I was back at my parents’ this weekend to celebrate my dad’s birthday (74 and no signs of stopping, bless his wrinkly old socks), and that usually means meeting up with Ian for an afternoon of wargaming. Actually, it was around about this sort of time last year when I dipped my toe back into Warhammer 40,000 for an afternoon (and massively regretted it); this is basically because my parents’ house has a nice big dining table, something my pokey little flat lacks!
Ian and I did actually play some Warhammer 40,000; or rather, 1-Page 40k, which was surprisingly good fun. I may talk about 1-Page 40k some other time, but for the most part we liked it. Who knows, we may go back to it more regularly; Ian certainly has enough 40k stuff that’s just hanging around collecting dust.
Our main gaming event was the latest addition to my collection; Mars Attacks, from the lovely chaps at Mantic. It was dirt-cheap in their January sale and I’d been itching to pick it up for a while, so it seemed a no-brainer.
The box is jammed full of good stuff; aside from the obligatory rulebook and counters, you get loads of Martian invaders, US Army guys, wrecked buildings, and special characters. All the models are pre-assembled coloured plastic, so you can get playing right away.
As for rules, MA is essentially a simplified version of Mantic’s other grid-based skirmish game Deadzone, a game I desperately wanted to love, but it fell a little bit flat for me as some rules were just a little bit too fiddly, game setup was fairly tedious, and game balance a little bit off-centre; but hey, Deadzone v2 is right round the corner, so there’s some hope. It’s an opposed dicepool based system, like Dreadball (another Mantic game I’ve harped on about before); one player rolls dice, typically three, against a certain stat, and the opponent rolls their dice against their stat, for example Shoot vs. Survive. Whoever gets the most successes wins, and in the case of Shooting, it typically means that the enemy is killed. It’s pretty streamlined; there’s very few modifiers to these dice rolls, and a model’s stats are never lowered, they just get more or less dice depending on the circumstances.
In terms of differences between Humans and Martians? Humans are better at close combat and their special Hero characters are excellent, whereas the Martians are better at shooting and have body armour. Things are pretty well-balanced.
The rulebook comes with ten missions. We played the first two, swapping sides between games. Ideally, we’ll play through the entire campaign!
The first mission is the “tutorial”; five Martians against eight US Troopers. Each mission has its own conditions for victory, but typically it’s the first player to get 8 Victory Points. Victory Points can be gained by killing enemy Heroes, picking up Alien Intelligence or Critter counters, or something else; each mission clearly explains what’s needed to do. In the first mission, it’s just kill or be killed! I took the forces of glorious Mars, and Ian was the pathetic human meatsacks. ACK ACK ACK!
Okay, so maybe I’d have better luck in the next game. We swapped sides, and I took the humans. This time, I had some punch; a US Sergeant, who buffs up the normal troopers, and two Heroes, the badass cop Eva, and sneaky crossbow-wielding teen Troy. My mission? Get them off the table. Sounds easy, except for the 16 mother-loving Martians in the way.
Despite the two crushing defeats, I had still had great fun with Mars Attacks; it’s a very quick, easy game, with fun, flavourful mechanics. I may need to house-rule a few things due to a few discrepancies and inconsistencies in the rulebook (for example, the mechanic Joe can’t use his ability to steal Martian guns, as he’s never used in a scenario where he can meet the conditions to do it, a disappointing oversight) but for the most part it’s a very solid game. And obviously it lends itself well to comedy. Just try playing it without repeatedly going ACK ACK ACK, I dare you.