Thursday, December 23, 2004

The End of Gaming as We Know It...

As a terrible storm descended upon Toronto, the members of WAGS huddled together in Kozure’s home for the final WAGS session of 2004, minus one member, Easy, who had wisely elected not to brave heavy snow and slushy streets to get into town.

In keeping with the “final days” theme of the evening, I had Wreckage and Gammarauders as the games for the evening.

We have played Wreckage a few times before, but I haven’t felt satisfied with any of our sessions. I keep thinking there’s a better game in there trying to get out. Tonight the game provided a fairly satisfactory result, but still had some nagging issues which I am now satisfied are part and parcel of the game design.

The first game, Tili joined us for the first time and demonstrated that survival of the fittest need not always go to the combative. While I engaged in aerial stunts and Shemp and Hapi battled it out near the centre of the table, Tili quietly sneaked in the victory by fairly rapidly poaching three gas cans.

In the second game, a much more drawn out battle occurred; with more manoeuvring and some drivers managing to limp on after sustaining a lot of damage, the game felt more strategic than usual. Unfortunately for Tili, battle damage left her unable to turn save in one direction, and unable to slow down except by collision. By this point, I had grabbed two cans, Shemp one, and Hapi had been eliminated by trying to go head to head with Shemp’s SUV in a mid-size sedan (my attempt to ram Hapi in reverse with my motorcycle predictably did more damage to me than to him). With all of us carrying gas, but none with enough to win, it was evident that we would have to hunt down one of the survivors to win.

In the end, I managed to snag Tili’s gas cans after she careened into a wall at full speed, in a conscious attempt to put herself out of her own misery. Reversing the whole way, I managed to run over the cans and tap lightly into the wall without destroying myself in the process. Reversing, it seems, is an overlooked tactic (I am Reverxxor!).

Wreckage is a game that I want to be better somehow. It seems to have all the right elements for a quick, fun game, but somehow they don’t add up. I think one issue is player elimination – Hapi had to sit out for about 15 minutes while we finished up. Another is the rather crippling effect of critical hits – and the very steep price for fixing oneself in an emergency repair. If you are (randomly) affected by critical hits early in the game, you can find yourself literally spinning your wheels with no chance of a comeback.

Suggested future house rules might include that any eliminated player may return in a new vehicle of the same colour (flip side, preferably) but has their victory condition upped by one – that is, they must now take four cans instead of the three required initially. They begin in a standard start location furthest from the action, or if two locations are equidistant, use the spinout counter. Another house rule may be to reduce the requirements for emergency repair – a player may, at his option, regain a steering card by sacrificing one card from the hand and applying a hit counter, as well as the standard sacrifice of two steering cards. As the game already punishes emergency repair players by effectively skipping one of their action phases, I believe this substitution is fair.

The second game was Gammarauders. Unfortunately with a long rules explanation and already running overtime as a result of a slow start, we only had about forty-five minutes to play. This tongue-in-cheek TSR game from 1987 puts a strange Godzilla/Mechagodzilla/Giant Robot spin on the usual Post-Apocalyptic tropes, adding strange twists like the “energy podinoids”, or pods for short, and “factoids”. All too convoluted to explain in a short blog entry, the game world is essentially the Gamma World universe from TSR put through a humour/bizarre blender and left overnight on the shelf to congeal. The result is a mutant creature that feels a little like Settlers of Catan (hexes, variable location resources) mixed with a wargame.

I really enjoy this game, having played many day-long sessions in high school, and I think that Shemp and Hapi warmed to it as well after the initial unfamiliarity. With less than an hour to play, we were well short of anyone winning (though I was on my way to losing) so hopefully we’ll get another crack at this in the new year.

So, with the last blog of a WAGS session in 2004, I’m pleased to say that this has been a great year for gaming. Thanks to Shemp for setting up the blog site, and thanks to all of my honourable opponents for a year that was much more recreationally fulfilling than years previous.


  1. Kozure,

    I appreciate the post. I'm pretty sure you did it just to keep me in the loop!

    I feel the same way about Wreckage. In many ways, it feels a lot like RoboRally, but without a board. It SEEMS like the potential is there for much wackiness and fun. It SEEMS like the rules for damage make sense and should add to the enjoyment of the game. It SEEMS like everyone will have a fair shot. The reality, for both games, is that the system doesn't allow for as much interaction of the "fun" bits as you would have hoped, that the rules for damage essentially favour the leader so heavily that the outcome is often determined far in advance, and that a few bad draws (or rolls) can determine a players fate much more than the skill level does. RoboRally can overcome many of it's problems with careful flag+board layout (and with a few robot powers thrown in), but Wreckage starts the same way every time. Your suggestions sound good, though!

    Still, I like both games and look forward to playing them whenever they are suggested!

    Anyway, it's the end of the calendar year, and almost a full year after we started the WAGS thing. I've really enjoyed our Wednesday nights, and I hope that we can continue to find time for it in the New Year. I always look forward to reading or writing the blog (I think I'm it's biggest fan !), and I quite often go back and read an old entry or two just for fun.

    Thanks to all of you for sharing your homes, your games and your company! I hope you all have a great Christmas and we'll see you at New Years!

  2. The Wreckage games were indeed eye-opening - I think that the second game was much closer to the kind of game that it is intended to be. My big problem is that it just seems to take longer than it should for what it is, if that makes any kind of sense at all. Also, it can take a while to play out what seem to be forgone conclusions - I guess that is a related complaint.

    I think that Kozure's suggested house rules would be worth a try.

    I also think that Wreckage would be improved by drunkenness.

    Gammarauders, I can't really comment on, I don't think. We just didn't get far enough along to judge. I will say that I'd give it a shot another time, though.

    I think that I need to disagree w/ Easy's equating Wreckage and Robo-rally - RR is much more fun, and seems like it has much more opportunity for unpredicatbility and changes in the lead.

    Easy, you might be the Blog's biggest fan, but rest assured that I return to old entries from time to time, too. You aren't alone.