Star Wars Imperial Assault
I have often found myself searching.... searching... searching for the definitive perfect solo game.
I think, since the advent of the computer, in truth, a lot of on line blogger gamers are, in fact, soloists by default definition. Traditional hobbyists who play lots, either with friends or at a local club (or clubs.. plural.. for the more adventurous gamer who don`t mind driving) don`t tend to hang about on line that much. They are too busy playing, or painting their miniatures up for the next game session or club match: or are busy preparing for their next comfortable and leisurely home game with family or/and friends. On line `loitering` simply doesn`t factor into the equation of what they consider being part of the hobby proper. By logical extrapolation, it thus falls to reason that the majority of bloggers spend the bulk of their time on line talking about their hobby (in some form or another), because on line blogging attracts a lot of people who.. for various reasons.. don't have a ready-made pool of `live` friends to game with; thus rendering them unable to share the hobby in a face to face social interaction.
So soloists seek the perfect game (an imperfect game leads to a slight feeling of dissatisfaction and even disappointment in their own pursuits and endeavours). It`s a bit like a gaming Holy Grail. Sadly (sadly to me) the hobby has changed a lot over the last couple of decades. I don`t see it as having improved, merely` dummied down` a bit for a more throwaway society... only go onto some other blogs out there and you will find I am not alone in this thinking. Solo gaming has existed a very long time. I can remember it existing in a publically aware condition even as far back as 1973, when Don Featherstone wrote "Solo Wargaming" to a clamouring and appreciative hardcore knot of battle loners. And for Don to have written this book there must have been a demand stretching even further back . Certainly I was enjoying solo wargaming as far back as around 1968, because I wrote it in my first ever diary, as a kid.
Back in the day, solo gaming meant you had to put in a lot of work to bring a game alive. Sites like "Campaigns of General William Augustus Pettygree" is a perfect example of putting in a lot of effort to reap amazing rewards of personal satisfaction - and the admiring respect of fellow gamers.
Sooo, nowadays most people pick a game and all that game`s expansions (not for long because they invariably pick up another, and another, and another, but still.. let`s stick with this analogy for the time being): but really, you are getting a funnelled linear progression game, designed to make you `buy into it` and spend progressively lots more money with the company selling the product. And for what? a simplified game which never-quite-fulfils the Grail yearning in your innermost heart. No game of this type ever will.. otherwise you`d see people picking up Zombicide or Tallisman, or Command and Colours, and sticking with it rather than always looking for the next best thing. If you want a game you can immerse into (and stick with) for years, you should perhaps be taking up Bolt Action, or Black Powder, or Judge Dredd or.... anything which is more a genre system rather than a fluffy shiny thing in a box. Anything with guts to it will endure: anything which doesn't - simply won't.
So this leads me on nicely to Star Wars, and namely Fantasy Flight Games Imperial Assault and their rather enormous and large role playing game based on the same ethos.. i.e. the Star Wars franchise of films, animation, Expanded Universe books, graphic novels, and audio narrations. Star Wars is an epic telling of a vast story: far too big to be told in a single lifetime in fact. And if any one game company out there has got it right, without a doubt, that company is Fantasy Flight Games.... twice in a row in fact: First with their huge rpg, and later with their thematic miniatures (skirmish and campaign) table top board game. But I don't play either straight out of the book. I combine the two games to become a framework for retelling my own stories, my own adventures and epic sagas. Some of them aren`t even epic.. merely tales about smugglers and low level Jo Blogs type characters, trying to survive and scrape out a living in a chaotic world of futuristic high or low fantasy endeavour.
The following is a little tale I customised into a simple little game, and tells the story of four ordinary low-ish level heroes... people who decided to stand up and try and make a difference. What is the mysterious plague which has swept across this back water dust bowl planet, decimating life and causing the entire system to be quarantined and off limits to all interstellar space travel?
Believing the answers may lie within the computer data banks of a top secret Imperial instillation, located on outer fringe of the Spireward Desert (close to where the Imperial ship crashed, nearly one year ago), these four heroes decide to infiltrate the base, by force, and steal the (no doubt) encrypted files, escape.. and reveal (to the public) the insidious truth they suspect lies hidden within the Imperial computer archives.
A daring Smuggler named Jyn Odan: a hard faced, but strikingly handsome woman with an axe to grind against the Empire and the so called `Grand New Order.` Gaarkhan the Wookie.. and ever faithful companion of Jyn Odan, loyal and steadfast in his devotion to his friend. Gideon Argus, a civil rights romanticist and suspected dissident, waging his own private war in the name of the (growing) rebellion. And finally Diala Passil.. a Togrutu (similar to Twi` Lek but with four head tails): a quixotic would be Jedi of questionable pure motives and an unspoken, mysterious past. These four companions discover the location to the secret Imperial base and determine to break in and steal the vital information they seek to discover and release to the public.
So that`s the easy bit.
Next, they have to make their plan work!
The Imperial Garrison stand ready and waiting in the confined enclosure of the lush hydroponic garden area: the obvious means of entry from any would be encroacher.
Now then, here is the predicament. The rebel heroes (let`s start calling them that, because whether they realise it or not, that is what they are doing, helping the rebellion to unmask the insidious dealings of The New Order) are hoping they have the element of surprise and can burst in upon the Imperial garrison using the extreme element of surprise. That`s the theory, but I wanted to factor in a few random elements of my own just to make sure (on the day) that it all went down that way.
That`s the beauty of using FFG`s role playing game dice... especially when combined and used alongside the Imperial Assault game and dice as well. This allows an amazingly diverse range of possibilities for the gamer, the games master.. or the solo player, to dip into and resolve even the most compelling set of conundrums.
In this case I figured in setting up my `ambush` initiative check dice pool, I would set the difficulty as easy (just 1 purple Difficulty die).
The heroes themselves would be throwing 2 green Ability dice, and only needing to roll one success to succeed in achieving total element of surprise, as anticipated. All pretty clear and straight forward so far, I thought. However just to be sure it is a well planned ambush after all, lets upgrade one of the green Ability die to a Yellow Proficiency die (giving an even greater chance of scoring a success symbol or multiple successes even. Next, let`s give the Rebel heroes an additional blue Boost dice, so represent all the intelligence information gathered by their spy network (let`s hope their network is on the ball): and finally I need to throw a small spanner in the works, and include a single black Setback die into the dice pool.. to represent the fact the Imperials are meant to be elite soldiers. This will give them a slight margin of hope that their superb training might help them to react and defend themselves before being completely overrun. And so the first dice pool of the game is created. It really is as simple as that to set up. Let`s see what I rolled.
Wow, never let it be said that dice are immutable and without a sense of the ironic. Okay straight away we can see that, incredibly, the heroes only managed to roll 2 success (burst) symbols. The big Yellow Proficiency die and the blue Boost die both somehow managed to land with a blank face showing - so no help (or hindrance) there. This just leaves the Imperials to try and defend themselves, and look.. wow, we see 2 triangle Failure symbols displayed. 2 successes and 2 Failures, of course cancel each other out, so end result is no gain and no set back: hmmm the ambush isn't exactly going by the book so far. But look again closely, we`re still not quite done yet. So far all the dice in pool have either cancelled each other out or landed on a blank (no effect) face up. This leaves just one last symbol showing, and *gulp* it`s in the Imperial`s favour. On the Purple Difficulty die, we can see a round shield shape: this is a Threat symbol, and represents a negative side effect or/and consequence on either a success or a failure. Since this is the only remaining symbol out of the whole dice pool, after all other considerations have been factored into play, it means the Imperials have not been surprised and in fact, it looks like they were ready and waiting for the rebel scum.
Looking through the core Edge of the Empire rules book, I scoured for some examples on how best to resolve this situation. Fortunately, the 450 page core rule book is a massive font of information and helpful assistance. Yeah, end of the day it was pretty clear. The rebels had NOT achieved the element of surprise and in fact, the Imperial Stormtroopers had the initiative... and not the attackers at all.
The rebels burst into the hydroponic garden. And face off against a stoic row of ready and prepared Imperial Garrison Elite. "um guys, I think... they know we are coming." said the tall Jedi woman in her soft exotic eastern accent: not without a comic touch of ironic humour.
Both sides stand off a few paces from one another and time seems to stand still.
"Can we talk about this boys?" The Jedi quips.
Suddenly, someone reacts... a young Imperial officer - eager for promotion: "Shoot them!" Blaster fire starts spewing towards the rebels, and all at once, the Imperial garrison are shooting at the rebel intruders. Bursts of murderous energy crash into Jyn Odan, the smuggler woman, and in a single round of combat, is reduced dangerously low in health. Her Soak (defence/armour) did little to stop the expert shooting of the veteran white armour clad soldiers. In return fire using her skill "Hair Trigger" Jyn manages to draw her pistol and shoot a rapid succession of counter fire, dropping a trooper on the spot.. where he stood; (as a final action) the woman darts into cover provided by a nearby wall, and hurriedly applies a stim-pack to her wounds (6 health - 6 damage +2 stim-pack recovery = 2 wounds left).
My Imperial Assault core box set comes with 34 finely sculpted miniatures. I painted them all in two sittings (few hours each day). I`m a fast painter, and have never been fussy about painting my lovely `toys` and like to see them set up and being played with, rather than fussing over how they look. I think mine look fine anyway, and isn`t it better to play than not to play?
A series of good rolls from the Imperials sees one of the rebels dangerously close to being knocked out of the fight. A single trooper goes down in a return crossfire.
An Imperial probe droid is activated, and floats menacingly towards the intruders. Gaarkhan (the Wookie companion of Jyn), seeing his friend injured, sees red and flies into a Wookie berserk rage, charging the probe droid with a wild rush of fur and muscle. The creature swings his vibro axe with all his might and... CLANG! roars in dismay as his blow all but bounces off the metal armour of the floating machine (a single wound is caused, the rest is lost in Soak from the droids thick armour plating). But thankfully, Diala uses her honed Jedi like skills to leap into the fray.. bounding in right beside the Wookie, and deals destruction with her electronic vibro pole as she lashes first left the right with deadly accuracy and precision. The Probe Droid is chopped down, and collapses on the ground next to the fallen trooper.
Gideon (the last rebel hero still to activate) spots the Imperial officer making towards a computer terminal. He realises that man must be stopped: or all hell could break loose here: the security doors locked down, or reinforcements bought in. Using Tactical Manoeuvre, Gideon rushes forward... weaving his way through the fight, until he has a clear line of sight to the young officer.. just as the officer`s fingers are poised over the terminal and are about to access it. Gideon shoots his blaster pistol, and the grey clad Imperial man flails to the ground.
With precision aim, Gideon gets his man!
I make a dice pool, a simple pool of two green Ability dice, and a single purple Difficult die. The results are clear. A success... a negative (to cancel each other out), two Advantage symbols and one Threat (one of the Threat and one Advantage cancel one another out... still leaving one Advantage to the rebels).
Gideon shouts over the noise of blaster fire. For a moment in surprise, both sides stop firing. " It doesnt need to go down like this.. give it up fellas!" The two remaining Stormtroopers look about them and see all the rest of their number is lying on the ground and either groaning or not moving. Looking to each other, in mutual silence, they lower their blasters, deciding surrender and to live to fight another day, is the better part of valour. Jyn limps to the Imperials.. pushes them to a corner, and proceeds hurriedly to bind and lash their hand together. "Don`t move from this spot!" she warns them menacingly.
Gideon glides to the computer terminal and proceeds to slice into the machine, desperately trying to break the security protocols and access the terminal. Gaarkhan and Diala rush down the corridor to the door at the far end, hoping to secure it in case any fresh Imperials enter the scene.
The roll is simple. Two dice. A big 12 sider Proficiency die to represent Gideon`s skill as a slicer. But a horrible big Challenge dice (also a 12 sider) to represent the security encryption of the Imperial computer terminal itself.
Wow, a glorious Triumph.. what a success: and a blank face on the Challenge die: so no help for the computer terminal there. Gideon slices the terminal with total ease, and finds the information he is hoping for. His face clouds over and a slight open mouthed expression betrays the shock at what he discovers. "It was the Imperials wot done it!"
"What, Gid?" Jyn looks aver at him, confused.
"they engineered and released the bloody zombie virus on this planet, that`s wot!"
The quixotic Jedi looked over at Gaarkhan a moment.
"I agree with the Wookie.... time to go."
Broadsword and the Beast
Sasha was close now. She could feel it in her bones: from the creeping dread that climbed from the nauseous knot in her stomach towards her tightening throat, to the inner voice that screamed at her senses to run.
But Hanko had said this was the way. Coming to her late as she entertained and caroused herself towards drunken stupor. The old woman was a shadow of her former self… especially now that her brother was gone, killed by the hand of Blades.
So Blades hadn’t destroyed the zombie after all! The raw fact was slow to sneak into Sasha`s befuddled mind. Why would she lie? Surely she had destroyed the creature? But Hanko`s presence at Hairy Mary’s suggested otherwise. If it was anyone else, Sasha would have been tempted to disbelieve it. She would have given them a clout round the ear for bothering her when she was deep in her cups and warned them to `wise up`. But this was Hanko: community elder of Jo`s Gap, and not one to make up stories or take fright over every moving shadow that couldn’t easily be explained by the cool light of day.
“Near the Toxic Sump.” The old woman had insisted. “My Jo saw it when he was out bagging in the Old Mines past Raggy Gap, he said it had the rot!”
“Why did you come to me with this Hanko?” Sasha asked. Her heavy gothic accent accentuated by the copious bowls of `second best` swilling in her belly.
Hanko had looked down at the ground and would not meet her eyes. “Well, with Blades still missing I thought…….” She trailed off.
But Sasha understood full well what Hanko was implying. Blades had taken a party of girls on a routine mission a week ago and had not been seen since. None of them had. Speculation was rife within the gang and spreading fast, but Sasha was doing what she could to quell the gossip. Sasha also knew that if Blades truly was gone, ambushed and lost in some terrible fight, Sasha was next in line to lead the Amazons.
Scouting parties had gone looking for Blades, but the Boss was always so secretive about everything… no one had a clear idea where they had been heading when Blades led the small team out. Talk had been spreading, despite Sasha`s efforts to avert it, and some were saying that Blades had sold out and was gone for good. The most common rumour being circulated was that the Boss had found a hidden stash and had taken a few trusted warriors with her… had done away with the others when the treasure was secure and was now top side enjoying fine foods, sipping cocktails and being waited on hand and foot by docile oil scented male slaves, all hung like donkeys and ready to fulfil her every whim at a single command from their new silken robed mistress.
No! Not Blades style and Sasha knew it. Whatever had delayed her friend and leader was not a sobering thought and one that upset the tall ganger immensely. “Blades had never been gone this long before, not without word.”
So Sasha had gone up to Hairy Mary’s to get drunk, away from prying eyes. She had been surprised to see Hanko turn up when she did. But even more surprised by what she had to say.
Now Sasha paced the trails alone as evening fell and the glow globes spluttered and dimmed to dots of pale white light, to reflect the passage of the Moon as the passion planet moved across the night sky, high above Top-side… way out of reach of the deeps below.
Whatever this thing with the Zombie was all about; Sasha would sort it without bothering the rest of the girls. In fact, they need never know.
Shadows caused eerie shapes to loom like hidden monsters. `This is close to where Catz fell, ` Sasha reflected, chastising herself for not having stopped off at Gloryhole to fetch a few weapons from the stash. The Testing Ground was a sore bone of contention with the Amazons. Uncharted and contested by many of the local gangs that roamed here,the region: A no-man’s land, and notorious haunt of many predators that hunted in the deeps.
Sasha gripped the pommel of her great sword a little more tightly.
Sasha found signs of the undead thing all right. Blood and foul smelling gunk from the rot infested creature made it fairly easy to pick up its trail. Through the Bad Lands and across the Phoenix Ring (an ancient pillared motorway, now deserted and overgrown… hanging dangerously above the ground, twisted and decayed) through derelict deeps and oozing pits of toxic lava and heat sinks. Eventually, she found herself at a part of the Barrens she did not know, and crawled through some ancient derelict town and made her way along a remains of a moss and weed ridden highway.
A circular iron access port that steamed slightly lay half open on the path ahead of her. There was more slime on the rusted metal and Sasha knew she was close to her prey.
Dropping down into an ancient sewage tunnel, Sasha crouched where she had dropped and allowed her eyes to adjust to the gloom.
Light! A dim green glow was illuminating the whole tunnel system, due to the phosphorous moss that clung to the walls all around. From somewhere ahead Sasha could hear the echoing sound of gurgling water trickling through pipes, but there was no other noise to disturb the eerie sub-light.
She was in a wide passage leading left and right. Ahead of her, situated pretty evenly along the wall were three features: two doors and a third narrow tunnel leading away into darkness. Sasha observed that the air smelled foul from the direction of the tunnel, and the dirt had recently been disturbed along the floor towards where the right hand door lay.
Sasha crept towards the middle way and listened carefully at the door.
From the other side of the door, Sasha suddenly felt an over powering sense of evil. Her death lay that way… every instinct in her body screamed at her not to open the door and see what was beyond. But suddenly the skull shaped metal handle on the portal started to turn, creaking loudly with rusty vocal emphasis.
Making the Amazon throw some dice for her dread filled heart, she failed her morale roll by 1: and I decided to make Sasha run away fast for a whole move, back towards the man-hole cover she had recently dropped down from.
Above her, the iron grate rasped and groaned as it was pulled and slid noisily over the opening: cutting off all effective way of escape in that direction. With a loud clang! The metal slipped into place: and a leering face looked down at her through a small grille.
“Hanko?” Sasha`s called up in astonishment.
“Hanko! For God`s sake open this Grate and let me up…. something’s coming.” Sasha`s voice cracked, betraying her terror.
“Yes I know.” The old woman called down, quite calm and collected.
“The Master will enjoy you…. bitch.” Hanko called down matter-of-factly. Enthusiastically: almost cheerfully.
From behind her, Sasha could hear the groans of the restless dead as they moved and crawled towards her. Empty ones were appearing from the gloomy passage on the right, and all round her from low holes in the walls that she had not spotted earlier.
A face appeared beside Hanko`s, through the grille: weathered, slant eyed…. A native Iroquois scout?
“Death to all Amazon.” He smirked coldly, boldly, confidently….cruelly. The voice of a man passing sentence. The voice of a man who holds no doubt his words of prophecy will see fruition. The face had a striking resemblance to ratty.
Something small flapped towards Sasha out of the darkness of the roof and slashed at her face with sharp claws, drawing blood from her cheek with steel like talons and digging flesh from her neck with its needle sharp teeth. Poison coursed through her body and she crashed to her knees with sudden paralysis.
The pet Quasit flew back to the ceiling with a shriek of triumph.
Dimly, Sasha was aware that there was squealing coming from behind the left hand door…. sounding like pigs. But the scent that was being beaten into the wind that direction indicated a herd of blood incensed Maws, all clamouring to get in on the kill.
The Empty ones shambled forward all around Sasha. Soon they would be on her.
Overwhelming her in weight of numbers and tearing into her flesh with their decayed teeth and clawed fingers.
Sasha succeeded in her resist toxin (poison) roll and dragged herself to her feet, flailing her sword over her head to feel its balance. But as she turned, her eyes lock with ….. it!
“Oh my God no!” She whispered aloud.
Sheer shock and utter horror filled her eyes, and her mouth fell open in silent parody of a scream.
The thing before her merely raised a hand and pointed a bony finger towards her. Suddenly her throat constricted. Her limbs felt heavy and an unnatural tiredness washed over her mind, forcing her to stand still and watch as the dreadful scene unfolded around her.
The Master...... the Lich!
Move 3 & 4
The zombies clamber all over Sasha, biting, scratching, clawing deep chunks from her flesh. Literally eaten alive, Sasha`s last shocked and traumatized thoughts were spent trying to wonder why Hanko had led her into this horror filled blood soaked trap?
The empty stare, emotionlessly cruel as they dip their hands into soft yielding flesh.
Article by Steve