Showing posts with label dwarfstar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dwarfstar. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Star Smuggler... again... and again

Ok, in my last post I created a new ship for Star Smuggler, creatively called "The Antelope II". It's twice as big as the original. 

Crewing the ship will be a problem as will generating weekly funds to pay for it. In order to dance around these issues, I decided to create a new mechanic for Duke Springer. Duke has a statistic no other character has, Cunning. When playing, you roll 1d6 to generate this value. When replaying the game, it is suggest that you reduce this number if the game was too easy and increase it if the game was too hard. 

Since the game already allows a changing value for this Cunning mechanic, I want to use it to rapidly add crewmen. Duke can "purchase" one crewman for a point of Cunning. He cannot spend all of his Cunning on this, he must have at least one Cunning point. 

The available options are all of the retainer types from e062 to e069. The player simply chooses the one(s) he wants, include the Driver who normally won't travel outside of his or her system. In this case, he or she would. Where there is a choice of two, such as gunners or bodyguards, Duke picks the better of them.

Stats are generated just like retainers, but crewmen are different than retainers. Each crewman has a stake in the ship as opposed to drawing a salary. When items more than 100 secs are sold, they take a 1% cut. They keep this money for themselves to buy goods or save, as they see fit. The crewmen can operate independently and can be separated from the ship and/or Duke to perform their jobs. 

Additionally, they purchase their stake in the ship from Duke. When these characters are initially created, they have 1d6+150 secs. which they pay half to Duke for a stake in the ship.
If Duke is killed, one of them takes over his role. 

EDIT - 1 - I tried that part and it was too difficult. I have changed it. Each crew generates their starting money and it is pooled. This pool is divided by the following formula: (pool/number of characters+2). Each person has a "stake" in the ship now, but the ship has two stakes. If the characters had 1000 secs. and there were 3 characters, each stake would be the 1000/5=200. Each character has 200 secs. while the ship has 400. The 400 secs. for the ship's stake is what is used to purchase goods for the ship. If a character purchases personal equipment, not for the ship, it comes out of their personal money. 

When items are sold, the funds are also divided up in this fashion, too. The sale of 100 secs. worth of goods would net each player 20 secs. and the ship would take twice that amount, 40 secs. This makes it much harder to generate funds for the weekly payments, but that is the cost of doing business. Save early, save often. 

To pay the 300 secs for the loan, players would have to make at least 1500 secs. a week. If the funds aren't there, all characters will kick in money from their personal savings. It's that or be hunted as a loan jumper. 

If new characters are added, recalculate the cost of each stake by adding the new character to the original formula. This means you need to write the formula down the first time you use it. The new character will then pay that amount to the ship's account to become a crew member. If a crewman dies, nothing much happens. When the sale of good occur, use the new number of crew in the formula. Yes, getting your crew killed will make more money for the survivors. It happens. 

As an added twist, these crewmen also have a Cunning skill. It is 1d6-2, with a minimum of 1. Like Duke, they can use this stat to bring on new crewmen at a later date. This creates the scenario where Duke probably isn't the most cunning person on the ship. As a consequence, if Duke enters a scenario where a cunning roll is needed, the roll is made by the character with highest Cunning present. If Duke desires to do something dangerous, he must accompany that person and pays the price of a failed roll himself.

EDIT 2 - This part didn't make sense. Duke can't decide for another crewman, he can't force them to be savvy. 

Something like Mal and Zoe's relationship where Mal has an idea and Zoe does the tricky work of getting the details right. It also covers a situation like when Simon hired the crew for a heist or when Mal brought Simon (and River) on as crew after they had started their adventures. 

EDIT 3 - The comparison doesn't make much sense now. 

I haven't even begun to categorize the rules and event changes this would require. But it seems rather workable. What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 

Star Smuggler... Again

I unexpectedly have the day off and want to revisit the Star Smuggler Universe. The temptation to reskin the characters as the crew of the Firefly is incredible, but that would take a lot of work. I am stealing some ideas, but not Firefly whole clothe. I have decided to interject some ideas from Traveller into this run through, too.

My understanding of Traveller is super weak, so I am taking some of the larger concepts and ignoring many mechanics. The main idea that I am stealing is weapon mounts are dependent on hull size. I have created a large ship, which I will dub the Antelope II and it's twice as big as a 100 ton ship.

The original Antelope was 100 ton ship with space to carry about 134 CU of goods. Sort of. I seem to get a different number depending on how I count. The Antelope II is 200 ton vessel and has 212 CU of space. That is a multiplier of 1.58 for those keeping score at home. 

Since this is Inktober, I wanted to keep the high contrast drawn vibe from the original game. I used GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) to create a new deckplan, staying as close to the original art as I could. It isn't exactly "ink" but it sort of looks like it. 


As you can see from this schematic, I have stolen a bunch of ideas from Firefly. The ship has space for two hoppers, a medical area and weapons hold. The crew area is much larger than the Antelope, holding 6 rooms or enough room for 32 CU of people. Unlike Firefly and the Antelope I, it has two gun mounts and no secret areas. The 60 CU cargo hold is of center as it was in the original design, but this ship has a second 40-CU hold fore of the main hold and bay. It can hold a second hopper, but that is not a standard option so play begins with just one. 

This ship would require a few of modifications of the rules, which I have not formally written up yet. It looks like I would have to rewrite 3 events and 3 rules: e001, e036, e157.4, r237, r229d and r217. The events cover your first day with the ship, e036 covers buying a new ship and e157.4 references the medical regrowth tank. The rules modified are r217 for starship damage, r229d for search locations and r237 for critical hit locations. In respect to hits and search locations, the only completely new things are the medical space and weapons hold. 

The medical space is simply an area large enough for several characters and the medic could hang out in there. It would count as quarters for searches and would be immune to criticals as it's a vault in the center of the ship. The weapons hold would be searched on cargo hold results and would share the immunity to criticals for the same reason as medical does. The medical space is somewhat like a turret as it has enough room for the 4 CU regrowth tank plus a medic and one patient. The regrowth tank is not a standard option, so the player would have to find one. As far as the extra crew quarters and hold, I would have each of them hit on a 50-50 chance. I think I thought of everything, but I will have to do a play through to be sure. 

Since we are talking about a ship 1.58 times bigger, I figure multiplying everything by that will give me good cost stats. The cost is 190,000 secs with an interest payment of 475 a week. All of these values are simply the original ship's stats multiplied and rounded up. At that price point, the player would get two sets of tech 1 guns and one hopper and 16 hits. 

The overly large size will create crewing problems. I'll look at that in my next post. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Star Viking Game Review

Title: Star Viking
Credits:
   Designer: Arnold Hendrick
   Graphics Design: David Helber and Arnold Hendrick
   Cover Painting: Bob Depew
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 1981
Pages: 24
Number of players: 2*
Rating: ★★★★


Star Viking places two players head to head for the survival of civilization. Well, one of you will defend the Federation civilization, the other will try to destroy it. The Star Viking boxed included a rules booklet, two dice, a folded sheet of 154 die-cut cardboard counters (each 1⁄2” square), and a sheet of 12 map tiles, each representing a star system.

Game procedure is easy, but as with all simple things can result in hideously complex results. The players are at cross purposes from the start. The Viking player selects his or her forces while the Federation arrays the map tiles and his or her defenses. Turns are divided into strategic and tactical moves. Tactical moves are only required when both players are in the same place.

 The map tiles are divided into sectors, with large cities representing more than one sector while sleepy moons are one sector. These sectors are equivalent to a hex. Some sectors are vacuum, while others are in an atmosphere. They are either contiguous or connected by an orbit line.

There are 20+ units available to the players, each one having a tech level. The sector's tech level determines if a unit can be placed there. For example, a sector with B tech level can support B and C type units. 

Each turn is divided in three, Strategic Segment, Tactical Segment and Politics and Economic Segment. Strategic is for moving vast distances, tactical is for combat and Politics and Economics represents responses such as building new ships or plundering.

One interesting twist on this game is, players purchase victory points to win. There are automatic victory conditions, if the Vikings sack the capital or one player accumulates twice as many victory points as his or her opponent via purchasing on or after the 7th round. If the game lasts all 12 rounds, then the player with the most victory points wins.

*This tiny set of rules has multiple expansions presented right in this set. The first variant is to play as a solitaire game. It suggests automatic movement by die roll, but doesn't include any tables. You are to make them yourself. The second is to use two hostile Viking players for a 3 way game. This requires having 2 boxed sets, which is easy to do since you can print them yourself. The third is to merely extend the number of rounds to 20, 30 or more.

There is exactly one errata, this was a very well produced game from the get-go and still provides hours of entertainment 30+ years later.

Friday, December 27, 2019

"You're the scum of the Sector!" Star Smuggler Review

Title: Star Smuggler
Credits:
   Designer: Dennis Sustare
   Graphics Design: David Helber
   Map Art: Tom Maxwell
   Cover Painting: Bob Depew
   Edited by Arnold Hendrick
   File prep for online publication: Eric Hanuise
   Digital Character Record Sheets: Ron Shirtz
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 1982
Pages: 24 Page Rules Booklet, 20 Page Events Booklet
Number of characters: Solo adventure, many characters.
Rating: ★★★★

This game has a story to start the story. I came by my physical set back in the late 80s and loved it ever since.

But for the publishers, designer and author, the story was a bit more rocky. I don't know all of the details, but the Publishers, Heritage and the imprint Dwarfstar had a run of popular and cool games such as Barbarian Prince, Demonlord, Outpost Gamma, and Star Viking starting in 1981. These were all in house games created by Heritage/Dwarfstar. Two games were designed and created by outside designers, Dragon Rage and Star Smuggler. Hard times hit and the company and their imprint were down but not entirely out.

In 2003, Reaper Miniatures obtained the rights to many of these games allowed them to be reproduced online. (Click the link for all the games) In 2006, Dennis Sustare granted permission for limited online distribution by Dwarfstar.brainiac.com of Star Smuggler.

I snagged a photo of the game for this review. You can check out all of the art and the full game on Dwarfstar's website. I only mention this due to the Distribution Agreement at the end of this post, while the photo is probably fair use, I agree with the agreement below. Although I have a physical copy, I would like to thank Eric Hanuise for all the work in digitizing this game for online distribution.

So how does this game play? Very well for something probably designed, typeset and edited entirely by hand. You are playing "Duke" Springer, a business man turned criminal... maybe. Depends on how you roll, literally sometimes. After a quick read through the rules, you are ready to go. The rules spell out what you can do, but often not what you cannot do. That is to be expected in such a light weight game. Your character has 4 stats, hand to hand, ranged combat rating, endurance and cunning. All characters have the first 3, while only Duke has cunning. Cunning allows Duke to outsmart other characters and enemies.

To play, you write out your character stats, money and inventory on a sheet of paper. Recently, I don't know when, Ron Shirtz published a character record sheet and time tracker to make this task easier. You flip to e001 in the events book and you are off to adventure.
The future of the 80s was pink and green.
In the course of play, you can hire a crew, get in combat, buy and sell or run down many of the special events, some of which are relatively simply side quests. The goal is to pay off your debt on your starship, a total of 120,000 secs. or Sector Exchange Units. Every week you have 300 secs. interest payment and paying on principle doesn't reduce this amount. Back in the 80s, front-ending loans was thing, I guess.

The game has many locations where events occur and these locations are divided up in the System by planet and then planetary regions, like cities, starports, space stations, ruins, etc. It is a rather ingenious system which precludes oddities such a car dealer on a spacestation or military presence in a ruins, except for when those things would make sense in context. Travel from one area or planet to another eats a lot of game time, which is important for making those interest payments. You are totally on the clock, all the time, in this game.

Have you heard the phrase, "You need to spend money to make money"? That is totally true in this game. While it is a solo game, you need to hire a crew to be effective. And the crew gets paid, so you need to be sharp with your money.

How do you win? Pay off the ship. How do you lose? Die or lose the ship. Simple.

However, within the events booklet, there are seemingly dozens of different endings. I've never troubled to count the actual number but there are more than a few. The first time through, these auto-win, auto-lose events add flavor and spice, but on replay, they are an annoyance. Depending on your mood, you probably don't want to win or lose by a single die roll in a game that requires so many die rolls.

One of things that stands out in this game is the ever-changable scenery, the planets, tend to not so much scale as warp so you can have a very different experience on each one with the exact same mechanics. There are very few things in the game that change the mechanics, which is nice. The rules are dense, but once you have them down, they're easy to remember.

Some of the downsides to this game are many, but none of them are a deal breaker. The system has a simple but effective combat system, which is obviously lethal to participants. You can die in a shootout that leaves your crew alive, but purposeless. Game over. There are a number of cheap shot endings, which are annoying if you play frequently enough.

This game is actually complex enough to have a number of things in the middle ground as far as gameplay goes. First and foremost, there are some rather obvious things left out. You can pilot a ship, fight well and use a variety of weapons from ship guns to hand weapons. But you can't drive a skimmer, the 1980s' future version of a car. Skills can't increase, except Cunning. Combat is deadly in a vacuum, but can you depressurize your ship? Not covered, at least not as a purposeful action. Can you have two ships?

One of the stranger bits is the concept of "losing". There are a few events which specifically cause a lose condition, like death or imprisonment, but there are a number of ways to lose everything except your character. Is that a loss? Don't know. Without a ship, you can't do much, but you also have less of a chance of dying. So you can have series of lingering "not winning" scenarios.

There is a difference between the physical books and the digital files. Eric Hanuise remastered many of the confusing typos right out of the books, and incorporated all of the errata into the text. Thank you, Mr. Hanuise. The physical boxed set also had counters printed on the box cover edge. That did nothing for the box, which was sturdy before I cut it. Again, the counters have been reproduced and even improved. The ability to print as many counters as you like is wonderful, but I find myself using random counters.

The main upside of a programmed solo adventure is that it is always there for you. The big downside is, if you are a creature of habit, you can get yourself stuck in the game, repeating the same routes and sequences again and again. This isn't a limitation inherent to only Star Smuggler, it is inherent to all solo adventures.

All and all, I'd give this 4 of 5 stars even though it is one of my most prized games. It has a lot of bugs and flaws, but still worth a play or 100. Download it today.

DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT -- PLEASE NOTE Dennis Sustare has granted permission for digitized copies of this copyrighted game to be posted for public download. The game and files are NOT released into the public domain. You MAY NOT not sell these files or charge a fee for access to them. You MAY NOT distribute these files except as authorized by Dennis Sustare. PLEASE RESPECT THE TERMS OF THIS DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT so that these files can remain available for free download.
By downloading any files from this page you are certifying that you will abide by the terms of this distribution agreement. All of these conditions must be posted prominently and openly on any page or site providing access to these files.