Tuesday, 18 March 2014

MERCS: Recon

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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I wasn't going to fall for any more Kickstarters - or at least, I'd only go for cheap ones - but MERCS: Recon simply looks waaaay too cool to pass up on!

It's a cooperative board game by Megacon Games who created the original Mercs skirmish game and ran the very successfull kickstarter for Myth last year (which is hitting the streets next month). I did give Myth a skip, partly because the uninspiring gameplay videos but also because I felt that I had three dungeon crawlers already (Descent 2.0, Gears of War and Claustrophobia). Of course Myth is entirely coop which might have been interesting since I sold my copy of Gears of War but still... ce'st la vie. Myth does look like a very cool game though!

Anyway, I'm definitely a much bigger sci-fi than fantasy fan anyway so the MERCS: Recon kickstarter immediately drew my interest. I had of course seen the Mercs skirmish game before and had even considered investing in it, but never really felt the need for it since Infinity fills that particular niche so well. However, the miniatures are generally good (going from decent to excellent) and the hard sci-fi setting Megacon has created seems pretty neat!

As I started reading about it I realized that it's basically Syndicate the board game! I'll let that sink in for a bit before moving on. And let's have a look at that nice reboot trailer as well:

I used to play loads of the original Syndicate back in the day, and I spent quite some time with the severely underrated reboot by Starbreeze as well. Also having grown up reading William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy and exploring the world of Cyberpunk 2020 I'm certainly not a stranger to corporate warfare.

In MERCS: Recon you play as a team of up to five mercs (or always five, I'm not sure) whose mission is to infiltrate the office complex of a rival Megacorp in search for the very important Mcguffin! It might be that you need to hack and wipe some servers, assassinate a particular scientist or perhaps a good old fashioned locate and extract. Each merc in the team has different abilities and armament with a leader, demolitions, breacher, incinerator and gunner (these roles probably vary between different merc factions).
This is the player board with the all the stats for your particular merc.
As you move into the office there will be a number of different coloured "agents" in the area (essentially three different kinds of blips, a la Space Hulk). These move around the board according to card draws and if one or more enters line of sight to a merc you draw a card to see what kind of opposing force (OPFOR) it actually is and how it reacts to the mercs. Of course, you will run into tougher resistance as the Security Level goes up. Regular employees will generally cower or try to run to the nearest elevator or stairwell while security forces will try to fight back. Security forces come in four different varieties, becoming gradually better armed and equipped as you go.

When it's your turn to act with your merc you do so by way of command points, similar to Space Hulk, but with a lot more detail. You start the game with six points available, but you only get four back at the end of the turn, unless you take a special Initiative action which can't be combined with running or attacking. Connected to your command points is the Priority Track which works both as initiative, showing which merc acts first, but also as attack priority for the OPFOR models! So the more command points you spend during your turn the higher you will go on the priority track, meaning that the enemy will target you over the other mercs. Things like killing employees or using "excessive force" (attacking more than once in a round) raise your Priority further. Depending on your actions the Security Level is affected as well and even though you might be able to sneak around a little at first, it won't be long until OPFOR reinforcements start to arrive. This is a pretty clever little system that I haven't seen in board games before.

The movement and event cards used for agent movement and OPFOR reveal.
It also allows you neat combined actions where two mercs get to act simultaneously, one shooting and one moving for example or Duck & Cover where one merc can raise his Priority one step to allow another to lower hers. It gives a sense of a well oiled strike team working together, kind of like the move together card from Gears of War but more varied. There is also a combined action called Breach & Clear that the merc will have to use when they get to their objective (primary or secondary). This is basically a little mini-game within the game and a separate small board is used where OPFOR models are positioned behind overturned desks etc and the mercs storm through the door, guns blazing! It sounds really cool but I'm not yet convinced about the gameplay aspects of it. You mainly seem to do dice manipulation via the different abilities of the mercs to try and outdamage the opponents while attempting not to destroy the objective in the process. Need some gameplay vids of this in action to see how it really plays out.

The terrain tiles look ok, but could do with a bit detailing.
Oh, which reminds me of the collateral damage you are likely to inflict as you move through the area. There are three different attack dice: heavy, light and collateral damage dice. The CD dice have the lowest damage potential but hits every model in the target area as well as the area itself! If enough damage is done you place a special collateral damage disc on the area that changes the layout of the game and provides different modifiers. Oh, and you can ziptie and interrogate employees who might give you information as to the whereabouts of your objective. Oh, and now and then you will actually have to reload your weapon. Oh, and you can of course use overwatch, but be carful as you might fire at an employee by mistake (raising your priority and maybe security!). Oh, and as you get injured you loose command points and when incapacitated you need help to get up by your team mates. Oh, and OPFOR models act in different ways depending on if they are wounded or not. Oh, and there are more things, but it's late and I need to go to bed! :D

The factions in the two base game boxes.
All in all this seems like a pretty cool game! First and foremost I'm a sucker for the theme, but reading through the rules I get all kinds of good vibes as it really feels like something between the minimalistic tactical exercise of Space Hulk and the complex, rpg-esque sprawl of Earth Reborn. Two games that I love dearly, but that I can also feel are very far toward their respective ends of the spectrum. To have something in the middle would make for a nice trinity. Plus, full coop is a nice change!

I'm currently at the $120 Agent level, which gives you two different versions of the base game (featuring different mercs, OPFOR models, terrain tiles and missions) as well as every stretch goal. But I might find myself raising it to the $200 OPFOR level as that also includes the new second edition rulebook for the Mercs skirmish game plus all the cards needed to play it (as well as a totally separate dice game set in the same world). We're currently at 58 miniatures, but that seems to be rising to about 75 by the end of the week as another merc faction is added to the mix. Of course, it's not all about the number of miniatures. In fact, I think I would be happy with just one version of the base game, but at that level no stretch goals are included. Aww...

So... yeah... just thought I'd let you know. Because it seems pretty cool. :)

4 kommentarer :

  1. Being in a Shadowrun mood since I've played quite a lot Shadowrun Returns recently and I've been also reading the 5th edition RPG rulebook, so naturally Mercs: Recon caught my interest.

    It looks neat, but there are so many good kickstarters campaigns running at the moment (namely Shadows of Esteren and Mage the Ascension) that I can't simply invest in the game. But the game is now funded and will most likely see a wider release outside the kickstarter campaign. So I'll get back to it then.

    I'm also waiting to see how the Shadowrun: Sprawl Gangers will shape up when it'll be actually released.

    1. Shadows of Esteren certainly looks very interesting! Something I'll pick up when it's released for sure. Sprawl gangers is also something I'm keeping an eye on, but it seems to be quite a bit further down the line, and something more in line with Necromunda/Deadzone.

      Well, I'll write you a review of Mercs: Recon when I get it early next year. :)

    2. Shadows of Esteren is designed to be a series of books which build upon one another, exposing the secrets of the setting little by little. Two of these are already in general distribution and the third is hitting the backers of the previous kickstarter.

      Book 0: Prologue is basically a players' guide. It has most of the rules, some pre-gens and overview of the world.

      Book 1: Universe is basically the core rulebook as it has all the rules and quite a lot of fluff for the setting. Written mostly in character no less.

      Book 2: Travels expands the setting and has some sample "Feondas" (Sort of fey monsters which are a major driving force in the setting).

      The one being kickstarter funded at the moment, The Monastery of Tuath, is basically a written adventure and a location primer. I'm pledging high with this one, because I can get all the books (and some sweet extras) in one go.

      Of course there are more books to come which aren't yet translated to English and these will probably also be kickstarter funded. But the basic game is already out.

  2. I forgot to mention that the Book 0: Prologue was made available as free download during one of the Shadows of Esteren kickstarters. You can get it from DriveThruRPG.

    I haven't read the Sprawl Gangers developer diaries in a while but I think the Necromunda comparison if still very legit. If Catalyst Games manages to release the game this year, hats off to them. Personally I feel early 2015 is much closer to target.


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