I got this in the mail a few days ago in a swap with the game’s designer. This worked out well for me because putting together a “Print & Play” type game is the sort of thing I’d either do poorly or give up on half way through the process. (I still have several lead miniatures in the closet half painted…. Oh well.)
So I convinced my eight year old son to skip his afternoon nap and go with me to the game store to play games all day. We showed up and the place was completely packed. There must have been some sort of CCG tournament beyond the usual Magic thingies. There were teenaged kids everywhere– people were playing board games on the floor. It was crazy! Fortunately all of the racks and furniture bits had finally been assembled at Lost Shade. There was a nice blank spot at the end of the miniatures tables that I could set up on.
So my son and I are there pushing these cars around shooting and ramming each other and trying to get the hang of the rules when these two kids come up to us. These were regular-guy kids that play baseball and CCG’s. They really wanted to know about this game and asked if they could play the next round.
(Now… let me say that I’ve been going into game stores for almost ten years running games and trying to find people to play with. With the exception of maybe Cape Fear Games in Wilmington, NC… you just don’t have this concept of a friendly location were you can go and get into pickup games with people that aren’t already friends with you. And out of the many demos that I’ve set up to run in stores and so forth… I’ve had maybe one guy show up to play that wasn’t already arranged for in advance. So this was a pretty rare, and happy thing here.)
My son's favorite build: Muleskinner with small block engine (D8), a freelance driver (D6), experimental compounds for armor (D12 + 2), and heavy duty machine guns (D10 + 1).
So I soon have these kids driving around shooting at each other. It actually turned out to be a pretty exciting game. My son ignored several heavily modified weapon shots at him due to his awesome D12 armor rating. [That’s my boy!] Each of your car’s attributes is one of D6, D8, D10, or D12. So each action in the game usually consists of opposed die rolls with different die types and bonuses– just plain neat! They were planning out intricate series of maneuvers immediately. I mean, I hardly had to explain anything about those maneuvers– they were lining up cards to set up the perfect shot right off the bat.
And tactics…? These kids… they were choosing who to shoot at… whether or not to ram. They all knew who was ahead at any given time. They all had ideas of what to do about it. Ages 8 to 11… and this is the kind of interaction you get in the very first game.
Now… in this game the turn order is different every round. Each player rolls a D6, a D8, a D10, or a D12 depending on what they picked for their engine ratings… and modified by the bonus specified from their vehicle’s inherent design. So you don’t know who’s going when. Usually I hate initiative systems– especially in games like BattleTech and Labyrinth Lord. It’s just hokey in those games and it can really stink if the bad guys get to go twice in a row. But I have to say that it really works in Outrider. It feels a lot more like Samurai Swords or El Grande here. The fact that you get to pick what sort of die to use for this each game makes up for some of the capriciousness– and it is always surprising and funny when they guy who allocated the smaller die wins anyway.
But here’s the thing that makes the initiative system even more fun: not only does the winner get +1 to all his die rolls for the entire round… but he also gains a skill point that he can spend to improve his chances for succeeding in a crazy maneuver chain or in making a shot. Even though everyone starts with some of these skill point chits, the only way to replenish them is to win initiative. Fun, fun, fun! If there was anything inherently imbalanced due to the way that each player chose to customize their cars, these skill points go a long way toward giving everybody a fighting chance– if they are used wisely! (Anybody can get a solid shot off against an otherwise impenetreble D12+2 armor rating if they’ve saved some skill points back.)
In the last turn… one kid tried to shoot up my son with a massive triple shot barrage, but that armor was too good by a hair. My son managed to finish him off… but then succumbed to a solid ram from the last player. It was an exciting game down to the last second. “That’s a fun game,” the eleven year old told me as I started sorting the counters back into their baggies.
It is indeed.