Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Setting the stage for Ambush Alley

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm in the market for some games that I can use in solo wargaming (the so called "Desert Island Project").  I had been looking at three games, Zouave, AK47 Republic, and Ambush Alley.  Zouave has the Piquet genetic code in it, which is solo-friendly and seemed interesting.  AK47 has a lot of fans online, and could be done using 1:72 plastics which are dirt cheap.  Ambush Alley also has a lot of fans and has been hacked into different time periods by a lot of people.

I decided against AK47 because there was always something about it that sort of set my teeth on edge.  Perhaps it was the toeing-the-line-of-racist themes that some of these "imagiNations" have that crop up on blogs.  Perhaps it is just the whole sordid history of Africa in the twentieth century, a bloody mess that continues to this day in Dharfur and elsewhere.  Maybe it was because I went to school with African clergy who told us stories of having their families killed and their homes destroyed.  I think there is a certain place in time where I have to go past in order to feel comfortable with historical wargaming, somewhere probably around WW2 for me.  It is probably why I like the Seven Years War or the Prussian-Austrian war of 1866: I have no personal connection, the cultures and peoples involved are far removed (although my late Bavarian grandmother might disagree).  In any case, I decided to shelve AK47 for other things.

Ambush Alley also has the "too close to home" problem, with so many servicemen and women in our community.  One of the members of my gaming club went to Iraq, came home and didn't leave his basement for months.  The last time I talked to him he was selling off his entire miniatures collection and appeared to be developing World of Warcraft addiction.  But as I said, I've seen some hacks of AA for things like District 9 and nineteenth century colonial Britain, and that got me thinking.

One of my "why am I still holding onto this" games is Cobalt-1, which was put together my miniatures sculptor Bob Naismith.  The game is, in a word, awful.  Naismith wanted to do a "diceless" wargame, so he created a mechanic where when a minaiture attacked another the defending player had to pick a number between 1 and 10.  The better the defending miniature, the fewer numbers he had to pick.  The attacking player had to then guess numbers between 1 and 10.  The better the attacker, the more guesses.  Success was determined by how many numbers the attacker guessed correctly.  Now ignoring the whole "how do I know the defender isn't lying" question, it is clunky as hell.  It'd be easier to have both players roll d10's and then match up numbers accordingly.

Anyways, while the game system was a dog with fleas and while I could never figure out how star-spanning cultures couldn't tell their galaxy wasn't about to collide with another, there was in the back of the book several settings for Cobalt-1 campaigns that were, in fact, pretty good.  One featured a planet thrown into civil war when the ruler died leaving a child heir to the throne.  The kingdom's military leader launched a coup against the infant king and his regent with the backing of the army, while the regent in turn hired off-planet mercenaries to secure the right of succession.  This seems pefect for Ambush Alley, with the hired elite mercenaries taking the role of the US military while the ill-equipped and poorly trained plantary defense force becoming the insurgents.  I could build a whole unique alien culture, campaign-specific terrain, etc.  The fact that (in theory) I have over fifty sci-fi troopers en route from Wargames Factory helps too.

So, we'll see where it goes.  In the meantime, I'll think about the Prussian-Austrian war of 1866 and Zouave.

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