I have a cold.
I have a cold because I spent part of my Friday night sitting on the platform of a suburban station somewhere in the greater Birmingham area.
I spent part of my Friday night sitting on the platform of a suburban station somewhere in the greater Birmingham area because I’d popped over to meet the Frontline Gamer and play some Freebooter’s Fate.
Of the available factions I alighted on the Brotherhood because, frankly, they look prettiest, and I’m trying to learn about stealth and actually using terrain intelligently.
This may have proven to be a mistake, as they seem to be one of those clever-clever close-to-short-range fast-but-fragile forces that I tend to struggle with. HOWEVER, this isn’t about faction choice or winning, this is about the system and whether I actually like it or not.
I think I like it. The combat mechanic is very, very interesting – putting this in terms that I understand, every shot is called, targeted to one or more of six parts of the body, and whether it hits or not is determined by whether or not the target is defending that part of its body. If two are left undefended, you choose one part to hit really hard. Which hurts, as my Master Assassin will tell you once he’s finished putting his knees back on.
How hard it hits is where the random factor comes in. Freebooter’s Fate uses a flip-a-card-add-the-stat-compare-the-difference mechanic for this. The spread of random values involved results in some very, very nasty hits, although it occurs to me that you could predict and plan for this if you knew how many cards of which values were in the deck and had a good memory for what had already been flipped.
And then things get damaged, and what I really like about Freebooter’s Fate is the various sliding scales on which damage operates. It’s not just about taking wounds and continuing to operate at full efficiency until you fall over, hoo no. Damage is applied to the location it’s sustained in, and taking damage to a location reduces the model’s ability to do something and increases the likelihood that it will run off in a complete tiswas (so morale’s folded in as well). That’s some clever stuff right there. Tracking it all without a dry-wipe marker is a bit hard but WITH a dry-wipe marker it’s dead easy, as the ex-Warmachine team behind this have taken that game’s nifty card system and pursued its potential a bit further, which is nice.
This isn’t to say that it’s totally plain sailing. There are definitely a few things which alloy my enthusiasm, as it were. The first thing is, and I’m sorry to harp on this but it is a factor, the metric system. If you’re used to inches, as I am (I have played games that work in centimetres, but not for quite a few years), this takes some adjusting to. The conversion’s not hard, it’s doing it while you’re also trying to evaluate whether something is or isn’t in range or not and dealing with that instinctive knowledge that 2o is this far that could cause.
Another potential issue would be terrain. Mr. Frontline pointed out that the board we played on was a bit spartan, really, and the echoes of Infinity began to click around my brain at this point. I played Infinity once and really, really liked it, but I did feel it would have problems taking off at some of the clubs I know because it needs so much terrain, and so many pieces smaller than the usual hills/woods/walls/maybe a dodgy building that you can’t really move into. Freebooter’s Fate may have a similar potential issue – a great game that might be unsatisfying to play on the wrong board, and that requires some serious investment to get the right board together or some good fortune in having access to the right board through a club or some other person.
Still think it might be worth it though. There are games that I’ve played once and instantly disliked. This is a game that I’ve played once and want to play again, which is always a good sign, and a game where I’ve been able to say “if we changed this and that, and I did this instead of that, and yes, I see what you’re suggesting there, that makes sense”, which is a better one. It’s still fun even if you’re not playing it under the best conditions, and that counts for a lot.