Our gaming Guild apparently now has something of a regular random gaming night at the beginning of each month. This time it was my turn to be the GM (actually I just announced that I wanted to) and my weapon of choice was The Regiment by John Harper. As we had had some experience with the Apocalypse World hack I decided that this time I would tackle one of my RPG goals – running a game of X-COM.
For this particular session I decided to do a little something extra and went through the playbook templates for The Regiment – Colonial Marines (they were provided by Harper at the AWforum) changing most of the names to correspond the newest instalment of the X-COM franchise. While doing this I ended up into the deep end and found myself hacking the whole hack to suit my needs.
In retrospective this was quite unnecessary. Most of the changes I made were either cosmetical or did not come up during the gameplay. Nevertheless it was a great exercise that helped me to understand the system a little more.
Last summer we had our first try with the Regiment so I was more prepared to run the game than the last time. It was of great help because now we actually managed to get a complete scenario and we ran it just under four hours.
The core of this mission was quite simple. Shoot down the enemy vehicle, secure the perimeter and eliminate all hostile threats. We did just that. And in the end I was again surprised how entertaining the session was even thought there was quite little actual ROLEplaying.
When discussing our experiences after the game this was the main issue we had with the hack. Granted that some of the players were not familiar with the Regiment and those of us who were had played only one previous mission. But it was somewhat difficult for each of us to bring the roles into the game as most of what we did were tied strongly to the game mechanics. I suspect that with experience with the particular hack the games would become more fluent but then there is the second problem – it does not fail forward.
In comparison to other AWhacks the Regiment gives you a lot more exact outcomes for failing. For example one of the most used moves during this session was Assess.
Assess relates to investigative moves from various other hacks so my players felt comfortable to use it but it does not allow (RAW) the GM to complicate things with failure. More often than not I found myself telling the players something vague, they responding to it with positioning their troops differently and trying it out again. After the session we discussed the gaming time and Ville Halonen pointed out that we should let the time pass and things to happen with each Assess. I have no problem with that per se but it creates a different problem. If the failing of the roll makes the time pass when you gather intelligence, shouldn’t a success do the same and change the elements also? We did not come into any conclusive outcome considering this move as we had problems with other basic moves as well.
Keeping it Together was an important move when fighting against unknown enemy we felt that the 7-9 outcome was a complete failure in any case. It should be a success but it just isn’t.
I think that the main problem that we were having was that we ran a different kind of mission than the hack was supposed to be used to. The Regiment is really great for confrontations and battles (though I still feel that Attack is a bit cheating), but it fails in some way to meet the requirements for other kind of action. Gathering intel about your enemy is not rewarding and “out of combat” moves are a bit broken. Naturally this is something to be expected as the hack is not actually that complete and it requires a quite lot more from players and GM than your basic AWhacks.
Putting aside the difficulties we were facing this session was quite exciting. I allowed the players to introduce “facts” they knew about the hostiles in the beginning and used them as established facts in the narrative.
The squad was dropped onto an island where they had shot down the UFO. They made great use of battle plans in the beginning and got a good start. Following the command of Sgt. Lockheart (PC) the troops managed to ambush the enemy (not heeding about the comments of Sgt. Chiswick (NPC) that some of them had entered the woods. In the following firefight the brave men and women of the squad killed the medusa-like aliens repairing their vehicle.
Only when they did not see any enemies did Squaddie Sorensen (PC/Medic) check for signs of other aliens. Quickly they found out that actually some of the aliens had evaded them. When looking around for hostiles Cpl. Maddocks (PC/Heavy) spotted an enemy chimera – when it leaped on him. Maddocks failed to keep himself together and managed to gun down a few fellow soldiers (with an actually classic X-COM moment of soldier with a heavy weapon breaking). Only by the skilled shot of Sgt. “Surgeon” (PC/Sniper) was the horrible bean/mountain lion/alien-hybrid but down.
One of those beast had spotted the sniper and was going for him and “Surgeon” missed his shot. When it attacked him the sniper lost his nerves and ran into an opening where he managed to hide with his shotgun ready. With some clever use of flares (and arguing with the GM) he managed to miss-direct the chimera and kill it by using all of his gear into blasting it to pieces.
On the saucer the other characters were trying to assault the ship only to notice that they were ambushed by the aliens. In the following firefight all other soldiers in the squad where taken out of action – only the PCs and Sgt. Chiswick survived.
Until this point the leadership of Sgt. Lockheart had been quite disastrous. Whit two rolls of “2” he had lost most of the confidence of his men. But now it was his time to shine. He assaulted the aliens with a battle cry and the player rolled “12” completely crushing the enemies. Maddocks finished the enemy leader with a couple of well thrown grenades and the mission was over.
XCOM has been something I have been wanting to GM for ages. This was my first tackle with it and even though we had some problems with the system we were using all in all we had such a good time I think we might return to this again.