Have you ever wanted to see a fat bloke with a gammy leg do a three-mile dash, in the dark, at least half on unlit footpaths and the last mile uphill? Tough, ’cause I’m not doing it again.
The Corehammer Fest was a top day out despite my phone deciding to mute its alarm because it was too early in the morning, even though I’d deliberately set an alarm for too early in the morning on account of needing to be up too early in the morning. Attempts at planning and prep and arriving suave, chill and generally in control were therefore wasted as I was already a sweaty wreckage before the first train to Stockport had even arrived. I’d brought my Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, expecting stand-in DM duty after Nate lost his voice, and my SAGA Revenants on the off-chance that I might actually get to play a game with them.
Rumour has it that the North West Gaming Centre was formerly a foetid factory floor, magnet for catpissmen and Kippers, and in essence a gaming venue of the old school – which is to say the shit school, in which dysfunctional adults put up with dingy conditions and unadulterated nonsense because they don’t expect or demand anything better. I am delighted to say that the North West Gaming Centre is definitely not like that now: Element Games have done a nice job of making it into a gaming venue of the new school, which is to say ‘well lit, well ventilated, well supplied for terrain and beverages, staff are nice, and catpissmen are conspicuous by their absence’.
(Apropos of nothing: next time I get into an argument about Inclusion and Gaming, remind me that “wanting to get more birds into RPGs” is not the same thing as “creating an inclusive space in which all are welcome”, because I feel no obligation to include catpissmen, bra-droolers, nobbers and spods in my utopian elitist gaming scene. Fortunately, the morning’s exertions hadn’t left me too smelly – normally I’d consider the prospect that everyone was too polite to mention it, but this is Corehammer, nobody would be too polite to mention gamer funk.)
Wild In The Streets
I’ve had models for Wild In The Streets since last year, when Chris Kohler was nice enough to send me a batch to review. I built them, and then left them in a drawer for ages. This was a mistake, as Wild In The Streets is actually quite a good game. It’s a short, sweet urban brawler, where each player brings a handful of crusties, edgemen, skaters, goths or other yoof culture types and they smack each other about. For reasons. Apparently this is life in California. I made up the numbers for a four-way demo and was landed with the goths. For reasons.
Deployment. Everyone shuffles their models’ stat cards together to form a deck. You flip cards from said deck and deploy in that order, anywhere on the board that’s more than a double move from anyone else.
Turn one: As before, shuffle the stat cards into a deck, flip cards from it, play proceeds in that order. Models can stand still and throw something, move and throw something less accurately, or run and not throw anything at all; at the end of their move they can fight anyone in contact with them. Mechanics are basically opposed d10+stat rolls. It’s very elegant.
Verdict: lightweight, casual, anarchic game, perfect for an event like this where you might have four or five people kicking around. Really easy to get the hang of and refreshingly non-spoddy. I’ve dug out my goths and murder cult girls and they’re next in the painting queue.
Cometh the afternoon I heroically volunteered to get Brinton warmed up for his title fight against Boxall. (Every time Boxall gets into a new wargame, Brinton has to beat him at it. It’s a Thing.) Brinton, like myself, had bought the Revenants thinking they’d sell out, and then done bugger all with them for months. (At least I painted mine. Sort of. Made an artistic statement, anyway.) Unlike myself, Brinton had played SAGA before. Quite a lot of SAGA actually. That said… well, this game was a bit of a learning curve for him too, since a lot of his Pagan Rus trickery apparently doesn’t work on the walking dead.
Verdict: I thought I’d like SAGA and I wasn’t wrong. It does have That Thing That Modern Wargames Have, where it’s less a simulation of conflict and ‘true’ military tactics and more an arena in which rules interact. This doesn’t bother me in itself provided the rules themselves are elegant, straightforward and discourage nobbers and spods. SAGA goes out of its way to discourage nobbers and spods by allowing pre-measuring and sticking to a rigid set of pre-defined distances for everything in the game, and also by flat out telling players not to be picky moos. “If your opponent moves his figures so that they stay out of range of your bows, be content that they are out of range, do not fuss over a few millimetres here and a few millimetres there.” Direct quote. “Honestly, cover is very easy to determine in SAGA, so don’t complicate things that are stupidly simple.” Another direct quote. That’s you told.
Anyway. Yes. SAGA is definitely a ‘theatre of rules’ game rather than a ‘military simulator’ game, but my gamist/narrativist streak doesn’t really give a monkey’s about that sort of thing as long as I’m having fun and I understand why my blokes are fighting. I might have bought a box of plastic Foot Sergeants (for making Norman or Crusader infantry) from our friendly pewter crack dealer Annie, and dug out that metal Simon de Montfort from Salute last year (for being a Norman or Crusader Warlord). Apparently it’s my turn to trash Boxall next. Times are good.
The bottom line
Sadly that was it for me: the early morning and the running about had caught up with me, as had Nathan’s bloody diseases, and it was left for me to drag myself back to Stockport station, realise my phone had died, and resign myself to another, slower walk across Monmouthshire in the dark. Grand day out, nice to see the crew and put some people to some Facebook profiles and play a couple of new games, but maybe the next one could be in Cardiff, eh chaps?