Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Naut Fight! Playtest 1

The consolidation process continues. The purpose of my last post was to lay the groundwork for this post and the following one, both of which concern playtesting a new skirmish miniatures/board game I've developed based on the October Country setting. 'Naut Fight! has become a popular diversion with this group and I suspect I'll be running another playtest of it again in the next two weeks. I've had non-roleplayers express interest in giving it a go, which I interpret as a good sign that I might be on to something here.

Yesterday saw the first official playtest of the October Country stuff and I was extremely pleased with the way things turned out. My gaming group is going through a transitive period, but is reorganizing to better address what everyone wants to play/run. I’ve finally put Labyrinth Lord behind me for awhile, and although I will return again one day soon, it was nice to explore other options and systems.

 We started off with a playtest of my steampunk automaton gladiator game, ‘Naut Fight! Although intended for one-on-one bouts, the rules are flexible enough to allow multiple ‘Nauts the opportunity to square off. And square off they did as three hulking brutes powered by experimental engines took to the area to battle it out for dominance. A little pre-match skullduggery didn’t turn out too well for one player when his pit crew spy was caught sneaking a peek in an opponent’s ‘Naut depot, but the trio was pretty much evenly matched at the start of the bout.

I sketched out the arena while the guys were building their ‘Nauts, using whatever popped into my head. A few walls, a pair of tar pits, a big old pile to play “King of the Hill” on, and a pair of special “You don’t know what happens when you enter these areas until you do so” spaces filled out the battleground. The ‘Nauts headed for the high ground early and most of the fight took place around the hill as everyone sought to use the top of the heap for combat advantage.

Speed was definitely the red-headed stepchild of traits as only one person decided to allocate more than a single die into that aspect of their gladiator machines. That could have been a bad move for one fighter when he fell into a pit and needed to roll above a certain number to escape. I’m wondering if this choice of allocation will remain true in future matches.

There was one attempt at an alliance to take out a less damaged ‘Naut about halfway through the fight, but it was rebuffed. Had it been accepted, we might have had a different winner. Instead, the two ‘Nauts with the least health beat the snot out one another for a bit while the souped up ‘Naut watched with glee.

The playtest revealed that I need to tighten up the language in my Specials descriptions and that I should make a cheat sheet with some of the other options available besides just blasting away with ranged weapons or slugging it out. That also could have changed things as ‘Nauts tried to clothesline one another or slam an opponent into one of the tar pits.

The guys had some good suggestions for future Specials to be added to the list of options: 360° Sensors that make it impossible for an opponent to gain a tactical advantage when attacking from behind and a Self-Destruct Feature that causes an area of effect blast when your ‘Naut goes down. I originally wrote the first rules draft with two fighters in mind, but after the three-man fight, I can see where those options would make play interesting when fielding teams or with multiple players. The match lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, which, with three players, is a good sign that the game is short enough to be used in conjunction with the roleplaying game if needed, but also a fun diversion when you can’t get enough players for an RPG but need some entertainment on a rainy afternoon.

After the match, we took the October Country roleplaying game out for a drive. Three would-be heroes traveled to the City of Midnight to make a name for themselves. The group consisted of a budding magician who was an agent of the Juggler; a ballisturgist gun-slinger and agent of the Unnamed; and a great sword-wielding agent of the Red Ruin of War. They quickly found themselves hired by a librarian whose business was overrun by bibliophages. The trio went in, took names (thanks to an ungodly number of critical hits), and discovered that somebody is trying to drive the librarian out of business before he could even get started. The band is headed off to Hunger Rock College to collect a bounty on the slain bibliophages, but it’s obvious that there’s treachery afoot.

Running GORE was a snap, although I need to run through the rules again and make some adjustments and corrections (a blackjack can’t do 1d8 damage unless that’s subdual damage and I’m overlooking the rules for that). The benchmark skills are working as intended and so far they are allowing the PCs to do “cool stuff” early without overpowering the system or making combat a cake walk. We’ll see if this trend continues as the game progresses.

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