Porky’s Wild Bore – Read as if Written, by Joan Wilder?
Another week, another adventure riffing off posts in the House rolls. The theme today is linked-up play.
It’s worth noting first that if gaming has a statistical mode, that mode might well be GW-branded. For years it’s been possible under GW’s one roof to pick up rulesets for various settings with the miniatures and terrain to match, plus modelling materials, brushes and paints, even novels.
Of the many other producers, while each alone might have a less complete range, together they cover a lot of ground. Many seem to be on the move too, out into new spaces, but also inwards, into GW territory.
A fraction of the newer potential was on display this week in a post at Dice and Brush, with Mantic ruins graced by Warzone Resurrection trenchers, all richly painted, and maybe with Vallejo colours.
This is probably the post that set me thinking.
A good place to get a sense of the diversity in gaming with miniatures is Tabletop Fix, where most weeks see plenty of posts on recent and upcoming releases, from all over the place.
Something that caught my eye there this week were the previews for This is Not a Test, a post-apocalyptic skirmish game that makes me think of Necromunda with Outlanders and the ash wastes included, but set in the near future.
The miniatures look like they’d fit Necromunda itself, and Gorkamorka, and maybe games anywhere on the continuum that runs from Gamma World through spaces like Mutant Future, Other Dust and Numenera, on past Confrontation, INQ28, Inquisimunda etc. into Wreck-Age, Punkapocalyptic and Aetherium, and Mars Attacks, and even 40K past and present as wandering beings, warbands, mobs or ragtag units of rebels or followers.
There’s plenty of potential for crossover after all. And maybe we could embrace that more than we do, and maybe more even than highly integrated ranges like GW’s seem to.
Which brings me to a game that might really be called Dropfleet Commander, after its stablemate Dropzone Commander, and a post by Martin at Fire Broadside! on how it might look.
For me here the key aspect is the way these two games might be combined, with Dropfleet being focused on atmospheric entry and delivery of the dirtside units that then feature in Dropzone. As Martin suggests, this recalls Epic and Battlefleet Gothic, but might offer a smoother link-up than they do.
So where am I going with this? Well, it could be that the compatibility of -fleet and -zone is just Hawk Wargames thinking in terms of logical extension, building out from what they have, but it could also be an acknowledgement of the importance of narrative. Not narrative in the narrow sense of something forged in possible opposition to competition, but narrative in the understanding that a wargame is framed by events, that players might not be playing a given system so much as using it to explore a corner of an imagined world and to carry on relationships with each other in a shared context of past games, real lives and changing natures.
If so, the existence of -fleet and -zone could encourage, support or straight-up enable the kind of arc-creation and even crossover that GW games do and did, and the kind of joined-up gaming that even general themes suggest, for example – to return to This is Not a Test – the theme of post-apocalypse.
If you’ve got post-apoc rules, minis and terrain, you might naturally think in terms of post-apoc games, or like them, and have more resources for playing them, and presumably then have a history with them. If you like the weird, and steampunk and dieselpunk, and then get into Dust Tactics, and later Spartan’s Dystopian Wars, you’ve got even more scope for proxying, and for ongoing arcs and scaling up or moving across, with events spanning a range of alt-historical eras. With a look at the shelf and a chat at the club the campaigns almost suggest themselves.
But where a single producer is fairly small, or can’t offer a range of possible scales and genres, could one or more producers instead come up with a kind of Rosetta Stone, a tool or narrative device that links their own work with the work of many others, and romancing without infringing?
As with that spatial dispersion / tabletop expansion idea from a couple of weeks ago, part of the answer might be found at HERR ZINNLINGS ARBEITSZIMMER, in a post with an entry for the one-page dungeon contest.
This is a contest emerged in the OSR with the realisation that early D&D and related rules-light games need very little beyond suggestion and maybe core stats to inspire an adventure.
The equivalent in wargaming might be a set of scenarios written up to fit index cards or published at playing card size, each with a simple deployment map, possibly using a grid that matches the squares of, say, Deadzone or Dust, along with a suggested force ratio and any special rules or victory conditions. The minimum information, minimising potential conflict with a given system. It could also have a few keywords to help with campaign construction, or with straight picking rather than random selection.
For example, there might be a scenario card with the title ‘Dropship Down’ and the keywords ‘orbital decay’, ‘crash site’, ‘plume’, ‘recovery’ and ‘survival’. Rather than being either attacker or defender, both forces here could be salvagers, in which case there might be a 1:1 points ratio, or one could be the salvager and the other the survivor, in this case with a 2:1 ratio. All of that should need no more than a few lines of text. The map might show two salvager deployment zones, one either side of a central wreck and 50% of the table apart, with the survivor deployment zone marked as being in the wreckage. The survivor might have any reserves emerge from within the wreckage, as per the usual rules for the given system. That’s another line or two. Each salvager might win by having a unit or individual spend at least one turn in the wreckage before leaving the table, and doing so first if in competition; otherwise the survivor wins. Another line or two. There could be an optional special rule that the wreckage is hot for the first 50% of the game, or the standard or agreed average game length otherwise, causing an automatic heat-based attack against each incoming salvager, as per the rules for the weakest heat-based attack in the system. Done.
A single card to inspire a game, with the information two moderately experienced players might need.
If specific terrain or units are unavailable, these could be proxied easily enough, not least with the classic paper footprint. Brian Hamilton at By Brush and Sword did something similar last week for a game with Mantic’s Kings of War, albeit a bit more durably using foam sheet.
After all, tabletop gaming is mostly just objects, names and numbers in particular combinations, with the interactions between them coming down in large part to the power of the imagination, a jewel of denial.