Sunday 15 May 2011

A Victorian Science Fiction Slugfest

I have gone and done something rather rash.....

I was happily perusing the new game shop that has just opened in Rayleigh - Gamerz Nexus - when I was overcome by the dreaded 'shiny-new-must-have' syndrome. I am quite sure that most fellow sufferers have experienced this on the odd occasion and so I offer no apologies for my fall from grace. The shop primarily caters for fantasy gaming - either miniatures based, role-playing or collectible card games - and there are wonderful bits and pieces in the shop to look at. I happened to have popped in there purely to acquire some Army Painter white primer (which was duly obtained and very nice it is as well) and came out with not only the aforementioned spray but also a copy of Spartan Games rules for their game of Victorian Steampunk warfare called Dystopian Wars.

The basic premise for the gaming universe in question is that the industrial revolution occurred decades before it actually happened and that great airships battle above the clouds, huge warships blast each other on the high seas and land ironclads drive all before them on land. Supporting the rules are the inevitable miniatures for the major power blocks and very nice they look as well (although I will qualify that later in the post).

The game is described as following on from their fantasy naval set Uncharted Seas and a deep space set called Firestorm Armada so I presume that many of the mechanics have a common origin.

I have yet to read the rules in detail although they seem fairly straightforward and so when I have had the chance to peruse them I will report back. The production value of the rulebook is very high and in terms of eye candy the illustrations and photographs of the models available are very nice indeed. It seems to be almost obligatory these days for a rule book to be copiously illustrated with background material and ideas for games and in this respect Dystopian Wars is right up there with the best of them.

In terms of the gaming universe it delivers exactly what it says on the tin although having been spoiled by that included in Wessex Games Aeronef the Background could have been fleshed out a lot more in my opinion. Aeronef and Land Ironclads have a much more alternative history based approach and so the back story is more 'rounded' than that in Dystopian Wars. Having said that, in my opinion Wessex Games lose out by virtue of missing the naval element at the moment although when Aquanef (the VSF naval set) finally appears it will redress this enormously. The rules and background from the Wessex stable are really an extension of history in my opinion whereas Dystopian Wars seems to have been almost dropped into 1870 on a fully operational 'done deal' basis.

The ship models are very nice and beautifully detailed (made from Resin) but overall just don't do it for me - that is not a reflection of the quality or the ideas which are extremely good - but that is just my own personal beef. The game is set in 1870 and so I would want to see warships that looked vaguely like they belong historically in that year. There are enough actual historical types of the era that could be 'tweaked' into something a little more fantastic and as I say, they are lovely models but not my cup of tea. I am not keen on most sci-fi/fantasy ranges simply because I have my own ideas on what 'stuff' should look like and whilst many of the ideas presented (the Prussian Dirigible Aircraft Carrier is a good example - think Hindenburg with a flight deck - and one that I shall certainly 'borrow') are very interesting I have a number of my own thoughts on how to model this 'era' - which will probably not be to anybody elses taste. To each his own I suppose.

I am really not sure what I will do or how I will progress this and with hindsight it may be seen very much as an impulse purchase BUT....I am very interested in the idea of VSF and how it can be translated into a game and so this is very much a valuable part of my data bank of ideas and inspiration. I would certainly try the rules out but would use my own (scratch built) models.

Lovely eye candy though....

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