More Untapped Aliens

Yesterday’s alien question ferreted out some great references and some amusing stuff too. Apparently this is a real spider…

Male peacock spiderOverall, it seems like spiders have inspired a lot more alien races in computer gams and RPGs than on the tabletop in miniature form (though there some rare exceptions). Interesting.

Having spent some time surfing along the links you’ve shared, I have a couple of follow up questions for you.

  1. Which real world creature do you think has been most unfairly neglected when it comes to inspiring weird alien lifeforms? Horseshoe crabs? Ocelots? Starfish? Squirrels?
  2. What’s the most alien alien you know, in any fictional background? For this question, try sticking to physical creatures. Energy beings and nanite clouds are always going to be at the weird end of the scale, but don’t really work as models or artwork.

I’ve already come up with a couple of ideas for unusual aliens that I’ve never seen before by asking myself these questions. See if they inspire you too.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 32 Comments

Untapped Aliens?

SpiderDoes anybody know of a gaming background with a race of sentient (giant) spiders in?

I was cleaning the house this afternoon, and came across a mother spider guarding a dozen babies, all wrapped in a fine web. It’s the time of year that spiders come indoors to get out of the encroaching cold and wet, so that wasn’t terribly surprising, but it made me wonder whether the whole creepy-spider thing had been really tapped. Sorry, I should have said I was cleaning the house and thinking about games

I’ve seen giant spiders as wandering monsters in D&D for decades, and there’s a character spider or two in LOTR. Then you have the odd dark elf centaur that’s half elf and half giant spider. Not a lot of actual sentient spiders though.

Is this because they haven’t got a face that you could recognise emotions on, or perhaps they’re just too creepy for them to be anything but animal (insect)? Could it be some sort of anti-spider conspiracy (you never know)? Or, is it that I’ve just missed them?

They make a great starting point for SF or fantasy aliens. I mean, just look at them!

Posted in Random Thoughts | 32 Comments

New Old Models

While I’m thinking SF, I want to take a detour from Deadzone and to mention a couple of other things. Firstly, the Macrocosm Kickstarter is almost finished. As I type this there’s less than 24 hours left, so hurry along if you want to see what’s on offer before it ends.

Macrocosm logoThey’ve already doubled their target, which is great, and have added over 60 models to their existing range. As I mentioned in a previous post, Chris has taken the slightly unusual route of producing the first two races and free rules on his own, and has only gone to KS when he needed to fund an expansion… exactly the sort of thing that I keep hearing folk no longer use Kickstarter for.

The style he’s gone for is very much in the Oldhammer vibe that has emerged from the woodwork of late. Personally, I’m not gone on all of the ranges, but I am rather partial to the Diggers and also like the Malignancy*. I’m sure other people will prefer the other ranges. The big robots will be interesting to see when they’re finished and standing next to the other models. I have a feeling that they’re going to be quite imposing. And then there’s the Kev White space goblins…

DiggersOf course, not all of you will like that retro style, and that’s fine. As we were just discussing in one of the Deadzone threads, you can’t please everyone all the time. I mention the Macrocosm thing partly because I know Chris and wish him well, partly because I have an admiration for the energy and drive required of the many one-man bands we have in the gaming world and like to support them when I can, and partly because I like the models (mine aren’t going on eBay) and would like to see him succeed and make more.

On A Related Topic

Another thing I mentioned before was a new set of retro style SF rules I’ve been working on.

The reason I mention this is that you may be interested in it when it is done. It’s intentionally more detailed (hit locations, etc) and designed to play at a more considered pace than DZR. They are very different beasts, and which I prefer depends a lot on what mood I’m in at the time. Sometimes I want the energy of DZR, and other times the story and detail of the retro SF suits more.

Overall, the retro stuff has been a very entertaining and unusual design, and it’s worth a few articles on its own. Deliberately designing something in such a specific style is quite a challenge, but a fun one as it’s allowed me to wallow in my own nostalgia for games I grew up with.

Whether this is the same retro that everyone else recalls remains to be seen. But then that’s nostalgia for you – it’s a very variable thing :)

* As an aside, you may recall me remarking about how some figures look better in reality, others when they’re on screen; some painted and some in bare metal, plastic or whatever. I’m sure you’ve all noticed. For me, Macrocosm’s Diggers look really good on screen and in real life (not much difference), but the Malignancy seem much better when I have them in my hand than in pictures (big difference). I don’t know what that means, if anything – it’s just something that intrigues me, more so because that difference is within a single company’s offer. I would normally expect this sort of variation in perceivable quality to be more common between companies.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 6 Comments

Free DZ?


Just had a chat with Ronnie about a bunch of DZ questions that you guys have raised in reply to recent posts.

The one I’d like to deal what today is the fact that some people might have bought the existing DZ recently, and might feel a bit miffed about shelling out for a new one.

Rest assured, the main point of reworking DZ is to get more people playing it. With this as the aim Ronnie’s keen on making this transition as smooth as possible.

The way this is achieved hasn’t been finalised, but Ronnie said he was happy for me to let you know the sort of thing that he currently has in mind. This starts with giving a digital copy to all the original KS backers. For those who’ve bought DZ after this, there will be some sort of discount scheme. The sort of thing that Flames of War has done between editions seemed to work – get your old edition stamped for a hefty discount on a new one.

Something like that.

Of course, whichever way you got your copy of DZ, your models, mat and scenery are all perfectly compatible with the new one so there’s no need to replace any of that. Whilst there are new sculpts of some models, the new ones are the same scale, style and imagery, and personally I’m entirely happy to mix all the ones I’ve seen so far.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 12 Comments

Cards in Deadzone Redux

DZ cards 1I’ve had a few queries about cards in the upcoming Deadzone Redux, so I thought I’d answer them here by explaining my current thinking on the topic.

When we started looking at updating the rules, I read a lot of comments online and talked to a lot of DZ fanatics about what they saw as strengths and weaknesses in the game. The chaps at Mantic also had ideas about what they thought had worked and what had fallen short. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and allows you to see all sorts of things you could have done better :)

I took this collection of broad notions and started working on mechanics that would make them happen in a final product. After some experiments I pitched a series of different versions to Ronnie and the crew, and they liked one that was quite dramatically modified from the original. Well, it is and it isn’t. The vibe is recognisably Deadzone and the core rules are sometimes identical, it’s just that I’ve done a great deal of streamlining to make it faster and bloodier so it feels more heavily changed that it actually is.

Regardless of the technicalities of the rules, what’s great for me is that everyone who’s tried the new game raves about how much they love it :)

DZ cards 3In the process of making these changes I’ve replaced all the existing cards with processes that simply work better. Like I said, some dramatic changes.

I’m not going to tell you all the details just yet, but let me explore some of the basics.

Cards in DZ fall into 3 types: stat, battle and mission.

As I mentioned in my overview of the new army building, this is now focussed firmly on the commander’s character, and for this reason the individual trooper stat cards are no longer as useful. What I’m experimenting with currently is an army reference sheet – one per commander – that has all his army’s details on. So, if you had reference cards for 3 different Enforcer commanders there would be considerable overlap, but each would be different. This army reference sheet would therefore be used both for building an army and playing the game, which I find quite appealing. In terms of size, I’m thinking no bigger than both sides of a single A4 sheet, and smaller if we can get all the info in less space (or on one side). This would include the stats for the army, unit selection options, weapon stats, army special rule and missions.

Battle cards have been replaced by a more dynamic system that avoids some of the cancelling effect the earlier cards had: I play a card and you play a counter which takes time but has no actual effect on the tabletop. I don’t mind this approach to card play in the right place, I just think that the new approach is far superior for Deadzone. You’ll notice how I didn’t tell you exactly what this approach was. It’s one of the core changes in DZR and I’ll come back to deal with it in its own post so I have the room to discuss it properly. Stick to cards for now.

DZ cards 2The final type of old cards are the mission cards. I really like the idea of faction specific missions and felt it could be developed further. The new army building approach is commander focussed, so I wanted to make the mission characterisation that level too. I’ve kept a couple of core missions that anyone can do, but with more individualised missions the definition is at the commander-specific army level, meaning that these will be on the army reference sheet I mentioned above and will be appropriate for that specific army. Obviously there will be overlap between factions, it’s just that the specific combination of missions can be tailored to suit each commander, which should allow us to balance the armies better.

So the old cards are superseded by better ways to do similar things. You still have stats and missions on hand to refer to, and can still change the course of the battle in your favour by carefully using a limited resource of tweaks and buffs. It’s just all slicker now :)

Posted in Deadzone | 127 Comments

Olympic Games?

Olympic flagDid you know that chess and bridge are being considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games? This came up again today as lawyers for the English Bridge Union made the next step in their ongoing argument with Sports England as to whether Bridge is a sport or not.

Frankly, it’s all a daft piece of semantics that seems to be inspired wholly by the extra funding that is available to sports and not games. Want some free money? You can see the attraction in the right term applying.

However, greed aside, it made me think. If I could pick one game to be added to the Olympics, what would it be? Naturally here, when I talk of games, I don’t mean sports ;)

To my mind chess and bridge are both rather uninspired options, but that’s just me. To avoid prejudicing your ideas any more I’ll bite my tongue on my thoughts on the matter, and listen to what you think first. So, ignoring practicalities, popularity or other considerations for a moment, what game would you choose to feature in the Olympics if you could choose one? Would it be a wargame, a board game, a computer game?

Which single game represents the best in gaming?

Posted in Random Thoughts | 22 Comments

Deadzone Redux Army Building

I answered a question on this in the comments of an earlier post. However, knowing how often these things get missed, I thought I’d pull it out and make it a post for everyone to see.

We’re not done with this yet, so expect more details over the next few weeks as it gets more refined. Overall, my aim is to include as much character within a simple process as possible. For the moment, it works like this:

You start by choosing a commander. This choice then influences everything else. Each faction will have several commanders to pick from, each with their own way of winning battles. Some commanders are more assault-oriented, and others more shooty. Some like balanced forces and others go all-out for a single type of troops. This is all reflected in the next step.

SargeYour choice of commander determines the troop, weapon and equipment options you can pick from. So, if you pick Sergeant Howlett as your commander you’d have access to lots of assault troops and specialists that back up that way of fighting, but much less of everything else. As you’d expect.

Unit choices are currently along the lines of you can take 0-1 of these or 1-3 of those, with the options and upgrades being allocated on a per-commander basis to maximise the character of each force. So, to stick with Howlett, he must take some assault Enforcers. Anything else would simply not reflect his character.

One of the nice things about this approach is that we can simply add a new characterful force list if we make a new commander. So the Warpath background can expand as it needs to, and Deadzone can grow alongside it.

Another nice facet of this approach is that it can be used to limit the cherry-picking approach that is designed purely to win at all costs and ignores the story and character of the universe. Instead, the forces can be designed to include both advantages and disadvantages which makes for a much more interesting tactical challenge on the tabletop. Howlett is really nasty up close, but he struggles at a distance because that’s simply not how he fights. And overcoming that struggle is part of the fun :)

Posted in Deadzone | 34 Comments