Monday, 28 July 2014

New Infinity Starter Box - Operation: Icestorm!

The contents of the 'Infinity Operation: Icestorm' starter set.

Hello there ladies and gentlebeings! So, the Corvus Belli servers crashed today as the pre-order for the new Operation: Icestorm starter set for Infinity opened to the public. This is a very big thing for the game as it has so far only had standalone books and separate miniature boxes released so far. I think a proper starter set like this one will have a big impact on the player base as it makes it much easier to get into the game from scratch. So what do you get in the box?

First off, there are 14 miniatures in the box - 7 each for Pan Oceania and Nomads. Two of these are limited to Operation: Icestorm while the others will get repackaged in the future as new starter sets. If you manage to snag one of the early copies you will also get a 15th miniature - a Corporate Security Unit - that is a mercenary that are usable in the scenarios as well as a regualar Merc.The minis are all brand spanking new, using digital sculpting technology and they look great! More on this later.

You also get a fold out play mat that looks to be roughly 90x60cm (3'x2'), which is too small for a "proper"
game of Infinity but I think works perfectly fine for the intro games it is meant for. You also get four houses (two different types) and six containers (three different types) that you fold together to quickly make a pretty good looking playing area! These have all been designed by Marcos Hidalgo, aka Toposolitario, who has made a bunch of free paper craft terrain designed for Infinity in the past. Check out more of his stuff at Toposolitario! In the box are also enough markers and (custom designed!) dice to play comfortably. A cool feature of the building is that their dimensions are the same as the boxes CB uses for their Infinity miniatures (that you accumulate a number of!), so they slot right into the building, making them a lot sturdier! It's also worht mentioning that this pack will be sold separately as well, so get three or four of them and you should be able to fill an entire normal sized Infinity table.

Finally there's the quick-start rulebook that introduce you to the game, and as it uses rules from the coming third edition (N3) there are some changes apparent already which is interesting for us veterans. It looks to have the basic rules of play and some great interior art as well as a series of five linked scenarios that gradually introduces the rules to you as you play through them. In the first scenario you only use three basic line troopers each whereas in the final one the complete forces are used. An excellent way to teach the game and the background at the same time! The story seems to be centred around a Moto Tronica factory complex on Svalarheima...

Still, we're all here for the minis, eh? I'll keep it short and sweet as there's a lot of them to cover!

The PanO ORC Trooper is one of the most iconic Infinity models as far as I'm concerned, it's certainly the one that first caught my eye back in 2005. This new updated version certainly fits the bill of hi-tech powerarmour!
The Nisses (ha! Funny if you're Swedish) are go to cheap-ish infiltrators and again the models has got quite a facelift! Sharp details and great armour design, although I feel he's almost a liiiittle bit too bulky. I wouldn't blame new players for thinking he's heavy infantry. Still, great looking!

Next up we have the Akalis Sikh Commando which is a PanO drop trooper. Again an excellent update of an old design that unifies it with existing newer troop types like the Crusader Brethren and (of course) Kirpal Singh.

The exclusive miniature fo the PanO in the box is this Father Knight and it's quite an impressive figure! I've never one to be all that interested in the space knight aesthetic of the PanO knightly orders (feels like I left that behind, so to speak) I'm the first to admit that this is an awesome looking model and I might just have to get and paint one for myself!

The last three models are the updated Fusiliers, the line infantry of PanO. Although the other models in the box might be more impressive these certainly was in most need of an update. People won't call them smurfs anymore, now that they look like actual soldiers! Yes, the classic beret is still there but they look a lot harder and grittier now.

I was a little disappointed that both the female line troops has the semi-pin-up going on. They don't really go overboard and I actually think it's pretty cool to have once in a while, but when both of them (and arguably the Reverand Healer as well) look more like they're on the catwalk then fighting a battle it feels a bit silly.

Now... Nomads!

Alright, I just want to get this guy/girl out of the way first because out of all the minis in the box this is the one that really steals the show! The old Mobile Brigada was just a mess and I never felt it had a clear art direction, like the other heavy infantry for the other factions. It was a jumble of different ideas that didn't really amount to anything memorable besides having an odd pose of about to step onto some stairs. The new Brigada has been completely reimagined and is in line with the recent, very clear, vision for the Nomads and I love it to bits! While it doesn't take the price of coolest Infinity mini ever (Gecko with Mk12!!) it's pretty close! I'm really hoping the updated Shang Ji has a similar impact on me. :D

The Grenzer is a new troop type that we don't know all that much about so far. We know he's from Tunguska, that he's a sniper with MSV1 and that he carries two pistols, which is pretty neat! It looks like he could fill the same role as the PanO Nisse, but seeing there's already a camo unit in the Nomad force I'm suspecting this guy won't have it. I'm sure the stats will make their way to the forums soon enough though. Still, very nice miniature! I wasn't sure at first, since it's fairly dark, but the more I see it the better I like it.

And here's the Spektr. The original design is of the older variety but still looks good I think. This is more like an update rather than an outright redesign like the Brigada. It looks good, very Nomady, and it's certainly a solid addition to the lineup. Still, nothing that I get too excited about.

The Exclusive mini for the Nomads is this Reverand Healer and I might actually like this better than the Father Knight! There's a liiiittle bit of the look-at-me pose going on, that I mentioned above, but when it looks this good I have no problem with that! Really like the confident stride, the hood, the flowing robe and her challenging gaze. Very nice mini! Also a new profile, but seems basically to be a Moira doctor.

Finally we have the three Alguaciles, the Nomad line troops, and if the Fusiliers was in need of an update the Alguaciles screamed for one! I've actually had my eye on Nomads as a second (third? fourth?!) faction but the old Alguaciles have held me back and I have waited for these new sculpts. And the don't disappoint! I know some people who think they look too much like eighties space pirates but I think that's exactly the point! In this red colour scheme
they remind me of Space Adventure
 Cobra, and what better role mode
l could a band of rag-tag would be revolutionists aim for?! Again, I think it's a bit of shame that the women is the only one "posing" while the men look more like the hard ass killers they are.

Finally we have the bonus mini that you can get if you pre-order, or simply get one of the early copies I guess. It's a Merc CSU or Corporate Security Unit. From what we've gleaned so far she's basically a highly trained body guard and she has the kind of neat transforming briefcase/submachinegun reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell. Pretty cool! You will actually use her in the Operation: Icestorm campaign but unless you snag an early copy you'll have to settle for using a marker instead. I'm not sure if she's actually exclusive or if she'll be available for purchase later on.

And that's about it! Beasts of War did an unboxing video with Carlos that you can watch here, and they have just started an Infinity themed week focusing on Operation: Icestorm and it contents. The first video in that series is already up, here, and shows the first, very basic, mission.

I'm really excited to finally see Infinity getting a proper start set that works great for two players wanting to break into the game! And I think a lot of us veterans will pick it up as well, the value is quite good if you break it down. So... will you be getting it?
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Friday, 11 July 2014

Federation Fleet to the Rescue!

Federation fleet mustering for... sensor scanning!
I think I mentioned something about this in my last post. In preparation for a three player game of Star Trek Fleet Captains I decided to start painting the different factions! In the end one of the players couldn't make it and me and my buddy decided to play something else so I only finished the Federation ships so far.

This was an extremely quick job and I finished all 12 ships in an evening. Spray white, wash with black and then pick out some details was my initial plan. I wanted to avoid any drybrushing, which is usually good for quick jobs, since the Federation ships are so smooth and futuristic. Unfortunately I was a bit too heavy handed with the wash and a few of the ships needed some extra colour to lighten them back up again. Still, for the most part they look good anyway.

Some red and blue for the engines and done! Quick, easy and looks a lot better than bare plastics. I think I might do the Klingons and Romulans in one go as they're both green - I'll simply use the same spray and then different washes (brown for Klingons, green for Romulans probably).

Although these have clix bases and are meant for the board game I guess they could be used for any space based combat game if I ever find myself eager to model som Trek battles. Although, seeing as I just found my Lightning Strike paper cutout figures I think it's more likely I'll give that a try instead.

I think these sheets of cutouts were part of the first edition of Lightning Strike. Or was it the demo game?
Anyway, should be good for getting some games in!
As some of you might remember I got myself quite a decent number of Jovian Chronicles ships during the sale preceeding the retirement of the line by DP9 (although at times it's taken out of retirement, briefly). I have a few EXO armours as well but not really enough to do a game of Lightning Strike justice I think. However, these cutouts should make for good looking stand-ins as fighter and EXO markers among the proper metal and resin ships below!

My haul from early last year when DP9 put the line to sleep. :'(
Wow, this post was supposed to be all Trek but I still managed to get some JC in there!
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Monday, 30 June 2014

Board Game Roundup

Cuba Libre.
Besides the roleplaying we're doing with M:0 we've been playing quite a bit of board games these past few months (not much mini gaming though) and I thought I'd share some thoughts and impressions on some of the new(ish) games that have found their way into my possession.

You might have seen some images of Star Trek: Fleet Captains in my Twitter or G+ feed but I don't think I've talked about it here. I got the base game and the Romulan expansion earlier this year when I heard the expansion had gone out of print. It's one of those games that I've wanted to get for a long time but have held off because of the price. I'm really glad I finally pulled the trigger though as the game is great fun! I'm not really much of a Trekie - I watched and enjoyed TNG in my youth but was far more into Star Wars. However in recent years I've come to appreciate the original series and how it tries to be something other than a mere sci-fi action series (the new movies really have made a 180 on that!). Anyway, what attracted me to Fleet Captains was the potential of having a space ship based game that had a good balance of detail and number of ships, that had both combat and exploration mechanics and that played quickly while still not being too light an affair. That it was a Star Trek game really didn't affect my decision one way or another.

Three player game with me as the Romulans.
I've played it a bunch of times now, mostly two player games which but also a couple of three player games, and we've had lots of fun with it! While it's certainly a bit of luck involved in card draws the game is nevertheless quite strategic and it's interesting to see how effective plays changes depending on your fleet and tactic deck composition. Having a larger fleet with many light ships is very different from having a fleet consisting of a few heavy hitters. The Federation and the Klingons that are in the base game play similar to each other although with a different distribution of missions (and the Klingons can cloak of course!) however the Romulans from the expansion  are very different and is definitely a different experience from the others! With the introduction of espionage missions and saboteurs they make for a very characterful addition and usually sneak around the other factions rather than confront them directly. Bottom line: good fun and with a quick playtime of about 90 minutes. With the expansion (that is being reprinted now) it becomes even better and the game is at its best with three players now, although I expect this to go up to four players with the upcoming Dominion expansion. Recommended! Oh, and more on the models later...

Beautiful cover!
I remember seeing the cover of Expedition: Northwest Passage and instantly thinking "I need to get that game". By that time it was only in the prototype stage so I had to wait for a but late last year I could get hold of it thanks to a nice gentleman from Belgium. We've played it a few times now with two and three players and it's a good tile laying game that really bring out the theme thanks to the ships/sled mechanic and the way the seasons make the ice freeze and thaw. I've always been fascinated by the polar explorers of the 19th and 20th centuries so this was a good fit for me. You get points for finding the northwest passage first and for being the first back home, but also for finding cairns, establishing communications with the natives, mapping straits and finding leavings of the lost Franklin expedition. This means you have quite a few different strategic options open to you so, for example, if you find your way to the passage blocked or cumbersome you could simply try and rack up as many points you could by going after straits and Franklin clues and then be the first back home.

Not only is the cover of the box great looking but the rest of the components as well. There are many small details that really add to the atmosphere - Matagot has done a great job with this! It plays in about an hour or 90 minutes if you're prone to AP when getting your tiles out. Hehe! For added immersion I suggest having the Shackleton mini series on in the background while playing and if it's winter time opening a couple of windows!

Next up are two games actually, but since we haven't actually played either of them to completion yet I'll talk about both of them together. We first tried to play my friend's Cuba Libre by CIA analyst Volko Ruhnke but we did the mistake of following the extended play example which is great for learning on your own but not so great when in a group. So we never really got into it and decided to have a proper game further down the line. Then I got Andean Abyss and after having taught myself the game so I felt I could teach it to others without much trouble we played a three player game. This time we simply played as normal except we used only three propaganda cards, but even so we had to break early so the startup was slow when the others had to get to grips with the basics.

Anyway, both games, as well as A Distant Plain and the upcoming Fire in the Lake are part of GMT's counterinsurgency, or COIN, series and use the same game engine. There are four factions in all of the games and in Andean Abyss they are the government forces and then three insurgent forces: the Marxistic FARC guerilla, the right-wing AUC militia and the ever present drug cartels. All four have different victory conditions with the government and FARC battling for the support of the people while AUC want to outgrow FARC and the cartels simply want to make oodles of cash! The other games in the series have similar factions but with different paths to victory and operating procedure. For example, in A Distant Plain there are two counterinsurgent forces in the form of both the Afghan government and the coalition forces as well as the Taliban and the warlords.

Andean Abyss set up for play.
The gameplay is card driven but instead of having a hand of cards like in Twilight Struggle there is one active card per turn and the card for the next turn gets flipped over and revealed. Each card has an even that can be triggered and also tells you the order of play for the different factions. This all combines into making a very interesting game of fleeting alliances and desperate measures. The game integrates politics and economics well with the actuall military operations and the asymmetric gameplay is very well done! I have another game planned for next week which will hopefully run full course, so expect more on Andean Abyss later.

We've played Pax Porfiriana a couple of times and the three friends who I introduced it to really took to it quickly! My first play last year didn't go over all that well, but at the same time I knew that time didn't really have the right target audience. Jacob and Claes really enjoyed it and we played another game with Micke a week later. In Pax you play as rich hacendados in Mexico 1898-1920 and you are all struggling to take the power from the sitting dictator Porfiriana Diaz. It's a card game but in true Eklund style brings a lot of theme, history and details to the table. When you read the rules seems like too much and you wonder if the game will simply crash and burn under its own weight but then as you start playing everything clicks neatly into place and the lumbering behemoth you half expect to trip and fall never does but instead create a sublime gaming experience! Here's the writeup I did on BGG for our three player game: 

"While Pascual Orozco (Jacob) amassed huge amounts of gold from his Froth Flotation driven mines and Francisco Madero (Claes) used the clout his banks gave him to invest in a lot of land Bernardo Reyes (me) worked with modest resources. Reyes only had a single mine and a gun store but managed to amass a number of allies and quite a few troops to his cause and he was always quick to support the sitting Diaz.
As the American annexation and the Revolution topples came and went without any effect the country turned into a state of Anarchy that lasted until the end of the game. Seeing his chance as Diaz grew older and more senile, Reyes used the new anti-trust laws to muscle Madero out of his banks and sent Japanese-Mexican agents to assassinate his wife Angela Terrazas.  
Orozco tried to simply profit among the anarchy and ride it all out with the money his high tech mines provided, but Reyes managed to just snatch victory away from him by getting enough Loyalist support to make sure the power passed to him as Diaz retired. Salude!"

The middle of the game described above.
Just like every other Eklund game I've played to date the theme comes through so well not simply from what's pasted on the box or what images are used on the cards but through the actual game mechanics themselves. Having some additional historical notes in the back of the rulebook just adds to the experience! Excellent game that is being reworked and combined with Origins to make Phil's next game Greenland, that is out later this year. 

I got both Andean Abyss and Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan through a trade on BGG (traded my mint copy of Kölin: Fredrick's First Defeat) and these two games could hardly be any more different - both in theme and in mechanics! Sekigahara is a mechanically quite simple game but with a lot of depths thanks to the how the battles work, the hidden forces and variable setup. The board and the large wood blocks you use to play are beautiful and have a nice minimalistic vibe aesthetic that goes well with the theme of feudal Japan. It's a two player game where one side takes the role of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the other Ishida Mitsunari. You win by either controlling most of the board after a seven week period or instantly by killing certain important persons (like the boy emperor Toyotomi Hideyori).

Sekigahara ni action.
The blocks represent forces from different clans and are hidden from your opponent. The cards have the corresponding clans and you use them both for movement and during battle to activate blocks of the same clan and also to keep them loyal. On the map you try to control castles and resource locations that are worth points and also give you an edge during the reinforcement step. As I mentioned the mechancis are deceptively simple but the gameplay is very deep. During my and Fredriks first game a couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of not kicking Tokugawa out of the Kansai region around Kyoto and Osaka which meant I didn't have my back free. For a moment it looked like I might have been able to catch Tokugawa himself near Kitanosho, but he managed to escape back to Gifu castle and when it was time to calculate victory points I was handed a crushing defeat of 7-19! Having read quite a bit of Japanese history and even visited Tokugawa's grave in Nikkō it was easy to get into the theme of the game and having nice looking components certainly didn't hurt. Now I just need to prepare for a rematch!

Finally I also got to play Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn! I pre-ordered this game directly from Cubicle 7 last year and have been oogling the lovely looking over sized cards and enjoyed reading about its integration with the The One Ring roleplaying game, but I hadn't had a chance to play it until this last weekend. Basically you portray a number of hobbits drinking at the Green Dragon and trying to outdo each other in telling tales of adventure! The narrator draws a number of cards that he need to connect together to make a reasonable tale with a beginning, middle and end while the listeners try to interrupt him by playing Hazard cards that lead the narrator off course. I suppose it's modeled in some ways on Once Upon a Time (which storytelling game isn't?!) but with oh such a more rich and suggestive theme! Every card has a title a (beautiful!) image by Jon Hodgson and others, and a quote from Tolkien - any which could serve as the inspiration for the tale being told. 

Claes narrating his tale...
I was a litte uncertain how a storytelling game like this would actually play when on the table and Claes, who was first out as narrator, was also a bit intimidated by the prospect of total improv! But the cards really are great inspiration and being old roleplayers we were soon boasting like the most proud hobbit of our deeds and wanderings. Claes told us of the time Thorin Oakenshield came to visit during that great storm when he had battled the living dead and had to rescue some very dear silverware. I told a tale about the time I walked the moors close to Mirkwood and was chased by a wolfrider into the enchanted wood only to fall asleep by a stream and nearly falling victim to an evil old oak. Finally some woodmen took me to their town and gave me some runes for protection on my way home. Finally Anders started telling us how much he distrusted elves and the way they can talk to animals and how they told the birds to eat all his corn! This forced him to grow crops near the old marsh which never really worked well and led to his reputation being ruined.

It's a quick game, usually not lasting more than 30 minutes, so we played twice and enjoyed ourselves even more the second time around as we broke out the beer to really get into swing of things! For such a small little box this provided great entertainment and I look forward to playing it with four or five players at the end of a session of more serious brain-burner games to see what we come up with! Oh, and using it for journeys in The One Ring looks like fun as well. 

There were other games played as well of course: some Star Wars LCG which is always fun, Firefly with the new expansion which certainly improves interaction, High Frontier with a new player, Robinson Crusoe where we died of frostbite, and a fourth of a game of Britannia!

Finally, there have been some miniature gaming as well, but more on this later. :)

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Friday, 20 June 2014

Dragon V2

While I'm still hoping to see something like the Nautilus X that I wrote about a couple of years ago, I was also increadibly pleased to see the new version of the Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX that will allow seven crewmembers to get around in space. The Dragon V2 was announced the a couple of weeks ago by Tony Stark Elon Musk and it looks beautiful! The first thing that strikes you is how sleek and modern it looks, both outside and in. The seats and control interface especially looks just like something out of the new Star Trek movies which is pretty neat! Of course, the spartan interior will likely look quite different during actual operation and with stuff crammed everywhere. The control interface will be based around touch screens coupled with a center panel with physical buttons and switches for emergencies.

Elon in the pilot's seat.

Room for seven.
Moving out of the spaceship you might notice that it's standing on its own four legs and the four large, black exhausts around the hull. Yepp, this thing is meant to land on its own using eight (partially 3D-printed!) SuperDraco thrusters after having entered the Earth's atmosphere. Elon says it will have the accuracy of a helicopter which is pretty impressive compared to simply aiming for the ocean! If you feel sceptical of the idea, just take a look at what SpaceX has already accomplished with Grasshopper:

Of course Dragon V2 will have parachutes as well, for emergencies. After landing it will be ready to launch again very soon which is one of the core concepts of SpaceX's approach to space - as much as possible should be reusable and the time to relaunchability should be short.

We don't have much information about how it performs in space but in the video above you can see something similar to a service module with fins (for radiation) that is covered by solar panels. This is an interesting choices as we usually see foldable "wings" for the panels. Perhaps this approach of less moving parts make for higher effieciancy.

First off the Dragon V2 will be used for getting astronauts to the ISS but it's clearly meant to handle other tasks as well and we know that SpaceX still has Mars as its main goal. Just the other day Elon made an interview on NBC News and said that he's hopeful that we'll see the first humans on mars in 10-12 years. A bold statement, but coming from this man I'm not immediately sceptical. Of course the Dragon going to Mars would probably be version 3 or 4.

Speculation on what the next Dragon might look like.

With more and more private companies picking up the slack that governments have left off it's an exciting time to be a space exploration enthusiast!
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Saturday, 31 May 2014

May Releases for Infinity!

It's the end of the month and what do we get at the end of the month? Infinity releases! Weee! There's some old stuff and some new stuff and some really new stuff in the May releases, some of which we've seen as concept art in the seminar a few weeks ago. Let's have a look...

Let's start out with the Yu Jing Raiden Seibutai with heavy rocket launcher. Although I didn't dislike the first Raiden I wasn't overly impressed either, it looked cool enough but it didn't really click for me. For some reason this second one is different. It's still the same design, so I don't know why, but something about the pose and the way he holds the rocket launcher really makes it work! When I first picked up Yu Jing I had this idea to start out that way but work my way into JSA eventually. I never did go down that way (yet) and with the Invincible sectorial on the horizon that's probably where I'll end up in the end. However, I do think this is a solid choice for JSA players who want some decent firepower that can survive the first couple of turns intact. For vanilla Yu Jing I'm not so sure but I think there's a place for him in JSA.

Then we have a taste of things to come for Ariadna in the Kazak Spetsnazs. Here's a guy I really like! You can immediately tell it's a Kazak but the added webbing, equipment and beret tells you this is something out of the ordinary! Great mini with superb detailing and very cool looking scope/mask. We don't really know what he can do yet, except that he has Ambush Camo(?) and Marksman L2 which is a new skill that give your attack the effect of Shock Ammo and can remove the penalty for shooting a target behind cover. Pretty neat! More info on Marksman at BoW. This certainly seems like it could be a scary alpha strike kind of unit and shock ammo effect should make sure that those pesky No Wound Incapacitation guys and gals will go down properly.

Now we'll take a quick break from all the guns and have a look at the O-12 High Commisioner. I really liked the concept art for the commisioner and the model doesn't disappoint! Good lines, nice flow of the cloak and a commanding presence. I imagine this guy just ignoring the chaos of the battlefield around him as he needs to get on his transport, or update his top secret O-12 twitter account. Unfazed by what goes on around him! It's also good to have a civilian available outside of one of the Dire Foes boxes.

 Next up is a box of PanO Knights of Santiago. This is a mix of the two older Santiago knights and two new ones, namely the one with Boardnig Shotgun and the one AP CCW. I'm not a particularly big fan of the whole knight thing that PanO has going, these are an exception though. And it's all thanks to the sheer amount of movement displayed in their metal bodies! I also think it's great how well the old and new sculpts go together, the old ones don't stand out at all (like in the new Neoterra Starter). My only niggle is that the combirifle knight totes the old version of the gun. Had that been updated as well, this would have been a perfect box! They are pretty scary on the tabletop - not quite as close combat oriented as many other knights they have a great BS of 14 and with a 360 visor they're a tough nut to crack even in the active turn. They are slow, but with Frenzy you could get some more speed out of them after their first kill! Oh, and the two new ones will be released separately as a blister for a limited time, so go and get them now if you already have the old pair.

Last but not least we have the new Nomad Tunguska Intervetors! To these I can only say, yes please and hurry up and bring me more! As far as I'm concerned the old Nomad range is by far the one in most need of resculpts so I'm always happy to see things like these! The new Moiras were a great step up and so are the new Interventors. Speaking of the Moiras there's some similarities in the uniform which is nice. The goggles are still there although they've been scaled down a little. Them being labeled as Tunguska Interventors is kind of interesting as it might imply that vanilla ones won't get access to the new nifty looking Fast-Pandas. Who, by the way, look really cool and nothing like the more whimsical drop cat we saw a couple of months ago (although I liked that). These Interventors also have a much more militaristic, Tunguskan look to them so maybe we'll actually end up with regular and Tunguskan Interventors in the future...

A solid month! I think my favourites are the Interventors followed by the Spetsnaz... with the knights very close behind. I'm excited to see units from the new book(s) already and can't wait to see the new Invicibles!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mutant: Year Zero

Second day. Yorgos managed to put together a decent fireplace for us using some large metal tubes he scavenged, but the night was still bitter cold and if all eight of us hadn't huddled together I don't think we would have made it. Still, it was a good place to stop at - the Rot didn't seem to be as strong in this sector.  
After a quick breakfast we made our way to what Pommax said was sector H15. We had seen the great tower from the old times all the way back from the Ark and were all eager to have a look at it up close. Me, Milix and a couple of the others stayed behind while Pommax, Yorgos and Lorentz scouted ahead. They went into the tower and were gone for a long time. When Yorgos finally returned and called us he talked about some robed strangers they had seen leaving something inside! That means there are others out there! Like us perhaps? 
Still the greatest prize was yet to come. Pommax and Lorentz stood looking at something lying on a table. We had planned this expedition to find technology from the old time. Things that we might use to survive and understand more of our surroundings, yet what we had found was far greater than this. On the table lay something I had never seen before - a baby.
-Astrina, Ark Chronicler

I've covered a number of roleplaying games here in the past, but I don't think I've talked about any Swedish games. Not all that surprising seeing as this is an international blog after all, and it has been many years since I played a Swedish rpg (although I grew up on a healthy diet of them!). Still, this month saw the release of the new rebooted version of the classic Swedish post-apocalyptic roleplaying game Mutant, now rebranded as Mutant: År Noll (Mutant: Year Zero) and created by Fria Ligan. The original, and its sequals, took place several hundred(?) years after a great apocalypse and the setting was fairly optimistic with the civilization slowly rebuilding itself. The technology level was roughly 19th century with the odd artefact from the old time lying around in one of the radiation ridden Forbidden Zones.

In Mutant: Year Zero (or simply M:0) you play in the very aftermath of the great apocalypse. Humanity has been decimated by plague and warfare and there is almost nothing left. Almost. You play as a mutated member of the Ark; a community of similarly aged people, all mutants, who have stayed hidden for as long as they can remember. Up until now the Elder have been the community leader and told them what to do, he's always been the heart of the Ark. But the Elder is dying, and food is starting to become a problem. The huge stockpiles of canned and powdered goods are finally starting to run dry and it has become clear that some exploration of the outside world has become a necessity.

The chapter on character creation.
This is where you start playing. You create your mutant, decide her job in the Ark and her relationship to the other characters and community members. Then you sit down with the entire group and create the Ark. Where is it located? What kind of Ark is it? A subway station that survived the blasts? A beached passenger liner? Or simply a collection of junk huts? The game also encourages you to play in your town and your own neighborhood. Just take a map of the area you live in, draw a grid on it and you're ready to go! We are, of course, playing in the post-apocalyptical remnants of Stockholm and the Ark is inside the old Pripps brewery in the northwest part of the city.

The characters we have are Yorgos who's a Junkhead and can fix or invent all kinds of useful stuff. You need a lamp or something to protect you against the Rot (radiation)? Or perhaps get that moped you found running on moonshine? Yorgos is your man. Then there's Lorentz, a great big brute who might not be the smartest of the bunch but someone that instills respect and know how to dish it out if it comes to that. Finally there's Pommax the Stalker. He's one of the few who has actually ventured outside the Ark for longer periods of time and knows some of the dangers out in the Zone. Pommax is the pathfinder and guide for everything Zone related.

With the characters and the Ark sorted we cranked up the mood music - the excellent retro soundtrack Krater by Christian Gabel (put it on as you continue reading for added atmosphere) - and got to playing!

At the start of every session the People of the Ark get together for a large public meeting where they try to decide on how to improve the state of the Ark. This is the players stepping out of their characters and taking more of a meta look at the situation and where they should commit their resources. The four categories you have to work with are Food, Culture, Technology and Defence and there are many different projects you can undertake to improve upon them. After some discussion they decided on trying to start growing some edible fungus and beets in the Ark to make sure everyone would be able to eat. But they were also eager to get the Technology level up so prepared to start an expedition out into the Zone - to an ancient building that the Elder thought might once have been a school.

Before they could head out though a loud boom and a crash was heard and they ran into the interior of the Ark to find a great hole in the floor! This event came from the Threat card that you also draw at the start of every session. These cards usually have some kind of threat to the Ark that needs sorting out one way or another, and can either be drawn randomly or chosen by the GM. This time it was a great hole that opened up in the Ark.

Yorgos quickly put together a kind of winch which allowed Lorentz and Pommax to easily get down into the gaping hole. Once they reached the bottom they realized that they were in a great man-made tunnel and that some kind of explosion had taken place which made the roof cave in. Pommax lit his lamp and they started to explore. To the west was another cave in so a dead end and when they went the other way they came across some organic looking weave that covered the walls. As they went further it became harder and harder to get through as the weave was everywhere. Lorentz got the urge to touch it and discovered his hand was stuck and as he pulled it off, loosing some skin, the thread vibrated wildly and they could hear... things moving further down in the dark! Not waiting to find out what, Pommax used his mutation to let out a great gout of flame, engulfing the entire area of the tunnel and burning the weave. They ran back to the winch and
just made it up as a large pale spider, the size of a bulldog, came creeping towards them.

Once out of the hole it was quickly decided that they needed to block it somehow and people were scrambling looking for suitable junk. In the meantime the characters watched the hole and had to battle a few spiders who made their way up. They had the advantage of height though and soon the hole could be blocked with planks of wood, parts of an old fence and quite a lot of rubble. There we go, no more horrible mutated spiders. Out of sight, out of mind! I'm sure that won't come back and bite us in the ass.

Having dealt with the spider problems the configuration of the Zone expedition was sorted out. Besides the three characters there were a number of other mutants who joined them. Some were simply curious of the world outside, like the Chronicler Astrina, while others went as representatives of the different Bosses who held sway in the Ark. The Crusher Buppe and the Fixer Milix represented the Boss Marlotte while the dog handler Leffo was known for running errands for Johammed. All in all seven of them started out, heading toward what might once have been a great school.

Moving through the Zone.
When you move through the Zone in M:0 you use the gridded map of the area you play in and when scouting a new sector the GM rolls a number of dice to decide what the it looks like, what kind of threats might be lurking and if there's any artefacts from the old tim there (also available as a web app). Naturally the more dangerous a sector might be the higher is the chance that there's still something valuable in it. Exploring the Zone like this is also what the Stalker does best and she has a special skill called Lead the Way that allows her to scout out a sector about to be entered to try and spot dangers and Rot level as well as scavenge for food, water and bullets. Which leads me into talking a little bit about the resource management aspect of the game...

There are four vital resources in the game: Mutation Points, Grub, Water and Bullets. Mutation Points are used for triggering your mutations and more often than not these will a character's strongest weapon, so keep them close! You earn more by Pushing a roll. You roll a dicepool and need sixes to succeed and if you want you can Push and re-roll them once, except if you do you will take damage from each hazard symbol rolled, but each will also net you a Mutation Point. Basically your mutant strain herself more than her body or mind can handle, but this kind of strain also fuels her mutations! Grub and Water is just that - food and drink - both which are needed to heal injuries and stress. You also need to eat and drink every day not to take damage. Finally there are the bullets that work both as ammunition and as currency in the game. You rarely have more than 4~5 of any of these resources and managing them wisely when out in the Zone is very important.

The box contents. Notice the special dice and the markers for Mutation Points, Grub, Water and Bullets.
As Pommax moved ahead and acted as the guide through the sectors ahead, the rest of the group looked around with equal parts fear and excitement, they'd never been this far away from the Ark before! The ruined landscape was a mixture of death and life - buildings smashed to bits by the terrible weapons of the old times but also trees and shrubs pushing their way through the cracks in the concrete to retake their old domain. To the immediate north they passed some huge cisterns, most of them in ruins but one or two still whole enough for Pommax to use as a makeshift lookout position. "There's a lot more standing buildings in the next sector!" he called down, "There's a big building with a clock on it that looks interesting...".

Closer to the clock building the others agreed that it looked promising. From a distant it looked like all the doors into the west wing were intact - a good sign said Pommax. On the other hand, the doors of the east wing were broken into pieces and there were many large, strange tracks coming and going from it. Had something made the building its lair? Not seeing anything for quite some time Lorentz, Pommax and Yorgos decided to try and sneak up to the west wing to try and make their way inside. As they came to the locked door a dark lumbering shape made it's way out of the hole at the other end of the building. It raised its shaggy head to the sky and seemed to sniff. While it first moved slowly, almost lazily, towards the mutants it soon picked up speed and what looked like two tonnes of muscles and fangs didn't make it any easier for Yorgos to try and pick the lock! He got it just in time and they could make their way inside and started throwing debris and old junk at the door as a makeshift barricade.

The thing outside seemed to give up after a few minutes and the trio continued to look around among the rubble. Most everything was junk, but Lorentz did find a corpse wearing some funny looking yellow suit. He simply laughed at it but after Yorgos explained that it might be something to ward of the Rot he looked at it more seriously and discovered that it could fit even his massive frame. Not finding anything else of value they decided to jump out a broken window in the back to avoid the thing outside. Meeting up with Astrina and the others they pushed on to the next sector.

Unless your Stalker use her Lead the Way skill to make it quicker, the normal time to make it through (and search!) a Zone sector is four hours. So by the time the group made it to the third sector, a ruined landscape but with a semi-standing police house, they decided it was as good a place as any to make camp. This was in early spring and nights were cold so Yorgos used some parts he found lying around to juryrig a chimney of sorts so they could light a fire inside. The early morning was bitter cold, but at least they were all still alive! The Rot did take its toll though and only Lorentz, who insisted on sleeping in his new yellow suit, seemed unaffected.

The next sector didn't have any standing buildings but consisted simply of a huge field of rubble. At least Pommax had found some drinkable water. Crossing the field Buppe was attacked by something coming out of the sand! Luckily Yorgos was walking right behind him and the shock of the attack triggered his Beast mutation and as the carnivorous sandworm came for it he broke it's jaws off and beat it to death with it. Yes, mutations are powerful, and they better be as you're going to be hit by every bad thing there is while out in the zone. The Rot in this sector was also unusually powerful and several of the mutants could feel it eating away at both their bodies and their minds!

They passed through another couple of sectors until they made it to one of the tall towers that can be seen far and wide in the Zone. There are four of them and this was the most northerly one. Again, the group split into and half of them went inside. For the first time they saw other... humans? Mutants? Humanoids? move about inside. They wore long dark robes and moved slowly through the ruined tower. Not daring to talk to them Yorgos, Pommax, Lorentz and Leffo simply kept quiet and watched them. The robed strangers lingered for a while around a large desk and then moved out through a side door. They had left something on the table though and as the mutants approached they were stunned to see the tiny shape of a baby, sleepily moving about in its blanket. This was of course huge news as none of the mutants in the Ark could bear children!

After having talked to the others it was decided that half the group should take the child with them back to the Ark while the rest pressed on as the school was very close now. Astrina and Leffo went back with the child. Passing through another sector of partially standing but overgrown ruins the group finally arrived at their destination, except what they were looking at certainly didn't look like any school they'd ever seen in the picture books the Elder had shown them. It looked more like some kind of strange factory, with many snaking pipes going in and out of different buildings. Still... it certainly looked like there could be some old technology inside.

Of course, beyond the first room the insides of the complex was pitch black. Yorgos had to pull out his lamp and they all stuck close together as they explored further inside. The stairs both up and down were blocked, but there were two large shafts next to them that seemed like they could be used for descending into the sublevels. Pulling down some wire from a fallen over post outside Yorgos attached it to a door handle and started climbing down to the floor below. After some discussion Buppe and Milix were posted at the top so no weird creature or hooded individuals came and released their only way up of the shaft.

Pommax, Lorentz and Yorgos continued on sublevel 1 and looked through the rooms in search for artefacts. Pommax did find something, a piece of flabby but tough cloth that could be inflated and made into a makeshift bed. Very comfortable! However it wasn't until they came to the end of a corridor and another short stairway down that they found the kind of technology they really were after. It was a large round room with a number of square consoles with screens on them. Sure, most of them were smashed or simply broken, but still. They started looking around when a loud bang was heard as the door was slammed shut behind them!

Raspy voices were heard and the sound of feet on the metal catwalk above them. Yorgos aimed his lamp up and saw that they were surrounded by a dozen stunted but vicious looking creatures! Humanoids dressed in rags and horrifying masks who readied their weapons and levelled them at the intruders. "Zone spooks", Pommax muttered as he ducked into cover behind one of the consoles.

What followed was a desparate battle of survival against the spooks in the cramped quarters of the computer room and it was only by using all their remaining Mutation Points and skills to the limit that allowed them to survive. Even so, by the end of the fight Pommax lay bleading on the floor with a jagged piece of carved metal in his side. Yorgos and Lorentz did the best they could and at least managed to get him on his feet but they knew they needed to get out and make a proper camp for Pommax to rest in. They took whatever parts and artefacts they could carry and with the help of Buppe and Milix made it outside.

They made their way back to the tower in the neighbouring sector where they spent the night. While mutant physiology is volatile and upredictable they at least also able to recover quickly! Having eaten most of their Grub the group felt ready to go home. Going back through already explored sectors is a lot faster and usually doesn't take more than 30 minutes so they could make it back by sundown (making sure to avoid the beast in the clock bulding!). Everyone was happy to see their safe return and that they brought with them technology from the old times, but what everyone was really interested in was the baby that Astrina and Leffo had carried home! Things were about to change in the Ark!

Here ended our first session. The Zone expedition was a success (barely) and they found a baby to boot! Except... who were those guys who left it there? And why? After having raised the Technology level of the Ark a little bit through handing in artefacts we doled out some Experience Points and called it a night. I'm very happy to say that we all had a great time, the players really couldn't stop going on about how fun they had and how well M:0 captured the core themes of the original Mutant while dressing it in a new grittier setting and giving it a lot more focus. The random way of generating sectors might seem a little, well... random at first glance, but it's actually very liberating for me as a GM. And of course, there's nothing saying I can't throw in some encounters or environments of my own here and there if I feel like it. Also, I modified the Zone map you get in the box to show the sectors the mutants have explored and which have stronger Rot than usual, and which are free from it. Here's what it looks like so far:

The cross to the left is the location of the Ark and they made their way west to their goal in sector H16.
I wanted to use the original image as a background in a spreadsheet made in Google docs and then use the cells as sectors so I could fill in information about them as the mutants moved through the zone, but that didn't work unfortunately. Might have better luck with Open Office. Anyway...

Certainly a great experience and we were all eager for more! The coming session reports won't be as detailed as this one, but I wanted to start out giving you a decent sense of what can happen during a session (we usually play about four, maybe five hours when we get together. Oh, and if you think this sounds like fun and you'd like to explore your own city as a group of mutants after the great apocalypse, get in touch with Fria Ligan and tell them! They did make translated quick start rules for their first roleplaying game Svavelvinter so perhaps we could see something similar for M:0 as well.
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