Monday 22 July 2013

Review - Heavy Gear Blitz: Locked and Loaded Rulebook

Please welcome guest reviewer Rich from the great gaming website Hobbynomicon. Rich has a varied background in wargaming so it's a pleasure to have him here reviewing this great product from Dream Pod 9.

''Heavy Gear is a game universe that stretches all the way back to 1994. With such a rich history of lore and releases such as RPG's, Card Games, Video Games and Wargames, it seems quite crazy that I have actually never even heard of any of it.

It came to my attention recently when I was asked to review the Heavy Gear Blitz 'Locked & Loaded' rulebook. I was provided with the rulebook, however I had no miniatures to actually run through this game, I will instead be reviewing the book itself and giving my general thoughts about the whole thing as a product.
As someone who is a very active War game/Card game/Video game player I think it will be interesting to see what this whole new universe as a whole can do for me.

To start off, let's take a look at the presentation of the books. As a Wargamer I am used to very high quality, colour and excellently illustrated books and I have to say that these books aesthetically didn't stand up to what I was used to. There has clearly been a lot of effort to provide all of this fantastic artwork and even cartography. But to see it printed in black on regular printer paper really doesn't do it justice which is a massive shame. This really blunted my enthusiasm somewhat when I realised I had a significant amount of pages to trawl through, a shame indeed but realistically it is all about the actual content right? So let's get onto that.

The Core rule book weighs in at just over 200 pages, it lacks an index but does have a fairly comprehensive contents. The section that contains the game systems actual rules however is only around 40 pages, this to me is great. If the requirements for playing a game means taking out a large chunk of my day to read extraneous amounts of text, then it probably isn't worth my time.

The rest of the book is made up of fluff (insane amounts of fluff!), model galleries, and even a hobby section which details colour schemes, gives modelling advice and yet more galleries. Now before I move on, I have to say that this really strikes me as odd. There is a section on painting that details colour schemes, yet the book is in black and white? ...
After writing this, I just had to do some digging. It just so happens that this rulebook is available in both colour and Black and White. The B&W version retails for £22.50 whereas the colour version is a mere £45.95.

I really don't want to sound overly negative, especially as I haven't even touched on the actual content yet. This however just really doesn't sit right with me.

Consider the fact that you can get the Warmachine or Hordes rulebook in full colour and excellent quality for just £18 which has over 50 pages extra, and for £27.95 cheaper to boot. Despite my opinion toward the value and relative cost of this book, I still have yet to cover the actual contents, in all honesty I am not sure whether or not the contents to me could be so redeeming, but let us delve deeper.

Upon reading the 'Welcome to the world of Heavy Gear' section, I was fairly happy with the background, it didn't particularly wow me or disappoint me. It's safe to say I am completely impartial toward this and this is a great thing as it works as a solid foundation for the game to grow up on.

The factions are fairly interesting and stand apart quite well, with different morals and approaches to issues, and I also enjoyed the map design quite a lot. The way the planet is divided and contains varied biomes within it make for an interesting set to work with, I did also enjoy the premise of Earth participating as well with their own objectives.

Going back to the planet design, I have to say that the maps within are very comprehensive and are very visually appealing. It makes a change to see a lot of effort having been put into such world design and history.

Upon reading more into the fluff it immediately becomes apparent where the franchise gets its name. The various factions within the Heavy Gear universe utilise Mechanised Walkers as a unit somewhere between Tanks and Infantry, these are unsurprisingly called 'Heavy Gears'. I have to be honest here and say that the idea of Mechs is one that I have never really been thrilled with. It's not that I dislike them, it's that everything I have ever seen to do with them has just failed to capture my attention or imagination.

I did find however that a more comprehensive look into them due to reading this book did pique my interest and that coupled with the lore I had absorbed already had me enthused to carry on reading.

After a quick summary of the universe it quickly gets on to the rules of the game, it runs off of a very standard D6 mechanic and quite surprisingly allows the use for both Imperial and Metric when it comes to measurement. I was quite happy with the way the dice rolling and threshold checks worked too, having the highest score among your dice being the final total with any other 6's added on as an additional 1 to that score was an interesting take on scoring them.

The way damage is calculated however seems just a tad convoluted, you first have an opposed roll, the attacker will roll with their Attack Skill, modify it with range, cover, scenario effects, accuracy and even movement speeds.

The Defender will then roll with their Defense Skill and modify the roll with their Speed & Movement mode, Direction of attack and whether or not they have a 'Lock' on the attacker.

Once these totals have been worked out, if the attacker succeeds in getting a higher total, the Margin of Success is calculated (the remainder of what was needed to succeed), the Damage of the attack is then multiplied by the Margin of success, and this final total is then compared to the targets Defence value. If it exceeds it then a Damage box is taken off. If it doubles it, two are taken and so on and so forth.

I am in no way saying that this is a bad way to calculate damage, but when I compare this system to all of the others in the games I currently play, it constitutes taking several more steps than seems necessary. I can see how learning this game could be quite a confusing and frustrating process, it seems to me that as it is so comprehensive and provides explanations and rules for SO many situations, it quickly becomes quite a nightmarish wall of text that is quite off putting and demoralising to a Wargamer like myself.

Like most things though, I can see the good where it is. This is clearly a very well thought out system that has had a metric ton of effort poured into it. Sadly, it's just not my cup of tea and ultimately this whole project just isn't for me.

Through reading the game mechanics I slowly found myself losing the enthusiasm that the Lore built up so well earlier on. This book also has a very annoying tendancy to abbreviate important things, a lot of the time I had no idea what it was referring to when it told me I needed to multiply the DM, or that actions are used to activate ECM's.

As a human, I find it quite difficult to remember every single word of a book that I have read, having to skip back to sections I am not sure even exist every couple of minutes again makes this quite a frustrating experience.

To summarise, I would like to say that this IS a good product. I just do not favour it for the reasons mentioned, I can quite clearly see how it would appeal to wargamers who have a passion for Mechs, even without that I can see how the ruleset and scenario's are very appealing. For me though, it just brings too much to the table, as more of a casual Wargamer I find that this is all just too intense for me though. I would like to end by saying do not be disheartened by what I have said, if you even have a passing interest in Mechs or Wargaming, then by all means give it a try. After all, we don't have to like everything do we?

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me directly at'

Thursday 18 July 2013

Interview - Dale Elvy, author of EPOCH

Please welcome to the blog Dale Elvy, the author of the ENnie award nominated EPOCH roleplaying game!

1 - Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, I live in Wellington, New Zealand, have a PhD in political science, work in the public sector and enjoy writing fiction when I‘m not writing games.

I’ve written a couple of unusual scenarios –  a Call of Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario called Malevolence which was published in Worlds of Cthulhu #3 and one an Old West scenario called Sundown which was written to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Call of Cthulhu.  I also wrote a superhero scenario for Icons called ‘The Aotearoa Gambit’, along with some help from Icon’s co-author Morgan Davie.  EPOCH is the first game I’ve written, and is a game about evoking cinema style horror in a single session.

2 - Tell us about your RPG history - what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

I got into roleplaying as a teenager, and played many different games.  Call of Cthulhu made the greatest impression on me weaving together history and horror and challenging the idea that character survival in games was guaranteed.  Some years later I began running games at local conventions and found the challenge of weaving a compelling and exciting story for a group of strangers, with different backgrounds and expectations, particularly fun and rewarding.

3 - What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

Sharing stories with people.  When I play games I enjoy exploring a story through a characters skin, and exploring how a characters story changes and evolves over the course of a game.  However, I also really enjoy running games, and really working to evoke people and places the characters encounter, and seeing the characters react to these.  The best games create real, visceral, experiences of the characters which pair humour and realism and create strong shared memories which become the fodder of fond memories .

4 - What's your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

I have always liked Call of Cthulhu, and probably count it as my favourite game.  I’m looking forward to the publication of 7th edition, which I think will freshen up some of the more traditional aspects of the game.  I think Trail of Cthulhu and Esoterrorists are pretty neat too.  I also like supers games, and have followed Mutants and Masterminds since its first edition, although I find a more streamlined system like BASH serves my (character focussed) style of play in one-shots.  I love the way Rogue Trader incorporates so many neat science fiction ideas together and explicitly incorporates motivations of profit-seeking and exploration in the 40K universe.

5 - Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

I run a regular Call of Cthulhu campaign.  Between campaign sessions my group plays Rogue Trader, we were also one of the groups that playtested the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules, and we frequently playtest EPOCH scenarios.  I also try to get to local roleplaying conventions to run EPOCH, Call of Cthulhu, Superhero scenarios as well as to play whatever is on offer (most recently Apocalypse World).

6 - The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

Good question.  I think roleplaying will always hold a basic appeal, because sharing stores is something people have always done.  While some technologies may change some of the ways we interact, I think there is truth that we seek each other out to help share meaning, regardless of the media we employ to do so.
That said, I’m sure some things will change over time.  In my local gaming community Live Action games (one-shot parlour style games) have become increasingly popular, as they offer players the kind of character autonomy that many traditional games don’t, as well as opening the hobby to new people who primarily enjoy costume, drama and improvisation.
So, to keep the interest of its audience, in my view, traditional tabletop roleplaying will need to evolve to incorporate more flexible and innovative ways of helping us to frame and shape our stories.

7 - Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of my ICONS scenario ‘The Aotearoa Gambit’ as the profits went straight to first responders who saved lives during the Christchurch earthquake of 2011.  Collaborating with Morgan Davie and writing that scenario in the immediate aftermath of the quake felt like I was making a contribution – albeit a small one.

I’m most proud of EPOCH though.  Nothing beats hearing great stories from other people who have played and enjoyed your game.

8 - Tell us more about EPOCH; what was the attraction in making such a game?

I wanted to create the kind of horror game that explicitly linked the desired outcomes of the game, with the mechanics.  I wanted a game which reflected the style of one-shot games that I enjoy running and playing; a game where the style, scenario, and mechanics put the characters at the centre of the story, and no matter what decisions are made during the game, this results in a tense and entertaining horror story.  Then I wanted to make that experience replicable for everyone.

As a player of EPOCH, the game is (in my experience) intense.  You begin by creating a character sketch, often drawing on familiar film stereotypes.  Through a structured opening scene and pre-generated character elements you develop some fairly strong ideas early on.  But from that point on, the character evolves as you are busy trying to distinguish your character from the others, while interacting with them – seeking to win the ballot that gets you an extra outcome card, and a better shot at survival.  The flashback you get from not winning the ballot in any round can be almost as powerful, as it provides a terrific way of revealing tantalising glimpses of your characters background.  You are also faced with a tough choice – play your Hero/Zero card as a Zero and reduce another character’s chance of survival, or play it as a Hero and help another character while reducing your own character’s chances of survival?  It’s a choice you will soon have to make; make it interesting and your character’s prospect of survival is likely to increase.  As the game develops, so does your character, as you all-the-while keep an eye on the cards revealed on horror track – hoping that if your character survives, you might even secure a happy ending.

As an EPOCH GM, the game is actually very straightforward to run, as the purpose of each scenario is to act as a framework of horror for the characters, rather than a story which they must investigate.  This allows you to concentrate on adapting the scenario to the characters, bringing the drama to them, emphasising how the horror impacts each of them.  The challenge and ballot mechanic mean you are not faced with deciding who is attacked or eliminated, when, or translating character actions into mechanical tests and rolls – all the characters face elimination, and all the players narrate the impact of this challenge on their characters as they play outcome cards.  You vote along with the players, and the conclusion of each challenge round should provide a natural pause to prepare for the next tension phase.  You also monitor and reveal the horror track, revealing the collective progress of the characters in defeating the source of the horror (and literally laying your cards on the table at the beginning of the game)

9 - What are you working on at the moment? 

Currently I’m editing the forthcoming EPOCH scenario collection, ‘War Stories’, which features 5 scenarios set in wartime, ranging from the trenches of World War One to modern-day peace operations in the Congo (previews will be posted here)

I’m also working on the EPOCH companion, which will include optional rules, scenario writing advice, TV mini-series rules, new cards and more scenarios.

Monday 15 July 2013

Science Fiction D&D - starships and vehicles

Following on from my 'quick n' dirty game system' blog post, I've got around to developing a simple, if not entirely accurate or balanced, system for starships and vehicles.


The stats for these are decided by the vehicle’s length. For every metre in length, a vehicle or starship has 1 hit point. For every ten metres all vehicles must have at least 1 crewmember. So, a starship 50 metres in length will have 50 hit points and 5 crewmembers minimum. A car 5 metres in length will have 5 hit points and 1 crewmember (driver).

For every metres in length over ten metres, a vehicle can hold 1 cubic ton of cargo.

Armour class is decided by length – the smaller a vessel is the harder it is to hit. The AC is added (or subtracted) to the basic to-hit target number of 10 (I'm using the D&D 4th to-hit system, now).

Length(metres) followed by: AC
1-10: 8
11-30: 7
31-50: 6
51-70: 5
71-90: 4
91-100: 3
101-130: 2
131-150: 1
151-200: 0
201-250: -1
Every extra 50m: -1 cumulative

Roll D20 higher than to-hit target of 10 + AC. If firer is using normal hand weapons (such as pistols or rifles) against the target, minus the vehicle’s current hit points score from the damage rolled (this way, handguns can’t really do any damage to huge vessels but can possible damage very small ones).

Each vessel has weapon slots. For every twenty metres in length the starship has a single weapon slot in which it can place a weapon.

Each weapon slot generates 1D8 points of damage from a single hit. So, a vessel with 3 weapon slots can fire three times and each shot does 1D8 points of damage. Each weapon must be manned individually.

However, weapon slots can be combined into a single shot and still be fired by a single crewmember. For each extra weapon slot added to the original for a single shot, add another 1D8 damage roll. So, one weapon slot does 1D8 damage, 2 combined weapon slots 2D8, 3 slots 3D8 and so on. These slots cannot be added to or removed at random – the combined feature means heavier weapons and must be chosen during creation. Pilots can fire any single weapon anywhere on the ship.

Any vehicle/starship hits on characters are multiplied by 10.

EXAMPLE: A 50 meter starship – 50 hit points, minimum crew 5, AC 6, 2 weapon slots, able to carry 50 cubic tons of cargo.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Press release - Caravan of the Force

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. LONDON, ENGLAND. WEDNESDAY 10TH JULY 2013, 11.38PM. and Star Wars Celebration Europe are delighted to announce Caravan of the Force in association with Toys ‘R’ Us. Caravan of the Force is a two vehicle convoy with six people on-board, all with the common goal of raising money for Make-A-Wish Foundation®. The Caravan will be travelling from the UK to France, Belgium, Holland and Germany arriving in time for Star Wars Celebration Europe that takes place 26-28th July in Messe Essen, and then all the way back to London again! As we reach each country we’ll be welcomed by the local 501st Garrison in order to raise awareness of our trip and raise funds for Make-A-Wish.

The trip has been organized and will be led by James Burns and Mark Newbold who co-own/run Jedi News, the UK’s #1 Star Wars fan site and the largest English speaking Star Wars fan site in Europe. James and Mark also write for the Official Star Wars magazine, Star Wars Insider, as well as the Official Star Wars Blog at where you’ll be able to track their progress with daily updates. Lucasfilm worked with James and Mark to put the Caravan together and help turn their wacky idea into reality.

Joining James and Mark is fan favorite actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Warsfilms as well as a cameo part in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In addition to his Star Warsroles he’s acted in several other films including Summer Holiday and the James Bond film Octopussy, which like Return on the Jedi also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year as well as numerous roles for television too. Jeremy’s wife Maureen is also coming along to keep us all in check!

The final two people joining the Caravan are Jedi News team members Matt Booker (Automattic Comics) and Dave Tree (All the Cool Stuff and Palitoy Archive) who bring their driving skills and almost eighty years of combined Star Wars knowledge on-board. A journey like this is a great way to spread the word, explain what Make-A-Wish do and raise money for them, at the same time continuing to promote the great charitable efforts the Star Wars community provides worldwide each and every day. Our aim is to raise a total of £5,000 for Make-A-Wish to help make a difference to children who won't necessarily ever get the chance to travel on exciting journeys like this or enjoy the magic of Star Wars at a Celebration event.We invite friends, family, strangers and Star Warsfans alike to dig deep and contribute to the Caravan of the Force at ( which accepts all major currencies. It doesn't matter how big or little the contribution, it all goes to Make-A-Wish and hopefully together we can help bring smiles to the faces of many terminally ill children by turning their wishes and dreams into reality.

The Caravan would not be possible without our generous sponsors that include Toys ‘R’ Us, Holiday Inn that supplied our accommodation in the UK, Hyundai who supplied our vehicles, P&O Ferries that enabled us to cross the channel and Vodafone that are powering our communications across the whole trip.

You can join in the fun too at one of our first stops on July 19th when we’ll be visiting Toys ‘R’ Us in Brent Cross, London for the launch of Hasbro’s new Star Warsseries of 3.75” and 6” figures called The Black Series. The event will start at 7:30pm and Jeremy Bulloch will be signing autographs on a special Black Series backing card and you’ll have the first opportunity in Europe to buy the figures too. The 501stUK Garrison, Rebel Legion and R2 Builders Club will be on hand to keep the crowds under control and have the opportunity to pose for fun photos.

There will be more chances to catch up with the Caravan of the Force at various locations across the UK, France, Belgium and Germany –more details to follow. Monitor the progress of the Caravan of the Force at,, Facebook ‘Caravan of the Force’ and on Twitter ‪#‎CaravanOfTheForce‬.

Friday 5 July 2013

Science Fiction D&D - quick n' dirty game system

I'll be running a basic D&D science fiction game soon and there's plenty of great OSR games to choose from, 'Stars Without Number' and 'Hulks & Horrors' being two of the best, but I wanted to go a lot simpler than that.

So, for basic PC creation take your red box D&D (or closest version), print out the character sheet to the right, and:

Roll 3D6 for each attribute as normal, you decide which attribute each score is going in. Attribute bonuses apply.

As I'm having a humans only game, roll 1D8 for hit points, or 1D4 + 4 if you want better odds.

Use THACO for 'Fighter'.

The saving throws 'Fortitude', 'Reflex' and 'Will' are scored at 10 plus the applicable attribute bonus. Fortitude uses the Constitution bonus, Reflex the Dexterity bonus, Will the Wisdom bonus. A successful saving throw is a D20 less than the saving throw score.

Armour class is based on normal armour in the book, so imagine the medieval equivalent in a science fiction setting. Hard leather would be a bulletproof vest, chainmail a combat suit, plate full combat armour.

Weapons remain the same, use bow and crossbow damage for the pistols and such.

Each player is given three points. They can use a single point to raise an 'Attack Type', this being either Ranged (Rng) (for pistols and thrown weapons) or Close Quarters (CQ). Each point spent gives a +1 bonus to their attack roll.

Also, each point can be spent on a single skill, any type of skill they think they need, and the DM/player decides what attribute the skill falls under. Once they've decided, they get the skill at that attribute's score, and they have to roll equal to or under that score on a D20 to succeed in a skill roll; the score can be modified up or down depending on difficulty.

Some example skills and their equivalent attributes (suggested - you can change these if you wish):

Bargain - Charisma
Climb - Strength
Computers - Intelligence
Con - Charisma
Dodge - Dexterity
Drive - Dexterity
Electronics - Intelligence
Engineering - Intelligence
Hide/sneak - Dexterity
Leadership - Charisma
Leap - Strength
Medicine - Wisdom
Perception - Intelligence
Persuasion - Charisma
Pilot - Dexterity
Science - Intelligence
Survival - Constitution
Swim - Dexterity

Characters start at level 0 and they must complete the same number of adventures for the level they want to attain. So, when they complete one adventure they go to level one. When they complete two more adventures they go to level two, when they complete three more adventures they go to level three and so on. (or, you can use the experience point system as normal). For every level the character attains they get another single point to spend on any one of the attack bonuses, buying a new skill at the attribute level, raising a skill by one point (maximum 20) or rolling another 1D8 for hit points.

You can use the D&D bestiary for creatures, aliens and all that stuff.

And there you have it, sci-fi Basic D&D. I'm working on a simple starship system but in the meantime have fun.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Epoch: a roleplaying game of character-driven survival horror

Here's a game I'm going to reommend to you: EPOCH. I've got a copy of it right here and there'll be a proper review soon, but I'm going to give you a teaser as to what I thought of it - it's bloody brilliant.

It's a custom card based system that emulates the dynamics of your favourite horror movies no matter what the genre. Several players begin the game but only one or two might survive and it's down to the guile and cleverness of the players and the drama that unfolds.

It's a great, simple game for one-shots and I can recommend it. There'll be a review soon but I'm giving this one the thumbs up.