This is the third in a series of posts about Warlord Games new offering Strontium Dog, in the previous 2 I talked about what you get in the starter box and the rules, so today it’s time to look at how the games are played.
when you design a game that’s inspired by a comic strip I think it’s really important to bring in the feel of the original stories into the game and let players think they are in the universe the characters in the story exist in. this can be really difficult and in the past we’ve seen some games where there was a disconnect between the 2 and you essentially had a game mechanic with a comic book skin applied. the other problem with these kind of games is usually the good guy always wins, so why bother playing the other side?
I always thought that to produce a game with the right feel and one where it was fun to play the bad guys would need to do something really special with the scenarios and ‘spoiler alert’ Andy Chambers and Gav Thorpe have pulled it off. So lets look at the what they have done.
first off all the characters in the game are broadly split into 2 sides, the SD agents and the Outlaws, but being Strontium Dog the lines are sometimes blurred and so its possible to pick figures from either side to fill up your gang. then we have 2 concepts called Notoriety and Collateral, essentially these are points systems but they work in different ways, I’ll explain this in a bit.
each scenario has 3 parts
- The Setup – where you work out the scenario
- the Encounter – the game
- The Pay Off – working out the winner
this is where you decide what to play and is broken down into 10 sections
firstly each player chooses a leader for their gang, which is a model with a ‘Cool’ value of 4 or more, then each player draws 6 Armoury cards and keeps 3 of them, next we have a dice off to see which of the leaders is the Protagonist (i.e. the character who is trying to do something in the game)
once you have done these steps you carry on and the protagonist works out the type of job to do (rolling a couple of d6 on a table) Jobs are the base of the scenario and each one has different setup and victory conditions. next the players recruit their gangs by picking characters they want to use. now this is where things get interesting, as every character in the game has a Notoriety level and these get added up to a total, players can decide to play a fixed total game or pick what they want and any difference in totals being used to generate extra Collateral in the scenario for the player with less Notoriety.
at this point in the Setup the players have a gang each, one of the sides has a job to carry out and one of them might have some extra collateral to spend in the game. the next step is to work out the encounter type which is done by rolling a d6 and checking on a table cross referenced by the Job being carried out. the encounter basically dictates the table layout and deployment points.
don’t worry we are nearly finished.
the next step is for each player to draw 3 Chicanery cards and then finally spend your collateral.
what on earth is collateral I hear you ask, well is a fund that allows you to buy more stuff, like some allies, armoury cards or vehicles. each Job will give the players a certain amount of collateral, plus if you have lower notoriety to the other player you also get some and you can sell some Chicanery cards to get even more. the fun thing about collateral is any that you don’t spend give you a bonus when working out the Pay Off.
once thats all done you can play the game.
The Pay Off
Once the Victory conditions for the Job have been met the game finishes and the players work out the pay out
- Collect Bounty – this is worked with conditions set in the scenario, but any extra unspent Collateral is added to this score
- Deduct Expenses – characters with injury markers lose 10% of the Bounty, characters who were taken down (reduced to zero cool) lose 50% of the Bounty, now this only counts for named Characters – those from the initial gang, not ones who were purchased using collateral. so look after your characters or you’ll lose money
- Calculate earnings work out the final total of Bounty and the player with the greatest amount is the winner
there are 2 other parts of the game to cover and that’s ‘Create Your Own Character’ this is a whole section where you can stat up your own figures and use them in the game, this is perfect for us who have lots of sci-fi minis floating around (Judge Dredd anyone) and finally the book covers Campaign’s where you can link scenarios together in a really fun way.
I think this is a really interesting way to design scenarios and it means games will always be different, to me this is the most important part of the game and I think the designers have nailed it. the Campaign system also adds a lot to the overall game and I might touch on that in a future article