Subterfuge in the 41st Millennium
So those of you who also follow Give'em Lead know that BlueinVT and I just spent a weekend in AirborneGrove26's basement in the US Midwest playing wargames and generally devolving into teenage boys. So the four day basement fest included games of 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Rogue Trader, Heroquest, and other assorted nonsense. One thing I had really been looking forward to was trying out some house rules that had been bouncing around in my head for a few months and I think the results were just super fantastic. I call the rules "Rogue Ops"
Mercenaries tactically doing tactical shit
The concept of Rogue Ops is basically a mashup between Rogue Trader and Osprey's "Black Ops" rules, with a little smattering of Space Hulk thrown in for good measure. The end result is something like playing X-Com, but with a much faster pace than the classic thriller. Basically I took what I thought was great about Rogue Trader, shook up the turn phases and added a few tactical elements to liven up the tabletop.
I created two forces of roughly fifteen figures per player. Each player had two to three hero models, a heavy weapon trooper, a special weapon trooper, and about ten regular grunts or "Drongos" as they say on the death-continent of Australia. It was important to confine the forces to four troop types to accommodate card-based random activation.
Card-based ActivationBorrowing from Black Ops and probably dozens of other historical games, the standard Warhammer turn was swapped out for playing card based random activation. I took a standard playing card deck and removed all the face cards, the Aces, and jokers. One player's troops would be activated by red cards and the other by the black cards. Aces activate heros, Jacks activate troops, Kings activate heavy weapons, and Queens activate special weapons (plasma guns, flamers, etc).
One turn is complete once all cards in the deck have been drawn and all models have had a chance to activate. Once all the cards have been played the deck is reshuffled and a new turn begins.
Once a troop type card has been drawn, all units of that type may take two actions in any order the controlling player wishes. The actions available are move, fire, use psychic power, charge, fight hand-to-hand, go on overwatch, or use suppressing fire. Most of the actions are familiar to Warhammer players; I simply use turn phases as actions. Players and can fire twice per activation, or move twice, or move and fire, move and use psychic powers, etc. Overwatch is also a familiar mechanic which allows models to fire out of the turn sequence. The only caveat about overwatch is that once a model enters overwatch, it may not take a second action.
Suppressing fire is a game mechanic used in Black Ops which allows models the opportunity to pin enemy models in place by delivering a heavy volume of fire and forcing the enemy to choose between either risking taking damage or forfeiting their activation by taking cover. Models fire twice and add suppression tokens to the target unit or location on the board and any units choosing to face the fire must take a number of hits equal to the number of suppression tokens on the unit or area.
Random activation and the addition of overwatch and suppression really adds a great tactical feel to the game.
The Stealth Game
Black Ops really shines when it gets down to the stealth rules. Having played a few games of Black Ops I felt that the stealth game was a little boring for the defender in the scenario so I slightly modified some of the elements to speed up the game and ultimately make it more interesting. My biggest gripe about the stealth game is that if you play it right out of the book, a savvy attacker pretty much play the rules to the point where the defender never gets the chance to activate their troops.
Alright guys, lets sneak up on these bloody drongos.... sneakily
The stealth game includes an A.I. system for sentries that makes a lot of sense and keeps the attacker on their toes. I had to modify the "observation" test to make it more likely for sentries to spot attackers. If you've played Black Ops at all you may have experienced situations that really challenge the suspension of disbelief, such as an attacking model walking right in front of a sentry in the middle of a street moving undetected because the unmodified observation roll is too difficult.
Some of the modifications I made included making noise counters persist throughout the entire game instead of refreshing every turn, allowing sentries to modify their observation rolls with nearby noise counters. The more noise the attackers made, the easier it becomes for the sentries to detect the attackers.
Blinds and Hidden Movement
I incorporated Space Hulk style blip tokens and "blinds" to conceal units and objectves. In one game the attackers had to retrieve some loot from the defender. The defender was given five cards and only one represented the objective. The attacker would have to move into base contact with a card in order to reveal whether or not it was the objective. Hidden troops could be revealed by passing intelligence tests (GOTTA USE THAT RT STATLINE, GMS!)
Putting It All Together
So how did it all work together on the tabletop? Pretty well! I was able to preserve the mechanics of Warhammer. I didn't change the statlines or mess with the combat system. Shaking up the turns made the game much more interesting and added a deeper level of engagement. The stealth system worked well, but required a lot of involvement from the game master. The problem lies in how the streamlined Black Ops system interacts with the clunky Rogue Trader rules. I can probably refine the rules a bit more. Using the stealth system really allows the game master to incorporate more role-playing into the game, which I love.
Firefights were absolutely BRUTAL. The volume of firepower that can be delivered is just staggering. If you don't use cover and don't take advantage of overwatch your poor drongos will get shredded. I don't even want to think about what a following fire weapon can do using two actions and the suppressing fire or overwatch rule.
What I really like about these house rules is that i'm not sacrificing any of the complexity of Rogue Trader while also taking advantage of a more streamlined turn order.
I'll have chance to play a few more scenarios over the Thanksgiving holiday and look forward to getting input from more of my New World compatriots.