Nationals 2017 Rundown

So, at the weekend just gone, I took I Love the Corps to the Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Nationals for the fourth time in a row.

Looking on How Far I Have Come…

Back in 2014, after spending about six months turning my scrappy little ruleset into something much bigger, I decided to jump in with both feet forward, and test the game in the best way possible, running games for two groups of between 4 and six randomly selected people I didn’t know. Those people were crazy enough that they wanted to buy the game. This was when the thoughts of releasing it officially first came to mind. One of these players suggested Kickstarter, and that was how THAT came about. And last year I got to turn up to the Nationals, knowing my Kickstarter was on the way, and this year, I got to turn up with a fully Kickstarted game, with all the art produced, and graphic design in progress. Turning up to GM to help out the Nationals hosting teams and getting in cheeky testing at the same time has turned into getting cheeky promo.

NEXT YEAR though, next year, I can come with an actually printable game. And then maybe after next year, I’ll start cheekily promoting Is it a Plane…?

2017 Overview

  • I encountered many past players from previous years who were very excited about how far ILtC has come.
  • Had a few people who are definitive about buying the game when its released.
  • There were also a fair few people there who have backed the game, and I haven’t seen since they have done so, so that was great. Also, I seem to be beginning to be recognised.
  • I had quite a few people I did not know ask me either ‘weren’t you at Conpulsion?’, ‘weren’t you at the Expo last year?’ and ‘aren’t you running at the Expo this year?’ This was great, to show that if nothing else, my face to face promo work has not been wasted, and that the product will at least have some pre-existing UK recognition upon its release.
  • I had the balls to run in Indy, despite the fact that the game is a few months from release. My players did not seem to mind.
  • I had two groups, one was six players, the other three players, and both games went GLORIOUSLY!
  • EVERY PLAYER took their character pack. For those who do not GM, this might not seem much, but I know some who will be jealous of this. This is an incredibly positive sign of game enjoyment. I have a usually good success rate with this, but I have never seen every player take one before.
  • This means that every player also has a business card. WOOT!
  • One of my Saturday players asked for a bunch of business cards so she could spread the game to her friends.
  • My three Sunday players all remained for about ten minutes after the game, talking positively about the game itself and the system, and eagerly ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the art folder.
  • Quite a few of my players seemed interested in turning up to play at the UK Games Expo, or at least telling other friends that are already going or live in Birmingham to do so. Good sign.
  • I also had a good time socially. Friday night was a bit quiet in terms of seeing many people I knew and spent a lot of it with a good friend of mine, but on Saturday I got in touch with quite a lot of people I only ever see at the Nationals, and also had a lot of fun random chats with new people. I even ended up talking to a guy who is following on the same path I have taken, and we had a lot of chat about RPG Kickstarters, indie game production and so on.

And now, for the highlights of my two games. Both were runs of my new ‘Just the Wind’ scenario. Just the Wind follows Zephyr squad, a team of drop-commandos. All they have is a mission to rescue a Corps scientist so classified they don’t even have a name, following a tracker signal to locate her, with absolutely zero intel beyond ‘rebels took her, she’s on a low-life rocky planet with low-g’, having to very much improv on the fly from there.

Saturday (6 player game)

  • I was talking about how people can use the brief details on the front sheet to decide what they want to play. ‘For example, you might pick the Sarge when you see the name Volokov, if you want to try a Russian accent.’  A player immediately took the sheet, and did a fabulous Russian accent.
  • The hilariously varied descriptions of exiting the dropship, ranging from falling out trying to grab tools, sighing and simply jumping two feet first, getting pushed by the Sarge and trying to jump more impressively than everyone else.
  • When the players learned that when attacking some guards on a wall, you should probably check if people can see them before you start killing them.
  • The medic, Whirlwind, who, not really equipped for close combat murder, tried to throttle a gunner into unconscious, failed horribly, and then IMMEDIATELY started Freaking Out, because they nearly screwed the mission in the opening salvo. The Sharpshooter on the squad had to put the poor rebel down with a silenced shot as they struggled.
  • When three of the commando squad are entirely out in the open when an unsuspecting patrol (all of their shots were silenced, and three had come down from above to either move or raid the bodies). Fortunately, Tempest gave them a telepathic heads up, and Hurricane blasted four of the five in the patrol down in one attack.
  • Getting to do a hostage situation! (They succeeded, hostage lived.)
  • Putting down the rebel guard of the hostage with Gust’s unseen patrol drone.
  • The patrol drone, known as Fido, having a dog’s bark. After the successful kill, receiving a ‘Good boy!’ from Gust.
  • The telepathic Tempest almost immediately stopping the hostage’s ‘poor defenceless’ act with a decent use of telepathy and calling their bluff.
  • Creeping the player’s out with the hostage’s entirely arsey change of character.
  • Seemingly trapping the players as rebel dropships descend to collect their hostage. I started a new narrative scene, with them in a small room, presenting the challenge of finding the supposed secret tunnel to escape in time… only for Gust to IMMEDIATELY solve the problem with quick uses of Sentry Duty and x-ray vision, and a plasma charge. Good work, that player.
  • The amusement of the players as they hear the disgruntled response of the distracted tripwired rebel, before they untangle themselves and walk right into a laser trip mine.
  • Going from gung-ho action with a vague stealth overtone to tense horror almost instantly as the players find themselves one abreast in pitch black carved tunnels.
  • The ‘oh god’ reaction when they find the claw marks.
  • The ‘oh god oh god’ reaction when they find the heat traces on those claw marks show that whatever made them is not very far ahead at all…
  • When Tempest asks the hostage about the claw marks and creatures, she claims she knows nothing, and he knows she is lying.
  • Using a mobile explosive as a better scout than the spy drone.
  • When the squad are not entirely sure if the two entirely still aliens in the tunnel they can see ahead can see them or not…
  • Many minutes of tense discussion as the aliens move absolutely nowhere, and the squad decides to slow back off. The moment of dread when they realise there are two more aliens behind and they are trapped.
  • Calling the aliens’ bluff, as Breezes puts a knife to the hostages forward, and the aliens freeze, after suddenly moving forward.
  • … the aliens then move as the Feral, Hurricane, cuts loose with laser fire.
  • When Hurricane’s sudden, loud screech in a tight tunnel causes the Mind Games Horror and causes psychological effects to several squad members…
  • Killing two aliens with some well prepared Mobile Plasma Charges, as one is planted in the Breach created by a laser wound, blasting one into chunks, and the other latches over an enemy’s eye, causing me to make the players laugh as I described it thrashing around clutching its face in the background as half of its face melted off. Win.
  • When the Sarge (Tempest) decides its time to die, and really makes that possible by utterly failing to choke an alien with a tripwire as pieces get torn out of his chest.
  • When Whirlwind saves the Sarge by getting in the way, squealing as the alien lunges at her, closing her eyes, punching it in the face, and knocking it backwards. The ‘Get Down!’ Aspect at work.
  • The Tempest continues to try and get himself killed when he leaps on the alien and tries to put his flare gun in its face, has his arm grappled, and the flare shoots up the tunnel.
  • ‘Chris, can the flare fly out the tunnel and signal the dropship?’ You can’t say no to that.
  • Giving the Cold and Calculated Defining Trait bonus to Hurricane for lying down in a packed tunnel, lying under the legs of several marines and aiming for the flailing legs of the pinned enemy. Of course, he hit the creature’s crotch.
  • When the two twins who don’t do direct combat at all team together with assault rifle and patrol drone to blast an alien so much in the face that it can’t alter and armour its facial features fast enough.
  • When Breeze shocks the scientist into unconsciousness, and is rather surprised to see her briefly change form to a familiar alien one before changing back…
  • When Whirlwind and Breeze, with the hostage, leap out the tunnel for the dropship… and Whirlwind is struck and grabbed by another alien, plunging down the ravine.
  • A player Glory Points for the hostage to fall into the ship.
  • The Sarge dives after his medic.
  • Everyone else piles in the dropship. The pilot declares ‘never leave a man behind.’ The ship dives down the ravine too.
  • Roll credits. (Blatant movie sequel set-up.)

Sunday (3 player game)

  • Whirlwind, the medic so Eager to Please that they manage to salute boot polish across their face in the opening scene.
  • Playing the Sarge as the Friendly, doing the Russian accent, grumbling and swearing a lot, and immediately seeing the love for their Sarge from the players.
  • The entirely contrasting dropship jump which was actually by the book!
  • Gust’s player naming the three drones after the Three Musketeers. Genius.
  • Players once again not checking that the guards on the wall can be seen by other Rebels before they put themselves in dangerous positions… (and from here, the comparisons to Game A utterly end, hehe).
  • When Hurricane, the character designed for sniping, moves themselves into a position quite close the enemy, doesn’t have enough Freakin’ Ninja, and despite not being seen, can’t take a shot without being seen, and is therefore dramatically stuck!
  • Whirlwind rescues Hurricane with some well-placed dart pistol shots.
  • Then the guards who can see the guards on the wall are about to act… but with a turret operator killed, Gust ceases control of it and turns it on the approaching guards.
  • Firing a twin-linked minigun turret. Not the most stealthy move.
  • When a patrol comes running, and the medic decides that the best idea is to drop in front of the rebels and open fire with a machine pistol. This is also completely fluffs the prepared Covering Fire of Gust, as Whirlwind gets completely in the way.
  • It’s then Hurricane’s turn to rescue with Whirlwind with some well placed shots… but there is still one rebel left. Proper military firefight ensures as Hurricane’s position is torn to pieces as his enemies fire back as he downs them, and then the remaining rebel gets some shots on Hurricane, before they’re brought down.
  • The hostage is rescued by a patrol drone positioned on the ceiling taking down the rebel card, already removing them from their cell, due to the not so stealthy commando approach. Then the drone urges the hostage forward, using the drone’s speakers.
  • Whirlwind madly leaps across the ravine carrying the rescued hostage… and that is when the players note the approaching enemy dropships.
  • Cut to an exciting ensuing narrative scene COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to the tense tunnel exploration of the previous day.
  • Since the rebels only got 1 Success Level to spot the fleeing commandos, but know enemies are near due to the whole massive amounts of gunfire situation, the narrative scene involved the squad split up entirely (on purpose) to try and throw off the enemy, ranging across the cliff edge, using rocks for cover, as five dropships flew overhead, searchlights close on the marine’s positions.
  • When Whirlwind is caught, with the hostages, between several enemy patrols and the lights of two different dropships, and the only option is for the other marines to attack the dropships to create a distraction. Unfortunately, Gusts’s rocket from the rocket pistol misses.
  • I gave the Sarge a Glory Point (giving money to charity) to HELP THE PLAYERS, just because taking down a dropship with an EMP rifle when you can’t roll dice is damn impressive. I then immediately used the Glory Point to have him take down another dropship before a third blew him up with a rocket. Rest in peace, Tempest.
  • Giving psych effects for a group of rebels appearing from absolutely nowhere behind Whirlwind… I mean, the only option was for them to leap the ravine, and they didn’t have paracoils or propulsion boots…
  • When shooting down ten enemy rebels with your armour piercing silenced battle rifle is still not enough. Shooting a dropship right in front of you with a dropship is not enough. And you just have to spend a Glory Point to end the scene by having your dropship turn up.
  • Of course, the dropship was destroyed. In the chaos, the players jumped into the ravine, and without a way out, deployed their paracoils.
  • Cue a final narrative scene as the marines find a cavern partially hidden by a small waterfall and head inside. They can’t reach their cruiser, and their dropship is out. And the spy drone spots six pursuing rebels… with wings? They then land, change form, and disappear…
  • Whirlwind and Gust rig a trap using electric darts and water, spending a Glory Point to complete it just in time, as they fry four approaching aliens instantly.
  • Hurricane then smells the two far larger ones on the ceiling, already in the cavern before the trap was rigged.
  • Whirlwind takes an enemy down, and then decides to remove a tooth as a trophy… as the flesh heals around the scalpel, and he takes a scything blade through the stomach. As he dies, he blasts it with an electrical dart in the face.
  • Hurricane manages to repel a similar surprise attack, blowing his enemies head apart a second time.
  • Gust and Hurricane live, getting the hostage back to base… and then I reveal at the end that she was one of those same shapeshifting aliens all along.

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