Twas a glorious four days in August of 2014 when my wife, daughter, and brother made the long, arduous trek to Indianapolis, Indiana for Gen Con 2014.
During the best four days in gaming in 2014, my brother and I went “halvsies” on the Dropzone Commander two-player starter box. I was immediately intrigued by the game with its miniatures engineered to fit together. Most of the dropships could actually carry the vehicles they were meant to. Everything fit perfectly. The designers are lifelong geeks, and they were, and still are, dedicated to that level of detail.
The universe itself is incredible. The story of Dropzone Commander begins with D+250 with humanity, under the United Colonies of Man, fighting the vile, parasitic Scourge to take back the fertile cradle worlds, the most important of which is Earth itself. In the midst of the chaos are the Resistance fighters on each world, some friendly to the UCM, some fighting for their own power. The clan-like Shaltari, once friends to humanity, now fight for their own aims. The Post Human Republic, a race of advanced humans, fight the UCM and the Scourge, but to what ends only they know.
The gameplay is awesome. It is fast and common sense, yet still dynamic enough to force the commander (player) to sit and think of their tactics, and overall strategy. I have played 700 point games in an hour and a half, and that is quite a few models on the board. I cannot wait to play larger 1,000 to 2,000 point games.
The group I play with doesn’t know the love and joy of Classic Battletech, but I constantly tell them that Dropzone Commander is what Battletech: Alpha Strike should have been. Not the models or the universe, of course, but the rules and playability. While I’m sure playing enough Alpha Strike will help keep the rules fresh in one’s mind, they are easily forgotten. I hadn’t played a game of Dropzone Commander in a year and a half, and I still remembered 90% of the rules. (It had been a busy year and a half, and all gaming went to the wayside with family, moving homes, our wedding, and work commitments.)
I wonder what would happen if Catalyst Game Labs got license to use the DZC system…
Things that make you go: hmm…
On top of it all, Hawk Wargames, the company that makes DZC, keeps their miniatures relatively cheap. I can get a handful of miniatures for $30-$40. This is great for a family man on a budget. I can slowly but surely build the army I want. It may take a month or two, but it’s not like Warhammer 40K where just one squad, or miniature, can wipe out a man’s gaming budget for the month. In fact, the cost of getting started in DZC is $44 for a starter set, which gives you from 540 to about 600 points, depending on the faction.
Even the books are cheap. I can get the first expansion book, “Reconquest: Phase 1”, for about $20 on Miniature Market. That’s a lot better than the $40-$60 I would drop for Battletech’s latest rulebooks.
Below are some pictures of my most recent game (two weeks ago) between my Scourge and an opponent’s UCM.
Though I lost, my Scourge put up one hell of a fight!
Hawk Wargames recently wrapped up a Kickstarter for their space ship battles game, Dropfleet Commander. The smallest ship carries 100 dropships. That is an insane scale. What’s even better is that Dropfleet Commander and Dropzone Commander will be playable together. Talk about epic scale!
I highly recommend Dropzone Commander to anyone who loves miniature wargames on a large scale.
And if you want a play a game with me, I am usually at the Game Shoppe in Bellevue, Nebraska on Thursday nights.
Until next time…
Before last Wednesday (February 17th) I had never played a Tabletop RPG.
I had played plenty of video game RPGs. The Final Fantasy series. Skyrim. Balder’s Gate. World of Warcraft. Warhammer Online. Just to name a few.
And of course I’m a tabletop game player. Battletech, Warmachine, and Infinity are just some of my favorites. I’ve played Star Trek: Attack Wing, and the Star Wars fighter game. And I love board games like Takenoko.
But tabletop RPGs never attracted my attention. Maybe some of this was the stigma of the people who played tabletop RPGs – then again that same stigma is attached (or at least used to be) those who play miniature war-games. For whatever reason I was just never interested in getting into tabletop RPGs.
That changed recently – and by recently I mean GenCon 2014. I decided I’d try to get RPG’ing a shot and went to a Shadowrun character creation seminar at GenCon ’14. It was interesting but I really should have gone to a RPG session seminar. While waiting to start the seminar I was talking to three guys that had just wrapped up playing some D&D 5th edition. At that time 5th edition was relatively new and they were ecstatic about it. On top of that, they broke the tabletop-RPG’er-mold. They looked like normal bros doing bro stuff. And if they were down for D&D, then I could be down, too.
Fast forward a little over 18 months later and my gaming group has been disbanded for a while. I was being a bad member myself and, though I paid my dues, I was not attending with any regularity. Other members were going regularly – but not paying dues. And overall the group had shrunk and money in the war chest wasn’t matching rent for the store front. The gaming group closed, and I was left flapping in the wind, tabletop game-wise.
Within the last two weeks I had begun to adamantly look for a new gaming venue. I need tabletop gaming like some people need to watch their favorite shows weekly. It’s both an escape, and a mental exercise that keeps my mentally sharp. Previewing the events at the local game shop (called The Game Shoppe) here in Bellevue, NE I saw there were D&D demo games every Wednesday. After about a year and a half, I was ready to try a tabletop RPG.
My wife lovingly gave me a lot of crap for it. 🙂
And so, February the 17th I ventured into the cold Nebraskan night to try Dungeons and Dragons.
Overall it was fun. I created a human barbarian named Lothar (of the Hill People) and played with two other people who had low-level characters. Our DM was asked by his group at the last minute to be the DM for the newer, lower level players, and so he was unprepared and had trouble reading the quest notes on the tablet he was using. But we killed some wild dogs and saved a tiefling adolescent, and killed some red-furred goats. I got 100XP out of the whole ordeal. The other players seemed like good guys and we quested decently together.
The group was very inviting and helpful. They offered assistance and resources (like miniatures and pencils) freely and made sure I generally felt welcomed.
I plan to go back this coming Wednesday in order to get more experience. Hopefully things are a little more organized and our DM a little more prepared, or at least ready to DM on the fly. If not, I can watch the group play and see how they play.
Next I may get into Battletech: A Time of War RPG. Who knows?
And if you’re in the Bellevue, NE area and want to game let me know!
Until next time!…
So Gen Con is just around the corner and like most people I am stoked. Weather.com shows that the weather will be mostly sunny with temps in the upper 70s/lower 80s the whole time the convention is going on. It’s going to be an awesome four days of gaming, First Exposure Playtest Hall, and Designer & Publisher Speed Dating.
What I’m Excited To See
There’s going to be a ton to see at Gen Con, and I’m sure more than there is to see in just 4 days. Note that this is my very first Gen Con. But consulting the Gen Con Exhibit Hall map and checking on other events that are available, I’ve already got a lot I want to see:
– Catalyst Game Labs: I will be haunting them. 🙂 No this is not creepy. (This is creepy.) But I cannot wait to meet their team and see all the cool stuff they have coming out. Shadowrun: Crossfire looks fun and I’d love to see/play a demo game. And of course Battletech. Duh. When in doubt, Battletech.
– Iron Wind Metals: Co-located with Catalyst Game Labs. They will probably be taking the second half of my monies.
– Corvus Belli: I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Infinity Operation: Icestorm. But I’d love to see the other goodues they have.
– Privateer Press: ’nuff said. But rather than looking forward to just the stuff they have at the convention, I’m also heading over to The Ram for the tapping ceremony of the Everblight Ale!
– Table Forged: These guys are cool, and have a great game called Iron And Ale where you drink beer and beat the crap out of your friends. Oh there are cards to do fantasy stuff, too. 😛 But they threw down an arm wrestling challenge, and I answered it!
– Hawk Wargames: Dropzone Commander looks like an amazing game and I cannot wait to play it. I’ll be stopping by to see what they have, and maybe try my hand at a game or two.
– Mantic: Love the games these guys are putting out. Huge Deadzone fan, and already pledged for their Dwarf King’s Quest Kickstarter.
– Fantasy Flight Games: These guys are game making machines. Love their Star Wars game and may pick up a pack or two.
– Gale Force Nine: Everything I’ve heard about Firefly the Game is great! And being an ardent browncoat I wanna try my hand at it.
– Welovefine.com: Because I need a Catbug T-shirt.
– The D6 Generation: Recently started listening to their podcast and I am a huge fan already. Who knew there were people who talked about all the cool stuff I love? Gonna try to squeeze into their recording Friday with the other mob of people trying to get in. But would just like to meet ’em in general.
– The Cardboard Republic: Another great site and podcast that I instantly got addicted to, and would like to meet their team if I get a chance.
These are just a few of the companies I’m looking forward to seeing. The list is long and I have only a rough plan on how I will navigate…perhaps even astrogate this convention.
May have to break out those Delta-V calculations…
First Exposure Playtest Hall
If you haven’t already heard/read, my game Ship Strike will be debuted in the First Exposure Playtest Hall, located in ICC 107-110. If you’re there stop by and get a game in!
Schedule is as follows:
Thursday, Aug. 14: 10AM-12PM, 1PM-3PM, 5PM-7PM
Friday, Aug. 15: 3PM-5PM
I will be running two games at once, so four people can get in per time slot.
Work on Ship Strike has come along great. I’ve gotten some awesome feedback from playtests from friends, family, and the gaming group I belong to.
Probably one of the smartest thing I did was laminate the stat cards. It’s a lot of mind numbing work, but the endstate of what this is, and what it could become, drives me onward!
And So It Begins…
The final countdown to Gen Con has begun! I look forward to meeting a lot of fellow gamers and have a blast!
Finally everything is set for Gen Con 2014! Ship Strike will be available at the First Exposure Playtest Hall, and I have the days and times right here:
Thursday, August 14th
Friday, August 15th
If you’re going to Gen Con 2014, stop by the First Exposure Playtest Hall at any of these times and get in a rousing game of Ship Strike! I’d love to meet everyone and see what you think about the game.
So I’ve made some decent progress on getting Ship Strike ready:
Progress seems slow. But I have to remember I’m the only one working on this.
That said, using foam core instead of cardboard has been a great improvement over the cardboard I was trying to scrap from boxes and packages we had lying around the house. Though not pristine, edges are cleaner. I printed the tiles onto cardstock instead of using graph paper, making the tiles themselves look cleaner.
So where do I go from here? First I will finish cutting the foam core and gluing on squares. I actually have doors and stuff so I need to make those, too. Then comes the really hard part: making cut-outs of the dudes (read: miniatures).
Dudes are important for this game.
They are sorta the focus.
Hard to play a miniature wargame without your dudes/dudettes. (Disclaimer: Ship Strike is an Equal Opportunity game)
I’ve considered purchasing and painting up some cheap minis from somewhere, but I’m not sure where to look and I’d hate to pitch this to a big company and have them look down on, or even reject, my game because I’m using someone else’s – perhaps even a competitor’s – models. I’m not sure what route to go there. If anyone with real industry knowledge/experience has input on that I would greatly appreciate it.
And then more playtesting. While I’ve firmed up the rules for the most part, and the troops for each faction are pretty tight, there is always room for improvement. And you never know when something will come up where you and your playtesters will go,”What the deuce?!”
I have also decided to post the rules on the http://www.boardgamegeek.com forums.
Many people worry about piracy and having their idea stolen, and I had this worry, too. But Adam Ferrel, creator of the game Havok and Hijinks, made an excellent point on The Cardboard Republic podcast when he was asked about it. First, Adam stated that he didn’t believe piracy really existed. If someone snagged and played his game for free, oh well. But he made a much more important observation. He stated there are three types of gamers.
First, those who would never buy the game. They would print off his rules and cards and play for free forever. And he doesn’t care. He’s just happy someone is enjoying his game.
Which leads to the second category of gamer, those who will first play it for free, and then go out and purchase it. Whether they download and print everything themselves, or are introduced to the game by a will-never-buy-friend, this individual will, theoretically, become a customer.
And finally there is the gamer that will always buy the game to support the creator and to get all the cool stuff you don’t get when you print and play.
In Adam Ferrel’s mind, all three types of gamers are good for his game. Word of mouth and PnP gaming sessions will spread news of his game and increase its popularity.
I’m inclined to agree with Adam Ferrel.
The Ship Strike rules will be posted in the next day or so after I give them a once over and ensure the majority of spelling errors are corrected, and that any changes to rules/stats are updated in the official documents and not just my notes.
It’s all coming along, and I’m getting really excited about it! Playtests this weekend. I will update with pictures and results.
The two metal behemoths charged through the hatch as it hissed open. Both were mere men, but the two tons of robotic armor than encased them transformed them into the super soldiers of the Olympus Mons Technocracy. The metal claws of their left hands were open ready to strike in close combat. The right arms of the suits ended in the thick barrels of man-pack lasers and tracked back and forth, up and down. Around them the cargo bay, normally full of crates and equipment, was empty. No crew could be seen.
“Area clear,” the trooper on the left said.
“Moving,” another voice said over the comm.
Another trooper appeared through the hatch from the airlock. His armor was a carbon copy of that of his comrades except for the Chief’s rank adorning his helmet.
“Advance to the bridge,” Chief McIntyre said. “Wagner, left. Lin, right. Make sure to check high.”
“Aye chief,” came the response.
The magnetic clamps of their Titan power armor suits made their footfalls heavy and loud in the bay. The resounding thump of their steps rose the blood pressures of the Olympian troopers, but not enemy appeared.
Chief McIntyre had almost reached the hatch leading to the ship’s central spine. This was an old ship from when man began to conquer his solar system. The bridge would be at the “top” or “front” of the ship, depending on one’s perception.
Just before the three troopers reached the next hatch it opened on its own.
“Chief?” Wagner asked.
“Wasn’t me,” McIntyre replied.
Suddenly two people in old, ratty armored space suits swung into the open hatch, each wielding heavy machine guns.
“Contact!” McIntyre yelled.
* * *
After almost a year and a half I’m back. A lot has been going on with work and life. Not a lot of writing (though there’s some of that on the back burner).
My latest work:
SHIP STRIKE – The game of space-boarding combat in the 24th Century.
Above is a picture of a partial game board layout. From left to right: bridge, centrifuge/gravity deck, cargo deck.
In Ship Strike players battle one another to achieve their objective, whether that be annihilating the other player, taking the ship/space station/habitat, finding lost technology, or even setting the vessel’s self-destruct. Along with fighting one another and achieving their objective, players have to navigate ships without gravity.
At the moment there are five factions to choose from:
Olympus Mons Technocracy (located on Mars)
Elysium (located on Mars)
Lakshimi (located on Venus)
Star Folk (space nomads)
The reason minor states/pirates are a single faction is two-fold. First, many minor states may revert to piracy to meet their resource/monetary needs. On the other hand, pirates that build bases may find themselves the leaders of small or proto-states due to the number of troops, support personnel, hangers-on, and slaves in their camp.
It’s just 79 days until GenCon 2014! This will be my first EVAR GenCon, and my first evar wargaming convention (though I have been to Dragon*Con and other comic conventions). I’m super excited. The younger brother, my fiance and her daughter are going with, though the fiance and her daughter will not be participating in GenCon itself. They’re there for moral support/shopping. 🙂
Why do I mention GenCon 2014?
Ship Strike will be previewed at GenCon. Either officially, in the First Exposure Playtest hall (if my application goes through), or off to the side (if my application does not go through). I will have at least two playable copies of Ship Strike at GenCon. Three or four ideally. If you’d like to help playtest, please comment below or shoot me an e-mail.
In addition to playtesting, I will also be taking part in the Publisher and Designer Speed Dating put on by Minion Games! In a speed dating-style event, designers (like me) will pitch our prototype games to major publishers with hopes of getting our games published! I’m REALLY excited for this and will be putting a lot of work and effort into getting ready for this.
I will be posting a lot more development and playtest updates as I go with plenty of pictures, so keep an eye out for that!