Thursday, 4 August 2016

Starport Scum Review

I bought the beta version of this rule set on a whim. I have collected and not played and bunch of NWG rule sets so thought why the hell not? It also reminded me of the time I play tested some of the community made V-sets of the WOTC game Star Wars Miniatures after the game was dropped.
Starport Scum excited me enough that I now have played it more than any of my other rules sets. This is my first game review so I am not sure what format it will take. 

The basic game: there are four classes of character: basic grunt called goon; bruiser who is a goon that may carry a specific weapon that has bonuses; ace who gets a character trait and weapons; hero who can have 3 character traits and weapons.

Each turn you choose a figure, roll xD6 and choose the highest. That is your movement in inches. If you shoot you roll xD6 and scoring 5+ hits. 1 hit pins, 2 hits send goons, bruisers and aces down (out of the game), 3 sends heroes down or kills all others horribly, which has an extra negative effect on morale. The target can roll xD6 defensive roll Depending on cover, armour, distance from firer. Each 5+ rolled negates a hit. You can also brawl, this provides no cover bonuses and no bonuses from ranged weapons and works exactly the same way as ranged combat with rolling dice.

At the beginning of each new round, if you have taken casualties, or if your opponent holds your objective you take a morale test. If you fail twice, the battle is over, or your squad is finished if you are playing more than 2 sides.

I have written a QRS for the rules on one side of A5 paper. They are simple yet not boring. They are easy to learn and you can make a game last as long as you want.

Characters: Creating characters is where this game becomes slightly more than just another skirmish game. I have played Song of Blades and Heroes, Flying Lead and Star Wars Miniatures before. In those games your figures have abilities and weapons. It makes it more personal, and you are not just fighting faceless figures against other faceless figures. Starport Scum is like these, but is much more flexible. SOBH/FL have lists of abilities which point costs assigned. You build characters to point costs and fight against an equal/similar point cost. Star Wars Miniatures has pre-set characters and a vast pool of abilities that also affect point cost. But you don't really make characters up as they come made by Wizards of the Coast. Starport Scum has no point costs, but has systems for building systemized abilities (character traits) and weapons/gear. But also remember YOU CAN JUST MAKE STUFF UP. This is what I do. I don't use the provided key words. One character is a veteran. He has the ability Veteran: +1D6 on ranged attacks. I could label this up as a "combat, dice bonus" or something, but don't see a point. However, other people thrive using systems like that. Additionally, I have a shotgun and just follow it with text: +1D6 under 8 inches, -1D6 over 12 inches, hits targets within 1 inch. In the rules this could be explained with a bunch of key words, but I just didn't see a point.

Back to explaining characters: I described the rolls as xD6. There is a preset minimum of D6 for each type of character. Goons can never have more than 2D6 but other characters can increase them with weapons or character traits. I have created a trait that gives +1D6 to ranged combat rolls (Veteran). If someone with veteran has a shotgun, which I assigned +1D6 for close range shots, they they could roll 5D6 on a ranged attack. Powerful stuff. 

That all seems pretty basic, but the game gets very interesting with how you play it. Straight up skirmishes are okay. That was my initial interest lay. I thought I would play some skirmish games, and have a little story to go along with it, my heroes would have a couple of special abilities that make them better in a fight and can keep them alive, because I don't want them to die. That lasted me two games. It wasn't enough. Starport Scum is actually designed to be an RPG Lite. You can include in your skirmishes activities such as hacking, arguing, negotiating, sneaking, finding food, finding weapons, rescuing damsels, breaking and entering. Literally anything you can think of. Tasks are performed by rolling xD6 and scoring a success on 5+ unless it is hard or you are good at that particular task. You could also intimidate a guard; talk a barman into letting you use a back route; finding a hidden object; placing a bomb (there are separate explosive rules, but you can make stuff up). This means you can create RPG-esque encounters instead of just skirmishing. I hadn't previously considered this, but am now furiously painting up figures and trying to make things that look like computer terminals and things to break into.

In conclusion (I think) this game is fun if you want to have some narrative tabletop battles, with an emphasis on using tabletop miniatures. You can make your own lore up, or use the section of random stuff generators to have it made for you. I will be using this set of rules for all kinds of adventures (all played solo) and will likely use the random tables to help create battles that I won't subconsciously bias in favour of my heroes.

If you want strict structure, then there are elements of that, but the main emphasis of Starport Scum
seems to be: "create some stories, fight some miniatures, link your battles together, and here is a loose framework with which to do this, but also feel free to make loads of stuff up". It turns out, that is right up my alley.

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