Thursday, 23 May 2013

Kickstarter Spotlight: All Quiet on the Martian Front

Those who kept track of the last tabletop Kickstarter we looked into might  have seen it didn't end well. Despite a moderate, growing community working on the game, some clear interest from traditional games players and some very talented individuals it only achieved a third of its goal. It seems someone watching took this into account as this second one, despite the involvement of the head of the last project, set its sights lower but with a similarly fantastic concept.

All Quiet on the Martian Front is effectively a follow-up to an alternate history War of the Worlds, or at least a story in a very similar vein. Having launched an assault force against England in 1898, devastated London and the heart of the British Empire and only brought low due to lack of immunity to microbes, humanity is shocked by this attack.

Despite the relatively contained damage rather than widespread destruction in this version, the world was shocked by these events. Panic followed and the early years of the twentieth century feared the Martians return. Over time however, this fear was displaced by more traditional aspects of life and humanity returned to its normal habits. A handful continued to stress that the Martians might not be a spent force, but they were largely ignored.
Unfortunately they were not wrong. Ten years after the Martian scout force landed, a second invasion began with metal cylinders descending from the skies above...

The beginning of the game is only the start of a much bigger conflict. This time set in the United States, with the Martians having seemingly learned from their past defeat, the story focuses upon the American Military attempting to push back the invaders. With the British Expeditionary Force having arrived to fight them as well, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison are rushing to push new super-weapons into the front to try and turn the tide. Presumably with Tesla doing the work and Edison taking all the credit and trying to short-change him. Henry Ford is similarly trying to press various steam powered tanks into service to fight the technologically advanced walkers while France and Germany, despite untouched by alien attacks, are gathering forces for an unknown reason.

On one side you have humanity with a vastly outmatched military, trying to push back with new, quickly introduced technologies. On the other you have gigantic alien invaders attacking with various multi-legged war machines capable of burning entire cities. You can effectively think of this as Pacific Rim with fewer elements which will attract Evangelion fans, only a good thing in my opinion.

The actual rules for playing have been created by Rick Priestly, Alessio Cavatore, both names Warhammer players will recognise, and Ernie Baker. While relatively simple and straight forwards it seems to retain quite a few elements which people will be familiar with. Games will be played based upon points, with multiple units of various types each having a cost and can be played for anything from 600 to 2,500 a side. It's something which works well and shows they're not trying to fix something which works fine.

Objectives are made based upon scenarios and each army acts in turns of their own, but with a few twists. For example, while each person rolls who see who goes first and second that turn, something Lord of the Rings players will feel right at home with, it's influenced by successes scored in the previous turn. Furthermore each unit gets to move twice, before and after they attack. Something which should allow the more fragile human armies some durability, but this is offset by some interesting choices such as pre-measuring being permitted. Allowing you to check if something is in range before you open fire.

Attack rolls are based upon D10s with various bonuses applied as a result of the weapons being used to beat an opposing unit's armour value. As the Kickstarter page says "a Tank Gun adds a deadly +2 but a Martian Heat Ray adds a devistating +4" Beating an armour value basically equals explosions but in the case of infantry or some vehicles it only results in the removal of a single model on the base.

This is also the most direct forms of combat without accounting for special rules and units, especially those which can repair enemies or pin them down, and various terrain modifiers and hazards. Mine fields, laser fences, bunkers and the like.

Working off of a 15mm scale it's obviously intended for bigger fights than you'd find in a lot of games but the rules thus far seem to have been angled towards speed and simplicity. Not exactly a bad option here as it prevents games running for hours at a time, and seems to have been well crafted rather than put together because the creators were talking down to their potential customers.

All Quiet on the Martian Front is shaping up to be a very interesting game with great potential. The level of transparency and early hints on the part of Alien Dungeon has definitely helped with models, early PDFs of scenarios and rules explanations showing exactly what they are trying to sell.

The game's Kickstarter page can be found here with more details found on its website here.
If you're at all interested in science fiction tabletop games with an H.G. Wells spin on alien invasions definitely take a look at the Kickstarter. It's already achieved its goal three times over but with the two most interesting tiers yet to be unlocked, donations are still worth making before it ends in ten days.

Oh, and for those worried about how good a game can be with only two sides, here's what the future is promising:

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