James Woo with Jack Saw in his sights. Too bad we weren't playing with the rules for firearms...
As I mentioned earlier I played a couple of games of Earth Reborn earlier in the week, and then twice more yesterday when we were one short for Twilight Imperium!
Earth Reborn is a scenario based skirmish game set in a post-apocalyptic world where the militant NORAD faction are fighting the zombie-creating, occultist Salemites! You control a few miniatures per side (usually about 2-4) and the detailed yet streamlined rules give you a lot (a LOT!) of freedom in what to do each turn. So far we've only tried the basic rules, but there are rules for things like radio scrambling, capturing prisoners (and subsequent torture!), searching for equipment, spying etc etc.
In the game there's a scenario book that has a bunch of tutorial scenarios that gradually introduce you to the rules, starting with basic movement and close combat and building from there. Incidentally the rules in the rulebook are structured in the same order and at the end of every section there's a note saying something like "You can now play scenario X. To play scenario Y read sections F and G" so it's really cool and intuitive! The scenarios in the box are for two players and we were three, however there's a lot of support for Earth Reborn from its creator so there are already tutorial scenarios for 3-4 players available for download. Wee!
Note that I'm talking about tutorial scenarios here. These are only there to teach you all the components of the game and when you know them you can break out the S.A.G.S - the Scenario Auto-Generating System - which is an awesome and very robust scenario generator. This really makes the replayability of Earth Reborn sky high!
Setup for scenario 1 - Prison Break! Notice the two zombies off board. They and Cherokee Bill were represented by facedown tokens so you don't know who is where.
Anyway, we punched out the pieces and started building the map. Not having the pieces sorted according to size and not being familiar with the design this took some time, but was a lot of fun as well. It reminded me of how I used to build entire dungeon complexes using the pieces from DungeonQuest as a kid. Anwyay, we got the map built, I took control of the Salemites while Micke and Claes each took a NORAD agent - Nick Bolter and James Woo . Their mission was to free Cherokee Bill who the Salemites had captured earlier. Problem was that he could be in either of three cells and in the other two were flesh eating zombies!
Nick Bolter (in the grasp of the giant hand) moving with Woo and the recently sprung Cherokee Bill to get to the exit!
I thought I'd play the odds and open one of the cells. Hoping to boost my forces with a nasty (although horribly slow) zombie, but instead I found the prisoner! This made it easier for the NORAD forces since they didn't have to check the other cells. I tried to contain Cherokee Bill (basically blocking the corridors leading out) but he managed to slip by and considering his large head start and my slow moving forces I decided to admit defeat so we'd have time for another game. We discovered that the next scenario was written for four players (which wasn't really a problem as it turned out later) and we were only three so we decided to try the first again, but using the new rules for interrupts.
Quite a dramatic face-off! However, before we were able to see how this fight would have ended Bill had already snuck past and was almost out the door.
This time I managed to corner James Woo early with Jessica Hollister and the lumbering Jack Saw and killed him. Nick Bolter made a break for it, as my forces were busy dissecting Woo, and found Cherokee Bill on the first try in the very same cell as last time! Jeff Deeler had freed a zombie in the meantime and together they were able to block the obvious exits for Bill. This bought time for Jack Saw to make his way around and behind Bill and cutting him down with a swipe from his circular saw. Victory for the Salemites!
Second game. As you can see James Woo is being beaten to death by Jessica and Jack while Jeff Deeler is trying to pursue Nick Bolter.
We played two more games yesterday. Again with three players and again starting with the same scenario. This time I played a NORAD character however, while Anders controlled the zombie horde. With the limited basic rules I thought the scenario would turn out similar to the first two times, but to my great surprise it went in a completely different direction! Yet again Cherokee Bill was found in the first cell we checked and as soon as the door was open he ran for it. At this point I though the game was basically over, but Anders made some clever moves with Jessica Hollister and Jack Saw, blocking the escape rout and leaving a huge gash in Bill's chest. Jeff Deeler was on his way to block the final exit but was luckily stopped by Nick Bolter. Bill took the long way around and just narrowly managed to avoid Jack Saw while he sprinted for the exit.
Surprise! I had counted on the fact that Jack Saw is so slow to get by him, but I missjudged it and he stepped right in front of Cherokee Bill. Ack!
This time we tried the second scenario even though we were one short. I controlled all Salemite forces although split up as two teams. The NORAD agents were making a covert insertion in a Salemite base, but the enemy had learned about this plan and laid a trap for them; basically boarding up the doors and setting the building on fire. The NORAD would win if they managed to get both agents outside.
One or two rounds into scenario 2 - Trapped in Flames. James Woo in upper left trying to break down the door while the room is burning around him. Vasquez hesitated but when she heard the whining noise of Jack Saw coming closer she decided to dare the fire.
This scenario plays out very quickly and is constructed to teach the interruption rules, and it really works as an excellent teaching tool. In the end both Woo and Vasques managed to get out, although with severe burns! I was keen to try the scenario again as it's so short, but we decided to take a break and prepare for WFRP.
So far my excitement for the game has grown with each play. And considering we haven't even touched the shooting rules yet that's quite a feat! The gameplay is smooth and quick and although there are a lot of moving parts they all click together in a way so that you rarely, if ever, have to consult the rules. The icon system (in the style of Race for the Galaxy) plays a big role in this, but there's a lot more to it than that.
Having this in my collection I can't really see games like Space Hulk and Doom making much of an appearance. Sure, it's new and shiny but it also seems solid. Oh, and on top of that it's beautiful! Sometimes it can be hard to spot the walls on the tiles, but overall the artwork is very evocative and the miniatures are the best I've seen so far in a board game. Very eager to start painting!
One final thing. Have a look at this insert:
It's made with all the pieces in mind and there are places for everything. The space for the cards has even been made slightly too big to encompass sleeved cards and it's shaped like a big fat plus sign so you can alternate the different kinds of card decks you put in. Great stuff!
Next time we'll play with guns!
Oh, and I just had to take a picture of the absolutely gigantic box the game came in:
Why? Just why?