#SciFiFriday – Rediscovering @GerryAndersonTV Space: 1999 and thoughts of #TravellerRPG, #CepheusEngine, & other #TTRPG systems

This past Christmas, I gifted myself the new Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual (Post Breakaway Revised Edition) by Chris Thompson and Andrew Clements with illustrations by Chris Thompson. This nice coffee table book is published by Anderson Entertainment and is an “in-universe” book based on the 1970’s TV series Space: 1999.

I was but a wee lad, a bit less than 10 years old when Space: 1999 burst onto my TV screen (and it was a small screen, still black & white). Space: 1999 was cool—cool spaceships (Eagles forever!), cool uniforms, and cool science (not that it all made sense to young me). I took in the first season and remember being absolutely frightened out of my skin at the episode “Dragon’s Domain.”

Fan created trailer for “Dragon’s Domain”

I also remember being so confused at the second season of Space: 1999 with shapeshifting aliens and…well, better to forget that season.

So I did. Ever since then Space: 1999—Season 1 at least—continued to exist somewhere in my headspace. It helped that I had a few Space: 1999 toys like a die-cast Eagle and several models. In more recent years I “rediscovered” Space: 1999 and added UFO to the lore as well as the graphic novels. The RockyMountainNavy Boys helped me find new plastic models and kept my memories alive.

UFO Intro

Breaking Down the Breakaway Manual

It’s bigger on the inside (whoops, wrong British TV show…)

Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is a 272-page book formatted in a 9.5″x12″ hardcover. The cover illustration is a faintly lined Eagle Transporter that I wish was a bit easier to see. Inside, the Manual is organized into seven major sections (chapters):

  1. History and External Layout – I finally have a good description of of what my MPC Moonbase Alpha plastic model kit depicts
  2. Internal Layout – Covered in 73 pages (~25% of the Manual) this is a great mix of set photos and illustrations; many details I never noticed in the series
  3. Nuclear Waste – At first I was like, “huh?” but after reading I better understand why this essential story element gets the attention it does
  4. The Eagle Transporter – In many ways I love the Eagle Transporter over Star Wars vehicles and this chapter reminds me why (it also gives me details to help me paint up my other MPC model of the Eagle Transporter)
  5. Supplementary Craft – Much more here than I remembered; give me the Hawk Mk IX for the win!
  6. Uniforms & Equipment – What good sci-fi fan of the 1970’s didn’t have a jacket that looked a bit like one from Moonbase Alpha?
  7. Current Command Roster – Only later did I learn about how the production company, ITV, used international stars; I always though that Moonbase Alpha was simply “international” much like Star Trek was.

There are also two major Addendums covering “Alien Technology” and “Emergency Evacuation Operation Exodus.” Buried within individual chapters are other addendum boxes of relevant subjects.

[Warning – Spoilers Ahead] Sometime in the past decade I became aware of the connection between the TV universe of UFO and Space: 1999. I was really excited to see some connections in the Technical Operations Manual. What I appreciate the most about the connections is the secrecy; there are little references to UFO in the Manual like “the Straker Doctrine” but as a whole UFO is treated as, well, a secret. There are other nods too but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.

Generally speaking, my personal experience with “in-universe” background books based on pop culture intellectual property (IP) is mixed. In order to enjoy many IP-based productions I have to really, and I mean really, suspend my disbelief. Books like Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare (Jason Fry, Ballantine Books, 2012), which as a military veteran and wargamer I should have wholeheartedly embraced instead helped me realize that I am a science fiction fan that hems more towards “gritty” or “hard” sci-fi rather than “space fantasy” like Star Wars. All of which is a round-about way of saying the Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is much more “believable”—and enjoyable—than I expected.

Roleplaying Space: 1999

As I also play science fiction roleplaying games (RPG), “in-universe” books like this Technical Operations Manual serve as a great source of gaming inspiration. I have played the Traveller RPG (Marc Miller, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) since 1979 and science fiction RPGs are definitely my thing. As I look across my science fiction RPG collection, there are several different game systems that are candidates for use in a Space: 1999 RPG. Generally speaking, I look at each set of rules from the perspective of character generation, technology, and narrative support (story generation) when looking at how they might be used to create a Space: 1999 game.

Characters – When creating a character, most systems I am familiar with use careers. Moonbase Alpha is staffed by departments which might be a good starting point. The Manual tell us the different compartments are Command, Main Mission, Services, Flight, Technical, Medical, Science, and Security (pp 209-210). We also can see in the series the Space Commission (Politician?). If we expand our “canon” to include the 2012 Archaia Entertainment graphic novel Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe we also find other “careers” like the United Nations Coastguard using Eagle Transporters.

Courtesy goodreads.com

Technology – Space: 1999 is a near (alternate) future heavily grounded in technology we would recognize as our own. The major handwaves I see are nuclear fusion rocket engines, artificial gravity, and a hyper-light drive.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Although Space: 1999 the TV series was of the “adventure of the week” kind, different episodes covered many different genres and adventure types. A Space: 1999 RPG needs to be able to handle a wide range of story lines, from military to exploration to horror and more.

Cepheus Engine (Samardan Press, Zozer Games, Stellagama Publishing, 2016+)

The easiest approach to making a Space: 1999 setting might be to go to a near-cousin setting. Orbital 2100 by Paul Elliott from Zozer Games is a sublight, near future setting using the Cepheus Engine rules. Of course, Cepheus Engine itself comes in a few flavors (“Standard,” Light, and Quantum) but using the latest Cepheus Deluxe version as a starting point seems like a good place to jump from. Cepheus Deluxe has the advantage of being the rules set I am most familiar with, seeing how it traces it’s lineage all the way back to my first role roleplaying game, Traveller by Marc Milller from Game Designers’ Workshop (1977) which I first found in 1979.

Characters – No single rules set has the right combination of careers to represent Moonbase Alpha staff, but by synthesizing careers from Cepheus Deluxe, The Clement Sector Third Edition, and Hostile a fairly representative collection of careers and skill could be assembled.

Technology – Using Cepheus Deluxe, the “average” Tech Level (TL) is 8 to 9. To create the spacecraft of Space: 1999 will likely be a kludge of Cepheus Deluxe and Orbital: 2100 rules for sublight craft.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Cepheus Deluxe does not focus on a single genre of science fiction so it should be flexible enough to cover a diverse set of adventures.

Star Trek The Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983)

Going way back in my collection, I have the first edition FASA Star Trek Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983). Seeing how the characters in Star Trek are all academy grads (or at least Starfleet personnel) the similarities to the Space Commission Moonbase Alpha arrangements jump out.

Characters/TechnologyStar Trek assumes the characters are in the service after attending the academy and served prior terms to gain experience and rank. The various Departments in Star Trek map directly to Moonbase Alpha Departments though the skills will be different because of the different technology assumptions.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Like Space: 1999, episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series) were episodic. The game system is capable of handling most any genre, but is highly dependent on Game Master preparations.

The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Long forgotten, The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) is in many ways similar to Space: 1999. Overtly, both focus on characters on a “station” or “base.”

CharactersThe Babylon Project uses a concept-driven character generation system. Using the roster in the Manual, it’s possible to map most any character in terms of the Attributes/Skill/Characteristics which can be a good example of how to make a Moonbase Alpha character.

Technology/Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Technology takes a backseat in The Babylon Project. Instead, story comes to the front. Much like Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series to do a story arc, The Babylon Project gives advice on how to do the same for your adventures.

FATE Core (Evil Hat Publishing, 2013)

Another rules set that is a candidate for Space: 1999 is FATE Core from Evil Hat Productions (2013). FATE Core claims the game, “works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives” (emphasis in original). Character generation in FATE Core is not a lifepath or point buy system, but rather “concept” driven which I find a bit harder to imagine. The core mechanic, using FATE dice, is also more suited to “pulp” gaming than gritty or hard sci-fi. Technology is what you make of it.

GENESYS (Fantasy Flight Games, 2017)

A more recent game system that might be useful is Genesys: Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight Games (2017). Genesys powers FFG’s Star Wars Roleplaying Games series.

Characters – Character generation is a form of point-buy built around archetypes. The generic career list would have to be tailored, but there are many examples in the various Star Wars Roleplaying Game books to draw inspiration from.

Technology – Technology is again what you make of it. Unlike Cepheus Deluxe which tends to portray technology in “harder” sci-fi terms, in Genesys technology is there to aid the narrative.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Genesys is a highly narrative game system that again is suitable for many different genres of play.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin Publishing, 2019)

With some work, Green Ronin’s The Expanse Roleplaying Game (2019) may also be adapted.

Characters – The Professions list of The Expanse Roleplaying Game is not that far removed from Space: 1999.

Technology – Technology-wise the two settings are not all that far apart.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system uses a three different encounter types—Action, Exploration, and Social—for games that in some ways is very suitable for a Space: 1999 setting.

CORTEX Prime (Fandom Tabletop, 2021)

Another “generic” system that may prove useful is the CORTEX: Game Handbook (Fandom Tabletop, 2021). CORTEX comes in several flavors and different versions have powered the Serenity Role Playing Game (2005), Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (2007), Smallville Roleplaying Game (2010), Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game (2012), and Firefly Role-Playing Game (2014). The CORTEX Prime System described in the CORTEX: Game Handbook is highly modular and tailorable to genre and setting.

Characters – CORTEX Prime characters come with three Distinctions (Background, Personality, Role) and then a “Power Set.” Looking across the options, I feel a Power Set combining the Classic Attributes (Agility, Alertness, Intelligence, Strength, Vitality, Willpower) with “Roles” based on Department assignments may be a good starting point.

Technology – There are plenty of examples of how to define a piece of technology in the other CORTEX rule books.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – The different flavors of CORTEX can support different genres of adventure; CORTEX Prime attempts to synthesize those different play types under one rules set.

Which one should I work on first?


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Sunday Summary – How’d it get to be so busy? #wargame #boardgame @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @stuarttonge @Zmangames_ @Gamelyn_Games @Funforge

Wow…no entries on this blog since last Sunday. Tangible proof that the post-COVID recovery is in full swing. Where I live all the COVID mask restrictions were (finally) lifted yesterday by the state dictatorship. Well, except for schools because the dictatorship has already crippled their learning in the past year so why stop now? I guess in future years gamers will look back on the Year of COVID as “happy times” with plenty of gaming. On a personal level, I’ve been back to work full time for a couple of months now and it’s cutting into my gaming time!

Huzzah!

Wargames/Books

I finished reading Most Secret and Confidential: Intelligence in the Age of Nelson (Stephen Maffeo, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014) and pulled 1805: Sea of Glory (Phil Fry, GMT Games, 2009) out for some comparisons. I’ve got John Gorkowski’s Indian Ocean Region – South China Sea: Vol. II (Compass Games, 2020) ready for a deeper dive now that I’ve finished reading Eliot Ackerman and Admiral Jame Stavridis’ 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (New York: Penguin Press, 2021).

This week was also my birthday. The family really knows what I like, hence the arrival of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT Games) and Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command (Kent Masterson Brown, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2021). This all-but-ensures my Fourth of July Gettysburg Memorial Wargame will be Eric Lee Smith’s Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). Oh yes, and a new power drill to replace my old light duty one that wasn’t up to the demands of Mrs. RockyMountainNavy’s “Honey Do” list!

Boardgames

I worked on my first impressions piece of Stuart Tonge’s 2 Minutes to Midnight from his new Plague Island Games label (coming to Kickstarter next month). Spoiler Alert – It’s a big game that some might feel is unnecessary given the powerhouse Twilight Struggle (GMT Games, now in 8th printing) but it deserves a serious look as it builds a very compelling narrative in play.

I had an opportunity to pick up Space Empires 4x by Jim Krohn and GMT Games (2017 Third Edition). At the same time the seller had several smaller games he was looking to unload so a deal was struck. These are lighter games that I thought might be suitable for the family (or vacation travel) gaming table. Thus arrived:

I spent the past week looking through and learning each of the smaller games. Star Wars: Destiny will be turned over to the RockyMountainNavy boys as I know it’s not my thing but they are “modern” Star Wars fans so they can enjoy the characters. Samurai Spirit and Tiny Epic Defenders are actually quite similar cooperative tower defense-like games and either will make for a good family game night title—though I think the look of Samurai Spirit is more appealing. Tiny Epic Kingdoms will compete with Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn, 2015) which is already in the collection. Sylvion is actually more of a solo game and as such it will land on my table occasionally; if it has a drawback it’s because it’s more eurogame-like and therefore not my personally preferred gaming genre given it’s obvious preference for mechanism over theme (but the theme—what there is of it—is cute). Space Empires 4x is in the “wargame to play” pile…just behind Indian Ocean Region and Stalingrad ’42.

#SundaySummary – From Scaling New Heights to a Grand Flop shoutouts to @MultiManPub, @compassgamesllc, @Bublublock #wargame #boardgame #RPG

Wargame

Game of the Week

I pulled out the Standard Combat Series (SCS) title Heights of Courage: The Battle for the Golan Heights, October 1973 (MMP, 2013) this week for my deep play. Spoiler Alert – I still like SCS titles! More detailed thoughts are the subject of a #WargameWednesday post in the future.

Courtesy MMP

The Grand Flop

Before I played Heights of Courage I pulled out Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete (Multi-Man Publishing, 2017). This is a Grand Tactical Series (GTS) game that I bought last year in the MMP ‘Back from COVID” sale. I had played it before and wanted to try again. Alas, it’s just too much.

I tried one of the Operation Mercury smaller scenarios; the first one in fact. After finding the right counters (because this scenario uses a special set of counters) and setting it up on the small 17″x22″ map (because, duh, it’s a small scenario) I discovered I had set up on the wrong map and needed to transfer to the larger 22″x34″ map.

FRUS-TRAT-ING.

I played out “SNAFU” which is a historical scenario for Operation Mercury. Like I wrote about before, the chit activation mechanic is used well in the game system. That said, this time I played less “the system” and more “the battle.” In the end, I was further frustrated. Yes, I like the chit activation and all it brings to the depiction of command and control but it just feels too cumbersome for me. Maybe it’s the scale – Grand Tactical is both large-scale and grand in scope which is means it takes much more time to play; time that is an increasingly rare commodity for me as we try to come out of COVID.

Courtesy MMP

Boardgames

It looks like designer Dan Bullock’s No Motherland Without: North Korea in Crisis and Cold War (forthcoming from Compass Games) is getting near to print. Dan posted on BGG that the game should start shipping February 8. Of course, with the way the USPS is going North Korea may collapse before the game is delivered….

Courtesy Compass Games

I was in my FLGS this past week and picked up Snowman Dice by Mike Elliott from Brain Games (2019). This is another game for Mrs. RMN to share with her students. This is most certainly a Children’s dexterity game or a very lite Family dexterity game. I played it with the 1st Grader and realized I had to teach her the fundamentals of dice reading; as long as she saw the part she needed she tried to use it to build instead of using only the top-facing side of the die. A good reminder about how learning and teaching games is not always as easy as one assumes.

Fanciful, but wrong (Courtesy BGG)

Role Playing Games

While in the FLGS the Middle Boy picked up a copy of Star Wars: Rise of the Separatists: An Era Sourcebook for the Star Wars Roleplaying: Age of Rebellion game. In many ways this is the sourcebook to go along with the Clone Wars animated TV series.

One interesting rule in this sourcebook is “Optional Rules: Fighting in Squads and Squadrons.” This rule enables Player Characters (PC) to take Minion-level characters and create a squad or squadron under the leadership of a PC. The PC can then order the squad/squadron using Formations. This rule helps get past one of the stumbling blocks of military-style roleplaying games; how to use characters as leaders and not simply independent actors on the battlefield.

We have not played a Star Wars RPG session in a loooonnnnggggg time. I dug up an old campaign idea and am trying to work it into some usable material. My personal preference is to play an Edge of the Empire -like campaign but knowing my Boys I need to pull in elements of Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny too.


Feature image courtesy discover.hubpages.com

October 2020 #Wargame #Boardgame #RPG #Books Month in Review

Games Played & Times Played

Note that Here to Slay included the Warriors & Druids Expansion

Games Acquired

  1. Iron Curtain: Central Europe, 1945-1989 (Standard Combat Series, MultiMan Publishing, 2020)
  2. Star Wars: Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2016)
  3. Konigsberg: The Soviet Attack on East Prussia, 1945 (Revolution Games, 2018)
  4. Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010)
  5. Nations at War: White Star Rising (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010)
  6. Nations at War: White Star Rising – Airborne (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2012)
  7. Nations at War: White Star Rising – Operation Cobra (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2012)
  8. Here to Slay: Warriors & Druid Expansion (Unstable Games, 2020)
  9. Moonrakers (IV Games, 2020)
  10. Cortex Prime: Game Handbook (Fandom Inc., 2020)
  11. Hell’s Paradise (A Clement Sector adventure from Independence Games, 2018)

New Preorder Games

Key Reading

Blog Activity

Sep/Oct #Wargame #Boardgame Acquisitions featuring @gmtgames @hollandspiele @worth2004 @MultiManPub @LnLPub @Academy_Games @FFGames @UnstbleUnicrns @MoonrakersGame

In early September I wrote about how many games might be arriving into the RockyMountainNavy gaming collection given the reawakening of the publishing industry as they struggle to recover from COVID-19.

Boy, did I underestimate myself.

Turns out that between September 1 and October 15 I took delivery of 16 (!) items into my gaming collection. This includes:

  • 8 wargames (+3 expansions)
  • 3 boardgames (+1 expansion)
  • 1 accessory

I also diversified my acquisition chain. In addition to Kickstarter and publisher pre-order systems, I also used a local flea market, online digital, BGG trading, publisher direct sales, and (gasp) my FLGS!

Wargames

Washington’s Crossing (Revolution Games, 2012) – A not-so-complex look at the Trenton Campaign of 1776. My more detailed thoughts are here.

Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games, 2020)(Expansion) So many Age of Sail games take a super-tactical view of ships that playing them can become unwieldy. Flying Colors takes a more ‘fleet commander” point of view; here you can be Nelson at Trafalgar, not Captain Hardy. The 3rd Edition Update Kit brings my older v1.5 up to date with the latest counters and rules, allowing me to set sail for new games in the future.

White Eagle Defiant: Poland 1939 (Hollandspiele, 2020) – The follow-on to the gateway wargame Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Don’t let the low complexity of the rules fool you; the game is full of impactful decisions. I have more thoughts here.

French and Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Games, 2020) – Another entry in my collection of Worthington block wargames. Simple rules but deep decisions. It’s been a long-time since I labeled a wargame a “waro” but this one crosses over between the wargame and boardgame crowds.

Harpoon V: Modern Tactical Naval Combat 1955-2020 (Admiralty Trilogy Group, 2020) – More a simulation model than a game. I’ve played and owned Harpoon titles since the early 1980’s. Can’t help myself; I love it.

Iron Curtain: Central Europe, 1945-1989 (Multi-Man Publishing, 2020) – Another entry in the Standard Combat Series from MMP. I like the multiple eras of play and the ‘Road to War’ rules that deliver replayability in a (relatively) small package.

Konigsberg: The Soviet Attack in East Prussia, 1945 (Revolution Games, 2018)Acquired via trade. I like chit-pull games as they are good for solo play. I am also interested in this title because of the time period; I have played Operation Barbarossa to death and am interested in a late war perspective when the Soviets were on the offensive and it was the Germans rocked back on their heels.

Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010)Acquired via trade. Got through a trade more on a whim than with any real thought. First look is a very simple ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ wargame. Realistically it has only seven pages of rules!

Nations at War: White Star Rising (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010) – I don’t really need another World War II tactical game system; I’m very happy with my Conflict of Heroes series from Academy Games. Acquired through trade with no real big expectations. First impression is this platoon-level game is reminiscent of PanzerBlitz (Avalon Hill, 1970) but with chit-pull activation and command rules (both of which I really like). Maybe some interesting potential here, will have to see…. (Acquired at same time were two expansions: Nations at War: White Star Rising – Operation Cobra and Nations at War: White Star Rising – Airborne)

Boardgames

One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; worker placement games is not really my thing. However, I really do like One Small Step. Not only does the theme engage me but the team play version of worker placement makes it a good game night title for the RMN household.

Star Wars: Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2016) Acquired via flea market. I jumped at an opportunity to get this game via a local flea market at an excellent price. Thematically excellent but I still have doubts concerning gameplay. It does create a very good narrative though….

Here to Slay: Warrior and Druid Expansion (Unstable Games, 2020) (Expansion) Here to Slay is the #1 played game in the RMN home. The RMN Boys (and their friends) love it. The game is far from perfect; like many others I don’t feel it is anything like an RPG as it proclaims and it’s too easy to win with “six classes in your party” versus slaying three monsters. Maybe this new expansion will change that with a bit more focus on the warrior class. Maybe….

Moonrakers (IV Games, 2020)Fresh arrival. Bought because I keep looking for a decent Traveller RPG-type of boardgame or something that captures the same vibe as Firefly: The Game (Gale Force Nine, 2013). My other attempts to find these types of games, Scorpius Freighter (AEG, 2018) and Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019) were less-than-successful. This title just screams OPA in The Expanse. Playing it will have to wait as there is a backlog of games in front of it in the to-play queue (obvious from the above).

Accessories

Sirius Dice: Spades (Sirius Dice) – I picked these up sorta on a whim. They look and feel good. If I ever get back to playing RPGs they may come in handy.

BREAKING #BOARDGAME NEWS Coruscant News Network Exclusive – Emperor Palapatine proclaims Week of Celebration for crushing the rebellion. A Star Wars: Rebellion (@FFGames, 2016) News Event

Capital /Coruscant News Network (CNN) – Emperor Palapatine proclaimed a Week of Celebration today following the news the devious rebel alliance was crushed by loyal forces of the Empire in the Ryloth System. An Imperial Navy news release stated, “The upstart rebellion, those miscreants who talked of law and order but were actually forces of anarchy, met their end in the Ryloth System when Imperial Navy and Army forces led by Grand Moff Tarkin and Lord Vader discovered their secret base and utterly destroyed it.” Grand Moff Tarkin himself was quoted as saying, “The more we tightened our grip, the fewer systems slipped through our fingers.”

Sources tell CNN that forces under General Veers originally tracked the rebels to Yavin, but the rebels escaped at the last minute. “The pursuit necessitated subjugating several systems, like Kashyyyk, which was in total rebellion. The indigenous Wookies, who refused to culturally assimilate into the Galactic Order, were dealt with severely, but fairly,” according to a staff officer of who was not authorized to talk on the record. (Several million Wookies were unavailable for comment.)

Meantime, confusion continues with regards to the Bothawui System. Rumors persist that Bothawui suffered a “serious seismic event” that resulted in the catastrophic destruction of the entire planet. The Imperial Palace itself denies any knowledge of what actually happened, although the social media network Gliiter continues to carry a ‘gleet attributed to Emperor Palapatine himself in which he says, “BOOM! FULLY OPERATIONAL!” Amateur hyperspace trackers also report that the unfortunate event was preceded by the arrival of Imperial Battlestation #1, more commonly called Death Star, which may have been present for the destruction of the planet. (Imperial Navy HQ was queried about these reports but CNN was advised to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, which was subsequently denied.)

In celebrity news, Lord Vader was sighted with a strapping young man dressed in all black and carrying his own “light saber.” Gossip is that the young gent, known as Luke to to his oldest friends, hails from Tatooine. The always secretive Lord Vader also has not commented on several HoloTube vids that surfaced recently where Luke is overheard addressing Lord Vader as “father.”

In other news from Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt announced a new exhibition called “Smugglers in Carbonite.” He also invites all to see the latest sexy accessory in his entourage, the former Princess Leia of Alderaan.


Feature image courtesy businessinsider.com.au

Prelude to Rebellion – #Boardgame first impressions of Star Wars: Rebellion (@FFGames, 2016)

My relationship to the Star Wars franchise is complicated these days. On one hand I came-of-age with the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, and on the other hand came to hate what the franchise turned into after the first three movies. This complicated relationship tends to carry over into any gaming that involves the franchise; I like games that I can relate to the original trilogy but others I tend to sour on. Thus, Star Wars: Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2016) should be solidly in my wheelhouse…and it is. Being a few years old and based on a very popular IP, plenty has been said about the game. Even so, it is actually new to me this month. Here is my attempt at a reluctant Star Wars fanboy look at the game.

What is Star Wars: Rebellion?

Star Wars: Rebellion is two games in one. In one game, the Galactic Empire player must track down and destroy the Rebel Alliance by finding and destroying its secret base. This is accomplished through area control and intelligence. At the same time, the Imperial player builds a massive military to control the various systems, even developing and deploying superweapons like the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance player must play a cat & mouse(droid?) game to keep their Reputation ahead of time. If the Game Turn Marker ever reaches the Reputation Marker the game ends – and only if the Secret Rebel Base has not been found the Rebel Alliance wins.

Making a Rebellion

On one level, Star Wars: Rebellion is a super Axis & Allies-type of game. Both sides manage an economy to build forces that is financed by different systems they control through Loyalty or Subjugation. But that game, one of fancy weapons and grunt soldiers, is actually secondary to the real game.

The real story in Star Wars: Rebellion, like the original trilogy it is based on, is the actions of Leaders. Both sides have leaders with different abilities who every turn can be sent on Missions to enhance your cause. Every leader has a set of skills and tactical abilities. From Mon Mothma with 1x Logistics, 3x Diplomacy skills but no Tactical Abilities at all to Emperor Palapatine with 2x Intel, 3x Diplomacy skills and Space Tactics 3 / Ground Tactics 2 Tactical Abilities, each Leader is different and brings their unique collection of powers to their cause. Players use their Leaders to execute Missions that can either advance their cause or “complicate” their opponent’s plans. Sometimes, player don’t want to send Leaders on Missions, instead holding them back to use to move forces (Activate a System) or to oppose other Leaders.

It’s a Big Galaxy

The interaction of the economy and Leaders in Star Wars: Rebellion is both it’s thematic strength and game play weakness. Thematically it is brilliant; Leaders and forces (including superweapons) move across the board seeding or stamping out rebellion, play whack-a-mole with rebel bases, and try to turn opponents to their side. The Rebel Alliance tries to build Loyalty to their cause amongst planets, while the Empire also builds loyalty, or simply subjugates a planet and rapes its resources. The broad sweep of rebellion, from small beginnings to galaxy-wide, can be played out on the board.

The broad sweep of rebellion is also the weakness of Star Wars: Rebellion. Players initially start out with only a few planets and Leaders. The few forces and Leaders can only do so much. The game starts out manageable, but like a real rebellion as it grows chaos imposes itself on the system. In this case, more planets leads to more economy leading to more units and planning. More Leaders leads to potentially many more missions or activated systems. It is quite easy to reach game turn 10 and have eight (or more) Leaders and five building cycles of forces on the board. At this point the time required for each turn becomes long as players have many more factors to account for in the Assignment Phase (alternating assignment of Leaders), more interactions in the Command Phase (execute Missions or Activating Systems opposed by Leaders or fighting combat as necessary) and a Refresh Phase that adds even more forces. At this point Star Wars: Rebellion becomes less Saturday Morning Serial and more Tom Clancy at his worst – too many viewpoint characters and too many gadgets.

The physical size of the game is also good/bad. One can never accuse Fantasy Flight Games of not making a good-looking game. Beyond the obvious access to the IP for artwork, the game really looks like Star Wars. Nowhere is this more evident than the ‘toy factor.” The small (and I do mean small) figures for forces are really nice. One part this is not small is the game footprint. In keeping with a game that covers a galaxy far, far away the need closer to home is a large gaming table. The game can be played on a 3’x5’ table but its a really tight squeeze if you do it. This is a game that demands the dining room table for longer hours.

There’s No “I” in Team – But There are Officers

In the RockyMountainNavy household we occasionally struggle on game night to find a title that works with three players – our usual player count. Star Wars: Rebellion has rules for a Team Game that can handle up to four players. In the Team Game each side is divided into two “commands;” the Admiral and the General. Both commands operate as a separate player following the usual Assign/Command/Refresh sequence of play but each also has different responsibilities in play. The Admiral handles recruiting, space battles, and building and deploying units. The General controls the hand of Mission Cards and has final say on assignment of Leaders to Missions. The General also fights ground battles and handles the Probes searching for the Secret Rebel Base. For the Rebel Alliance the General also handles the Objective Cards to keep the Alliance Reputation ahead of the Empire.

The Team Game is a nice split of duties, but it also adds more time to the game as decisions are now divided amongst players who must collaborate (or not). I do like the Communication rule which allows players on the same side to share information, but it must all be done in the presence of their opponents. It can be done in code or whispers, but they cannot leave the room!

Rebellion: A Star Wars Story

In the end, I have to admit that the tightly woven theme of Star Wars: Rebellion executed with this collection of game mechanics (as ponderous as they can become) actually works. Playing a game of Star Wars: Rebellion is like writing our own Star Wars saga. In one early game, Princess Leia led a mission to Incite Rebellion in a subjugated system. Grand Moff Tarkin moved to oppose her and defeated the uprising. At this point Darth Vader swept in to try and Capture Rebel Operative. Although the dice off was 4x Empire versus 2x Rebel dice, Princess Leia succeeded in avoiding capture. These dramatic moments make every game of Star Wars: Rebellion a unique story.

If only the pace of the plot moved along a bit quicker.


Feature image courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

#Wargame #Boardgame #SocialDistancing in the time of #COVID-19

AS OF THIS MORNING (15 MARCH), my local county health department is reporting 10 ‘presumptive positive’ cases of COVID-19. The school district has already shut down thru 10 April and many events are cancelled to encourage ‘social distancing.’

In the RockyMountainNavy household, we have dealt with COVID-19 since Mrs. RMN returned from Korea right as the epidemic was breaking out there. She laid low for 14 days not because of self-isolation but because others avoided her (the worst ‘racists’ are often from one’s own race). Now there is panic in the wider community (why are people hoarding toilet paper?) and much is being cancelled. One aspect of social distancing we are practicing is to distance ourselves from social media. Frankly, its all doom and gloom with lots of disinformation. In a practical response this means that wargames and boardgames are hitting the gaming table more often.

For myself, I have played solitaire sessions of Steamroller: Tannenburg 1914 from Yaah! Magazine #10 (Flying Pig Games, 2017) and Less Than 60 Miles (Thin Red Line Games, 2019). I am able to get bigger and longer games to the table because I literally set up a table in the loft that allows me to put a game down and keep it there for a while.

From the family perspective we are using several different approaches to gaming. For our usual ‘longer’ weekend plays we are going back to finish our Scythe: The Rise of Fenris campaign (Stonemaier Games, 2018) while mixing in shorter family games at other times like Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). I also am throwing in some 1v1 wargames like Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019) to play against the one of the boys when they get tired of one another. In this time of crisis, we are also occasionally taking care of young children of family friends who are struggling with daycare and work. In those cases we pull out the family games for like Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) or even Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The list of games goes on and on as we (now fortunately) have a large gaming collection.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also have a ‘healthy’ collection of plastic models that need to be built. Today we will venture to the FLGS/Hobby store (Huzzah Hobbies) to lay in some supplies.

We have even talked about reviving our Traveller RPG campaign (using Cepheus Engine rules) or our long set-aside Star Wars sessions using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game rules.

With boardgames, wargames, RPGs, and models we are pretty set to hunker down for the next several weeks. Let’s hope that everybody stays safe and we get thru this crisis as best we can.


Feature image: Playing Nexus Ops (Avalon Hill, 2005)

Bountiful bounty hunting in Star Wars: Outer Rim (@FFGames, 2019) #boardgame

The RockyMountainNavy Boys are modern Star Wars fans. For myself, well, the only true Star Wars is the first movie (Star Wars), Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi (with some reluctance), and Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. Now that I have offended you, let’s talk about Star Wars boardgames, specifically Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019).

I have talked about Star Wars: Outer Rim before and in many ways gave up on the game. With the recent release of The Mandalorian TV series, the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself pulled the game out for a bonus game night and gave it another go.

At the suggestion of RockyMountainNavy Jr., we randomly drew characters. This was to avoid a problem we had in the past where RMN Jr. always took a certain character and ran away with the game. As luck would have it, all three of us drew Bounty Hunters for our characters. This lead to several interesting situations where one player was hunting another to get their crew member. In the end, RockyMountainNavy Jr, with Bossk flying a Firespray raced to fame ahead of RMN T (Ketsu Onyo still flying his Starfighter Starter Ship) and myself (Boba Fett in an Aggressor). Unlike other games we played there was alot more player-vs-player interaction this game.

And it still fell flat.

The primary reason I think Star Wars: Outer Rim doesn’t get strong table love is that it just takes so long to play. Our 3-player game took 2 1/2 hours. We talked about the game time and agreed that the game overstayed its welcome by about 30 minutes. We don’t think we were playing slow; it’s just the game is slow by design.

That said, the RMN Boys were very interested if FFG was planing expansions for Star Wars: Outer Rim. The new The Mandalorian TV series seems rip with good content. Once we started thinking, we even wondered if Solo: A Star Wars Story would make for good content. The game is so thematic that Star Wars fans should love it. So why does FFG give it so little love?


Feature image courtesy Fantasy Flight Games.

A final rim shot – or – giving up on Star Wars: Outer Rim (@FFGames, 2019) #boardgame

I TRIED. FOUR TIMES I TRIED.

Four times is the number of sessions of Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019) that I played since the game arrived just three weeks ago. It’s enough. I’m giving up.

I wrote in my First Impressions post how I quickly had doubts about the game. From the too small text to the long playtime to the less-than-satisfying game ending. After four plays it’s not getting any better.

This past weekend I tried. Once again we pulled out Outer Rim for the Weekend Family Game Night; a rare repeat performance after playing just last week. This time we mixed up the turn order. This time we arranged the board on the table differently. This time we were more careful picking our characters.

I still can’t read the cards. The game still took nearly 2 hours. The end was still (even more?) unsatisfying.

Junior played Lando. He went whole-hog into the thematics of being a Smuggler by purchasing the Millennium Falcon, Extravagant Wardrobe, and taking Lobot for crew. Putting all that together he built a powerful, near unstoppable game engine. He won easily.

Middle RMN Boy was IG-88. He never found enough droid crew to get that bonus ability for Bounty Hunting. Not getting helpful crew meant he was more dependent on luck than skill; and Lady Luck was a b*tch to him that night. He upgraded to an Aggressor but never got his game engine really going. He ended the game far behind.

I took Kenso Onyo. I don’t know anything about the character. After playing hte character I still don’t. In Outer Rim not having sufficient metagame knowledge is a major disadvantage because you have to figure out if you are going to use a Smuggler or Bounty Hunter or Mercenary/Marauder-first strategy. Lando is a Smuggler; IG-88 a Bounty Hunter. What is Kenso?* I adopted a Bounty Hunter strategy that nearly paid off (I had 8 fame at end game) but the early struggles with figuring out what engine to go with put me just enough behind to lose.

There was certainly much more player-to-player interaction in this game. Several combats were fought against fellow players, or there was gambling on whatever-the-casino-planet-named. There were some great thematic moments, like when Lando cheated at Sabacc (taking IG-88’s money in the process).

In addition to my First Impression thoughts, here are a few others that crossed my mind during our last play:

  • Three players is good for this game. Less makes it multi-player solitaire; more will have too much downtime.
  • Some suggested passing the Market Cards amongst players during their in-between turns to read. Something has to be done because the cards are too hard to read on the table.
  • The only real variety in set up is in the location of Character Encounter tokens. The Encounter Decks are not very deep and after even our few games I feel they are too predictable. The same goes for the Market Deck. Character encounters are invariable. There is actually little variety from game-to-game making replay attraction diminish very quickly.
  • The end game is so unsatisfying. “I got 10 fame, yeah! Now let’s pack up the game…” Some good enterprising fan fiction writers need to write a collection of short, paragraph-long coda, each based on the Character + Ship + Reputation standings (ok, that’s around 1000 paragraphs so we need several of those Star Wars fanatics). Of course, this can never happen because Di$ney certainly won’t allow anything to be published that might be mistaken for canon. Not unless they can monetize it…like charging players several dollars on an app they overpaid for to download the possible ending….

During and after the game I could see that Middle RMN, my Autism Angle, was getting frustrated. That great thematic moment with Lando cheating at Sabacc was not enjoyable; it was simply another roll of the dice that punished rather than rewarded. More than anything else, his body language convinced me that Outer Rim was not fun. Thinking back, I have to say that about half-way through the game I was already looking at the clock and thinking about the after-game. Although there are moments of fun, the overall experience of playing Outer Rim is not very enjoyable for either of us.

As I write this post I see on BoardGameGeek that Outer Rim has a rating of 8.0 (Very Good – Enjoy playing and would suggest it) based on 805 ratings with 208 comments. I see that 12% of the ratings are a 10 (Outstanding – Will always enjoy playing). This is the same percentage of ratings that cover from 6 (OK – Will play if in the mood) down to 1 (Awful – Defies game description). I actually took a little time and looked at the people who rate Outer Rim a 10. I looked at their collections (or lack of collection in more-than-a-few cases) and what they play. Suffice it to say that my already low-faith in the BGG ratings system reached new depths….

RMN Jr. was responsible for set-up this last time so I think he wants to play Outer Rim with the Neighborhood Gaming Gang. He seemingly loves the game, as evidenced by the highly thematic game play he brings to the table. Maybe his play style is the key; I am trying to play a game about Star Wars in a sandbox universe rather than know and follow canon and divine the official Di$ney strategy.

No thanks, you rats.


*Sure, I know I can google it. But should I? I mean, do I really need to goggle a character in Outer Rim to effectively play the game. If the answer is “yes” the game is flawed. FULL STOP.