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A Kickstarted but gotta Freeboot

This morning I launched The Abbot Trilogy Kickstarter and I have to keep my mind off of it.

So, I’m going to write about the first play test for Freebooters.

Freebooters is the post apocalyptic skirmish game being pried out of Bibliotecs. The thing with play tests is you want to have a goal, try to achieve it, and record the results. There will also be a range of things that pop up that will be unexpected. Goals that are accomplished without knowing you wanted to. 

This happened a lot in our brief session. 

Goals for this play test were:

1. Does character creation work, and is it interesting?

2. Does combat work? 

We answered these fairly comprehensively.

1. Yes, but it makes some very average characters.

2. Yes, but it can be slow.

The Set Up

I didn’t play. I had my two buddies over and they were keen. They’re also the sort of folks who like to scrutinise and get things right. So, they were great for this purpose because they had questions! 

They were to roll up four characters, set up a small scenario, and see how combat went.

Rolling up characters was no issue. However, it produced some lacklustre starting squads with only one character from each scoring high enough to get a ‘class kit’. 

The scenario was simple, kill the other guys, get the most resources. While combat worked, initiative was slow and combat dragged on at the end. As the remaining two combatants had low damage and high armour resistance. And we forgot about command points. Overall, it worked enough for everyone to want to give it another go.

Problems & Solutions

Damage and defence. Some weapons were too weak to make any impact on some armour. For example, a knife with 1d4 damage and minimal chance of damaging any targets with armour. So, a quick fix for this was to tag it with Penetration, meaning it’s damage now ignores armour. This made the knife a dangerous weapon in close combat, but means you need to be up close with heavily armed foes. 

Heavy Armour also presented a problem. It initially had a 2d6 soak defence which meant almost nothing could hit it, except if you had a knife. However, a heavy armoured character often has a heavy weapon to go with it. For this, we reduced the soak to 1d10 which could still be quite high but has enough swing for more variability.

Initiative. Our first little game took a long time. A long time. Part of this was the initiative process. Essentially stolen straight from LotR: Battle Companies. Each player rolls a d6 highest goes first, ties go to whoever didn’t go first last time. Each player moves all their characters. This was fine. It was. But it wasn’t very engaging. So, we changed to system similar to Troika! Each character gets a token that’s put into a bag and they’re drawn randomly. 

Command Points. These are a kind of meta currency that the Leader of each Outfit (the name of war-bands in this game) has and can use throughout a skirmish. I wrote they had them and did nothing else with them. So, we made some up! These were are calls to some form of action such Charge! Which gave a unit an extra movement on their turn. Or Hit em! Which gave an extra damage die to another a character.

Round 2

The change to initiative was noticed instantly. Tactical combat changed. It was fast and unpredictable. You may have a plan in mind, but because you had no control over when your units could move and take actions the plan had to be constantly on the fly. It also gave another dial to be turned up and down. So, we created a new Command for the leader, ‘Again!’, which gave another initiative token to one unit for the next round. Bam. A way to unbalance your opposition. 

With the knife now ignoring armour, it gave inexperienced units the opportunity to actually do some damage. If you got 2 or 3 knife wielders onto a heavy you could do some serious damage. 

The Command Points worked well. Sort of. They gave another interesting element to play but the conversation lead to when points can be used. Are they used on the Leaders turn? Can they be used at anytime? If so, what does that mean for the command points available? It would open up the range of possibility with when and what could used. But that is something for a later stage.

Overall 

This was a success. I think that there needs to be some changes to the Outfit and character creation to make for more diversity on the battlefield. And I need to actually write some rules. But at the moment it works a bit.

Long days and pleasant nights!

Oh, and heres what the current character sheet looks like!

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February 2024
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