My relationship with Science Fiction, and particularly Science Fiction Gaming, is complex like a jilted lover. We used to play it a lot as a group; Star Fleet Battles, Dirtside, Star Grunt, Epic 40K, Full Thrust.
But it went rather sour for me. A combination of factors came into play. Overly gritty rules for SFB and Dirtside, being unable to break out of the background fluff for Epic, and ship min-maxing with Full Thrust. At the time I wanted to play games inspired by Falkenberg's Legion and Frezza's A Small Colonial War with maybe a bit of Babylon 5 thrown in (those Earth Force destroyers just look really cool), and wasn't getting any satisfaction. Of course trying to share an imaginary world with others is fraught with disappointment. That must explain why all of the popular SF games come with a backstory and factions. But buying into the factions has made me shy away from games with intriguing sounding mechanics like Infinity or Firestorm Armada or Halo Fleet Battles.
But I still like Science Fiction, or at least good Science Fiction. There's a lot of bad stuff out there too, especially in the military sci-fi sub-genre, so I went away from it for awhile. Recently I started reading The Expanse novels (starting with book 4 because it was there) because I was intrigued with ideas about how society and humanity would change when we push out into space. As much as I think that Firefly is brilliant, the Old West with laser pistols is amusing, but how realistic? The Expanse is equally good, combining well thought out technical details about life in space with good characters and a ripping story. The space battles are cool too.
So this has got me once again brain-storming on SF games as my next project. So bear with me as I think out loud.
- Space ships or figure skirmish games? Or both? Or bigger?
- What scale? 28mm? Expensive. 20mm? (Elheim Figures do some figures that could work nicely in a low tech Firefly setting.) 15? Loads of choice there. 6mm? Believe it or not, 6mm skirmish games were recently suggested to me! I guess you could do a reasonable station or space ship interior at that size.
- Background? Warring states? Rebels and pirates vs. a central authority? Corporate special forces operators hitting rival facilities?
- Setting? For ground action are we in hard vacuum on asteroids or a colony world? Are we in the tunnels of a colonized asteroid? Desert? Jungle? Urban? Arctic? How do I make it different from my Afghanistan stuff?
- Space ships? Make or buy? How big? The big capital ships from Ground Zero Games just seem too big to me, plus they are hard to keep balanced on the base. I think maybe a maximum of 4-5 cm for a big ship, so what is called "fleet scale." I like blocky ships too like Brigade Games British or Neo-Soviet, rather than the more spread out 'flat' ships like these.
- These ships from Shapeways (all by Irrational Designs) are cool too.
- I also like the idea of scratch building my own. My space balls of doom were crude but unique back in the day when they did battle against the wall anchor fleet. Next time I'm thinking of using craft beads for smaller hulls.
- Aliens? Yes? No? How do you make them truly alien but still gameable?
- FTL: easy (Think Star Wars where a single seat fighter is capable of interplanetary travel) or hard? (only big ships have the power for the warp drive so FTL carriers deploying sublight gunships are important)
So after a few days of pondering while reloading my anodyzing machines at work I've come to some tentative thoughts:
- do both fleet scale ships and 15mm figure skirmishes (going heavily with Ground Zero Games, he's got quite a variety of looks and has most things thought out)
- the background will be heavily influenced by The Expanse; so a couple of states, rebellious Belters, pirates and several large corporations with private security/special forces
- perhaps with some Firefly thrown in and colony worlds of varying climates (I can do desert and temperate, jungle is quick enough with some Dollar Store aquarium plants and a glue gun)
- the idea of doing the interior of a ship/station and fighting boarding actions really appeals. A friend recently purchasing a set of 3D printing files will help with the furnishings
- I'll let much of the outlying stuff grow organically as I add forces and terrain, but I'll start with hardsuited types shooting it out in a ship or on an asteroid because it's different
- Aliens; leave them out for now