Friday, April 13, 2012

USR Skirmish Game

This is a playtest of the USR RPG as a miniatures wargame ruleset.

Scenario Background and Objectives:
 Dr. Ishnisanshi, a research scientist working on weather manipulation from her lab in the desert wasteland known as Sector 42 on planet XYZZY in a part of the galaxy under the rule of Galactic Dictator Zvezda, has recently made a break through, that if developed, further could give control of a planet's water cycle to a single individual or government.

Zvezda's commanders, always scanning the latest in scientific discoveries, got wind of her findings and have sent orders down for a patrol of Riflethings to quietly "retrieve" Ishnisanshi, so that she may be put into service of the Dictator and her enforcement agency lovingly known as, Control.

"Captain Smitty" (aka John Smith), captain by virtue of respect and not an actual rank as the revolutionaries eschew rank and formalized hierarchy, regular reader of the popular science dailies, and more importantly, privy to the information sent back by undercover operatives and deciphered communications, has learned of Control's plans and assembled a team to drop into Sector 42 and convince Ishnisanshi that she needs to get out of there, and further, if possible to get her off the planet and out of the galaxy. A Herculean task, if he had ever heard of Hercules, that is. 

His team includes the heavy weapon's specialist, Jimmy James, and the emergency medical technician, Sara X.

For both forces, the goal is to get Ishnisanshi off of their board edge and the key word is "alive". Dead and the doctor is of no good to anyone.

The Forces:

Control Battalion Riflethings

Thing 1 - Action: d10, Wits: d6, Ego: d8, HP: 9
Toughness (Action + 2), Leadership (Ego+2)

Thing 2 - Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6 , HP: 12
Allegiance (Ego + 2)

Thing 3 - Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP: 6
Allegiance (Ego + 2)

All: Weapons: Assault rifles: +1, Armor: -2


Captain Smitty - Action:d10, Wits:d6, Ego:d8, HP: 14
Quick reflexes (Action+2), Leadership (Ego+2)
Assault rifle +1
Flak jacket -1

Sara X. - Action:d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP: 14
Medic(Wits + 2)
SMG +1
Flak jacket -1
Jimmy James - Action:d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6, HP:17
Heavy weapons specialist(Action +2)
RPG +3
Sidearm +/- 0
Flak jacket -1

Dr. Ishnisanshi: Action:d6, Wits: d10, Ego: d8, HP: 12
particle physics (Wits+2), climatology(Wits+2), electrical engineering (Wits+2)

I kept specialisms to a minimum, mostly because I was excited about giving this a go and, it is an evaluation game to decide among rule sets for future sci-fi skirmishes - a proof of concept if you will.


Turn 0
Both sides approach the lab

Turn 1

Rolling initiative using Wits+Action results in a nice unpredictable order which works well to upset the best laid plans

Sara runs for the objective, while Jimmy and Smitty fan out to provide cover:

Sara X. takes off sprinting towards the lab.

and the Riflethings make their advance:

End of Turn 1

Because as written this is an RPG and not a wargame, movement as the rules note, is abstract.  The author suggests 20' per action but I went with 4", as this is used in other games I play in 15mm. If my math is correct (and there's no reason to believe it is), 4" is closer to 40'. 

And, again, because it's an RPG and not a wargame, there are no rules for running. This, in my opinion is a strength - I make a ruling on the spot like I would do as a GM and I use unopposed Action rolls of varying difficulty based on terrain, receiving fire, firing, etc. to see if they can run the desired distances (ruling it must still take 2 moves to reach the objective).

Turn 2

Sara bursts into the lab and tries to convince the good Doctor to come with her.

"Dr. Ishnisanshi! I am Sara X. of the resistance, the Dictator's Riflethings are coming, we have to get you out of here!"

(rolling Ego vs Ego) 

But the Doctor is not persuaded - "You must be joking! There is research to be done!"

A moment later, as if to lend strength to Sara's argument, the leader of the Riflethings (Thing 1) bursts in and fires at Sara - lucky for her, in his haste he stumbles and the blast passes by harmlessly. Meanwhile, Smitty takes fire as well and is hit!

End of Turn 2

There's not a lot of room for a shoot out, yet it's happening!

Turn 3

Inside the lab, it's getting a little crowded as a second Riflething bursts in! Sara takes a hit and then a second and is unable to do any damage of her own. Meanwhile she continues to plead with the doctor, who amazingly is still refusing as she cowers in the corner!

Smitty, from his vantage point has a clear shot at the Riflething officer. He fires away and drops him in his spot.
"Thanks boss!" hollers Sara over her shoulder.
Smitty has a clear shot at the Riflething leader and makes good use of it.

A firefight ensues outside between Jimmy James and a Riflething

End of Turn 3

Turn 4

Finally the doctor gives in and agrees to go with Sara (FINALLY! a bad Ego roll for the doctor and a good Ego roll for Sara!) and both take off running as the final Riflething enters the lab.

They engage Smitty in a firefight.

Run for it!

Sara leading the reluctant and very tall Dr.Ishnisanshi to safety

Turn 5

Seeing Sara and the doctor making for cover he hollers to Jimmy, "Fall back!"

Jimmy hears him and he does (I rolled Ego vs Ego, and Smitty gets his +2 Leadership bonus), but not until he's tried to fire through the door of the lab!

End Turn 5 - The rebels fall back

Smitty falls back to the woods and fires at the Riflethings.

I realize the Riflethings are down to 9 HP between them. It's probably a good time to see if they stay or if they go. I roll against Ego adding in Allegiance and they pass. They return fire and wound Smitty.

A Smitty-eye view of the situation
Turn 6:

Sara and the Dr. reach safety and are out of LOS and Jimmy is right behind them.

Smitty fires and then makes a break for his team.

I test again for the Riflethings (they pass) and one of the Things swings out of the lab for a better shot and hits Smitty - dropping him like a sack of space potatoes.

End of Game

I call the game here as Sara and the Dr. are out of LOS for the Riflethings and close to the edge of the board - victory goes to the revolutionaries.

Post-game Thoughts:

In a future post, I'll explore why I'm pursuing RPGs for use as tactical miniatures rules for small scale skirmishes, but for now, I'll just note that

USR, at least, requires little modification to work on the tabletop and I can seamlessly move these characters back and forth from solo narrative games to table top miniatures games with the same rules!

Once again, USR makes it easy to stat out characters. Specialisms, weapons bonuses, and armor bonuses make differentiation easy. I think I spent all of 15 minutes getting this set up. I can't give an estimate of game time as the turns were interrupted by real-life frequently.

I think the only issues I had were with initiative - Leadership is an Ego-related specialism, but initiative is Wits+Action. So a leader figure's leadership skill has no impact tactically speaking. This feels wrong to me - but I should add that my knowledge of what it's like to be a leader in the military is somewhere between "zip" and "zero". I may either change Leadership to a Wits specialism or use Action and Ego instead of Wits - but that seems to go against the description of the attributes themselves.

The other modification I am considering is in games with more than 5 figures per side - rolling initiative by groups/squads/vehicles, rather than individuals (unless they're a hero or are a sniper or something). This is simply to speed the process up a bit. Another alternative,one that I'm not into, is rolling once for each figure and keeping the order for each round. This makes things too predictable in my opinion and I really enjoy the randomness of activation when everyone rolls.

I'll be doing more play tests - including one with USR with 10 figs on at least one side - I have more rulesets to examine, but I think USR is going to get a lot more use regardless.

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