Saturday, 5 May 2012

Just one look, that's all it took, yeah.

So a big box from America arrived today from that nice Mr Weiss at Brigade Games.  Inside were some Paroom Station miniatures I'd ordered a while back, and a copy of "Valor, Steel and Flesh", Paroom's own Victorian Science Fiction ruleset.  Now while I still think of myself as a GASLIGHT loyalist, it's no secret that there are a couple of aspects of the game as written that aren't playing well for me right now, so I'm looking around at alternatives.  Earlier in the year I playtested three possible "replacements", Colonial Adventures from 2 Hour Wargames, FUBAR VSF and Ross Mac's "With MacDuff to the Frontier".  But Valor, Steel and Flesh  is very popular on the Lead Adventure Forums, so it's something I'd wanted to take a look at for a while.

Now while I generally agree that game reviewers should always play a game before trying to review it, in this case it only took a quick read through of "Valor" to realise that this wasn't the GASLIGHT beater that it promised to be.  To be honest it felt more like the result of someone's extensive set of GASLIGHT houserules combined into a new ruleset, as the two games share an awful lot of common ground.  Both are roll-under-target systems, although GASLIGHT uses D20s and Valor uses D10s.  Both have 10 man units and both base morale checks on rolling under the number of surviving men.  The ranged weapons tables look very similar with close/long range, ROF and armour penetration stats.  Both games use card initiative, although Valor only uses it to determine which side may activate a unit, not the specific unit as in GASLIGHT.  But I wouldn't suggest for one moment that either game copied off the other - Valor is apparently based on "Brother Against Brother", an ACW skirmish ruleset that predates GASLIGHT, so it looks to me more like a case of parallel evolution.

Where GASLIGHT is kept as open and loosey-goosey as possible in order to cater to as many different visions of VSF as possible, Valor is written primarily to support the Parroom Station "Redcoats on Mars" setting, which despite claims to the contrary is basically a mashup of Space 1889, Barsoom and War Of The Worlds.  Like original GASLIGHT, Valor shies away from giving points values, instead recommending a more "story based" approach to scenario design.  This is admirable, but to be brutally honest, sometimes it's nice to have some sort of point system to help the scenario designer get a rough idea of relative strengths.  Valor takes the story approach one step further, advocating the use of "event cards" (but sadly only giving a half dozen as examples) and a "plot point" system which allows players to spend points to avoid bad dice results in-game.  The latter is fairly common in roleplaying games, but this is the first time I think I've seen it in a tabletop wargame.

While Valor does tighten up a few things in a positive way ( troop formations, vehicle mounted weapon fire arcs) it also makes a couple of fairly hefty assumptions about the setting.  It uses randomised movement distances, which isn't a problem in itself, but then goes on to give all land vehicles 2D10 movement.  That means there's no way to represent ligh fast vehicles and slow, lumbering vehicles, as everything will be moving between 2" and 20" per turn.  The completely random movement based on a D10 gives too big a random swing for my taste and having all vehicles effectively the same speed is just the nail in the coffin.

Honestly, if I was coming into Victorian Science Fiction gaming from scratch and had a choice between GASLIGHT and Valor, Steel and Flesh, it would be an absolute toss-up between them.  What might tip the balance is that GASLIGHT still has a fairly active Yahoo Group and online community, albeit much quieter than when the game was at its peak.  You can post a GASLIGHT question on  the Yahoo group, on The Miniatures Page or the Lead Adventures forum and expect to get a reply from Chris or Buck within a few days.  Whereas all I've seen for Valor is a single Yahoo Group which hasn't seen any traffic since January of this year. just goes to what looks like a strange blog page in Japanese.

I'll pinch a couple of bits and pieces from Valor, Steel and Flesh for my GASLIGHT Vesuvian reforms, but I doubt I'll ever play it.  It's not that it's a bad game, far from it.  It's just my own tweaks to GASLIGHT have already brought me closer to the game I want, while Valor seems to offer a very similar feeling game with no outstanding differences yet also introduces a couple of additional problems that would need addressing.

In other rules news, the old FUBAR playtest post here at the Axis recently drew a comment from Lanse Tryon, the author of the FUBAR VSF supplement.  Perhaps not coincidentally, on various online fora like Lead Adventure, Froggy the Great (who may or may not be Lanse in disguise) has released the latest version of a 2 page combined FUBAR 5th Edition + VSF supplement.  Integrating the rules has allowed Lanse to eliminate some redundancy between the core rules and the VSF supplement (like weapon tables and different vehicle rules) freeing up some space to add some more features.  He's already addressed some of my original complaints with the rules - Mounted is now an advantage that a figure or unit may have, adding 2D6 to movement, plus there are rules for keeping troops in close-order formation.  I had hoped to squeeze a playtest of it in today, but looking at the clock that's probably not going to happen now.  I do want to give this a fair trial thoough - the previous playtest was a touch unfair seeing as how the scenario I played didn't include characters or vehicles, which were the real focus of the VSF supplement.

I've also been looking at the beta version of the Wolsung Steampunk Skirmish Game.  It's pitched more at the "warband" style of skirmish game, like Necromunda or Song of Blades & Heroes, but that sort of game can be an entertaining and fun diversion.

Thanks to everyone for their comments on the last post.  With the exception of items that are currently on my painting/modelling table, I'm declaring a moratorium on new figure/model/terrain projects, and shifting to make playing games a priority.  I currently have the following sub-projects that I'd like to bring to completion before putting them away.

  • One unit of ten Fenian Brotherhood cavalry - primed and with the riders magnetized to the saddle (that's another story) these just need painting to bring to completion.
  • Sixteen VSF character figures awaiting painting - I'd put them away but I have a KR Multicase and a converted GW case for unpainted character figures, both of which are full (272 figs... argghh)
  • Project Traffic - half a dozen assorted horse drawn vehicles to liven up the Victorian city terrain.  All based and primed with some partly painted.
  • Project Dollhouse - the four "pink" village buildings, three of which have had all remodelling completed and are primed, just awaiting painting.  The fourth needs an hour or so's remodelling work before painting.
  • The converted OO signalbox - completed to about 95% with just an hour or so's final paint touch-up required.

 And that's not counting the stuff I've happily put away half-finished, like the Victorian slum scratchbuilds.

And finally the best news of the week isn't wargame related at all.  At yesterday's scheduled hospital visit they diagnosed my father's bad reaction last week as down to an infection, not the treatment.  They even suspect the infection may have caused the symptoms that led them to start the chemo course in the first place.  In light of the fact that his blood counts were now perfectly satisfactory and that he may still be weakened by the infection, they decided that continuing the chemo was neither advisable nor necessary and instead sent him home with a course of antibiotics and an appointment in four weeks time.  Needless to say, Vesuvius Snr is over the moon with this news as am I.

1 comment:

  1. I've played but one game of GASLIGHT, and it has its quirks. Certainly, some issues need addressing (Hero characters being far too powerful, for one). To be honest I'm perfectly happy with Sharp Practice for Colonial gaming, and I'll probably modify GASLIGHT using some SP rules.

    Good to hear your father's doing better.