Porky’s Wild Bore – Roll a six if you want to live?

 Another romp through time and space, specifically the blogrolls over the past seven or so days.

And the first thing to grab me this week was the Infinity board RED SCORPS made for a 40K tournament.

It looks pretty good, like a lot of Infinity setups, including some that buck the trend – the possible near future Oz at The Beat Ronin for example, and Bush Craft’s grimier, more Necromundan space.

But as with a lot of urban-themed tables, for whatever game, there’s a question lurking. Where is everyone?

After all, urban areas often are turned into battlefields, and not just in the fiction, despite the cost.

And there’s no lack of miniatures for the folk that might be caught up, or models to convert them from. Dr. Willett’s Workshop this week had a group of 24 for Last Night on Earth, painted to the usual high standard.

 

A lot of games might naturally shy away from the ugly reality, even if their text and illustrations make it clear that urban conflict is part of the setting. It might be that commercial producers prefer to keep the more visible tabletop free of controversy, or not have the players think too much about logical consequences.

Still, it’s easy enough to house rule any mismatch that might exist. In the simplest one-on-one wargames the most obvious approach might be to include local people as part of missions or objectives, abstracted into invisibility, or shown with a counter, possibly just as passive game pieces to be moved with standard units.

But is that any better?

The next step up might be one of the least obvious. At Hereticwerks this week garrisonjames took a look at the most recent issue of The Manor, a zine by Tim Shorts for rules-light tactical roleplaying. It has a focus on hirelings, a reminder that in this kind of game – D&D and its heirs – it’s been assumed for years that a band of player characters might turn up in a settlement not only to cause a ruckus or quell one, but also to offer hazardous work to anyone willing to accept.

So in wargaming why not have groups of locals be represented as units are, as if part of a force? They’d most likely be untrained and unequipped, which could be represented by taking the nearest equivalent unit and reducing its stats. They might start deep, maybe with the odd special rule representing, say, familiarity with the terrain, which could be as simple as a cover bonus in their starting positions. In the early stages of a campaign, before the forces themselves become too brutalised, a group like this might even force an opponent to pass a check of some kind to target them, or through them, to represent the natural unwillingness to harm an innocent party or escalate the conflict.

Of course, certain factions or types of force might worry less, or seek out groups of local people to sow panic, or to take as captives. These factions and force types can appear in the fiction, and often as playable elements.

On the subject, a couple of blogs posted some conversions this week for out of production or never produced Dark Eldar models – ships for Battlefleet Gothic at EPIC ADDICTION and war engines for Epic at Gemana.

To go back to something more like that hireling approach, maybe the local people could start the game neutral, and possibly holed up, but be encouraged to follow or to act in a particular way, perhaps after a successful check for persuasion, with the player gaining control of their miniatures. For 40K for example the check could as simple as a Ld roll. Perhaps control could swing back and forth over the course of a game, representing the fear and uncertainty the people might naturally feel.

This also goes back to the Braunsteins, wargaming sessions that seem to have planted seeds for D&D, sessions in which the players could interact with the landscape and its folk through a referee.

These days in mainstream two-player wargaming we tend to expect this to be handled by a procedural system, so that the NPCs or monsters don’t need to be played and just do their thing; maybe a system like the one in the latest GW board game.

On the subject of which, Brambleten at Noobs and their paintbrush posted an unboxing and some thoughts on house rules, and Dezartfox at The Vanus Temple some pics of the four imperial miniatures painted as part of a commission.

Having a neutral third player handle the interactions with local people could allow for a fuller representation of the unexpected behaviours and moral dilemmas the interactions could bring.

In fact it surprises me we don’t make more use of third players, especially given how many free gamers might naturally be hanging around at the club or store, waiting for a match-up. If someone is looking on, they could be invited to take part, given some miniatures with agreed stats and asked to keep it real.

But there are bigger questions. Is representing local people like this unethical? Or as ethical as wargaming gets?

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