#WeirdHookMonth #RPG #TTRPG – Antidisestablishmentarianism

hugo-richard-witch-hunter-1Hook

You’re a group of witch-finders in a Steampunk British Empire. You receive black book funding through the Church’s status as the official religion. Black Magic Industrialists are manipulating government to disestablish the Church. They must be rooted out to save the Empire!

Suggested System

Basic Roleplaying – a hard-edged system, suitable for fighting against hopeless odds (powers Call of Cthulhu).

Art by Hugo Richard

 

#PS4 – Review: Ironclad Tactics

it1Introduction

Ironclad Tactics is a computer-based card game set in a relatively low-key steampunk world, around an alternative US Civil War. The game has been out a while, even though the PS4 version which is the one I’m reviewing only came out recently, so I won’t go to huge lengths to avoid spoilers in this review – so head’s up.

The PS4 version comes with the main campaign, along with the bundled expansion battles ‘The Rise of Dmitry’ and ‘Blood and Ironclads’, representing pretty good value for money (it took me about 8 hours to burn through the main campaign and to dip into Blood and Ironclads. I have not played more than that, but I think that gives me enough grounding to review the game).

light_chassisGameplay

To play the game you build a deck of 20 cards from those you’ve unlocked while playing. Those include soldiers, ironclad steam robots, weapons and modifiers for them as well as tactics and options for everything else. Cards start out basic but you can unlock more and more as you go on, from several factions including native Americans, bandits/mercenaries, experimental technology and the weapons of your enemies.

These cards get fed, at random, into a queue of cards at the bottom of your screen, while you gain points with which to buy them, turn by turn (turns are timed, so you have to think fast a well as tactically). When you have enough points you can deploy a card and each turn cards advance and fight.

It plays like a hybrid of ‘Plants Versus Zombies’ and Tower Defence, with several lanes down the screen where you need to block enemies getting to your end of the screen while getting your own troops to the other side of the screen. The key is to deploy at the right times, in the right numbers and to leverage options on different levels to get more points for deploying more troops. Different levels have different terrain (that may block ironclads and give cover to troops, let you fire mortars, or earn more points each turn).

There’s enough variety and slow introduction of new elements and tactics to keep the gameplay engaging an involving throughout the storyline and into the secondary campaigns, though the novelty does start to wear off as the variety is tapped out (mostly after the main campaign).

sharpshooterStory

In the main campaign you take the part of engineers working for The Union who helped develop the ironclad technology. When it’s revealed that the Confederate forces are also using ironclads they enter the fray to even the odds and soon find out there’s some sort of greater conspiracy going on.

You play them as they travel from coast to coast, battling confederate forces, mercenaries and unusual, experimental ironclads and airships to get to the bottom of the mystery and to bring the war to a close.

As stories go it’s fairly predictable – even the twist – but it’s perfectly serviceable as a hook upon which to hang some battling robots.

grapeshot_cannonPresentation

The story is presented in some hyper-stylised comic-strip ‘cutscenes’ (press to reveal the next panel) which are reminiscent of European children’s comics in many ways, especially ones like Asterix or Tintin. They’re also similar in many ways to Valiant Hearts – an interesting, but depressing – WWI puzzle game.

In this sort of game the graphics aren’t that important, but the cartoonish and exaggerated style is somewhat at odds with the relatively low key and relatively serious and grounded approach to the steampunk setting and technology.

Still, all things considered the style is neat and fun, the information accessible on the cards and the story presented in a fun and interesting way.

Score
Style: 3 (A little more flare or animated cutscenes would have taken this over the top).
Substance: 4 (The tactics are surprisingly deep and the wide variety of cards and interactions makes for lots of ‘aha’ moments).
Overall: 3.5 (Good value for £11.99 – 20% discount if you have the PS+ membership).

zebulons_catOpinion

Steampunk games – and media in general – tends to go horrendously over the top far too often. RPGs like Victorian throw in everything – including the kitchen sink – to become Victorian Shadowrun, many games hurl in magic, werewolves, vampires and just about anything else you can think of with zero restraint.

I’m much more of a fan of ‘hard’ steampunk, having been a fan of genre since The Difference Engine. There’s a paucity of decent steampunk media that take this harder, alternative history approach. Ironclad Tactics isn’t quite ‘hard science’ since the ironclads ability to think and operate is never explained and ‘Belgian anthracite’ turns out to be a radioactive ore.

Still, in a sea of over-the-top ‘slap some cogs on it’ steampunk with no clarity of vision, Ironclad Tactics is admirably restrained.

It would also make the basis of an excellent actual, physical card game or skirmish wargame. Might have to look into the latter as a ‘fan thing’.

Like my games? You may like my fiction.

As well as writing and making games I also write fiction. I completed a set of short stories and my first novel this year. Not all of them are up for sale but some are and they might make good stocking-stuffers for people you know with kindles, tablets and all that mularky.

If you like my games you’ll find a lot of the same sort of playfulness, imagination and quirkiness in my stories – you’ll also find hints of ideas that I’m working on and even traces of worlds used in my games.

https://i0.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51klgn%2BocCL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-58,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpgAce Slamm: Space Bastard

Years after World War 2 was interrupted by a space invasion, rocket pilot Ace Slamm finds himself approached by three strange individuals. They want to buy a ride on his ship to Dyzan, the counter-Earth. The scientist, the feisty beauty and the sportsman are hell bent on getting to that blasted planet, but their steps are being dogged my a mysterious man in a shining metal mask.

Amazon

https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wdzMkL18L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-58,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpgMimsy Burogrove: Psychedelic Detective

In swinging London, consulting for the police on strange cases, Mimsy operates out of her trendy flat. A heady concoction of mysticism, psi and LSD gives her access to the psycheverse, a spirit-dimension There are things in the psycheverse that long to gain access to the real world as well and Mimsy may well find herself a conduit for evil spirits like Mean Mr Mustard.

Amazon

https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GWRKQ7oqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-58,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpgThe Black Rat

The 1970s are a grim time in Britain. Power outages, the three-day-week and rife with police corruption and right wing violence. The Black Rat, a sort of ‘working class Batman’ takes to the streets to try and bring a little vigilante justice and payback for those the police have wronged.

Amazon

 

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51crqHB5aZL.Image._.jpgDoc Osmium: Synchronius Maximus

Two-fisted genetic superman, Doc Osmium, finds himself inexorably drawn into a series of inexplicable and seemingly unconnected events. There’s more to it though and he and his new companion must find a way to navigate the strands of fate and probability and to overcome the odds.

Amazon

 

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51NP%2BajE0NL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-59,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpgTessa Coyle: The Obsolete Prometheus

After the atom wars there were few places left where there was true civilisation. Science City is one and it depends on its bleeding edge technology to survive. This super-science transcends ethics, physics and even reality and can only be constrained by The Science Police. When experiments start going wrong, electropunk heroine Tessa and her companion Robur are on the case.

Amazon

STEAMED Hardcopy now available!

You can buy it HERE.

Again, I can’t recommend this source for non US purchasers as the shipping in particular is prohibitively expensive.

This just leaves Lady Bexington’s Home for Wayward Zombies to convert, though I have a ton of ideas for other board and card games that TGC makes possible, albeit to a limited audience.

STEAMED: A Playthrough

Grim & Steve are playing a game of STEAMED.

Grim rolls 6 and Steve rolls 10. Steve gets to pick which mech he wants first.

After a large amount of consideration of the various merits of the various mecha, taking so long as to be annoying, Steve chooses the Iron Hunter piloted by Oberst Thule.

A stickler for tradition and always making decisions for reasons other than statistics, Grim choose The Brunel, piloted by Carston McBride.

It’s going to be a nobility Vs working class grudge match!

Secretly they each choose a modification.

Steve chooses High Explosive Mortar. Grim chooses Reinforced Boiler.

 

 

Turn One

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 9 for Reaction (the Iron Hunter gets a +1)

Steve goes first.

The two mechs are placed on opposite sides of the Target Board.

Steve knows that range is his big advantage in this fight and his mortar has sufficient range to attack the Brunel. He stays put and fires a mortar shell. He now has five mortar shots left. Rolling 3d6 he gets 5, 5, 6, a devastating blow! That’s six damage on his first shot. It hits the Brunel in the left arm and after taking the armour (1) away from the damage that still leaves five. That arm is hanging by a thread!

Grim knows that he has to close range to have any chance at all, so he uses his speed of 2 to close the distance, reaching the centre of the target. The reinforced boiler means he takes no damage from ‘More Coal’ so he piles it on, hoping to get another movement point. He gets a 4 and fails. Nothing he has, has the range to hit the Iron Hunter, it’s still three spaces away, so his go is over.

Turn Two

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve goes first.

Steve can’t get any further away at the moment and the mortar is still the most effective weapon at this range, so he lets fly with another shell. He only have four shots left now. Rolling his dice he gets 2, 6, 1. That’s one hit but with the mortar that does 2 damage. The Brunel is hit in the right arm this time but only for two points of damage. Once you account for armour it’s barely scratched, having 5 damage left.

Grim closes the distance by another 2 spaces to a range of 1, inside the range of the mortar, and also makes a ‘More Coal’ check, because… hey, why not? It fails again, leaving him one space away. Since the left arm is nearly off, he may as well use the grabber while he has it and lunges, reaching for the Iron Hunter. The grabber gets 6d6 and rolls 3, 4, 5, 4, 2, 4. Only one damage. It hits the Iron Hunter in the left leg but that has armour one, so it just pings off and the grabber’s special effect doesn’t work.

Turn Three

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 12 for Reaction – the bastard.

Steve goes first, again.

Steve cannot back away and it would be risky to try and move through the Brunel, so he swaps from his mortar to his blunderbuss. This does 4d6 -1 for each point of range after the first. At range one that’s all four dice. He rolls 4, 1, 1, 6. One point of damage to the Brunel’s right arm. It pings off the armour.

Grim grins evilly as he closes in to range zero. None of the Iron Hunter’s weapons can work at this range but the Brunel’s are super effective. Grim gives him a smack with the grabber which does 7d6 at range 0. 2, 3, 4, 6, 3, 4, 3 are the rolls. Which is pathetic. The blow strikes the Iron Hunter in the left arm, reducing its damage to 3.

Turn Four

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 13 for Reaction, crushing Grim’s hopes of getting a double-blow in.

Steve needs range and needs it fast. He uses his move of one to move past the Brunel and then tries to push it with ‘More Coal’. He fails and takes damage to each leg and to his torso. Ow. That reduces them to five and seven respectively. He’s only managed one pace away so the mortar is out of the question. It’s going to have to be the blunderbuss. He rolls 1,5,4,4. One hit to the left leg which just ricochets off.

Grim smells potential victory and closes in with the grabber. 5,3, 2, 6, 1, 2, 3. Two damage. It strikes Iron Hunter’s right arm reducing its damage to 2.

Turn Five

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve still desperately needs range and tries to power away. He moves one and fails again on his ‘More Coal’ roll. His legs are now at four damage and his torso six. He has to use the blunderbuss again and only scores one damage to the torso. That’s not going to get through the armour.

Grim remains in pursuit, keeping the range close, and once again employs the grabber (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). 4, 4, 1, 5, 2, 6, 3. Two damage. This time it hits the torso of the Iron Hunter and is reduced to one damage. Given the torso is already damaged that takes it down to five hits.

Turn Six

Grim rolls 5 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve’s plan is still the same. Run. He figures he can still afford the risk at the moment. He moves another space away and piles on the coal. It fails again reduced to three damage on each leg and four on the torso. He can’t keep this up for much longer. He fires the blunderbuss for no damage at all. Epic fail.

Grim closes the gap once more and smashes with the grabber. 5, 1, 6, 3, 3, 3, 5. Three damage, a tremendous hit to the torso. The armour there drops it to two damage but that drops the torso’s damage to 2. Things are looking dicey for the Iron Hunter.

Turn Seven

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction. Can he possibly get to go first?

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction. Yes he can!

Grim stays put and attempts to finish off the Iron Hunter with his grabber. 1, 5, 5, 2, 2, 1, 2. Two damage to the torso, minus the armour takes it to one hit.

Steve is desperate, it’s time for an all-or nothing try to win. Desperately he piles on ‘More Coal’ and hopes he can actually get some damn luck. Finally! He rolls a 5 and that means his mech doesn’t shake itself to pieces. He moves two spaces and lets off the mortar which is just barely in range. It gets one hit which does two damage to the Brunel’s left leg reducing it to                four damage.

Turn Eight

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 7 for Reaction.

Grim needs to keep Steve in range to finish him off and closes the gap with his Speed 2. That grabber’s still working and probably has the best chance to do the deed so he lashes out with it. 1, 4, 5, 5, 3, 6, 4. That’s three damage to the Iron Hunter’s left leg, two after armour. That leg’s down to two damage.

Steve backs away but daren’t risk another ‘More Coal’ so he just blasts away with the blunderbuss. 5, 2, 4,4. That’s not enough to harm the arm and bounces off harmlessly.

Turn Nine

Grim rolls 3 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve moves another space away and can fire off another mortar round. Fingers crossed he rolls 1, 5, 1. Two damage to the Brunel’s left leg. It’s down to three damage.

Grim closes in once more, scenting a possible kill and lashes out with the grabber: 3, 3, 6, 3, 6, 5, 4. Three damage to the torso. Even with armour that’s enough to rupture the Iron Hunter’s boiler and it falls to pieces.

Victory for Grim!

NB: To speed up games you can make a 5 do 1 damage and a 6 do 2 damage. With the mortar you can count that as 2 and 3.

STEAMED: RELEASED!

STEAMED is a simple (very simple) fast-paced board game of Steampunk mecha-duelling action. Take to one of four distinct mecha and try to beat the bolts out of each other.

Up to four players

Requires several six sided dice.

ADA – The advanced, and shapely, mech of genius clacker Lady Emmeline Whitmore.

Brunel – The devastatingly brutal construction mech of Carston McBride

Haido Tian – The rocket-assisted robot of the notorious airpirate Hong Meifeng.

Iron Hunter – The frontline military robot of Prussian noble Oberst Klein Von Thule.

You can buy it on PDF HERE

Hardcopy HERE

If you buy TODAY in hardcopy you can get a 20% discount with the code CHASEUK – so now’s a good time to pick up my other books too!

It will be appearing at your other preferred outlets over the next few days.

STEAMED: Preview

All being well I may have this game out by the end of the day. It’s a quick/simple board game of mech-smashing action based on some rules I found while tidying up some notepads. I’d made a game based on Robot Jox (1989! Crotch chainsaw!). Of course, it now has much more of a Steampunk twist.

Here’s a taster in the meantime. The construction mech, The Brunel.