Monday, 6 May 2013

Kickstarter - Deadzone

    The current hot property up on Kickstarter at the moment (in the gaming section at least) is a new skirmish scale miniatures game from Mantic Games called Deadzone. As I'm considering getting into this a bit, I thought I'd write up a post with the duel goals of working it through for myself, and giving it a bit of exposure to people I know who might be interested.

    For those that haven't been following Mantic Games, they are a mid sized gaming company based in Nottingham that started life producing 28mm fantasy miniatures. Initially sold as generic low cost, decent quality sculpts for use in other *coughGW* games, they have expanded with their own fantasy IP (Kings of War) and a Sci-Fi Ip (Warpath). Last year they had an extremely successful Kickstarter for their Sci-Fi Bloodbowl-esque football game while continuing to release models for both IP lines.

    I've had my eye on what Mantic have been doing since their initial releases, but never had a reason to buy into their main miniatures game. I passed on Deadball when they Kickstartered it last year, as I am not that interested in a Sci-Fi football game. However, given its success, and Deadzone appealing more, I'm looking to back this project.

    Deadzone is based in their Warpath world, alongside their main wargame and Dreadball. Where the wargame is closer is scope to Warhammer 40K, Deadzone is a small scale skirmish game played on a 2'x2' board.

    Alien artefacts are infecting humans with a genetic plague that mutates them into monsters hell bent on spreading the contagion further. When an area becomes infected, it becomes a quarantined area, a Deadzone. For those brave, or stupid, enough to enter a Deadzone, it offers a wealth of abandoned technology and riches. However, linger too long and you may find yourself overcome by the Plague.

    Currently there are 4 factions available for the game, mainly based off of existing factions in the Warpath world.

    The Enforcers

    The elite military of the ruling Corporations. These well equipped humans are sent into Deadzones to recover important technology, information or any other assets their paymasters want. Of the 4 factions, they are the best armed and armoured, representing the best the Corporation has to offer. They prefer to engage at range, although they can deploy specialist close combat units if necessary. Extremely good mobility as the Enforcer armour has a built in jump pack, making it easy for them to traverse the battlefield.

    The Plague

    The unfortunate victims of the alien virus, these mutated monsters live for nothing but spreading their contagion as far as they can. Those that are infected directly become hulking close combat monsters, while those 2 generations removed still have enough control to wield scavenged weapons. Most of the units are close combat troops, with some ranged support.

    The Rebels

    Fighting against the “utopian” society of the Corporation are a rag tag band of aliens. Forced into Deadzones to scavenge for supplies, the Rebels may not be the best equipped, but they have a wide range of interesting troops instead. While Humans make up the bulk of the force, specialist aliens and high tech drones help plug the gaps and bring the Rebels up to match the other forces.

    The Marauders

    Once the shock troops of the Corporation, these Orx are now mercenaries looking for a quick score, and a good fight. Armed with big guns, and even bigger Ripper suits, the Orx are easily a match for The Plague. These are not big stupid Orks that you might find in other settings. Orx are cunning, tactical and able to use technology. Don’t underestimate them.

    I’ve got to say, I can’t quite make up my mind which factions I like the best! Each is flavourful, with some great sculpts. I would be made even worse if they were to introduce their 2 other Warpath factions the Forgefathers (Dwarfs in Space) and the Veer-myn (Skaven in Space) as they are both interesting looking as well.


    Gameplay wise, currently the Alpha rules are available to view and to try out. They are an interesting mix of board game and skirmish game rules that looks to create a game that is simple to play, but still has tactical depth.

    One of the key board game concepts used is in movement. The play area is divided into 3"x3" squares, and models will move a number (normally 1) square per move action. This cuts out one of the more time consuming aspect of a skirmish game. Still, cover and positioning within the squares are an important part of the rules, maintaining the tactical elements of a skirmish game.

    The dice mechanic uses D8’s which is an unusual choice, but makes sense when you read the designer’s blog on the subject ( well worth a look). It also uses the system Mantic developed for Dreadball, meaning it has had plenty of play testing.

    An additional element is the ability to play Battle Cards on models during play to give bonuses or penalties. Each faction will come with its own faction deck, and each card will have 2 possible effects. This adds more depth to a simple mechanic, and can give you the edge in a tough fight.

    Games will have faction specific objectives that will determine success, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to kill your opponent to win. This will mean that factions such as the Rebels that may have a technological disadvantage against the Enforcers can still play a balanced game. I like objective based games, I found Warmachine to be a better game when we added scenarios into our play, so I can only see this as a good thing.

    Finally, I can’t not mention the scenery they have produced for the game. With a snap-fit system that will allow you to put the panels up in any configuration you like, and then change it, it means you have some many options for your game board.

    We are expecting a big update today (Wednesday 6th May) with more information about the terrain, as well as terrain only pledges and add-ons. I can see this being very popular, as it can be used in a number of big Sci-Fi settings with very little adaption.

    So, why am I getting in on another Kickstarter, I’m sure you are all thinking. Well, there are a few extremely good reasons:

    1. Game Play – I really like the look of the rules, and I’ve been looking for a gate-way game that I can demo to people easily.

    2. Models – There  are some amazing looking models already done, and I’m a sucker for a painting project. Take a look at the WIP Marauder Ripper Suit!

    3. Value for Money – The Strike Team Pledge is already worth twice as much as it started with, and with not being even over half way through the Kickstarter it will rise further. I simply can’t look away from that sort of saving.

    4. I’m an addict.

      If you are looking for a new Sci-Fi game, you can’t go wrong backing a Mantic game.

      Sunday, 5 May 2013

      Iron Kingdoms GMs Kit - Review

      I'm a bit behind with this review, but better late than never.

      As is traditional in an RPG release schedule, one of the early releases is a GMs kit, containing a GMs screen and some additional content to entice us to hand over our money.

      Not ones to break tradition, Privateer Press's second release in the Iron Kingdoms line is a Games Masters toolkit to aid all those hard working GMs in running their games.

      The main component of the kit is the 4 pane games masters’ screen. With the panes orientated landscape, the screen is low enough that a GM can comfortably look over while sitting, but will hide notes and dice rolls from players. With a double sized centre panel, you have plenty of width to work with, and don't feel cramped with a pile of notes.

      The screen is made from tough card, like the cover to the Iron Kingdoms core book. This means that it will easily stay standing on its own, and even absorb dice impacts without moving. This isn't a 1990's White Wolf screen here!

      The outer screen graphics are up to the normal excellent standards of Privateer Press. The double sized pane gives a great opportunity for some metal mangling action, and it doesn't disappoint. You can’t get much more of a representative view of the Iron Kingdoms than a heavy warjack fighting a bionic pig man over a crashed steam engine.

      On the inner screen is the real meat of the product, with useful tables and charts for reference in game. While I haven’t road tested the screen, it contains everything I would need to reference quickly during a game. It also includes page references for sections if you want to look at the full rules, which is really handy. The text is a reasonable size, and laid out well, making it easy to read. Use of bold text and inverted text colour for headings means that you can quickly find what you are looking for.
      Onto the extras. These vary from company to company, some offering an adventure, others a small booklet of GM related material that didn't make the cut into the core book. In this case there are couple of gaming aids to help run your game.

      To start us off, there is a pad of 25 full colour character sheets, like the ones found in the core book. Next, there is a pad of 25 full colour encounter sheets, again like the ones found in the core book. There are also 10 laminated Character health trackers and 10 laminated initiative trackers.

      For me, while gorgeous quality, I'm unlikely to ever use the character or encounter sheets. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but I tend to find character sheets get used and abused in a way that doesn’t warrant using better than a black and white printout. Also, the paper is slightly gloss, and I'd imagine writing in pencil may be more difficult, leading to problems when changes needed to be made. It would also make the encounter sheets only usable once. That being said, there is nothing wrong with them, just a matter of personal preference.

       The laminated health and initiative trackers though, I will be making use of. The health tracker gives the player an easy way to track life or damage (in the case of a warjack) and their current Feat Points, without having to keep rubbing out a section of the character sheet. The Initiative Tracker card, not only gives the GM a place to record individual initiative scores, but also a character's stats and current Armour and Defense, so they don't need to refer back to the player as often. While not vital to running a game, it certainly makes tracking things much easier.

      Finally, perhaps the more difficult aspect is the product’s value for money. At $27.99 rrp, it is actually more expensive than Urban Adventures, and is likely to see less use. Looking at previous GMs screens I’ve bought, it is certainly much better than the screens I have for the FFG 40K RPGs, and just as good as my Eclipse Phase screen. For me, the additional items don’t quite have as much worth as the adventures/GMs books that the other screens provided, but I’m willing to let that go.

      If you intend to run a game of Iron Kingdoms, you can’t go wrong by picking up the screen. The information it provides alone makes it a must have, saving time leafing through the rule book. Consider it an investment if nothing else.
      Games Masters Toolkit Contents
      Iron Kingdoms Games Masters Tool Kit Contents