Historicon was a blast, and I’m exhausted. Most of my time went to helping with the Fireball Forward release – I ran about eight games during that convention – two Silent Fury games, one Fireball full game, and five Fireball demo games.
Fireball Forward’s release was a huge success – the rulebook sold out, which is fantastic. It’s a great set of World War II rules, and I hope it goes on from here to enjoy widespread popularity in the wargaming world. Now that it’s in the hands of more than a hundred wargamers, I think we’ll see a lot of Fireball games run at conventions, and since I’ve been involved in the game’s design I’ll be spending some of my time answering the likely barrage of questions that the Fireball group is going to get.
But enough about Mark’s game – if you want more, he’s got his own site. http://fireballforward.com/ Let’s talk Silent Fury.
First, a big THANK YOU to all the players who came out to play – you guys were really great.
Setting up and running the games without Nathan was definitely a challenge, but things went smoothly thanks in large part to the players – everyone was really attentive and got the rules down pretty much by turn 1.
As for the games themselves, people had a good time with Roid rage and we had some great moments where the Sprite angled in to scoop a mineral from the Triggerfish, which had mined it, only to have the Triggerfish blast the upstart’s engines and send it careening away from the field. The Triggerfish’s luck didn’t last long however – they were boarded and seized by pirates from the Mystere, who themselves narrowly avoided an incoming Destroyer as they made their escape.
That said, that turned out to be the main interaction of the game – the other two players pretty much mined stuff on their own and got out, taking just a potshot here and there at the others (and one of those players ended up winning the game when he fond a 10 million mineral AND the alien derelict, and escaped with both). While everyone enjoyed it, I definitely want scenarios that are guaranteed to get everyone involved, so I’m thinking that a free-for-all may not be the way to go for this one – the other scenario, There will be Blood, worked much better in terms of player interaction since the players were in teams, so I’m thinking that we’ll modify Roid Rage for Fall-In to be a two-side scenario, with each side having a couple mining ships and an escort ship or two. The scenario is intended to be a mix of combat and mining, and at the moment things seem to lean more towards the mining side and less towards the combat side. Still, people had a good time, and one of the players liked it so much that he showed up the next day for…
There Will Be Blood. I’ve posted a couple AARs of our playtest of this scenario, and they’re always pretty epic due to the sheer carnage of the game, and this one was no exception. I’ll give you the highlights – after the players bought ships on the market, we had the Copelands with the Sawblade, Maximo, Razor and the Beast, facing the Smythes with the Megasus, Thunderdome, Hulkus, and the Greatshield.
The Sawblade and the Thunderdome apparently have a vendetta against each other, they ended up being the lead elements of both fleets, and in the early rounds both fleets focused all their fire into these two ships as they careened into each other. When they got into blaster range the Thunderdome seized the initiative so it could fire first and crippled the Sawblade, but the rest of the Copeland fleet focused their return fire on the Thunderdome. Since I was running the game alone I didn’t take the time to take many pictures, but after turn 2 the ships looked like this:
At the end of turn 3, both ships were gone.
After that, the game developed in ways I hadn’t seen before – both sides opted to hang back and wage a long-range gun duel with their Boom cannons. The Copelands appeared to have the upper hand early on, as the Maximo had deployed on the opposite side of the Smythes, catching them in a pincer between her and the remaining Copeland ships. With the weak armor of the Hulkus exposed, the Maximo poured fire into the behemoth, rendering several guns inoperable or damaged. The Smythes, on the other hand, were forced to hit the Maximo’s heavy armor, resulting in just a few minor hits and a fire. On other other side of the fleet they focused on the Razor, but most of their shots missed the small ship and she escaped with minor damage.
As the battle wages on however, good card play started to trump good positioning. The Smythes were playing crew actions every turn to try to keep their damage under control, and the Copelands were focusing more on attacking and greater volume of weapons fire. The Hulkus kept getting pounded, but exemplary damage control efforts managed to get four of her original ten guns back online, and she gave as good as she got, positioning herself so that she could fire both of her broadsides at different targets. The Greatshield kept her heavy armor towards the enemy and was able to stay outside the Maximo’s range, so her three rear cannons kept blazing away into the Copeland ships every turn. The Megasus was truly exceptional under fire. She got a couple Forged in Battle cards, and even though her bridge was hull breached, she was able to repair not only that through a card, but was also the only ship to repair a destroyed component through an excellent repair roll. Despite taking a lot of fire, she maintained her cannons until the final turns, but by the time her broadsides fell silent the Copelands were done.
Around turn 4 the Copelands were taking the worst of it in the gun duel. The one fire on the Maximo caused an explosion, and more fires started and spread through the ship, leaving it a burning wreck with one gun active at the end. The Beast’s main reactor was destroyed (Going Dark critical), and she fled the field under emergency power, left to drift in the dark until rescued or life support failure. The Razor’s small size couldn’t save her forever, and when the Smythe guns found their mark, she was smashed thoroughly.
The best part of the game, for me, was that by the end of turn 5 or 6 I offered the Copelands the chance to call the game since it was clear by then that their situation was practically unsalvageable. The losing players were having so much fun that they opted to continue play for two more full turns. I’m thrilled that you guys enjoyed the game that much.
Even better, I came away from the game feeling that most of the rules were still very solid – there’s perhaps one minor tweak I want to make to the damage system, but that was all. It played faster than our old system and I think it was more intuitive for the players – by mid-game they were reading the dice themselves, and even occasionally correcting me (it was the last game for me at a very long convention, so I was running on fumes). Dropping separate damage rolls for separate hits was great, and sped the blasters up quite a bit, and felt right. The biggest win, for me, was the fire rules – last convention we made a last-minute change to a lot of systems, and they worked, but it was the crew and boarding rules that really stood out. This time it was the fire rules – all you do during the drift phase is roll 2d20 on each ship with at least one fire. If you hit a component adjacent to a fire, it spreads there. If you hit a fire that already exists, it causes an explosion. I pretty much lifted the mechanic from Flashpoint (which is a fine cooperative game all its own), and it just worked great, and got fire checks down to one roll per ship. That means even a heavily burning ship (like the Maximo became) doesn’t slow the game down like it used to. In fact, everything was streamlined to the point where we played 7 or 8 turns with all 8 ships in There will be Blood in about 3 hours – with all new players (except the one guy who played Roid Rage first).
So what’s next? The rules we have on the website are old at this point, and my first step is going to be to update those so that you guys can play the same game that we ran at the convention, with all the improvements we’ve made. I expect they’ll be up by this weekend.