Mar 30, 2009

Star Wars Minis

I've resisted to almost a fanatical, zealot-like level anything that smells like Dungeons and Dragons for most of my entire life. It's not that I don't respect the game, or the people that play it, I just have fundamental differences with the system itself. I know part of it has to do with my objection to having a human (susceptible to all of man's motivations and flaws) be the supposed objective dictator of a game.

But the biggest issue I have with it is the dice rolling. I hate dice rolling. Hate it hate it hate it. It introduces an element of randomness that has never seemed to click with me. After all, most tabletop games, even many video games (think %hit in Diablo) all require some kind of randomness to make the game enjoyable. But in many such cases, the randomness is streamlined or handled behind the scenes and you're left to focus on a fun - if challenging - gaming experience. The die, to me, just serves as a physical reminder of how little control you have over things despite any preparation or forethought you put into your actions.

Why do I ramble on about this? Because I think I've found a game with some of these elements that I've grown rather fond of: Star Wars Miniatures.

While the rules are a little complex to comprehend at first, once you get the hang of it you're left with a relatively simple, yet maddeningly deep, gameplay that requires good squad building, good field tactics, and yes even a little luck to win.

The characters span the entire Star Wars timeline, and you build a squad within one of 9 different factions: Old Republic, Republic, New Republic, Rebel, Sith, Mandalorian, Imperial, Separatist, and Yuuzhang Vong. There are "fringe" pieces that can be added to any faction. Each piece has a point cost, and squads are built to meet a certain point limit. Better characters, like Darth Vader, typically cost more points than weaker characters, like a plain old Stormtrooper. After that, you play the pieces on a game map and fight it out.

And come on... this is Star Wars here. I'm no fanboy, but what man honestly didn't love the movies? Well, episodes 4, 5 and 6 anyway...

The game plays like a cross between Magic: The Gathering and D&D - while only retaining the best of both. Building a good squad is key and requires much of the same thinking needed in building decks for any collectible card game. You try to combine pieces together in a squad in such a way that it maximizes the strengths, while balancing out the weaknesses.

Dice rolling does happen a lot over the course of a game. However, the impact of the randomness is severely lessened by the sheer depth of the game mechanics:
  • Commanders have effects that help boost the odds and probabilities of a favorable outcome.
  • Force users have the ability to actually re-roll a die they're not happy with (by using some of their Force).
  • Even tactically, certain matchups naturally favor one side or the other; Jedis, while generally fantastic in melee combat, can't shoot and can have a tough time getting across the map if a squad of good shooters is gunning them down.

Though I've only scratched the surface of it, with this depth you really do get the sense that if the win/lose outcome of a game comes down to a long-odds dice roll, your squad was either outmatched from the start, or you played a solid hand badly.

Great game, and a lot of fun.


Jazmeister said...

As the party enters the thicket, read this out:

In the dank undergrowth of the blogosphere, a wild Jazmeister is coveting a rotting Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition Boxed Set, gnawing at dry, exposed ribs, and nibbling at the rancid bulk of it.
As the beast notices your +4 Blog about Star Wars Miniatures, it begins to growl savagely. The air fills with its breath, and the growl mutates into a guttural barking of invectives. Glaring madly at your coveted loot, it cautiously positions itself between you and its days old kill. Its ribs are visible, however, and its breath ragged. Clearly, this wild Jazmeister has been without fresh sustenance in a long while.

DM's Notes: This is a level 22 fanboy in its dying throes. Although it speaks in broken tabletopese, any attempt to converse in PC Gamerish will trigger a sudden and dramatic drop in hostility. It will then allow the party to pass.

Initially, it will refuse any food that isn't a variant of Dungeons and Dragons, but it can be reasoned with, and, after some light resistance, will even accept any Star Wars Miniatures or Collectable Card Games the party members care to offer it. It will instantly enjoy them and, after a few days, return to full health. It will then offer to accompany the party through the blogosphere to the Dreadchasm of 4chan, where it will return to its family.

If provoked, it will savagely attack for two rounds, then flee into the wilds of the blogosphere.

Jon Baker said...