A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Friday, December 30, 2016

[Operation Game Collection] Star Wars RPGs Part 1: The D6 Era

  Ahh Star Wars.  The center of my childhood from the age of 3 till 8 or 9, and something that I would always continue to be a fan of to one degree or another.  And what I am about to cover here in this time appropriate post (given both the sad passing of Princess Leia's actress Carrie Fisher and the recent Rogue One prequel to the original 1977 Star Wars movie now known as Episode 4, or A New Hope to the hardcore it seemed a good time to cover a personal favorite game and universe!) is what really kept the fires burning and can in many ways be attributed to WHY Star Wars persists as a massive IP that Disney bought from its' main creator George Lucas for around 5 BILLION DOLLARS.

  THE WEST END GAMES STAR WARS RPG.  (Sometimes referred to as the D6 Star Wars.)

  You see when this game was first released in 1987 Star Wars was pretty much a DEAD brand.  The Marvel comics had recently ended (or was about to) its' long ass run plus the two child friendly spinoff comics in their STAR line, the toys were long off shelves and undesirable, even again the child friendly ones, the two cartoons responsible for said child friendly spinoffs (Droids and Ewoks) were done, and the two live action Ewok TV movies were generally disliked.

  The utter massive childhood and pop culture defining beast that WAS Star Wars had died.  The final film came out in 1983 and what had been a massive seven odd year run as the king of dork stuff was dying out.

  Which is why West End Games was probably able to release an RPG in 1987 and largely seemed to.. do whatever the hell they wanted within limits.  And what they did?  Not only did they create one of the BEST GODDAMNED TABLETOP RPGS EVER BLOODY MADE, but they effectively made the Star Wars universe as we know it today.  While over the years much of the game's lore has been retconned both by the Lucas Prequel Trilogy and the "New Canon" by Disney (which ripped much of what the novelists, animators, comic book people, toy makers, and videogame teams built off of WEG's work out entirely, to join the Marvel Comics in being alternate stories that are no longer official for good and for ill), much of it either remains, or was heavily cribbed to create the New Canon which is currently the six live action movies pre Disney, the two they have currently released, the Clone Wars and Rebels CGI cartoons, and the newer Marvel comics and Del Rey novels.

  To properly cover my Star Wars collection is probably an insane task, even if I just stick to gaming related bits.  This D6 installment ALONE has over 40 photographs in my Click to see bigger yes I took photos, yes there are flashes in there deal with it I am too lazy to use my scanner style.

  So I am gonna do it!  This megapost is devoted to D6/WEG released Star Wars products I own.  I will at the very least do one on the Wizards of the Coast RPGs, and probably videogames, and X Wing Miniatures posts in between my Dougram boardgame thing.

  Let us go to a time that doesn't feel long ago, and wasn't really far away at all!

 The book that started it all!  

 I remember getting this book after seeing it reviewed in Dragon Magazine.  Unlike a seemingly massive part of the Hobby Games audience I am always on the lookout for the new and different.  And to see a massive part of my childhood turned into an RPG?  Well HAD TO BUY IT.  


 It was the 80s and thus black and white was the order of the day.  But it was GOOD looking black and white printing!  

 And to add an extra touch of class there were color plates in the book, some of which were like in universe advertisements such as this one.  

 Since this wasn't the days of widespread Internet access (the few people online were paying like 10-25 cents a minute plus possible long distance fees for 1200-2400 baud at best connection speeds.  So around 1200 bits per second, or 150 bytes more or less.  1 kilobyte per 7 seconds roughly.  And that's if you had an EXPENSIVE modem and were getting perfect speeds.  Yeah.) some early enhancements and tweaks to the rules were included as a 4 page sheet in most products.

 This is my GM screen which included a copy of the above.

 Full of goodies and adventure type stuff like all quality GM screens do.

 This one page basically shows you how to make a character using "Templates" as the D6 system calls their quick start prebuilt archetypes.  Just throw some skills in there as the middle right box shows and start adventuring in minutes!  No rolling for stats, no nonsense.  Quick and fun!

 The Rules Companion basically adds in optional rules and is more or less an expansion to the core game the Upgrade is basically a summary of.  The Death Star Technical Companion is pretty much the original canon for the Death Star.  Much of it is now overwritten.  But not all by any means!

 A series of books they did I desperately need more of.  The Galaxy Guides!  Generally written as something in universe by various characters it is both full of outstanding artwork done in a style like the early 80s comic strip Star Wars, stats on almost anything in the subject covered, and a fun bit of fiction!

 Obviously we have to show DARTH FREAKING VADER.  To give you an idea how the core game plays and how his stats and skills fit I shall give a quick and dirty synopsis of the game:

Use either an attribute or a skill connected to the attribute which has gotten higher through XP.  Roll that many dice.  Meet or beat the target difficulty number to succeed.  Looking at the right side of the Rules Upgrade you see a reasonable difficulty is 15.  Tough but not impossible.    Darth Vader has 11D+2 for his Lightsaber, and 8D in both Starship Piloting and Gunnery.  Meaning Vader has a MINIMUM of 13 and a MAXIMUM of 68 in Lightsaber combat actions.  With 8-48 in Starship stuff.  Most Player Characters at best have a 4-5 D6 skill.  (4-24, or 5-30 respectively)

Yes the basic rules of Star Wars are super quick and easy to explain with the rules being excellent and encouraging heroic play as opposed to Fantasy Vietnam Murder Hobos D&D styled gameplay.

(I will probably talk more about why in the Hell D&D wins out over all other RPGs in spite of other games such as this one being a bajillion times better in both gameplay and setting in a later post.)

 And some of the original era adventure modules.  Most featured various bonuses to sell them or cross sell their connected board games to more than just GMs who didn't want to make their own adventures all the time.  (Shocking!)  But WEG did an excellent job in their books of teaching people how to GM the right way and to Star Wars it properly.

 Yeah I know my flash takes some of the text out of action. But look at the back of this and try to tell me you wouldn't want to play this!  Eff your stupid dungeons!  FIGHT STORMTROOPERS AND AT STs IN A RAPIDLY FALLING APART STAR DESTROYER.  That is what COOL gamers want to do.  

 The adventures usually include all sorts of handouts and maps and other fun things.

 Counters for the big end of adventure setpiece and a nifty script to get players stuck in the action at the adventure start.  

 They even made a few solo adventures, although this one isn't a dice based one.

 However this later one did.  

 It is for the Revised 2nd Edition version but outside of a few things both editions are quite compatible.  I honestly prefer the first edition though.  I will get to that later.

 And one of my personal favorite RPG sourcebooks ever, covering the Empire in all of it's Stormtrooper-y glory of Sithiness!  I got this at the Star Tours giftshop at Disney World in Orlando Florida back in 1989 if I recall.  

 One of my personal favorite pages in the book.  A side view size comparison of all Imperial vessels of that time.  Rebels fans will have seen the Interdictor class in an episode.  The Victory class Star Destroyer is sort of a thing not really used in anything these days but was intended to be effectively what the Venator class ships seen in the mostly BLOODY TERRIBLE  2nd prequel film were.  

 It ahh.. takes a few pages to show all of the Super Star Destroyer.  Like six or so.  It is a big ship.

 Later on they made a second edition and then a couple years later a full color Revised version of that.  To me there was one critical flaw.
THE WILD DIE  See you now have one die that is different than the rest of your bucket of D6s.  This one has a 1 and 6 being special.  Rolling a 1 on this die is VERY BAD, and a 6 causes you to basically ROLL MORE DICE.  This can cause some severe nonsense in what is supposed to be a fast paced and heroic game where death for the PCs is quite rare.  Like I saw this die effectively kill off an entire group in a con game once.  Just 1s on Wild Die for Thermal Detonators in hallways.  My PC only survived due to being injured earlier so the old country Doctor was busy preparing our escape vehicle since he wasn't much of a fighter to start with.

Exploding dice are honestly kind of stupid.  The Wild Die worked in the WEG game it came from (Ghostbusters) but I honestly don't think it works at all in Star Wars or other D6 system games.

 I will say the book is absolutely GORGEOUS and does its' darnedest to teach the game to newbies and draw you into the Star Wars universe.  I am just not quite sure I need to read this book that is nearly twice as large as the original to do it.

 And some Second Edition era sourcebooks.  Star Wars fans know all about the Special Editions of the movies and the absolute silly rage they cause, and the mid 90s Shadows of the Empire multimedia extravaganza of GEORGE LUCAS WANTS MORE MONEY BECAUSE STAR WARS IS POPULAR AGAIN.  

See, thanks to the Timothy Zahn novels of the early 1990s Star Wars started to have a big resurgence.  New toys were released, a CCG came out from Decipher, Dark Horse Comics did comic books that continued until Disney bought Star Wars to go with their Marvel purchase.  It came back for a whole new generation.  

(And idiot manchildren like me who never really left Star Wars, not completely.  I bought the RPG in 1988-89.  I read the Marvel comics up until around their cancellation.  I picked up the Dark Horse comics as they were released early on in the super early 90s.  I may have dropped the old Kenner toys for GI Joe and Transformers kind of quickly but I never totally left.)

 The normal 2nd ed Sourcebook on top and the Special Edition Revised era one on the bottom.  Maybe it is just me but.. color doesn't really add all that much to RPG books in my opinion.  But one cool thing is that pretty much every alien race in a Star Wars RPG product has a statline so you can make most of them playable characters.  

 And the two board game products I have from WEG.  Star Warriors is a late 80s styled hex wargame with some Machine Sheet styled flair to it, while Assault on Hoth is more a stand alone board game.

 I really want to see if I cannot get a play session of Hoth with someone sometime.  The odds of getting a D6 RPG campaign going is probably nearly impossible for multiple reasons but... a game to fight for Hoth?  

 The Star Warriors hex map is kind of decent but the chits are pretty simple.  And these days I honestly have many more choices in my Star Wars Starfighter Combat Tabletop needs.

(And they have TIE DEFENDERS which this does not because the computer game series that eventually introduced them didn't appear until late 1992.)

 Some more counters showing Star Destroyers, reference sheets, and the ship sheets.  I haven't really delved deep into this one but I got it for 3 bucks and it was worth it just for the price!  

 Hoth is a bit more of a stand alone game although some of the adventure modules have scenarios and add ons for it.

 Plus it has stuff like custom dice and standee counters.  The vacuum formed tray is pretty classy even now!  Lots of games expect you to buy tons of rubber bands, Zippy Bags, or get foam inserts if you can even fit everything back in the boxes!

 And the Miniatures Battles.  I had a massively negative experience with my one and only play of this game.  Build your own units and no real force organization rules plus that stupid Wild Die equalled a REALLY BAD TIME.  Like I had multiple squads of Bounty Hunters.  The guy I played it against had a single small squad of Wookies.  All armed with medpacks and armor and jacked to the nines.  It was a complete slaughter and the Wild Die decided to roll me lots of 1s making an already unfun situation worse.

Exploding dice and no real force balancing mechanism meant no fun.  No fun at all.

 I suppose the scenarios could probably be tweaked and used in other games.  And it could be a springboard to minis battles in the RPG with a GM.

 A picture showing some of the miniatures they had, and a sell sheet for minis.  Laugh and cry at the prices.

 The bottom left are my only official SW minis.  A bunch of Bounty Hunters glued to pennies as stands.  The black Snowspeeder is the one that came in the Vehicles box.  the Orange Shoulder Stormtrooper is an old Action Fleet scale figure.  All the painted minis are from the WOTC miniatures game for scale comparison.  (WOTC minis are only kind of properly scaled.  Obviously even these long OOP figures aren't really useable with the old WEG ones.  The Action Fleet ones are however.  In the days before WOTC's blind buy boxes Action Fleet was a savior.)

 Yes then WOTC took over and both WEG and the CCG maker Decipher both got the boot from the license.  WEG kind of died making piles of licensed RPGs nobody really wanted.  The company kind of came back and tried to update the D6 system a bit and make it a series of generally compatible generic games.  I have the Deluxe version in a nice slipcase with included GM Screen Kit.

 It did not go very well at all.   It was just too late in a too crowded market that mostly only wants to play D&D or derivatives to the end of time.  I did not remotely pay MSRP for this set.  

 If you want the most updated version of the rules the D6 System version is the way to go.  But honestly even 1st edition is so damned GOOD at what it does you don't really need it.  IIRC there is some "Open Source" version available online.

(Of course there are scans of nearly every D6 Star Wars product and multiple fan source books covering the eras WEG wasn't around for too.  Holocrons are a handy thing!)

 I will say one stupid thing the D6 System edition did was to change a lot of attribute names for no real reason I can see.

 It looks decent enough and there are some good updates and fixes.  Plus it gives Star Wars GMs more goodies to work with for those who want to add a little more to their games.

 Yeah the art and layout took a hit compared to the original WEG glory days but they did the best they could with what they had.

 They even updated the Bloodshadows campaign to the system.

 I am not quite sure if this is readable but the setting is basically Urban Fantasy Noir.  20-40s urban crime drama only with stuff like Vampires and Wizards and stuff in an original world not like our own but.. kind of our own.  COOL.

And a critters book for Fantasy, and the Modern (Adventure) era locations book with ideas, maps, and adventure seeds for places and stuff in the modern era.  The Action Fleet Stormtrooper is covering a booby.  Since it may offend someone stupid somewhere.  The funny part is the Harpy in the book is covered in feathers so no jubblies on display!  

  Whew!  There we have it.  One of my favorite RPGs ever made and one of my favorite universes ever covered.

Hopefully we will see each other again in THE WOTC ERA.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Dougram Boardgames (Part 2)

Last time I gave a basic overview of both games.  This time I shall show the sequel/advanced game in a bit more detail of components and rules:

(If I haven't said it a bazillion times in this blog, you can usually click for larger images.)
 We see here the full Kalnock map laid out.  Unlike it's Stanrey brother this one only goes together one way.  But it is quite nice looking, especially for its age.  One thing is though that the hills could also be ravines given the way the art is drawn.  Probably officially hills but.. they could easily be depressions as well.

 Finding where the trees go is a matter of finding all the green + signs.  It can be a royal pain to find the last few.  If the game wasnt so old and rare I would probably just use a gold paint marker on the hexes for trees.

 The mech Battletech fans know of as the Scorpion doesn't perfectly fit in the small hexes but the others do as do the counter chits for non mech units.  1/600 scale Pico Armor miniatures would be fine to use as well.  http://www.picoarmor.com/ has a ton of super cheap 3mm/600 scale minis that would be useful for this game.  

 (I bought a small sample pack but I have no clue where the hell they are at right now.  Here is a picture of one with some 600 scale Uncharted Seas ships and an AT 43 walker. )
Yes that tiny little silver thing there that is about an 8th of an inch long is a 1/600 scale tank.

While the seemingly excellently laid out manual isn't properly translated you can see how neat it looks and how the little line of sight periscope works!  It even has a little cockpit sticker so it looks like what the mech's pilot would see!  You also can see more elements that Battletech took like jumping.

The original reference card and the translated one.  Yes you need the original because of photocopying making the second number unreadable!  And yes another thing Battletech took from this game:  HIT LOCATIONS.  You see Battletech's creators got their design rights from the same company who imported and translated this game.  So yes, these two games are basically Battletech 0.5.

Now I am just going to show photographs of the English translated manual so we can all read it.  

Yeah they somehow took a larger manual and shrunk it to 4 pages.  Somehow I think a few things were missing in spite of them REALLY wanting to protect it.  Odd.

Yet thanks to the Internet Archive I was able to rediscover a website that first let me know of these games with most of it still intact for download.  I am saving this fine fellow's work for posterity and my own use.

Yes the original translators left a lot out.  This puts some of it back.

Now the question I pose is this:  Should I actually do a full proper playtest of these games?  Would anyone be interested in seeing the game expanded and improved upon?


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