by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 27, 2023
Chris recently shared a draft of a war game set in Bastionland. It’s a simple war game, where he looks to be experimenting with squads of random starting strength and the sort of grotty mood of Turnip28. I thought some of the ideas he was trying out looked interesting, and decided to give the game a go.
I have Warhammer 40,000 miniatures, so I’m going to play a Warhammer 40,000 game.
Necrons awaken to find their tomb ship amalgamated into a Space Hulk, now adrift in the warp. The Sons of Horus have been fighting aboard this ship for weeks, months, years and millennia, all at the same time. The two groups are jockeying for control of a safe haven within the hulk.
I set up a spaceship board with a room in the centre. I had objectives in each corner and one in the middle. The game would end when one side controlled the central objective and two other objectives for two turns in a row, or one side was wiped out.
I needed a few additional house rules for this scenario to work:
- Opening or closing a hatch door costs one Order Dice. If the OV of the Order Dice is 4+ you can also move 3” before or after opening or closing the hatch.
- Claiming an objective costs one Order Dice. Objectives remain under a warband’s controls until claimed by the other warband.
Here are some highlights from the game:
- On the first turn I rolled that no additional Terminators would fill up the 2-man Terminator squad, while one of the Tactical Marines squad had all its units arrive as reinforcements.
- On the Necrons turn I rolled a 1 again for reinforcements: the Overlord would be alone the entire game.
- On one side of the board a Sergeant and his Tactical Marines were in a firefight with a Royal Warden and their Necron Warriors. The game is quite deadly: if someone shoots at you it’s hard to avoid losing a unit. With reaction dice letting you fire overwatch as a unit moves out to shoot at you, there was a lot of picking off each sides squads. In the end, over a couple turns, the marines came out on top.
- In the middle of the board, the Prateor and Terminator were up against a Necron Overlord. The Overlord used a reaction dice to take out the Terminator moving up to try and engage him. The Royal Warden moved up and opened a hatch, shooting and killing the Praetor. He was then killed by the Tactical Squad.
- The marines had the central objective and the two on their side of the board. There was on another squad of Necrons, untouched this battle, but they couldn’t get into the fray fast enough. The Space Marines won the game.
The active player has 4 order dice they can spend to perform actions with a squad, the other player gets 2 they can use to react to the active players moves. I would usually focus most of my orders on a single unit, as you can’t move that far if you’re only moving d6 inches. You also need to manage the negative status effects you collect as you move and shoot, which also takes an order. In practice the game felt like it was using alternating activations. The pace and flow of the game is quick. The action moves between the players at a real clip.
It’s very easy to kill units: perhaps too easy. I probably need a board with more cover. Though, perhaps all the death better simulates the closer quarter combat of my Kill Team Space Hulk board.
This is a very early draft of the game. I am curious where it will end up. I’m not even sure Chris will pick this game up again any time soon, he has so many other games on the go. Till then, we have a fun skeleton of a game to play.
by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 05, 2021
The Ennies are in September? I need to remember to not set my clock to the Teen Choice Awards of the RPG scene. Fear not, the awards you care about are beholden to no gaming convention, large or small. 2021 zooms by and was honestly kind of a garbage year as well. These are still dark times, but perhaps a little brighter, thanks to the power of science at the very least. And certainly in terms of RPG books 2021 is shaping up to be another good year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming are here to make sure we stop and take notice of those books that were published so long ago you might ask yourself, “Why is Ramanan talking about them now?” Each year I create my short list of contenders, the books I think stood out over the entirety of the previous calendar year. Then I argue with the selection committee for months about which 3 books are those most notable in a field where there are many notable books. There aren’t many rules for these awards, but if there is one, it’s that there can only be 3 books.
Best Game: Electric Bastionland by Chris McDowall and Alec Sorenson.
“Players don’t need to read the rules if they don’t want to. They are simple enough to be learned during play.” Chris McDowall gets right to the heart of it with his followup to Into the Odd. Electric Bastionland is minimalist and terse. D&D stripped to the bone. The game is described in a handful of pages. The rest of the book is setting by way of backgrounds. They are funny and flavourful. The book concludes with advice for running the game: equally well done. The sort of gaming advice you can pick up and take with you elsewhere. Direct and to the point. Pragmatic. It’s quite impressive. The book like the game is beautiful. Alec Sorenson has done an incredible job bringing the setting to life.
I was a member of Luka’s Patreon at its inception. He would post his art on G+ and I liked looking at all his drawings so it seemed like a natural thing to do. He would mail out updates to his setting, which I might skim, but would mostly file away to read later. Except that later never came until the book arrived at my door. What a wonderful and imaginative setting. I feel like you can flip to any random page and be presented with some amazing science-fantasy. Like all good OSR visionaries, Luka did all the writing, art and design for the book. Incredible, right?
The Ramanan Sivaranjan Excellence in Gaming Best God Damn Books of 2020: Gradient Descent by Luke Gearing, Nick Tofanni, Jarrett Crader, and Sean McCoy.
I am in the middle of writing a review of this adventure. I ran it the moment it came out, and again as part of a longer campaign. In a year when I was so demotivated when it came to tabletop gaming, Gradient Descent got me out of my rut, excited to play, and then facilitated my playing by making an adventure that was so simple to run. The braintrust at Mothership HQ asks the question, “Can you fit a megadungeon in a small zine?” Yes, apparently you can. Luke Gearing has delivered the goods. Sean McCoy has done a fantastic job of presenting such a complex space in a way that you can run straight from the zine. Really strong graphic and information design continues to be the most standout feature of the Mothership line. Jarrett Crader did the editing on the book, I assume no small feat given how dense the book is. Finally Nick Tofani’s art is wonderfully moody, often creepy. A perfect fit for this module, I would share it with my players often. Gradient Descent is the good stuff.
Lots of love to Prison of the Hated Pretender by Gus L; Pound of Flesh by Sean McCoy, Donn Stroud, and Luke Gearing; Ordure Fantasy by Michael Raston; Acid Death Fantasy also by Luke Gearing (WTF); Stygian Library Remastered by Emmy Allen; Sunken by Mike Martens; and Lorn Song of the Bachelor by Zedeck Siew. Prison of the Hated Pretender is the best introductory adventure to OSR play, and I was happy to see it revised and updated. Gus has been releasing modules at a real tear in 2021, and I’m excited to see what he puts out next.