Monday, 15 April 2013

'Swatters' review


Swatters’ is Ganesha’s Games’ recent Science Fiction release covering fireteam infantry actions against close-combat oriented aliens. The inspiration is clearly a mix of Aliens and Starship Troopers. Khurasan’s 15mm Exterminators, Space Demons, and Federal vehicles are extensively used as illustrations. I have read but not yet played these rules, and these are my initial impressions after a read-through. I’m itching to give them a go.


A ‘standard game’ will contain between 20-50 figures a side, in fire teams of 2-5 figures. Forces are points-based, with a basic soldier and basic bug costing about the same, but having big differences in shooting and close combat abilities respectively. Humans can get more expensive troop types as well as vehicles, HQ units, and power armour, as well as cheaper armed and unarmed colonists. Bugs can get cheaper fodder, and larger specialist bugs including flyers, burrowers, shooters, and a Queen.
 
Picture from Khurasan's website
Rules overview:

The basic rules are familiar to anyone who’s played a Ganesha game. Each unit has a Quality and a Combat number, and a special rule or two for further differentiation (eg Shooter, Long Mover, Flyer etc.)

Combat is an opposed D6 dice roll + Combat ability + modifiers (range, special weapons, etc.). The difference between results influences the severity of the combat outcome (number of figures removed and figures ‘flinching’- see below).

Each unit has a Quality ability. You choose to roll one to three dice to activate a unit, and each pass gives you an Action. If you roll two fails, then your turn ends. Do you roll several dice for lots of actions, and risk losing the rest of your turn, or roll less dice for more security but less actions?

Only humans suffer morale: sustaining over 50% of starting points cost as casualties forces morale rolls, which are usually catastrophic!



New rules:

The chief difference here from the basic Ganesha rules is the use of fireteams based on 8-12cm discs (for 15-28mm figures respectively), rather than individuals skirmishing. The discs represents a squad’s zone of control and cohesion distance, and figures can be merged and split as you go. A fireteam consists of 2-5 models. The number of models on a base directly reflects its Combat ability- the more, the more powerful. It is suggested to use CDs and Mini-CDs for these bases.

Overwatch and ranged fire gets a subtle overhaul- not as complex as the Flying Lead variant. Stumbling as a combat result is gone, but flinching is added- a flinching figure does not add to the combat score, but can be rallied for an Action.

There is also a dice pool mechanic. Each side gets about 10D6 at the start of the game. You may take dice from the pool to add to your shooting or alien reinforcement rolls as required. This is not entirely a finite resource, as destroying enemy units gives you extra dice.
Scenarios, table size, and scenery:

There are twelve scenarios included, including a straight-up fight, raiding a bug cave, protecting civilians, a last stand whilst awaiting rescue, etc. Table size depends on the scenario, from 3x4 to 4x6 feet (and I’d probably reduce this to two-thirds for 15mm). Scenery appears to be a bit light on the table- maybe 4 CD-sized bits of terrain on a 6’x4’ table, if I read things correctly. You’re not going to be doing Space Hulk or urban/ jungle battles here.


Shortcomings:

If you’re a movie fan without imagination like me, I want to represent Hollywood’s battles on my tabletop. As an Aliens fan, things that appear to be missing are a facehugger equivalent, sentry guns, civilian power lifters, and some sort of air support. These could, however, be easily made up using the provided points calculator. Flamethrowers, Sniper Rifles, pistols, Mortars and Missile Launchers get special rules, but there’s nothing for SAWs or Grenade Launchers. The omission of Acid Blood gets a specific mention as being below the scale of these rules. I think that Predators are below the scope of these rules, but maybe they could be treated as stealthy power armour? The Power Armour rules provided don’t match up to my idea of Heinlein’s bouncing Apes, but again this can be easily tweaked with the points calculator given in the back.

The vehicle rules aren’t terribly detailed, but are treated as a special kind of infantry which can’t fight back in hand-to-hand but can do overrun attacks. Again, if you want to differentiate between trucks, cars, and wheeled and tracked APCs, you could try to make your own with the points calculator.

There’s a QRS on the back, which unfortunately doesn’t cover the Combat Results charts.

Picture from Khurasan's website

Good stuff:

The beauty of Ganesha Games is that their core rules are simple and fun but give challenging decisions. These rules are a continuation with a bug-hunting vibe.

As usual, you can easily create your own units by mixing and matching Quality scores and a few special rules to taste. A points calculator is included, which is excellent.

As I was reading these, I was already thinking of rules variants for zombies and robot apocalypse. But Ganesha was ahead of me: these rules are there, along with suggestions for humans vs. humans, and for more shooty alien cultures (Crusties or Skinnies, for example).

As a further bonus, there are also suggestions for the solo gamer.


Conclusion:

These rules will allow you to fight squads of humans against moderate hordes of aliens, in a scenery-light environment. I’m giving them a score of 4 out of 5 combat drops. These pdf rules are only $US8. Do yourself a favour and pick them up, they’re excellent value.

As a bit of gossip, it is mentioned that Khurusan is working on an alien corridor system…

Except for the book cover and where noted, all the pictures are from Spacejacker, whose painted Khurasan figures are used in the book. Check out his blog Tiny Solitary Soldiers

13 comments:

  1. Thank you for the nice review! All the things you mention (acid blood, powerlifter etc) will be in a small skirmish version that should be available next year.
    Also, a softcover version will be available on Amazon for about $17 (price to be confirmed), and additional materials (scenarios, variants) will be made available as short, free PDFs.

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    1. Another set of great rules, well worth the wait.

      Now hurry up with all the others in your backlog!

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  2. Great review Barks, and thanks for the mention! I didn't know these rules had even been released yet :)

    The small skirmish version sounds awesome, just my kind of thing!

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    1. They're hot off the webs!

      You're a hard person to find how to contact, I hope you didn't mind me using your pictures!

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  3. Ooooh, a small skirmish version? Sounds like just the thing for us in Chicago!

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    1. I think that the skirmish version is going to be insanely popular...

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  4. We had loads of fun playtesting Swatters a couple of months ago (thats a photo of one of my 28mm playtest games shown above). Swatters is the most enjoyable Ganesha Game to date as far as I am concerned.

    I am also very much looking forward to the skirmish version, but if you have access to about twenty suitable human models and a load of genestealers or whatever I really do recommend trying Swatters in the meantime :)

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    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the playtesting, I liked reading about it at your blog!

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  5. Oh yeah, I meant to say that we used the "Swarm" entry in the bug list when using face-hugger and chest burster miniatures.

    Those parasitic/larval bugs are conceptually more suited to skirmish play rather than the slightly bigger engagements that Swatters represents. Facehuggers are such well known movie monsters it seemed a shame not to include them in our games, so we did, even if "swarm" was a bit generic.

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    1. Yeah, I was thinking 'Swarm' too. Particularly in the egg-chamber scenario.

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  6. BTW the working title for the small skirmish version is Swatters: SSU (Surgical Strike Unit). It will be compatible with my generic SF ruleset Harder than Steel-- when I manage to sit down and write it :-D

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  7. Thanks for the review. Looks interesting.

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  8. I like that GG is kicking up the scale to using units, such as they did with 61-65 and DSLB. I happened to be downloading the rules when I ran across your review. Good job.

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