Friday, 12 June 2015

The Telegraph Road

So after yesterday's trailer here's the report of the most ambitious game of Machinas I've tried so far.

The scenario was a road-chase, but instead of a small, random number of vehicles chasing a single target, I had three vehicles being pursued by a gang of six - nine vehicles in total. I determined that all vehicles would be run by players - no NPC vehicles. 

So - the scenario was effectively as described in the previous post. These were the vehicles being chased - a tanker, escorted by a car and a motor-bike.

Against them was a gang - The Black Emperors - consisting of three bikes, two buggies and an articulated digger. Their objective was to destroy the tanker before either all six of their vehicles were destroyed or dropped out of the chase.

I used the standard chase rules with a couple of additions. Firstly all pursuing vehicles were on-table from the start. No new vehicles would join the chase via random events. Instead, if the lead vehicle rolled that event then the effective turn number for determining if vehicles would drop out would be reduced by one. Secondly the effective turn number was counted as one less for each Black Emperor vehicle that was ahead of the tanker. This allowed faster vehicles to extend the game and buy more time for the other attackers.

I diced for road sections one section in advance (so the players always knew what the next section would be), and at the end of each section rolled a D6 with a '6' counting as the end of a lap and allwing all vehicles to pick up three Bonus Dice.

On the night we had six players. Dave and I took the tanker and escort. Since I would be running the game as well, I took the tanker, since it was likely to be fairly passive throughout the game. Dave took the escorting bike and car.

Caesar, John T, John G and Geoff took The Black Emperors. Caesar took the bikes, John T and Geoff a buggy each and John G the mighty digger.

Setup was simple - the three pursuees set up first in any order, then the six Black Emperor vehicles in any order. 

Unfortunately in my rush to make sure I had everything I needed for the game I forgot my phone, so wasn't able to take my usual semi-professional pictures. Fortunately Caesar had his phone and stepped in as official photographer.

Here's the first turn, looking from the back of the pack. The digger (Lift Your Skinny Fists, Like Antennas To Heaven) was bringing up the rear. The plan was for it to tail other vehicles and build up a stock of bonus dice, but John actually slowly edged it forward, keen to bring it into action. In the middle of the picture the buggies edged up the pack, whilst out of shot were the two fastest Black Emperor bikes, which Caesar had decided to push in front of the tanker in order to extend the game and also separate the tanker from its escorting bike.

Another shot of the first turn - Caesar's bikes are roaring along the road to the bottom-right.

A view of the tanker and its escorts. The tanker is almost purely defence, with heavy armour to defend against shots and rams, and barbed chains to make it harder to pass.

The beginning of a turn later in the game. The digger had moved up a couple of positions, whilst Caesar chose to hold back one of his bikes, building up an enormous store of Bonus Dice through use of the rider's drafting skill.

Geoff, using the buggy Dead Flag Blues, kept up the pressure on the tanker throughout the game, attempting to pass, and taking shot after shot when he succeeded. Sadly the tanker's armour and sheer bloody-mindedness prevented any damage. This shows a pass that went wrong, and ended with the tanker getting an opportunity to run the buggy off the road.

The buggy survived.

In the previous pictures you'll note that Caesar's bikes were not only ahead of the tanker, but were also now ahead of the escorting bike, piloted by the vigilante known as Eleanor Rigby. This was due to Dave dropping the bike back, forcing Caesar's to overtake him, and giving him the chance to then position himself for shots at them.

And so we came to the first casualty of the game. One of Caesar's bikes fell foul of Eleanor Rigby's sabotage ability, an attack we rationalised as a friendly sniper on a hill just off the board. Totally failing a control roll, the bike flipped off the road and was destroyed.

Random events can play a big part in Machinas. Several times vehicles found themselves too close to others, or with failing brakes or lost traction. In this picture John T's buggy, Terrible Canyons of Static almost collides with escort vehicle The Devil Went Down To Georgia.

But it wasn't an accidental collision which took out the escorting car - the digger closed up and deploying its massive shovel and fearsome array off spikes it ripped the car apart, leaving it a shattered wreck.

At the front of the chase Eleanor Rigby engaged  the Black Emperor bike. A single well-placed gunshot caused the bike to skid out of control, its rider mortally wounded. It skidded under the wheels of the tanker and was totally destroyed.

The chase was now well advanced. and the tanker was drained of Bonus Dice. The Black Emperors had lost two bikes destroyed, but time was now catching up with them. Caesar decided to bring up his reserve bike, but as it moved down the pack its rider inexplicably decided enough was enough and dropped out of the chase - Caesar had left it too late. In the next couple of turns both of the buggies dropped out. Losing the two bikes in front of the tanker suddenly caused the game clock to lurch forward very much in the favour of the pursuees. This left The Back Emperors with just the digger.

John G tried to move it in for the kill, but once again Dave dropped his bike back (unphotographed), preventing John from completing the manuever. He prepared to move in on the next turn, but time and remaining fuel wasn't with him, and the final Black Emperor vehicle broke off the chase.

The tanker was safe to continue to its destination.

The losses were relatively light - The Black Emperors had lost two bikes, whereas the tanker had lost an escort vehicle. Most other vehicles had scratched paintwork and dents from minor collisions, but gunfire proved rather ineffective. This was mainly because a lot of it was directed at the tanker, which had the armour to defend against it.

Machinas can be a very random game and with a single vehicle as the objective there was always the possibility of a sudden finish. Indeed this nearly happened early on when I foolishly tried to attack one of Caesar's bikes in front of me using the tanker's spiked ram. The bike fired off an oil-slick, which almost saw the tanker spin off the road. However aside from this the scenario delivered a game which neatly filled the evening, kept all of the players engage pretty much to the end, and delivered a great story with plenty of incidents large and small. I was pleased with how the various different vehicle sizes interacted - my house-rule has six size classes, and five of them were actually in play (the digger was graded a size smaller than the tanker, despite appearences). Bikes proved suitable vulnerable to shooting, offset by their ability to avoid being shot at - by vehicles other than bikes. I rather fancy an all-bike game, although I suspect that it will be fast, random and bloody. The larger vehicles tended to be more passive, but if they did get the initiative they could be very dangerous.

The random road turned out to be almost entirely straight - one curve in the eight or nine sections we negotiated - whilst only two sections generated additional Bonus Dice, and they both came early on. Later attacks suffered through lack of dice to make them truly effective.

Thanks to everyone for taking part - at least a couple of the players were novices, and others had only played once. Everyone picked up the mechanisms fairly quickly, although remembering which factors give dice and which give auto-successes was sometimes tricky.

I'm keen to try more odd vehicles now, and more chases.


  1. Very well done, thanks for the AAR.

  2. I enjoyed the evening immensely and found the game developed an engrossing narrative. Great game and beautiful vehicle models. Lots of fun! Just what we needed in the wake of the latest Mad Max film.


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