Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Gaming Judge Dredd on the Table Top

Judge Dredd is a fictional character who appears in British comic books published by Rebellion Developments, as well as in a number of movie and video game adaptations. He was created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, and first appeared in the second issue of 2000AD ( March 1977), a weekly science-fiction anthology. He is that magazine's longest-running character.
Joseph Dredd is a law enforcement officer in the dystopian future city of Mega City One in North America. He is a "Street Judge", empowered to summarily arrest, convict, sentence, and execute criminals. I have been following his exploits in comics, books, films and games (but not computer games) ever since he made his debut appearance. I still subscribe to 2000AD, which will celebrate its 2000th edition next month... and yes, I have every issue! In this article I'm going to take a look at the Judge Dredd boardgames and tabletop games that have appeared in the past 39 years.

BOARDGAMES
 Games Workshop produced a boardgame based on the comic strip in 1982. In the game players, who represented Judges, attempted to arrest perps that had committed crimes in different locations in Mega City One. A key feature of the game was the different action cards that were collected during play; generally these cards were used when trying to arrest perps although some cards could also be played against other players to hinder their progress. The winner of the game was the Judge who collected the most points arresting perps. Players could sabotage each other's arrest attempts. Additionally, there were many amusing card combinations such as arresting Judge Death for selling old comics, as the Old Comic Selling crime card featured a 2000AD cover with Judge Death on it. The game used characters, locations and artwork from the comic but is now out of print. I played this game many times with my gaming colleagues and it was always great fun to play. The Judges were represented by 15mm scale plastic figures in different colours - blue, green, orange, purple, red and yellow.

In 1987, Games Workshop published a second Dredd-inspired boardgame, Block Mania. In this game for two players, players took on the role of rival neighbouring blocks at war. This was a heavier game than the earlier Dredd boardgame, focused on tactical combat, in which players controlled these residents as they used whatever means they could to vandalize and destroy their opponent's block. Later the same year, Games Workshop released the Mega Mania expansion for the game, allowing the game to be played by up to four players. I played both games with my gaming group but it was not as popular as the boardgame shown above. It took a lot longer to play, especially with four players and it used a lot of counters. It certainly wasn't a bad game. Whenever I played it, I always took control of the Sammy Fox Block, simply because no one else wanted to control a block named after the large-breasted "page three" model. I had no such qualms, as I quite liked Sam.

ROLE-PLAYING GAMES
Games Workshop produced Judge Dredd: the Role-Playing Game in 1985. This was a great game with rules that were fast and fun to play. It was also very popular at the time and spawned numerous scenario packs. Many articles and scenarios were also printed in the White Dwarf magazine. This was back in the time when White Dwarf was a true gaming magazine and not a propaganda rag for Games Workshop products only. Citadel Miniatures, who back then, were a separate company from Games Workshop produced a huge range of 25mm scale metal figures for the game. I collected most of them and still have them, although I no longer have any use for them. I ran a hugely successful campaign using this system. Myself and a team of five other players all played Judges of Mega City One in countless scenarios. The most popular scenario, which is still remembered by all who took part in it was one I designed called "Red Christmas". I still have all of my notes for it and I'd love to share it with you some time, although I'd have to change the NPC stats to something more appropriate or leave them out. What made this particular scenario so memorable were the names of the victims and would-be victims that I used. Believe me, once you see them it will forever make you hear the song, White Christmas in a totally new light! Even now, it brings a smile to my face. :-)

Mongoose Publishing released The Judge Dredd Role-Playing Game in 2002. It used the d20 system, made popular with the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. I never took to this system at all. Even though this was for Judge Dredd, I refused to use it. By now my gaming group had dwindled to myself and two other players, Dave and Rob. We were all keen to try out this game, but not with the d20 system. So, I converted the game to the Feng Shui game engine. These rules emphasised cinematic action over realism and were hugely popular with myself and my players. We were familiar with them and they worked very effectively for Judge Dredd. It was a lot of work on my part to convert so much but it was well worth it. Mongoose printed a few scenarios for the game but most of the ones I played were ones that I had designed. They also published a few supplements under the headings of The Rookies Guide to... Subjects included the Justice Department, Psi-Talents, Block Wars and Criminal Organisations.

TABLETOP SKIRMISH WARGAMES 
In 2005, Mongoose Publishing brought out a tabletop skirmish game called  Gangs of Mega City One, often referred to as GOMC1. The game features Judges being called in when a gang challenges another gang that is too tough to fight. A wide range of miniatures have been released including box sets for an Ape Gang and an Undercity Gang. A Robot Gang was also produced but was released as two blister packs instead of a box set. Only one expansion set has been released, called Death on the Streets. This expansion introduced many new rules including usage of the new gangs and the ability to bring Judge Dredd himself into a fight. In this game, players took control of a gang. Their objectives were to avoid being arrested, defeat other gangs, gain new properties to add to their turf and gain new recruits, weapons and equipment. At any time, a gang could duck a confrontation and call in the Judges. The game was very reminiscent of Games Workshop's Necromunda skirmish game. I ran a short campaign using these rules. My gang, the Slayers, came out on top. Yay me!

This game went out of print shortly thereafter but was replaced by the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game, which was published free in many stages as the company sought feedback from fans and players. In 2013 it was released as a hardback rulebook. Later that year, an expansion was released called Blood on the Streets. Miniatures continue to be manufactured at a slow pace. The figures produced for the JDMG are the same as the ones produced for GOMC1 but have been repackaged and greatly expanded on. The biggest difference between the two games is that in JDMG players can now play Judges, and not just from Mega City One. Justice forces from around the world can be fielded with those from Brit City and the Sov Block being the most popular after the MC1 Judges. I am steadily building up my collection of these figures and my goal is to own them all. I have big plans for this game - plans that I can finally realise. It has been a long held dream of mine to run a Judge Dredd campaign using 3D scenery. Up until now this has been my biggest stumbling block. I suppose I could have made some buildings from my World Works Games card sets but I preferred to concentrate on my contemporary scenery instead. Now that I have just received a massive amount of scenery in my Battle Systems Urban Terrain sets I can recreate part of Mega City One in 3D. Although designed for a contemporary setting, these sets will still work in a sci-fi setting. Better still, Battle Systems will be producing a new sci-fi terrain set later this year, which will be compatible with the Urban Terrain sets. Oh, boy! I can't wait. I plan on running a campaign using a force of MC1 Judges, who will all be named after my blogging friends. There is also the possibility of running a play-by-blog scenario to run alongside my tabletop campaign. I'll keep you informed of my progress. First of all, I have a lot of figures to get painted. These are exciting times!

Bryan ©2016

14 comments:

  1. Exciting times indeed! JD is awesome! I remember reading 2000AD when I was growing up and loved all the various characters from Strontium Dog (I've just got a heroclix version of him, a couple of weeks ago) to Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine, ABC Warriors, the list goes on.....

    I was thinking about starting the JDMG up but wasn't sure if any of the "Herd" we're up for it, so if you are doing a play-by-blog I'm in baby!!

    Phew might have to have a sneaky watch of the Judge Dredd dvd and no it is definitely NOT the Stallone version :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also had the RPG but sadly it's been lost to mists of time....

      Delete
    2. Oh, you're definitely in, Andy. Given your medical training and background I was thinking of making you Med Judge Nash. Seeing as this will be a very combat-oriented campaign, a medic will be a must have for my team.

      The Karl Urban Dredd is just superb. I'm also going to watch it again.

      Bummer about losing the RPG!

      Delete
    3. Coolio, I'm up for that buddy ;-)

      Delete
  2. it will be interesting to see what you do with this new proposed campaign Bryan. When do you plan to start it, soon I hope? I`d like to see this sooner than later, as I have a feeling I might like this very much.

    Which reminds me: You know Stevie`s new American Revolution thing he`s doing (all that new Warlord Games "Liberty or Death" boxed set with hundreds and hundreds of figures - and heaps of terrain and things). I`m amazed: the box only arrived two days ago (huge, HUGE box) and he already has all the terrain assembled, painted and based, and enough figures assembled, painted and based to play his very first game. Actually he`s almost finished playing his first one and is writing it up as a batrep even as we speak. I`ve never seen him work so fast or with such dedication to a single project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Hil. My plans are to start as soon as I get the required Judges painted. Give me a month and I'll be ready to go. This is a project that is very dear to my heart.

      Delete
  3. Hils, more and more of my time is spent nowadays on the more serious projects like historical wargaming... but I still like to add a touch of the macabre... the `salt and pepper`... every now and again (like adding the odd werewolf to a Forest where one of Caesar`s Roman Legions is passing close by, or putting a Nazi Vampire into a World War Two game of Bolt Action). The second bit is your fault hahaha, all your talk about sticking to one or two projects has rubbed off in a big way (I am now down four subjects/projects, instead of about ten... and never been happier).

    Bryan, this Judge Dredd thing sounds absolutly fascinating and (in another reality where I had the last 20 years again) I could so easily have gotten into this myself, big time! With Warlord Games selling so much JD stuff, the temptation has never been greater. However, I force myself to push it back, to the back of my mind, and never allow the temptation to rise... but boy oh boy it’s hard to do at times.

    I think for me, unlike you, the fact that I DONT have half a lifetime of JD knowledge behind me, sitting lodged firmly in my brain, is the thing that stops me the most. Your knowledge of JD would be like mine with Tudors and Stuarts, or World War Two, or something: without that knowledge to fall back on, the temptation to get involved is manageable. So yeah, I would not get into Judge Dredd personally, but I would be REALLY interested to see it come alive on this blog in the form of battle reports and so on... and soon, you’ll be just the man to do this, I`m thinking Bryan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Steve, I do understand about the need to concentrate on a few select games instead of trying out a bit of everything. This project is very much a dream come true for me. I'm as stoked up for it as you are with your new AWI project.

      Delete
  4. Very cool, Bryan. I had the original board game myself and enjoyed playing it. Might still be in my mum's loft...
    And whilst I never owned the RPG, I do believe I have every copy of White Dwarf that had Judge Dredd stuff in it, including rules for playing judges and fatties in Blood Bowl.
    Looking forward to seeing where you go with this...although Judge Crowe sounds a bit more 2000AD than Judge Winstanley. ..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jez. Oh my god! I totally forgot about the Judge Dredd Bloodbowl team. I, too, have them and their rules. youre right, Fatties were part of the team. Good memory, my friend!

      If you prefer being called Judge Crowe I will, of course, oblige. Unless you think differently I see you as being a standard Street Judge.

      Delete
    2. Judge Winstanley is very Tech or Psi judge, Crowe is edgy street Judge definitely

      Delete
    3. Agreed. Jez will be known as Judge Crowe.

      Delete
  5. Judge Burnett of the Wally Squad reporting in sir! I believe I am to be transferred to the Street Judge team. Until confirmation I will stay in character and keep looking to break the gang importing "white stuff" from Brit City.

    Long Time Dredd fan all the way back to issue 2! And watching with interest but still undercover (lurking!)

    (

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to have you on board, Judge Burnett. No doubt your knowledge of and time spent in Brit City will prove invaluable.

      Delete