AAR- Planet28: “Why are there so many planets?”
“Why are there so many planets? The brochure said there’d only be a few planets.” – Don Knotts if he played sci-fi skirmish minis games.Salutations friends and onlookers! It’s been a long while as this world has been thrashing and whirling in a fit of unsurety the past year or two, so it’s good to see you all once more. Seeing as how some semblance of normalcy has been returning, and to break in CSW member Karl’s new abode, some of the group assembled to enjoy a grand night of gaming…in person!
Three games were brought to the table: a mighty 4-player battle of Kings of War, the brand-spanking-new version of Steve Jackson’s Car Wars, and an exploration in to the indie sci-fi skirmish ruleset that’s been making some rounds: Planet 28.
Other respective members will be talking about their personal games, but for Mattias and myself we partook in the sci-fi ‘pew pew pew’ narrative of Planet 28.
Planet 28 exists as a narrative skirmish ruleset, that’s currently pay-what-you-want on Wargamevault. It’s a brief read and easy to play. A bonus is points based character creation is a breeze, and even with what seems to be few options you can create some very flavorful characters. It’s got a very ‘zine’ feel to it due to the art, which harkens back to the old Rogue Trader days (or Inquisitor), and I believe was made as a throwback to that style of narrative gaming; A time when your characters mattered more than the colors and spam abilities of your army, and your procedural story unfolding on the table mattered more than simulating the latest published lore novel.
First, let’s jump in to our game:
We agreed to a starting warband of 600 points. Initially I assumed I could get 6 characters out of this, however if I wanted my characters to actually be able to succeed on tests and have some flavorful abilities, I found those 600 points vanished quickly! I wound up with 4 moderately abled characters. Interestingly enough, Mattias had the same.
As an addendum, we also included some of the vehicle expansion rules (also available on Wargamevault) to try out a more embellished rules system. I’m glad we did because it showed how easy it was to integrate new parts in to the core game, and rather liked the basics of the vehicles driven.
Let’s get in to the narrative and then a rules discussion afterwards.
To start, I had to include some old GW models in my group because the flavor exuded by the system practically begs for it. When I see the old art, I love to dig through the bins for some old sculpt to paint up and use. Here I found an old Nurgle Plague Marine ‘ from a group I started painting some time back, an old Howling Banshee ‘T’shar’, a Rogue Stars (Northstar) rifle bot ‘CB-99’, and a not-yoda, ‘Magister Yado.’ I based my character creation off of the sculpts. The Plague Marine had characteristics like a stinky aura, tough in melee, poisonous dagger, berserker who loves to fight. T’shar was a well rounded, agile fighter with a power sword and laser pistol. CB-99 was pretty much only good at shooting and climbing, given that I wanted it to be a sniper bot and to find a perch early on. (Arguably this backfired on me several times in that my rolls to shoot were absolutely terrible…even with re-rolls!) Magister Yado was probably my favorite to create because I made him a nimble little close-combat jerk who had arcane abilities and could throw opponents around.
Mattias is really quite adept at coming up with scenarios and fluff. He didn’t let down in this aspect having a very fleshed out group of syndicate tech seekers. His leader, ‘Ludo’ (I believe), was a cybernetically enhanced corporate tech-monger. He brought with him two orc-ish ruffians (really cool classic looking sculpts) as firepower, one with a mighty anti-material rifle, and a large war-beast of burden to shamble through the battlefield and act like a blockade. Overall, it gave me a very Fifth Element/The Incal vibe.
The scenario: Mattias brought along some toy-bashed mechs to use for our scenario. We utilized the vehicle rules and said that the galaxy was full of ruined worlds and outposts with abandoned technology strewn about that’s fought over by small rag-tag bands of explorers. Our table had a set of industrial style modular ruins, and we used some mech markers as technology to be taken and utilized. We made the rule that if a character spent two uncontested actions (ie: a full turn), they could manipulate those mechs and use them as powerful driven battle-suits. For symmetry we placed them in the center of the battlefield. Since we also wanted to test out hazardous terrain rules we placed the round templates to be considered as toxic pools of radioactive sludge left over from the decades/centuries of colonial lack of regulation. We had 8 turns to acquire these and turn your enemies in to quark-gluon plasma.
Unsurprisingly in the first turn it was a mad-dash to get to those mechs seeing as how they could be a tide-turning weapon early. Mattias’ leader obviously made this move, however kept his model in more of a supportive position letting his grunts do the work under his inspirational influence.
My banshee, with a similar incentive but eschewing backup and with the fast trait giving a bonus to movement, was quickly able to run up to the first.
Magister Yado made a dash to the opposite mech, but spent an action mind-controlling one of the orc-ish brutes to turn around and take a shot at their employer! Hilarious, but he also missed. *grumble stormtroopers grumble*
My robot sniper as well as Mattias’ gunman both took the high road, attempting to get a better vantage point of the mess about to occur beneath the bridge.
Mattias’ beast took the long, slow route as a sort of flanking maneuver. Unfortunately, it crossed through some toxic waste on the path but did not damage it much.
With a flick of the control panels and the random mashing of buttons the banshee was able to get the first mech activated and armed!
Magister Yado and one of the orcish brutes contested the 2nd mech, demanding a trial by combat!
Magsiter Yado decided to run across the toxic waste pool to make the brute in to finely sliced orcish lunchmeat. However, it was more fun to use his force-push powers and send the brute flying towards the bridge pillar and in to the toxic pool! Ouch! While this left the mech uncontested, it also left Yado wide open.
Ludo also left the confines of cover to assist in the combat, but the giant mech gun had a few things to say about that. Something along the lines of “Boom. Scream of agony. Melting noise. A brief but satisfying sizzle.”
Hilariously, the orc brute caught in toxic sludge tried running towards the mech to keep it from being activated, melting as he did so.
Mattias’ second brute, capitalizing on a distracted Yado fiddling with mech controls started blasting away from his upper vantage point. With some solid rolls, this hurt. Yado got dematerialized, his ashes settling to the ground. His force spirit mumbling something about doing and trying.
All the while, my robo-sniper kept taking stationary shots at Mattias' gun-brute. I feel like, even with sniper re-rolls, I missed 9/10 times. ☹
This also happened several times with the big mech shooting *with advantage*.
Sometimes dice rule the day…oh my.
Mattias retaliated and wore down the sniper’s armor dematerializing him as well.
At this point, we were basically at the final round. The 2nd mech wasn’t going to get activated, and there was a good chance of prolonged combat, so the soldiers gathered their gains and losses and sped off to fight on another world.
Some thoughts on the game:
First off, it’s EASY to play. Anybody who wants a small, use-whatever-models-you-want game to play a quick afternoon game with a buddy or two will enjoy this. Character creation is brief, you only have a few basic stats. It’s points-based, and feels ~sorta balanced. I say “sorta” because some of the abilities seem a little more like statistically-obvious-takes than boosting a stat for example. Or vice versa. However, even with a somewhat small set of options, you can really make some fun and flavorful characters. It’s cool being able to pick a model, look through the options, and quickly make what you think that model should act like on the table. I felt like all of my characters were good representations of their sculpts or pop-culture basings.
It is metric based in the ruleset. Base movement is 10 cm, which is ~4", which might seem small compared to many games nowadays with 6" movement. This also applies to ranged weapons. 20-40cm may seem like a lot to us non-metric doofuses, but when you measure it out it's quite short! This encourages you to get in close!
Initiative is essentially a state based on character agility. If you WANT to go first all the time, boost a characters Agility stat higher. The game cycles through agility for turn order. This is great for people who hate rolling for it. (Granted there are tie-breakers, but with a diverse crew it shouldn't happen too often.) I think this also adds some strategic dimension for your actions since you can predict the turn order.
I also discovered that: I like armor rolls. Sure, it’s an extra roll that many games do away with entirely, but it’s kind of fun having that last chance based off your dice and your points investment. Initially I was worried that armor was *TOO* powerful, but when we did start rolling well enough, that damage added up quickly. The characters that died did so in 2 or 3 turns. There is still a question of whether some items are a bit too powerful. Power Armor seems really strong (and maybe it should be?), but so does the anti-material property in custom guns which can basically negate that armor bonus. In a sense, it can feel like a points-eliminator, but it takes a few turns to do it and it’s a pricey initial buy.
Some games give me a feeling that you could probably spend all your points on 1 mega-character who just can’t be killed. This is a non-issue for objective based games I suppose, where you need a good action economy, but I’m still wary of that.
The vehicle rules we implemented *on the fly* were fun and pretty easy to understand. This adds a lot when you want a small skirmish scenario but with some added vehicle as an obstacle in there. Imagine those WWII scenarios with a group of 4 or 5 trying to outmaneuver and outgun an enemy tank. I feel that this is doable and would be kind of fun in a game like this.
There are also solo-rules which I have not tried. I’ve paged through it, and it seems like a pretty standard affair for enemy activations, but it could be a fun one-off here or there.
My overall impression: Simple but clever, and deceivingly robust. It's a great game for convention or event play. It's not for tournaments, but good for telling a story. I actually have some future plans for the fantasy version, Brutal Quest, and am glad to have come away with positive thoughts about it's progenitor.
On the table:
Mattias deserves some major shout-outs for the modular terrain setup here. The terrain was all hand-crafted out of hobby store chipboard. It uses a tab-slot design to piece things together and add rails/ladders or whatever other items you could think of. The buildings stack, fit inside each other, and everything condenses in to a single box for storage. It’s really clever.
Below: A stop motion animation by Mattias showing the modularity.
To top it off, all of the textures were HAND-ILLUSTRATED and painted. It has a total Moebius-comic style to it, maybe some Blanche, that I find truly inspiring. You can tell he put in an immense amount of time and effort in to this and it shows.
Just look at some of these images! How fantastic is that?:
In fact, it was good to see many of the CSW members again after such a long time. I almost forgot how creative and talented this group was seeing so many painted classic sculpts, kitbashed models, markers, table pieces, etc. I probably have some convention withdrawal; the feeling I missed from minis conventions the past 2 years, but it was good to get some of that going again by seeing these guys.
Thanks for hosting Karl, and everybody for the games and inspiration!