Monday, December 13, 2010
There's something about Darkson Designs' AE Bounty that seems to be calling to me. I don't know what it is, maybe it's the slick format, or the good things I've heard about the rules, or maybe it's the fluff, which for a tabletop skirmish game is surprisingly solid. More than likely however it's the crew composition that's hooked me. I picked up the rulebook months ago but just now have gotten around to reading it.
AEB is a point-less system that focuses on small, squad-based combat. The squads, called crews, are usually one per player, and are where the system really stands up and makes you take notice. First off, as I said, it's a point-less system, which is always refreshing, yet they still manage to seemingly make everything balance out.
The first thing you do is select what kind of crew you want to field. Your choices dictate size and experience level. Smaller crews yield higher experience, larger crews feature more mundane troops. As you might imagine it's a quality versus quantity pendulum. Your choices are: two-man crew (like it sounds, two-ish elite fighters), veteran crews (obviously larger than a two-man crew, but still more than battle-ready), standard crews (umm, pretty standard), and finally you have large crews (lots of troops, but overall they're pretty green).
So far so good, next you pick a faction that your crew represents. Here you have three more options: Mercenary (former military/professional), Bounty Hunter (contract killers of specialized skills), and Pirates (riff-raff and cutthroat scalawags). The faction you pick will also dictate the types of individuals and units you can take. Each faction has their own distinctive feel to them as well, and offers unique unit choices the other factions don't have access to.
You're still not done! After all of the above you then pick an alien race template to apply to each choice of your crew. If you apply the alien template to a unit of multiple figures, all of those figures become that alien race. An alien template to an individual applies just to them. In this manner a crew of, say, twelve figures could be composed of half a dozen different alien races. I should have the book on hand as I write this, I don't, but I do know there's plenty of alien races to pick from. Each race offers its own ability boosts and negative modifiers, as well as special rules. Humans are thrown in with the rest of the lot.
A word on equipment, each unit choice in whichever crew you choose comes with equipment options, but each has a limited number of slots. Equipment is broken down into three categories; gear, guns, and melee. Guns are further broken down by types such as pistol, rifle, heavy, etc. Gear represents a lot of choices, from the armor they wear to scopes for weapons, specialty ammo, and more. Melee is the only weak category with just a few options to pick from. Some units get to pick from all three categories, others get maybe just one gun choice and that's it. There's ways to swap equipment slots too.
Using all of the variables above you could min/max 'til the cows come home. Picking that perfect crew mix with just the right XP levels, just the right squad options, then the right kind of aliens to take advantage of all the above. Seems a bit 'gamey' however. Sometimes it's those unlikely combinations that make for a better game in the end.
So the plan is to whip up two crews. I'd like to make them as diverse as possible to really see how the balance issues play out, so I think a two-man elite crew (seen at the top of this post) versus a large Pirate crew will do nicely. I'm going to do it in Legos to boot, for many reasons, Legos being cool nearing the top of the list.
The rules mechanics themselves are fairly straight forward so it should be easy to try a quick game or two. The rulebook also packs in a good number of scenarios and even an extended campaign system for your crews to grow over time. All of this in a pint-sized rulebook, pretty impressive so far.
The albatross around my neck right now are the four linked games of Strange Aeons I *need* to get finished up, after that I think I'll shoulder a little AE Bounty for the group as a test drive, see how we like it. The upswing to using Legos is that while I prepare for AEB, I can be painting up my prehistoric stuff at the same time!