quite happy with a big rules update for the game.  For me I think a good change would be to get away from the IGOUGO activation, maybe making it ebb and flow more with reactions and the like.  This may be asking a bit much for Games Workshop though.

Campaign Rules

The best thing about Necromunda was it's campaign system.  It was detailed but simple and as I said above made the game feel like it too part in a full leaving and breathing world.  I would be very surprised if they got rid of this element of the game.  It is what makes Necromunda Necromunda at the end of the day.  I just hope it is as exciting and engaging as the original campaign rules.

What'll be in the box?

The original Necromunda boxed game was an amazing thing.  You got two plastic gangs, dice, the rules and the usual amount of counters and rulers and the like.  I'd imagine we would get all this in the new box but the one thing from the original box that really stuck with me was the card and plastic terrain.  Whenever I see one of the old plastic bulkheads I get a huge pang of nostalgia.  The card scenery included with Necromunda as perfect.  I used it for every Sci-Fi game I used to play.

In the years since the game came out Games Workshop have produced lots of excellent plastic scenery kits so I would imagine that the starter box will have hard plastic scenery and I'm sure it'll look awesome.  Saying that though Games Workshop recently released a boxed game called Gangs of Commorragh which is a game between rival Dark Eldar gangs that included a campaign system  (sounds kinda familiar eh?) came with very basic card terrain.  Maybe a good way of keeping the cost of the box would be to have basic card terrain and then have more detailed plastic scenery an option add on to buy later (these sets could be like Mantic Games awesome Battle Zones modular sets of terrain!)  I'm all for lowering that initial buy in to make it more accessible and I'm sure even card terrain from GW will be exceptionally good quality!

This brings me to the plastic Gangers.  The ones in the original box were very basic and had limited customisation option.  You basically just had a couple of different arms with different weapons to choose from, they were pretty cutting edge for their time though. As you know the quality of what Games Workshop can produce in plastic now has come on leaps and bounds and I would love to see new, multi-part, hard plastic Necromunda gangs.  I'd imagine this is what we would get in the box.  The new Blood Bowl had two awesome snap fit plastic teams but as Necromunda is all about gang customisation I'd like to think that we will get a more customisable kit akin to the squads that you buy for Warhammer 40,000 and the like.  I'd also imagine that they will be Orlock and Goliath...but who knows?

Continued support?

Games Workhop have been releasing stand alone boxed games again recently but I feel that Necromunda is more than that.  They have been doing excellent things with Blood Bowl (yes I have been using Blood Bowl as an example a lot!) supporting it,  having rules for the extra teams for free, having the Death Zone expansion out on the day of release and slowly releasing extra teams (the Dwarfs and Skaven are out already) and Star Players in resin from Forge World.  I'd imagine they would use this model for Necromunda.  Two gangs in the box set then newer gangs released throught the year as seperate box set.  There is space for an expansion like the Outlanders set for the original game and Forge World could make some excellent special characters like the Hired Guns and Bounty Hunters in resin!  Blood Bowl is proving to be extremely popular and I can imagine that Necromunda will be just as successful!

Of course this all just my opinion and speculation.  Nothing has been officially said about the release yet but I'd imagine it will be 2018....I am hoping for much sooner though!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Thoughts On: Rogue Stars

If you're a fan of miniatures wargames I'd imagine that you probably have at least one  book published by Osprey Publishing in your collection.  They started by publishing military history books but a few years ago moved into wargaming - and even more recently board and card games.  They now boast an extremely impressive selection of wargame rules, including some of the most popular games of the genre at the moment including the excellent WWII game Bolt Action and Fantasy Skirmisher Frostgrave.

Late last year Osprey released the seventeenth addition in their Osprey Wargames Series of books Rogue Stars, a Sci-Fi skirmish rule set designed by prolific games designer Andrea Sfiligoi the creator of the extremely popular Fantasy Skirmish rules Song of Blades & Heroes amongst many others.

As soon as Rogue Stars was announced I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on it.  It looked exactly like kind of game I have been waiting years for.  A character driven miniatures neutral old school inspired miniature game.  It looked set to be Frostgrave in space.  I managed to pick up a copy as soon as it was released but what I got wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  It was, in fact, much much better than I hoped. 

Where Frostgrave is a fairly lightweight, if extremely fun, skirmish game, Rogue Stars is much more akin to a role-playing game combat system.  Much heavier and slower paced but don't let that put you off giving Rogue Stars a try.  Despite the depth of the rules it never feels overly complex and every game I have played felt massively cinematic with awesome, stand out moments happening throughout.  It really feels like a firefight in an action movie.

Each player in a game of Rogue Stars takes control of a Squad of between 3-6 miniatures. A very small figure count meaning that most people wouldn't struggle putting together a collection for the game.

The game runs off D20s.  I know there are people who dislike the D20 because of how "swingy" they can be,  but  personally I'm a fan.  I think the unpredictability of a 20 sider really adds to the cinematic feel of a game,  no roll is a given.

For me the real stand-out mechanic in the game is how initiative works.  At the start of the game players roll off to see who gets the first turn,  much like any game.  But in your turn you can activate your models as many times as you like.  But this comes at a price,  the more you activate your models the more likely your opponent will be able to react or steal the initiative from you.  This leads to a really fun and tense push your luck element to activating your characters in the game.  It also means that you never feel like you are sitting their twiddling your thumbs while your opponent take their turn,  your're always watching for the perfect moment to steal the initiative.

Another excellent aspect of Rogue Stars is it's detailed squad creation system.  It has been specifically designed so you can use whatever Sci-Fi miniatures you like.  Instead of the usual stat line you see in many games characters in your squad are defined by traits that effect them in game.  You also have the usual list of weapons and armour to chose from and an awesome selection of gadgets and gizmos to round your characters out.  These character creation rules really make each model in your squad seem feel unique with it's own personality.  There are different theme, such as Bounty Hunters, Pirates and Star Cops,  for your squad to choose from giving them access to different traits and weapons,  again give each squad a unique and thematic feel.  There is also a points system (or XP as it's known in Rogue Stars) to build your squads but I think that this isn't really game about creating a great narrative rather than balance, so I would only use XP as a rough guide.

Despite being designed as model neutral regular Osprey collaborators North Star Military Figures have created a great range of miniatures specifically for Rogue Stars including some excellent, thematic characters.  Worth a look for any Sc-Fi gamer.

As much as I love Rogue Stars there are few aspects that I struggled with at first.  The damage system feels rather clunky, incorporating hit locations and different injury effects and there is a lot of in game book keeping.  You keep track of how many many Stress tokens, Wound Tokens Pin Tokens and any situation effects that each model has.  But as daunting as that may sound at first it is actually not that hard to do in practice.  These are small gripes though for a game that always seems to play quickly and as you only have a very small model count per-side the book keeping never really becomes much of an issue. 

This little run down only really scratches the surface of what you can do with Rogue Stars.  For a rule book that is only 64 pages long it really is a deep and rewarding game experience! Full of different scenarios,  environments to play games on and other in game effects make everygame of Rogue Stars feel unique.

Many people have compared Rogue Stars to Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (the name surely has to be a nod) but I feel it has a lot more in common with Bryan Ansells pre-40k character based miniatures RPG Laserburn.   

Rogue Stars really has an old school RPG feel and I am already planning games where I act as a GM,  adding a different element to the game.  It's not really a game for new comers to wargaming but for people looking to play out some awesome cinematic firefight on the tabletop I couldn't recommend Rogue Stars enough.