Thursday, 2 February 2017

Rogue thoughts

Falkirk District Wargames Club Rogue Stars playtest 2017
This week, I took part in a group playtest of Rogue Stars. With the rules only recently released into the wargaming world, a good few folks at my local club were eager to get a squad on the table and see what all the fuss was about. 

After my after my inaugural game last month, I put a call out on the Falkirk club’s Facebook page to see if anyone wanted to give Rogue Stars a go, assuming there would be at least one or two wanting to try. Then it sort of ballooned into a 10 player session!

Obviously, with Rogue Stars being designed as a one-on-one game and with most of us having never played before, it was suggested we arrange a few tables into one long Rogue Stars arena and simply paired off for a few simultaneous games together. That way we could discuss rule clarifications and (in my case) debate some of the concepts!

And it worked as a kind of Rogue Stars boot camp. Lots of noise and discussion, rule book referencing, QR Sheet shuffling and the familiar ‘lamentation of da’ dice’! Each pair decided on their own Mission, Location and Environment etc, with a mixture of personal and club terrain and a large variety of thematic squads on the table. It sure brought to the fore Rogue Stars’ open world concept. And I think having a large group of Rogue Stars recruits in one place also helped us to quickly get to grips with the fundamental game concepts. Especially the Initiative and Reaction system. It's useful for watching actual games in action and to get answers to rule queries. A group tutorial.

I’ve already posted my initial thoughts and a brief overview previously. So on this occasion, I started to re-assess some of Rogue Stars' core mechanics. And my initial conclusion, I think, still stands; that Rogue Stars, whilst appearing a bit fiddly with all its various options and attributes, is actually a relatively easy system and definitely fun to play. It's one that I suggest (including me!) will take a few play-throughs to get to grips with, but then it becomes quite intuitive. The core mechanics are straightforward. The key to Rogue Stars, I suggest, is to develop an understanding of your squad's abilities by ensuring you create a decent and comprehensive roster -  listing and describing each character trait and its equipment. At least until it becomes ingrained. Whether or not you actually remember to reference it during play is another thing! Or maybe that’s just me!

2842: Up to 2” is point blank (+1), up to 8” no modifier, then -1 for each 4” increment, or -1 for each 2” increment with Short Range weapons.
However, there's one facet of Rogue Stars that, let's say, sits uncomfortable with me. The Range Modifiers. I understand this will be controversial, but I don’t like them. For me, they have the effect or breaking my immersion in the futuristic setting. I find having the ‘2842’ modifiers, especially with 28mm figures on a recommended 3’x3’ table simply incongruous to what is supposed to be a setting filled with potentially futuristic weaponry. Maybe I should try 15mm instead… *shudder*

You could argue that in this open universe context you could potentially have squads on the table armed with a mixture of relatively crude weapons to something like the ZF-1 from The Fifth Element. But adding range modifiers to something like the ZF-1 after 8” seems a little odd. They aren’t black powder weapons! Maybe Zorg omitted to mention its huge accuracy falloff during his sales pitch...

...although I guess a character armed with a ZF-1 would be 200XP on its own!

I completely understand why the range modifiers have been included as a key part of the game mechanic. Without them, it would fundamentally change the player experience. I’ve played some RS games now where the range modifiers, apart from short range, were omitted – most weapons we assumed just needed LoS and the TN10 range roll. No other modifiers. It made the game more ‘challenging’, requiring a much greater reliance on available cover and some decent activations. But this, for me, is no bad thing. Dropping most of the modifiers reminded me of playing Corvus Belli's Infinity, where the concept of super accurate weaponry is embraced. But then again, Infinity can be pretty brutal!

I’m probably tampering with a can of worms, though. And I’m aware I’m lurching into the oft-debated subject of ground scale versus game mechanics. Indeed, there are lots of ways to play around with range modifiers to suit but that probably would just start adding more complexity to what should be a quick skirmish game. However, I think I’ll persevere with testing a few ideas as I play more games of Rogue Stars; see what works for me, what doesn't. It could be that I'm just being pernickety and should leave well alone! I’ll report back in due course.


Of interest to my reader may be Damon Richardson’s latest Kickstarter offering a small range of 28mm miniatures and a rule supplement for Mutants and Death Ray Guns. And there's a nice looking ComBot Squad as one of the Strech goals too! The Kickstarter is now open and ends on 21st February. I recommend a look!

Finally, I’m off down to York this weekend for Vapnartak 2017. The first wargaming show of the year for me. I’ll be accompanied by my brother-in-law, Ironman John, who's been my regular show companion for a number of years – especially ones based in well-known locations noted for their convivial taverns! Wish my wallet luck!