Thursday, February 7, 2013

Busy Little Creatures - Strain infantry, and Sedition Wars review

Painting 42 minis in a batch gave me a lot of room to experiment.

While I painted my Vanguard set to fairly closely resemble the stock colors (essentially some color swaps, and painted in my style, I decided to do something more divergent in this set. The whole concept of nanobots infecting and repurposing corpses is pretty nasty stuff, and I like the minis that arose from the concept. However, I felt that replacing a number of living components with metal plates wasn't all that visually exciting.

So, instead, while there are occasional bits of metal, I decided that the majority of even the more complex exoforms would resemble bone and flesh. I was pretty happy with the results, as, with the NMM, it makes it a little more ambiguous, whether it's gross metal or unnatural organic stuff.

I tried a lot of variations and overlapping washes on these guys, which I think did a pretty good job making a unified but not homogenous look. The pants and bases helped out, and will be an easier reference point when marking damage, etc.

(more comments after the photo)

Continuing the review...

I covered the model quality in my previous post, and I'll be covering the rest of the basics, here.

Gaming Materials

The token sets are quite nice. They're not the best I've ever used, but definitely above average. They're on heavy stock (maybe 2mm thick) and brightly colored, and, with the exception of a couple designs (such as the two below the punched out tokens), easily identifiable.

The only, relatively minor, complaint I have about these is that they could have used the space better, and gotten a bunch of extra tokens out of it, for replacements, extras, or because some might bet used more in larger games.

The regular black dice are your standard large gaming die, while the colored ones are really something special (and way better than the kickstarter indicated).

A few of the tokens are plastic instead, with nano clouds represented in clear plastic, and long-term status effects being represented with different colored base accessories. The Samaritan has a red Infection indicator. These fit, and even stack, though the fit is just barely tougher than I'd like: I'm a little concerned about damaging the models when taking them off, or at least needing to repaint the base trim every so often.

Cards

The cards are somewhat unconventionally laid out, but even in the middle of my first, small game, I found myself used to it, and feeling like it's fairly intuitive.

The game uses a pretty limited number of stats and abilities, and the fact that attack rolls are entirely resolved in one roll hugely speeds up the game. For example:

If a Samaritan were shooting at another Samaritan (let's say one was mind-controlled), you check range (on a grid, so very fast) roll 3d6, add the MOD (in this case, 5), and compare it to the defense of the defender (in this case, 17). Each 6 you roll works like a critical: you do more damage (the carbine has damage 5, and staging 2, dealing an additional 2 damage per 6).

The math stays pretty constant, and the abilities are pretty straightforward, so it means that the game moves pretty organically.

The other (in my opinion) defining characteristic of the game is the Reflex system: when it's the opponent's turn, each model has a Trigger (condition) that, when met, allows them to act out of turn. Reflexes are just that: done reflexively. They're specifically not as flexible (mostly) as many reactionary systems, which makes planning for them easier, as well.

The Rulebook

The Rulebook is aesthetically nice, with illustrations, models, screens, and the occasional fan-made model or scene.

The book is relatively thin for a core rulebook, but pretty comprehensive. It contains all the rules (of course), and includes scenario generation and a fixed campaign. It has a variety of special terrain effectsfaction rules, and gameplay tips. However, it's missing unit rules, and only has basic fluff descriptions of them. The only serious complaint I have is it's missing an index.

The fiction is decent, mostly narrative, though with very little background. It feels a touch rushed or brief, but it gets the job done. Each scenario has a half-page or so about the mission and context, which fits nicely, but, as the scenarios are already narrative, I found it's a bit redundant. I'd have preferred 2-4 pages establishing the setting more, but I can live with the structure as it stands.

The game design is solid, but the rules themselves have felt rather rough. However, Studio McVey has been very good about errata and it already has a pretty solid FAQ. It feels like we're essentially playing as beta testers. If the core game wasn't as good, I might be discouraged, but I feel like the game is strong, and the changes and clarifications have been productive. A few of the answers have felt rushed, but I'm fine with that, as it's been explicitly announced that they're working on an update.