Review of Alien – The RPG – Free League Publishing

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Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark…

At Gen Con this year I came across Free League’s booth and they were handing out cards for a pre-purchase of their Alien RPG.  Aliens is one of my favorite movies so I opted in.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thought it might be fun to see what they could do with a new Aliens RPG (remember, there was one many years ago.)

What shocked me the most was that they delivered, both digitally and hard copy – pretty much on time.  I was also deeply impressed with the physical quality of the materials. If this book were just the text, it would be easily half this size.  The rules clock in at 393 pages.

The artwork is worth the bulk.  The paintings are spectacular and really capture the feel of the Alien universe.

I have not run a game yet, but like the format.  There are two modes of play, Cinematic and Campaign.  Cinematic play is refighting the events on LV-426.  They provide the maps of the colonist outpost and enough material to play out what happened to those poor people.  It is one of those play modes that reminded me of Zombicide, you are going to die…it’s a question of when.  Campaign play is more along the lines of a traditional RPG campaign.

The rules are well-written.  There’s not a lot of depth here in terms of skills and career paths, it is a system that relies heavily on role-playing. I was expecting more of a military slant to things, with some details about tracking ammo etc.  This game really concentrates on action over technical detail.

It is a d6 based system, though there is an option for cards to cover initiative and gear (sold separately).  The game mechanics are pretty simple to master.  Combat is straight forward.  They have a pretty good critical injuries table which I liked.  With modernistic firepower, death can come quick with a poor die roll, at least in my trial runs.

The panic system is neat.  Stress and panic play a big role in the combat system, letting the terror build to where your character is incapacitated with fear.  I like this because it plays perfectly with the Alien universe.  I won’t bore you with the details, but it was good, innovative, and simple.

The game covers the core films, including Prometheus, which was useful.  You have big bad corporations, sleazy company men/women, and tough hombres in the Colonial Marines, even vehicles and spaceships.  I will admit, the space combat system is a bit abstract for my tastes, but that is a personal preference.

The biggest hurdle this game faces is not in the book but in how you overcome the fact that players already know about the aliens.  Part of what makes the game pop is that unknown variable, but let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the films.  I would have hoped for some more rules for creating new creatures for players to face, but there’s plenty of room for GM’s Game-Mothers, to get creative on their own.

Overall, I found the book to be outstanding.  Free League has resurrected the Alien RPG and has taken it into some new and fascinating directions. I’ve enjoying reading it, which is hard to say with some RPG’s out there.  It runs around $49 US, which is hefty, but worth it since it comes with a scenario ready to play.

I can’t resist…pick this up…otherwise it’s, “Game over man!”

Review of Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles Game

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Battlestar Galactica brings the little screen to the tabletop

Santa (actually Ares Games) dropped off this little gem just prior to Christmas and I have to admit, I was pretty geeked.  I saw the prototype game at GenCon this year and was looking forward to kicking some toaster-ass. Ares Games has delivered with Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles.

I was worried this was going to be a reskin of Wings of Glory – it is not.  First off the designers have captured the essence of what was saw on the TV screen with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  When you play with the complete rules your ship must deal with kinetic energy and you can do those awesome maneuvers we saw, like rotating your ship while moving a different direction.  Fracking awesome!   This game does not portent to be a mathematically accurate simulation of space combat.  Instead it favors fun and playability, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

First off, you get two Vipers Mk II’s and two Cylon Raiders from the most recent TV series. Ares has committed that this will cover the old TV series as well, so I have to admit I am excited at that prospect.  The amount of stuff you get in the game is staggering – stands, pilot cards, maneuver cards, rulers, dice damage counters, talent cards, maneuver markers, asteroids, a scenario book and the plastic control panels (and more).  The control panels are neat – they allow you to track your speed, kinetic energy, and the rotation of your ship.

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The control panel

Like Wings of Glory (or Sails of Glory for that matter) you use cards to determine your maneuvers.  Firing is a matter of rolling dice to hit then drawing damage chips.  For the Quick Start Rules, this is about all you have to master – meaning you can unpack this game and be playing in, per my calculations, about 15 minutes.  The Quick Start Rules are enough to get you going but it is the Complete Rules that make this game purr.  Here you deal with kinetic energy you build up in your flight maneuvers and you also can rotate.  It took me a few test turns to fully get these rules down to where I understood them, but once I did I saw the brilliance of the design.  It turns this game from a simple fighter combat into a more complex tactical simulation – especially rotating.

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A steep banking curve maneuver card

The complete rules also change the damage your ship takes, using the damage counters.  It makes the games shorter when you start doing special damage to your enemies.   The Complete Rules makes movement more fluid, breaking it into multiple phases.  I found in my solo playtest that it shortened the game considerably.

The optional rules implement altitude changes, ala Ares Games peg elevation system, and introduces pilots and their talents.  So you can play Apollo right down to all of his skills.

The miniatures are exquisite and a little larger than I anticipated – a pleasant surprise.  I am sure in a matter of days there will be custom paint stuff out on the web for these but they are fully playable right out of the box and look awesome.

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The paint is incredible

So what is the downside to this game?  Well, the scale means we probably won’t be getting a miniature of the Galactica, Pegasus, or the fleet ships…my estimate is the Galactica would be over 18 feet long if built to scale (but would be awesome!).  I am not sure how well this game will work with large battles, but I am willing to give it a whirl!  I found you need some space for this game given some of the maneuvers you can do.  Also, the series did not introduce a lot of new ships, which means expansion of this game is going to be likely pilots, talents, etc.  I am looking forward to a Raptor mini though.

The upside of this game – it captures tactical space combat in a way that most game have struggled with for generations and does it with style and polish.  The game cards and rulebooks have the corners clipped off of them to give them the feel of paper materials we saw in the series.  It is that kind of attention to detail that makes this game sizzle and pop.

I give this a solid 10 out of 10 rating – definitely worth picking up and following.  I can’t wait for the “classic” Vipers and Raiders from the old TV series – and the chance to mix things up between the two eras.  Don’t flee from the Cylon tyranny – swing around and blast those toasters! By my command…

Review – Star Trek Adventures Beta Quadrant Sourcebook

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I am slowly warming up to Star Trek Adventures.  At Gen Con I purchased a copy of the new Beta Quadrant Sourcebook and thought it was worthy of a review.

This book is written from a Federation perspective – i.e., primarily if you are playing a Federation character.

Like the original rules book, this one is chock-full of sidebar material designed to fill in gaps in the Star Trek universe or provide adventure hooks.  While I like the concept, the sidebars in this book are not as good as those in the original.  Example:  One titled – “Friday Night Knitting Circle Yarn and Fiber Swap” It explores, “Vulcan spinning” techniques.  Shame on the editors for putting this in.  We all get it, the Star Trek universe is multicultural. I would have gladly traded pages of this fluff material for more information on the Beta Quadrant.

This sourcebook is good, but does not go into the kind of depth you might be looking for.  With FASA’s Star Trek (which I wrote books for) their Klingon boxed set went into immense detail on creating Klingon characters and all of the nuances of the Klingons.  This book gives you fifteen pages on Klingon culture et. al.  It is good stuff, well written, but not as deep as you might be looking for.  Personally, I was looking for some more on the Houses and their impact on character development.  It wasn’t there.

The material is pretty broad – including Enterprise’s Xindi – though for the life of me I still can’t find their worlds on the maps in the end-flaps of the book.  There are new lifepaths for the Benzite, Bolians, Efrosians, Klingons, even the Zakdorn (and others).  While not a lot of material, it is pretty useful.

I enjoyed the chapter on the Orions – which opens up some wonderful RPG options for players.  Likewise you get some additional starships with this book which is nice.  I would have liked some drawings/artwork of the ships themselves.

The Romulan chapter is solid as well, but again, lacks the kind of depth that I think a lot of characters may be looking for.  The Gorn material does not seem like a retread of known history of the Gorn, which makes it quite enjoyable.

We do get more information on the Shackleton Expanse, where a lot of Modiphius’s material on the game seems to be set – which was highly welcome as a reader/player.

So how would I sum this up?  The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook is worth picking up – it significantly adds to the material in the rules book for the RPG. It is laid out in a high quality manner with good artwork. It could have been better, but is a good launching point for any campaign you may be planning outside of the Alpha Quadrant.

Review of Wild West Exodus – Miniatures Game

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For two GenCon’s now I have seen the exquisite displays for this game – so I broke down and played a quick demo and bought a copy of the rules.  I have to approach this review from two perspectives – one is the game – the other is the universe itself.  I don’t know much about Warcradle Studios, but I am impressed with aspects of this game system.

The game is solid as a miniatures tactical game.  My own little playtest at home taught me that if you have more than a dozen or so minis, it can get slow.  Otherwise, the flow is good.  Players use Activation Decks (of cards) to determine initiative which adds a bit of Old West flare to the game.  The Action Card deck uses a system of points (1-5) to activate miniatures.  There is an Adventure deck where a player draws a number of cards based on the size of the scenario and these can be used for Guts and Glory.  Glory improves your accumulation of victory points – where Guts is the other end of the spectrum or provides some unique quirks to the game such as interruption of another action.

From a game perspective, the minis have statistics that are very close to those for a RPG game (which the rules strangely lack).  You have Quick, Mind, Limit, Fight, Aim and Grit.  I won’t bore you with the details, but each factor into play.  I get the feeling that the designers were on the verge of doing a RPG, but opted for a minis game instead.

Fortune factors in as well – measured with poker chips.  You can spend Fortune on things like aiming, re-rolling failures, etc.  You’re limited with these but my own experience at GenCon taught me that these can change the course of a gunfight.  Other things that factor in are artifacts and magic portals…more on that stuff below.

The miniatures range for Wild West Exodus is outstanding and exquisite and one of the key draws for the game.  I picked up a couple of the minis and was impressed with their detail.  The ones I got were hard plastic.

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Overall, the game has solid mechanics and game flow.  The pace is pretty fast once you go over the basics.  The rules are, for the most part, straight-forward and easy to digest.  There’s a lot of diversity about weapons types and impacts that give the game a good flavor of play.  I love how they baked in the lingo of the old West into the rules for flavor.  Hats off to the designers for their writing.

The universe itself as “The Dystopian Age.”  Most alternate history games change one thing, like the South winning the American Civil War, then the universe is the result of things that happen after that.  I was expecting that.  Wild West Exodus does not follow this model.  Instead it changes dozens of things to craft a crossover between steampunk, Wild West historical, magic, and alien technology. More than half of the rules is dedicated to the background.  Some of the writing here is pure genius, where other parts are hard to follow.

What emerges from this background is nothing like the American Wild West – a dizzying blur of faint historical context and a dollop of incredible imagination. In the end, I like playing the game more than I do digging into the universe background on this set of rules. There were parts of the complex background that I did not like, but parts of it are brilliant.  There are no good or bad guys here, every faction has a dark side to it which I like.  There are a lot of factions to choose from.

The game itself is very good, the background is something you and your players will have to pick and choose from as to what you like.  Overall, I give this an eight out of ten, mostly because I have not warmed up to the background of the universe just yet.

Game Review – Kids on Bikes RPG

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This display got my attention

I was at GenCon this year with my nine year old grandson.  It was his first convention and we both were drawn in to Kids on Bikes, but Renegade Games.  He liked their display at the convention – I liked the very basic premise.  This is a RPG about kids exploring mysteries and strange happenings.  I thought this might be a good RPG to get my grandson going.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Right off the bat, this has the look, feel, and vibe of Stranger Things from Netflix. There are a lot of other potential sources of material though.  Any episode of Scooby-Doo could be the basis for an adventure.  “I would have gotten away from it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!”  You can also tap films like ET, Goonies, Lost Boys, Stand By Me, Small Soldiers, Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Gremlins, Silver Bullet, and others for some ideas.   This is about kids snooping around and getting into trouble – BIG trouble.  It is a brilliant niche in role playing games.  I recommend you play this in the 1970’s or 80’s. Picture an era before cell phones, before the internet – and you have a basis for gaming Kids on Bikes.

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This is not a hack-and-slash RPG.  This is about role playing, pure and simple.  If you are looking for how many hit points a chainsaw does, this is not the RPG for you.  Character stats are RPG die, 1D4 to 1D20.  There are two incredibly simple concepts to master – Stat Checks and Conflict. Stat checks are simple.  Conflicts are a little different, where the narrative of how the conflict is resolved flips between players based on the results.  It is simple and oddly enough, eloquent.

A big piece of this game system is character building. I am not talking number-crunching skills, but who your character is and how they relate or interact with the other players.  You start with a troupe – like “Laid back slacker,” or “Reclusive eccentric.”  Yes, you can even be “The brutish jock.”  The folks at Renegade Games have done a LOT to make this work.  They even have guidelines for characters with handicaps.  You can have powered characters too.

Honestly, you can learn this game system in a matter of minutes.  There are only 80 pages (5×7) in the rules book.  While the $25 price might make some people flinch, I have to say I felt like I got my money’s worth with this game.  The artwork captures the vibe of the era and the general kinds of situations you might find the game.

The folks are Renegade Games make some additional stuff for the game and were kind enough to send me some.  First up, the dice.  The dice set is not needed for the game.  I like them though.  They are weirdly sized and have a skull for the high number.  These almost seem to harken back to the horrible dice we had to use back in the 1970’s.

KoB+-+Orange+Dice+V3

They have produced a character folder.  Wow did this bring back some memories.  The printing on this took me back to 1976.  It is not of a lot of use (there are two tables in it) but I have to admit, if you want to get into character – this helps.  If you weren’t alive in the 1980’s, it might be lost on you.  Trust me, Renegade nailed it.

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The most important thing you need is the Powered Character Deck.  Pick this up.  It has one deck that is about fleshing out your character’s traits.  Examples include things like “Lacks an internal monologue;” “Thinks they are pursued by a cult;” “Frequently bursts into song;” and “Loves animals.”  Yes, this could have been a table – but the cards really can put some net spins on your character.  The powers deck are for powered characters – with things such as telekinesis, Palpalgia (the ability to harm others by touch), invisibility, shapeshifting, etc. I think the trait card decks could and should be used in other RPG’s.  For $15 – it is worth adding to your game shelf.

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The rules come in two formats.  One is the $35 big hardcover book that comes with a campaign setting.  Or you can get the $25 paperback that has the basic rules, sans the campaign.

I have set up a campaign setting for the game I am looking to run…and I’m going to share it with you in a separate blog post.  In other words, I am going to encourage you to go out and get this game and play it.

Will I play it with my grandson?  Probably.  This is about kids, and who better to relate to that than another kid?  I will simply not make it too gory or scary for him.

Kids on Bikes was one of my best purchases at Gen Con this last year.  Yes, it is pricy to get started – but worth it.

Review: Star Wars Legion – The Miniatures

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Apologies in advance – I’m not a great photographer

When I saw a new Star Wars miniatures skirmish game I have to admit, I was a little giddy.  Adding to that, my grandson/gaming buddy, loves Star Wars.  I remember playing the old miniatures game and while fun, it was a pain to manage all of those cards with the minis if you did a larger battle.  I hoped this one would be better and, on the surface, it appears so.

For this review – I am going to focus on the miniatures.  My first proviso, I am not a great miniatures painter.  I am average, at best.

When I purchased the set, I noted that these were 35mm figures…as opposed to the 25mm figures from the old game.  Was this merely a ploy to make sure I couldn’t use the old minis in the new system?  Probably.  At the same time I wondered how the larger size would impact details.  As it turns out, it makes the details pop.  Even better, the larger size seems much more forgiving when you paint them.  Little mistakes (the ones only you notice) disappear on a larger miniature.

Assembly was great, well almost great.  For the Stormtroopers and Rebels, you can almost get by without gluing some of the arms to the miniature, some are that good of a fit. The figures are great to work with, with good facial distinctions and details.  I have to admit it, Fantasy Flight Games did a great job with these.

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These guys are looking for trouble

The only miniature I struggled with putting together was the speeder bikes.  The guide in the rules set simply didn’t help at all with putting on the parts.  I went to two videos to finally figure it out.  On one bike, I got the control vanes on backwards.  I’m refusing to correct it at this stage.  Even more frustrating, unlike other parts in the boxed set that fit together well, the vanes don’t.  One wobbly finger and you end up with a hot mess…trust me.  I hate those speeder bikes for that reason.  I’m sure better modelers fared much better than me.

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These minis are not quite model kits in complexity, but are pretty fast and easy to assemble (other than those blasted bikes.)

In terms of painting, be prepared.  There are a lot of videos on how to paint these minis.  In terms of color guides, I found no less than a dozen.  It makes sense with the Rebels, after all, these are ad hoc units so there is some variance.  Well brace yourself, there are a lot of options here which make it great for you as a painter/player.

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The large bases have groves for identifying firing angles.  You need these in game play.  It can make basing those figures tricky.  You can see how I did it.  I wasn’t overly pleased with the result, but it worked.

Stormtroopers are easier.  You have white and black, and a touch of dark gray.  I color coded the bases with the leaders so I can distinguish them on the field of battle.

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I used an airbrush for base coats, which saved time.  It allowed me to do some light camouflage on the RT walker that I liked too.  You will have to judge for yourself.

I purchased Strong Tone wash from Army Painter and this was my first experience with it.  You can judge for yourself.  I have come to love it.  With the Stormtroopers, I put it on and gently wiped the white surfaces so they popped a little more.  I am not a Strong Tone kind of guy when I paint.  It can make a dull mini pop, and isn’t that what you want?

You can see my results as an average painter.

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One of these days I will play the game and do a full-blown review of these minis in action.  Stay tuned!

Why the release of Starfinder is important

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At GenCon this year I picked up Starfinder – hot off of the press.  I had no idea why at the time.  It was a pure impulse purchase, driven by something I hadn’t felt for a while in gaming – a sense of excitement. It took me a while to figure out why I was excited, hence this entry in my blog.

I have been soaking in its pages and have been impressed with most of what I have seen so far.  A true space opera RPG with a fairly robust set of rules.  Outstanding artwork and some ingenious thinking about how to handle the timeline between Pathfinder and Starfinder.  I could critique some of the rules, I won’t.  Starfinder is far too important in the industry right now.  I accept it for what it is.  A return to pure open-ended sci-fi gaming. A return to the era of the space opera.

Oh, sure we’ve had sci fi gaming all long (Shadowrun, Eclipse Phase, etc.) but we what the industry has lacked for years is a good generic sci fi RPG in the tradition of old school gaming.

I am a graduate of that old school, white box D&D and black box Traveller and all. Pathfinder harkens back to those days and that was why I was excited about it.

Looking back, Traveller broke new ground when it came out in a lot of respects.  One, your character could die during creation – and two, it was a rules set for a big damn universe of mystery and combat.  Gamemasters had a clean slate in the early years to craft our own universes.

There were other games that came along – Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, for example – but they were targeted sub genres of the sci fi.  They had limits.  Of course, we had Space Opera and Iron Crown’s Spacemaster, which were great at the time, though Spacemaster was hard to run as I recall, but there was a lot of stuff packed into the rules.  FTL 2448 and even Fringeworthy opened up new uncharted gaming universes for us to craft into our own.  Empires were to be forged and fortunes were out there waiting for us to take them.

WEG’s Star Wars and FASA’s original Star Trek RPG’s were great, but those were established universes that had boundaries. We were limited by the IP (intellectual property.)  Space opera role playing let the gamemaster define the universe, and often times there were few limits beyond the rules themselves.

Then TSR released Star Frontiers – and that provided us all with another big open-ended RPG in space.  That was the peak of the space opera era.  We still had Traveller out there, but by then, the Traveller universe was beginning to take form on its own, slowly boxing us in. The rise of the IP-driven sci fi RPG’s pinched us even further.  It was easier to pick up Star Wars then to create a universe from scratch.

Then came the dark times.  Star Frontiers disappeared in 1986 or so, though game product continued on in the back rooms of local game stores.  Traveller became Traveller 2300 which failed to capture our attention.  Space Opera and Spacemaster went out of mainstream print as well. Those games like Eclipse Phase that emerged were defined.

Then this year, Starfinder came out.  Paizo really took a big and successful gamble.  Pathfinder has become, well, a library system on its own.  There isn’t a lot of room for growth. Jumpstarting a new space opera game seemed ridiculous on paper…except for us old school gamers.  We knew that the market would support it.  Hell, there had been a hole in that market that was waiting to be filled with a product of the quality and caliber of Starfinder.

I have read pudits whine about its compatibility with Pathfinder.  I have heard the moans about starship combat (some of which I agree with.)  Forget all of that.  Starfinder has joined the pantheon of open-ended space RPG’s and has earned already a place of distinction.  Paizo seems to be supporting it heavily which will ensure its long-term success.  Once more, we RPG gamemasters can take our players to the stars for big-ass adventures of our own creation.  Starfinder is important because it fills a gap that has been out there for some time in the industry. The universe is a big place…filled with magic, tech, and sudden death.  Saddle up!

Sneak Peek at Tripods and Triplanes – Ares Games New Kickstarter

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The Martians land smack-dab in the Great War!  Awesomeness to follow.

The folks over at Ares Games are currently running a Kickstarter for Tripods and Triplanes and sent me a review copy.  Being a huge fan of their Wings of Glory and Sails of Glory, this was a welcome arrival on my part.  I was one of those folks that bought into All Quiet on the Martian Front when it was a Kickstarter as well.  WWI mixed with Martians is a good game concept and it is clear Ares has another winner here. 

Key proviso here:  I received a prototype copy of the game so my comments are based on that, not the final production copy.  Guys at Ares, you should feel free to send me the final product (wink wink, nod nod).  

The background for this game is simple.  In March of 1918 Martian tripods (ala War of the Worlds) land in Alsace.  The warring powers sign a truce and start going after these heat-ray-toting war machines.  Simplicity is important or you start asking too many questions; like why not go after them with tanks and artillery?  Just stick to the premise – Martian tripod walkers against WWI aircraft. 

One of my initial concerns about the game system was that it would not be fully compatible with Wings of Glory.  Thankfully it is!   So I don’t have to run out and buy new decks or new aircraft.  The systems mesh perfectly.  In other words, you have a whole new reason to buy Wings of Glory airplanes.  Now you can use them against the bloody-damned Martian invaders!

If you are on the human side, you’re essentially playing Wings of Glory.  There are not any substantive changes to the rules here.  You draw three cards for your maneuvers, you move, shoot, move, shoot…you get the idea.  Altitude is not much of a factor here since your targets are ground based.  If you are not familiar with Wings of Glory, it takes upwards of ten minutes or so to master the game system. 

What Ares Games has done though is to introduce a number of new concepts with the Martians that make the gameplay very challenging, for both players.  There are four groupings of these changes.  First, is the movement of the tripods.  The Martian player’s tripods move just like planes in Wings of Glory.  There are cards with the movements on them, you move them based on the patterns/lines on the cards.  Tripods, however, can stand still, pivot in place, and move backwards.  This may not sound that different, but for a seasoned Wings of Glory player, it can change your maneuvers when you get in close to target. 

The second group of changes is that the Martians also have action tokens.  These are things like fire your heat ray,  discharge smoke (in the Standard Game), recharge your batteries, change facing (pivot).  These get played in addition to the maneuvers.  So there is some planning that needs to take place on the part of the Martians.

The third thing is that the Martian player has to manage power with his tripods.  You don’t get to fire or use your shields if you don’t have power tokens.  So you need to use your token to recharge your batteries as you go or your tripod becomes a big moving target.  It’s easy to do, but if you are pressed in a heated battle (pun intended) you may be hard-pressed to keep the power levels up. 

Finally, the fourth new thing is that the tripods can have shields and new weapons.  Shields reduce the damage but often may not cover an entire tripod, often leaving the rear exposed.  The new weapons are nasty.  In the basic game you have the heat ray.  The rules about the firing arcs require some careful reading, but what is most important is that the heat ray is devastating in terms of range and damage to biplanes and triplanes.  While it is a smaller arc of fire than a machinegun on most Wings of Glory aircraft, it has a long reach that gives the tripods some advantage.  Also the heat ray fires through side projectors as well on the tripods I played.  

In the Standard Game, the Martians also get smoke projectors.  Think of these are clouds that dissolve aircraft and pilots.  These clouds remain on the map and make a zone that most pilots will want to avoid.  Of course the humans pick up rockets as weapons, which certainly helps against the tripods. 

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This nasty tripod has discharged smoke onto my rocket armed Nieuport.

Let me say that if these are the miniatures that will be offered, they rock.  The detail on them is fantastic, especially the larger tripods.  Ares Games always does a lot of fine detail work in their aircraft for Wings of Glory, and we see that here with the tripods too. 

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The detail on these prototypes is amazing.
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This bugger fires a lot of smoke.  I can’t wait to give him a try.

The draft rules I received were okay.  You have to read some sections very carefully, such as the Action Tokens and toppling tripods.  In playing, I made a few mistakes in movement that resulted in my tripod toppling.  Where Wings of Glory tends to be forgiving with mistakes, Tripods and Triplanes is not.  If you make a mistake as a Martian (and are caught) you will topple over and take damage. 

The ultimate question everyone has is: “How does it play?”  I tried a few different scenarios on my own.  First, I took up Von Richthofen flying straight in against a Locust tripod.  In other words, no real tactics, just fly in guns a-blazing.  

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Kids – don’t try this at home – I’m a professional

It didn’t end well for the Red Baron.  He went down in flames as he reached close range to the Locust.  That means that tactics are important in the game.

Next I did some maneuvers to see if the outcome was different.  Getting around behind the tripod is trickier than you might think because the tripod player can use a change face token to pivot.  The tripods are more nimble than you might think.  To do real damage, I had to keep the aircraft in close.  That was no problem.  Between the aircraft and tripod movements, ranges closed fast.  The narrow heat ray beam arc helped the Red Baron score a victory, though it was a close match.  My summary – tactics count in this game. 

 

I played one round with a medium tripod with the standard rules.  Those smoke clouds are nasty…the Martians can place them anywhere at the end of the firing arc and the clouds remain on the map.  Flying and Nieuport with rockets really didn’t seem to change the balance of play up as much as I hoped. 

 

The next test run I used a two-seater (an old Wings of Glory plane).  Alright, now we are talking.  Having two firing arcs on the airplane allowed me to do a fly-by of the tripod, shooting as I passed and hitting the non-shield side with the rear gunner.  “Take that Martian scum!”  My take on this is your choice of aircraft is very important in the game. 

IMG_1642
With a two-seater with rear firing machineguns, you can take a flyby, hit the tripod from the front, then from the rear.

My summation.  Ares has another hit on their hands.  They have successfully (and artfully) taken an established historical game system and have repurposed it into a science fiction game.  I struggle to find another company to successfully pull that off.  I recommend you check out their Kickstarter to get in on the fun and carnage.