Once Upon a Wasteland. Wreck Age 2nd Edition Full Rules Impressions
I once, ok, maybe four-ish times, heard a guy somewhere say, "war never changes." Really? Because I feel like it's flavor of the week sometimes within the wargaming community. Everything changes. Maybe today I'm using d20s, tomorrow it's cards, the eternal pre-measure vs no pre-measure battle...which is a war in itself. In this hobby, it's different all the time!
Well, lookee here! Along comes another post apocalyptic contender in this ever-changing bout, looking to make the earth shake and the atoms split....we welcome: Wreck Age 2nd edition!
I'm mostly going to focus on the new 2nd edition of Wreck Age full rulebook. I've only been vaguely familiar with the previous system through namesake despite meeting one of the creators at an expo and having some friends involved with demos. Somehow the game system itself has eluded my, seemingly growing more and more limited table time. I feel as if I've entered in to a recent post-apocalyptic multimedia binge however and wanted to give it a fair shake as it's an attractive IP with an already solid foundation and following.
In full disclosure, I was provided with a slightly advanced copy of the full 2nd edition rules to give it a read through and explore and share my opinions. I don't get paid for this hobby...in fact it costs me more than I'd like to admit. 🙂
So, what is Wreck Age? To be blunt, from my read through, it's a sandbox skirmish game...or a wastelandbox? Actually, it's an RPG. Actually, it's a Fallout Shelter game. Actually...hmmmm.
There are a lot of hmm's in this game. The hmm's of modularity and potential as I like to call them...starting now.
The guys over at Hyacinth Games have crammed a surprising amount of gaming elements in to this book. My pdf copy clocks in at about 132 pages. And within those pages are bubbles of art, world fluff, core game mechanisms, character building, skirmish scenarios, a campaign overlay, random encounters, in-game community extension, item tables...no lions and tigers and bears though. *sees wild beasts listed as a character type* Oh my!
That's a lot of content. I remember reading Rogue Stars and thinking, "man oh man, look at all these charts. This is going to be hell!" It wasn't of course. It was just something that was somewhat arcane, perhaps a bit unintuitive. You had to pace yourself.
At first glance, the full rules of Wreck Age 2nd are similar, but at the same time simplified and expanded.
The art within the book is quite evocative. It has a realistic style with muted colors, representing the dire situation the world was left to muster in. Kudos to Hyacinth for choosing their artist, I dig it, and wouldn't mind more. I'm an old schooler though, and love when indy books cram all kinds of weird art in to any blank space they can.
The fluff, while giving the impression of standard post apocalyptic nuclear wasteland scenarios, veers away from that. Perhaps they did not want to be immediately associated with the Fallout series like so many other games, so they set up their world to have a slow, crawling death and rebirth through classism ideologies. The richest and most powerful wanted to leave earth, some do and abandon the normal populace, fights ensue, the world slowly dies over the next couple of centuries. Over time, the local extrema seem to multiply, so you have them represented as various dominant groups throughout the wasting regions. You have people like the common folk Stakers, the old technology obsessed Reclaimers, to the fairly unique Stitchers...who are basically the old physicians who extend life through organ harvesting and parodies of science. Quite a few more are listed, so I'm certain there is something everyone will find appealing as a correlate to their favorite archetypes.
Right off the bat, the book lists core gameplay concepts. My initial impression was that this looked like a glossary of terms, but it laid out the fundamental structure of gameplay. It's really a fairly simple, open system. Each character has a stat-line. For most of the stats, you simply roll that many d6s trying to beat a target number. Much of the time, that number is a 4+, but this can be modified by common things such as cover, weapon range, training level, prior actions taken, etc. Yes, there are charts for those, but with a stat sheet it shouldn't be too difficult to make a note here or there, and they make thematic sense for the most part.
Movement is your movement stat in inches...with +1d6/+2d6 when running or sprinting, so, yes, you can fall short of where you need to be! On average though, you'll hit some strides and make it across the playing area and in to action fast enough. The playing area can be on a 2x2 or 3x3, making for some fast battles.
Outside of target numbers, there are also opposed test rolls, where successes between opponents cancel out.
Ah, and sort of an exploding d6 mechanism, where every extra 6 you roll after the first adds 1 to the first 6. With big dice rolls you could probably hit 8+ as a result making the improbable possible.
Actions themselves are through an action point system. You spend those points on simple actions (mostly a cost 1-3), and can also choose to forfeit them for a most effective complex action.
In terms of a minis game, that was a little different from other systems I've played, but not unfamiliar if you've played tactical video games or chit wargames like Conflict of Heroes.
Various forms of fighting, shooting and stances are included in this action point system. Since this is a very custom character driven game, actually killing characters can be difficult. There is a chart for results, but it stands to make sense that if you're only running 3 guys in your crew, they should survive to do cool stuff. This is also a '1 player activates a model at a time' game. So, there is some leniency as to how resistant they are to insta-death. (Not impossible of course! ;D)
It's a fairly in depth system with a lot of common-sense actions that you would expect people to be able to accomplish in real life.
So the gameplay mechanisms aren't the most mind-blowing unique system there is, where does this game stand out?
Well, the Hyacinth boys have crafted a really nice campaign mode in this game! Actually, they've gone a few hops and skips further down the road from a simple: "level up your dude so he's better."
Oh yes, dear readers, they've included that part, but also tied it in to a really interesting Community building and Random Scenario generator.
Frostgrave touched upon this briefly by associating your warband with a headquarters that gave you powers. Wreck Age is much more in depth, where you can buy individual structures with your xp (called Resource Units (RU). Some of these give bonuses, but you must pay upkeep to maintain. This is a very unique idea for a minis game as it gives off the vibe of a city builder strategy game and has a "living" feel to your groups growth outside of becoming individual killing machines.
A personal favorite is the Random encounters that come during scavenging steps of the campaign cycle. These totally capture the random encounters of the first 2 Fallout games, if you recall, where you're just a dot moving around a map...and suddenly stop. The screen jumps in to tactical mode and you're in the wasteland. You walk forward and see a blue police box. It generates a strange whirring noise and vanishes before your eyes! Wreck Age has an equivalent to this, where you're generally accruing RUs to build your community while scavenging, but by rolling certain results you refer to a random encounter table filled with all kinds of quirky showdowns.
These almost seem suitable for solo play...
While the game does recommend a narrator (ie: GM), I don't see why one couldn't run some of these scenarios for their own crew. People love little side stories like that in their games! Look at Red Raven's Near&Far board game. Or FFGs Fallout board game. Hyacinth managed to shove that aspect in here as well.
So it seems like there's a lot of good content in the new book. Any criticisms?
I wish the layout of the book was slightly more organized. Apparently it is compared to the last edition, but since I don't have that I can't directly check. For the most part the book follows a logical sequential order giving you the core rules, basic fluff, and progressive campaign depth, but sometimes the charts for weapons seem out of place, or the "extra archetypes" at the end. Why weren't they just with the other faction archetypes?
I also feel they need a few more gameplay examples. The basics for moving and shooting are there, but very little in terms of direct examples of more abstract instances. For an experienced minis gamer this is not difficult to interpret, but picture examples assist in making a game more newbie friendly.
That begs an important question. Would I recommend this to newbies?
It's a tricky answer, because the sheer amount of options in this book might be overwhelming...but I also feel it's deceptively so, because Hyacinth has crafted a very modular entry in to the skirmish wargaming ocean.
Do you want to play just a simple 2 on 2 showdown at high noon with a couple of standard archetypes? You can.
How about build you own scavengers from scratch just the way you want? You can.
What happens on the road home from that scavenging adventure? Roll some dice. Oh look, you found an old radio tower filled with goodies. Explore it!
Where do you want to store all those goodies? Well, buy a vault back home and put them in there.
There's a lot of good stuff in here that a player can take as deep as they want, possibly for as long as they want. Hyacinth has also set themselves up for expandability. Their character building system can have more archetypes, abilities, feats, weapons, pre-made stat cards, etc. They sell vehicles, but the rules for them weren't in this book. Their fluff and world they've built could be explored even further (they do have campaign books on this already.) New buildings and options for communities. Heck, an expanded Random Encounter generator specifically for solo play would be fantastic. *wink wink*
Overall, for me this new edition felt like a solid imaginative catalyst. I even immediately thought, "I might be able to bridge the gap between mini gamers and roleplayers with this as an experiment," and had inklings of recreating The Lord of the Rings as a post apocalyptic scenario, to breathe fresh air in to a comfortable familiarity to non-minis people. (Think, instead of a ring, a bio-mass repair unit that absorbs water around it , that has malfunctioned and is performing uncontrollably. A community sets out to destroy it by dumping it in to an old, working smelting plant guarded by Church of Fun druggies. We could even start with a rat killing mission to get them up to speed with the core rules. Video-game RPG style. ;))
Surely the sign of something promising.
Check it out @ http://www.wreck-age.net
(Also, please excuse my unpainted models. I based and primed them quickly to try out a few scenarios but have not had the chance to get colors on them yet. If anything, I believe it shows the details of the models more clearly. ;))