Warzone Resurection – A Review Part 3

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It’s a strange thing to read through the rules for a game that you are almost certain you will never actually play. In one way it helps one be objective but I appreciate that it might blind me to some of the practical implications of what I’m reading. What seems perfectly clear when I was reading it on the bus might seem a lot more ambiguous when the dice are rolling and you need to know exactly how much you need to roll for that crucial armour test.

Overall, there are about 80 pages of rules, including about 20 on scenarios and army selection. The text is broken up with artwork so never becomes too dense and there are helpful summary flowcharts and diagrams (using some of the few pictures of painted models in the book).

My overriding impression of the rules is that the game writers must have been trying really hard to make everything as clear as possible. I’ve read rules written by a few different companies now and it’s rare to come across such clear and seemingly unambiguous instructions on how to play. Having only read through the rule section once I feel like I understood pretty much all the mechanics described.

There are even paragraphs setting out things like rerolling dice that go of the table, how to calculate multiple modifiers (multiply, then add), pre-measuring, etc. The designers seem to want to minimise disagreements/arguments/cage fights as much as possible.
On the other hand, the rules are laid out in one of the most eccentric orders I have other come across. Granted my expectations are shaped by games which have generally had a very different game/turn sequence but even so, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of logic to the order the rule sections are printed in.

Warzone Resurrection uses a D20 based system wherein all stats are given out of 20 and all actions (rolling to hit, armour tests, break tests) are decided by rolling under the appropriate stat. This contrasts to some systems which use a variety of different dice mechanics for different things. Having the stats being out of 20 also means there can be a bit more granularity with stats more fully showing a range of ability.

Every model has two actions per turn which can be spent on a variety of basic (1point) and advanced (2point) actions. Models are activated individually and although bound by squad coherency can act relatively independently. Alternatively models in a squad can spend points to contribute to combined actions which produce a single more powerful attack for use against larger, more dangerous foes. It’s quite an intuitive system and seems quite flexible.

There are some interesting rules which seem like an attempt to inject a bit more fluff/narrative into the game itself such as different types of weapons being more/less effective against certain kinds of armour and the rules which allow bonuses to template weapons used against targets in cover. There is also a diverse selection of special rules, not dissimilar to the compendium of universal special rules in the 40k rulebook. These all do pretty much what you would expect, though quite a few seem to have fairly similar effects.

My biggest doubts are over the vehicle rules, which seem a bit over complicated. Alarm bells rang for me when I saw that individual locations take damage separately, and it’s not entirely clear how you (if indeed you can) actually destroy a vehicle rather than just wreck its systems.

The biggest ‘narrative’ rule though is probably the resource card system. In the game each player receives a number of resource cards determined by their army composition and choice of warlord (meaning you can choose a leader who is less personally potent in combat but allows extra resource cards). Resources are renewed each turn but can be lost permanently as you take casualties. In the basic version of these rules the cards can be spent – “turn to burn” is the terminology used – to gain bonuses or re-rolls. In the more advanced version, cards are spent to play certain ‘gear’, ‘tactic’, and ‘strategy’ cards. Each player selects cards to play from a hand drawn from their respective deck of bonus cards. Each player preselects the contents of their deck before the game (within guidelines set out in the book) though the deck is shuffled and cut before play begins and your hand of cards is drawn randomly from the deck.

The resource mechanics seem to be one of the most innovative parts of this rule set. I am sure gamers will quickly find whether they prefer the basic or advanced version. The advanced version can potentially add a lot of depth, challenge, diversity and surprise to a game, but I imagine some gamers might prefer to avoid the extra preparation it requires. Though I imagine that selecting a deck that synergies with your chosen force and will not be rendered useless by an unlucky draw order will be a challenge some gamers will embrace.

Army selection is based on an organization chart similar to 40k, though the chart grows with the size of game. There are also options to swap out some slots – for example exchanging a heavy vehicle slot for two light vehicle/monster slots or vice versa. There is also a bevy of options to create a custom lord or warlord as an alternative to the existing special characters. The options allow you to alter their stats, modify their weapon and give them any of a vast array of special rules, all for the appropriate points costs.

Overall, with only very few exceptions I would say that this is a very solid rule set. And in some ways it’s a shame that the fluff and the models (especially the models) aren’t quite up to the same level. Obviously the fluff, rules and other factors that appeal to any #warmonger is a very subjective thing so I would certainly suggest that people give this game a look to see if it might be right for them, but that would be qualified by admitting that it doesn’t do it for me. There are not as many sci-fi battle games out there as you might think, though a recent crop of games like WZR, MERCs, Deadzone, etc has gone some way to redress this. Sadly I don’t think that WZR is the best of the crop.

– Chris

Warzone Resurrection – A Review Part 2

warzoneFor the second of my articles on the new Warzone Resurrection game I am taking a quick look at the fluff and background in the core rulebook.

Overall, this is an extremely well presented book, well bound and full colour throughout. It is well illustrated, though some of the artwork taken from the original 1990’s incarnation of Warzone has now seems almost excruciatingly dated in contrast to the new artwork. On the other hand, there were virtually no pictures of actual miniatures which is something of a let down. I appreciate that most of the models were funded through the recent Kickstarter and so were still being designed at the time the book was being written but it does feel like a really big thing to be missing.

The fluff is well written and reading through I got a very clear impression of the setting of a war-torn solar system fought over by competing mega-corporations, and menaced by the eldritch abominations of the Dark Legion, which is opposed by the religious warriors of the Brotherhood. Each of the mega-corporations described (Capitol, Bauhaus, Mishima & Cybertronic) has a distinct identity, though some do feel a little mired in cliché [A little?! – Ed.]. Mishima especially seems entirely rooted in Japanese stereotypes, in contrast both Bauhuas and Capitol seem to be a much more nuanced representations of German and American themes. Likewise, the portrayal Brotherhood seems a little limited in imagination, tending to cling to the same ‘Catholic Space Nazi’ themes seen in other sci-fi wargames. Their units seem a little samey too, being a number of fairly similarly described varieties of righteous warriors.

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There are some other disappointing omissions from the fluff given in the book. Very little information is given about either the Imperial mega-corporation, or the Cartel with their elite Doomtroopers. I would also have like some expansion on the numerous references to Freelancers scattered throughout the text. Again, I realise that only so many factions were funded by the Kickstarter, but the fact that key players in this universe are only referred to but not explored at all is annoying, especially as the limited references in the main text do raise questions one would want answered. I also have to ask how Prodos plan on introducing these factions as the game develops, whether there will be a large expansion or some sort of faction books.

I think my biggest criticism of the fluff in this book is that there seem to be two stories here which don’t quite gel. On the one hand you have the struggle for resources and dominance of the Solar System between the various mega-corporations; and on the other you have the battle between good an evil represented by the Dark Legion and the Brotherhood. To me, these two conflicts don’t quite work together as part of a setting. Partly this is because of the huge thematic differences, partly it’s because it feels like the fight with the Dark Legion should ultimately trump the various corporate rivalries and agendas. I appreciate that part of the Dark Legion’s MO is to encourage conflict in order to divide and conquer, but given that the other factions know this it still feels like we are in idiot ball territory. It also rather means that there is a subtle implication that battles fought between the mega-corps are not the important ones, which does not exactly help when trying to forge the narrative. It’s also difficult trying to imagine many scenarios where the Brotherhood would fight the mega-corps, simply because they should have more important things to do. With so many other games out there who manage to justify an all-against-all setting, this is something of a weakness in contrast.

It doesn’t help that the Brotherhood and the Dark Legion are, to me at least, the least interesting of the factions. The Brotherhood feels like any other church-militant faction in any other setting and the fluff is surprisingly vague about what the actual beliefs of this church actually are beyond standing against the darkness. The Dark Legion lack the wow factor of either Chaos in 40k or Cryx/Everblight in Warmahordes. Chaos is entirely fundamental to both Games Workshop’s settings with every other faction influenced, even shaped, by it. The Dark Legion feel tacked on in contrast and attempts to make the Dark Soul/Dark Symmetry feel like an equally ancient evil feel perfunctory and shallow. The dragon-blight factions of the Iron Kingdoms genuinely feel like all but unbeatable nightmares. In-universe, the Dark Legion have already been defeated once in the past. While limiting the setting to a handful of terraformed planets  in a single solar system helps in some respects, making it a believable theatre for the corporate wars, and making it easier, at least in principle, to believe the existence of humanity is genuinely at risk, it lacks gravitas when dealing with depictions of the legions of ultimate evil. Of course the Dark Symmetry is also the sole justification of the technologically-regressed diesel-punk aesthetic for the game.

Personally, I find the normal mega-corp factions much more interesting. Mishima might owe a little too much to samurai clichés but they are still vividly described and you at least get a snapshot of there being a whole society functioning there. I quite like Capitol, though I would like to see a little more thematic consistency in their special units. They do have the coolest tank though and I really like their Heavy Infantry (which are totally not a rip off of terminator suits from 40k). Bauhaus benefit from a very coherent and consistent look and feel and some cool walkers. One of the biggest surprises in the fluff is that they make the Cybertronic corporation rather more than the sterotypical ruthless evil cyborgs that you might assume them to be at first glance. As with a lot of wargames, there is a definite feel of everyone being a bit of a bunch of bastards (although with ruthless mega-corporations, what else would you expect?) and it’s left to the player to select the bastards whose particularly brand and style of bastardry most suits them.

There are a few thematic similarities to 40k, especially in terms of the technological regression (although in this case, the knowledge is not lost, merely embargoed) and the idea of humanity being menaced by an unspeakable evil that bring corruption and horror in its wake. But the execution and detail is quite different. in contrast to Warhammer, 40K, Warmachine, Hordes and several other games, Warzone tends to play things relatively ‘straight’ and makes much less attempt to take things up to eleven and invoke the Rule of Cool.

So a mixed bag, four quite strong and interesting factions, and two less so, not to mention a couple of gaps where other factions will hopefully be slotted in, in due course. I honestly feel that I would find this all much more interesting without the Brotherhood and Dark Legion. Maybe if those factions had been a bit better implemented I might feel differently. But they both embody ideas which have been done better elsewhere and still feel like awkward additions to the universe, and  which undermine a lot of the rest of the fluff. I would be interested to see how Prodos develop the fluff to insert the remaining factions and develop the existing ones. Obviously, for the launch of the core book the writers were having to focus on recreating the original fluff from the 1990’s, which was obviously written with 90’s tastes in mind. Likewise the fluff has not had the decade or so of development and refinement that several other games have had so we have to be slightly generous in judging this book if it feels a bit underdeveloped and doesn’t quite fit in with our current Zeitgeist. This fluff is certainly better than what I’ve seen in some core rulebooks (Spartan Games and Hawk Wargames, I am looking at you) so I’m not saying it’s bad. I can certainly see people getting into this fluff and definitely think that there are lots to appeal to different people.

Overall, I would give this book a solid 7 for fluff.  There is a lot of good stuff in here but there is still work to be done before we can stand alongside the real leaders in the field.

Warzone Resurrection – A Review Part 1

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As some readers will know, back in April I backed the Warzone Resurrection Kickstarter. This Kickstarter was run by Prodos Games in order to revive the Mutant Chonicles: Warzone game which was originally produced by Target Games back in the 1990s.

The Kickstarter was a roaring success, and while the original target was to launch the game with four factions enough stretch goals were met to be able to launch with six. Inevitably this meant that the original June shipping date was a hopelessly optimistic target now Prodos had so much more to produce. This backlog was not helped by flooding in the production facilities in the late summer. All this meant that my stuff finally arrived in early December, when I had all but forgotten about it.

My Kickstarter pledge netted me rewards in the shape of the hardback Warzone Resurrection rule book and the Capitol faction starter set. I will look at the rules and background laid out in the book in later articles but for today I will look at the miniatures I received. Capitol, put very simply as a strongly ‘American’ themed faction (in contrast to the pseudo-Germans, Brits and Japanese of Bauhaus, Imperial and Mishima).

The starter pack included two themed D20s a deck of resource/equipment cards, the special character Big Bob Watts, ten Light Infantry figures and two Purple Shark jet bikes. All lovingly rendered in blue resin.

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Of the three units, the most disappointing is definitely the Purple Sharks, which is a shame as I was quite looking forward to these. They lack the crisp detail of the other two kits and are the only one with serious mould line issues. Indeed the belly of the bikes is marred by an unsightly ridge resembling nothing more than a patch of scar tissue. The two halves of the bike do not fit together well, with a visible gap between the two halves at the nose. Assembling resin models with superglue can be a frustrating experience at the best of times, but the number of times I wanted to scream while trying to get the pilot of the bike in situ was something else. Possibly the most unforgivable issue though is the fact that the models are not supplied with a flying stand, but only with a resin post intended to be glued onto a standard plastic base and then fitted into the corresponding hole on the underside of the bike. I would definitely recommend anyone looking to field Purple Sharks  in their force to make alternative basing arrangements.

The other models in the set are much, much better. The detail is crisp and there are very few visible mould lines. That said some of the very fine detail was so fine as to be easily damaged. The character of Big Bob Watts is a very cool model  and by far the easiest of the set to assemble. A model like this really illustrates the difference between heroic scale miniatures and the relatively realistic scale that Prodos have designed in. I think everyone will have their preference about what approach works best, though for such a larger than life character as Big Bob (a huge man who wields Gatling cannon like pistols) whether a naturalistic model can do the idea justice.

The Light Infantry are pretty nice, especially considering these are the basic troop choice for the army. Putting together any model this size using superglue is a tricky task at the best of times, but these came together without too much trouble, barring a slightly awkward shoulder joint. I like the look of these models and the design is nicely straightforward. My only mild criticism is that the heads with the mask and goggles look could have been sculpted with slightly more defined details as they look quite blank at first glance.

The models had a fair bit of flash on the sprue, but nothing that was onerous to clean off. In most cases it could be scratched off with a thumbnail. Only the Purple Sharks had any significant problems with mould lines, though all  the models required substantial clipping and trimming where they met the sprue and in most cases this had to be done carefully so as to not bugger the point where the component would be glued on to another part of the model. There were a few little bubbles in the casts, the worst being a fist sized hole in a jet bike pilot

As a starter set I think this a pretty good pack, though like all such sets the value depends on whether the units and characters included suit your tastes and preferred play style, and the mediocre quality of the Purple Sharks is another minus point. If Prodos can keep a handle on the production quality and implement their ideas properly Warzone Resurrection could be a hit.

According to their reply the last time I asked, Firestorm Games do plan to stock Warzone Resurrection.