Tuesday, 28 July 2015

[Tuesday review] Burning Empires

So, Since it is a Tuesday, I am going to be reviewing a game again. Today I am reviewing:

Image result for burning empires

Burning Empires


Right so to the basics: The dice mechanic is a nice simple one, dice pool of d6's, 4+ to succeed and count successes. So no worries about not having the right dice or with problems with the basic mechanic. Which is just as well, because the rest of the subsystems in this games are extensive. The dice give a pretty good and easy to understand probability scale.

There are a couple of nice points added on to this. You can get a FORK from up to two other skills, which give you extra dice to roll. One of these has to be a "-wise" skill, the system's nebulous knows about this specific thing skill. You can also get help dice from your friends, but they have to physically give you the dice for it to count. Apparently this shows enough trust for the help to happen. It means having a bunch of skills that support your concept means you can call on them all together to be better.

Character Generation

Character generation is a lifepath system. It has ups and downs, certainly. You get a character at the end who is probably something very close to the competence that you expected when you set out. It will also tend to have a number of characteristics and skills picked up in their life. A downside (for some) is that the system does not make very balanced characters.

But since you can make this guy:
knight on duty by kimplate
art by kimplate on deviantart

A badass sci fi knight who is also a psychic and owns a space navy and this guy:

Image result for peasant

A space peasant and mayor of a local town, it is perhaps not too unexpected that one of then ends up being a more action adventure competent go-getter sort of guy.

This will be an advantage to some, and a drawback to others. Also, character gen is a pretty involved process. I didn't mind it, but some more maths and notes adverse players may well find it a lot of work.

Next subsystem!


Well, what kind? There is a social combat system. I am not the world's biggest fan of social combats, usually since I can't help but feel that they can get in the way of a flowing roleplay scene, and can result in a player losing their control over their own character due to some dice rolls. So in general, a social combat system has to go a long way for me to be willing to like it. Burning empires, in a theme of this review comes within touching distance of nailing it.

Right, so how does it work? Well, there is a unifying method to a lot of the conflict resolution mechanics in this game, so I'll describe it in detail now, and we can then reference this later. Okay? Okay.

1)  decide what the stakes are. Both sides state what their goal in the conflict is.
2) generate disposition. This is basically your hit points for the fight.
3) Then we begin scripting. This has a hell of a lot more involved so bear with me...

Image result for cartoon bear

(this is now an ongoing pun. Sorry, not sorry)

Right, there are a lot of options you can make, like "point!" (make a point) "intimidate" (threaten the person you are debating) and suchlike. You have to choose three of these in secret. You write them on a little sheet that no one else gets to look at. So does your opponent.

You then reveal your scripting. You cross reference what options you chose against what your opponent scripted. Then you find out if you are opposed, in which case you both roll your pools and the person with the most successes wins, and get the margin of victory as how much you won by. If you are not opposed, you just roll your pool and every success counts. But it probably means that your enemy is also getting something done without you opposing it.

Then you roleplay out the points and counterpoints you were making. You repeat this system until one side runs out of disposition or gives up. They person who is left with disposition, is the winner. But they have to make concessions dependent on how much disposition they lost.

So, given I don't like social combat, why do I almost like this one? Well, first of all, it never convinces your pc when you lose. Instead, the system is there to convince the people who are hearing your debate. Second, it gives me a chance at roleplaying out the scene, without having to dice off during it. Third, the secret scripting is a lot of fun. So, what is wrong with it? Some niggling things. The most potent defence is to ridicule or ignore your opponents points. While this might be realistic, it is not fun in play. The system is pretty slow, so the debate part is maybe five minutes and the mechanics multiple times that.

Squad combat

Image result for iron fight empires
This is an image from the setting the game came from. You can see squad fights are a thing here.

So, the setting is a military sci fi, and so it has a system for squad based combat. I have to say, it has produced some of the best fight scenes in games I have played. I have played a lot of fight scenes in my time, so this is a hell of a statement from me. How does the system work?

Well, you draw the map for the fight. Simple enough. Then taking it in turns, you put points that need to be taken and places with cover. The person who won the roll for who maneuvered before the fight gets to put more stuff on the table, and hence have a better chance of getting the advantages.

As above both sides roll to find their initial disposition, and state their intentions for the fight. Notably, this cannot include a mission of "kill all of the opposition". You should be fighting this battle for a reason.

So, you have positions and cover. You script three actions again and so does your opponent (see above), reveal and then compare. You do things like advance, shoot, more lead downrange and suchlike. If your troop are in one of the positions, then you can do damage you took to your disposition to that position instead of to your dispo total. If you are in cover then the number of successes needed to hit you is increased. But these values can be winkled down by the opponent. This means that people can take important points, defend them and be driven from them and this is all sensible and mechanically supported. Which is nice. Cover fire does things sensibly. Having the bigger gun has a mechanical effect. There are a lot of choices and tactics and you end up second guessing what your opponent is going to do, taking tactically useful positions and then losing them. There is an organic and nice flow to battles. I liked it. Would use this system again.

Once one side runs out of disposition, the opponent gets what their mission was. But they also get a concession for how much damage they did back, and so get some part of their goal. So, partial and compromised victories are the order of the day.

Personal combat

Called, in the game "I corner him and stab him in the face" is a single, opposed dice roll. We were a little underwhelmed here. I must admit. Maybe I am missing something.

That's all for today

That's it for today. This post is running long so I will say the rest of it tomorrow. There is a lot still to talk about. Burning Empires is one of my qualified likes among my games.

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