VSGMR: Expanded Rules Part I

The second part of the VSGMR rules has been complete for more than six months now, and it features nine different sets of rules that add to the basic rules set, plus a few examples of different game styles. Many of them are inspired by existing, professionally published rules sets. They add a little more complexity, but not too much. Here’s what inspired each part of the rules.

When I revisited VSGMR, it was in the face of dozens of miniatures games, from the giants of Warhammer 40,000 and Warmachine to even brand-new ones like Star Wars Legion. I’m not trying to compete with those games — to start with, I don’t have the capability to produce my own miniatures — but what I don’t have in art I have in flexibility. VSGMR is designed to be used by any figures you own, and with a minimum of complexity. The basic rules require only one d6. So the goal of the expanded rules are to recreate the options found in those other games… while at the same time keeping the game fast-moving and still “realistic,” as realistic as you can be in a game with monsters and superheroes.

Everyone Acts

This keeps the action moving for both players, instead of having one player wait until the other player is all done. It’s also more realistic, as the combatants would be moving and attacking individually, not just when their entire battle group acts. Someone who has a good shot will take it as soon as a target moves into view.

Unit Actions and Squad Movement

This is a simple rules revision that speeds up bigger games immensely. It seems easy to manipulate, with figures slipping past their alloted movement amount by a little bit each turn. The rule that no “support” figure can go past the unit’s leader keeps that under control. And since a lot of the “support” figures are there to make one or two attacks before they’re defeated, there’s no need to keep track of the movement for individuals; they’re not alive long enough.

Specific Skills

The simple option of having specific skills brings what are otherwise collections of weapons and hit points to life. Well, in VSGMR, each figure only has one hit point, but the concept remains the same. VSGMR is ideal for skirmish-size combat, just a handful of figures in each army. That’s the perfect size for a team who each have a unique skill (one’s the leader, one’s the demolition expert, one’s the thief, and so on). This option turns the game into more of an RPG, and to take full advantage of it players will need to come up with scenarios that call for dice rolls using the figures’ skills. We’ll explore some examples in a future blog post.

Solo Rules

I rarely buy games that can’t be played solo these days; it’s fun to get a group together, or even just a gaming partner, but with schedules and families and life in general, it’s really challenging to make it work. There’s solo rules for many games available online, even games not designed that way, but solo rules need to be simple, and not change the requirements of the game (not add a bunch of extra components, for example). If the solo version is so much more complicated than the original game, the amount of play time you get by being able to play by yourself is cancelled out by the amount of time spent trying to set up or understand the solo rules. So, the ideal solo rules are tweaked from the original rules, while still offering the challenge and variety you can normally only get from a human (or well-written AI) opponent.

Miniatures For Every Scale

This is what makes VSGMR a game like no other, that and the very simple single d6 combat resolution system. I don’t own a lot of action figures; as a kid, I did because I played with them, but as an adult, they would just sit on a shelf. What’s the point? That’s why there’s rules for figures of that size in the game, so you can play with that collection of figures. It’s also a cost-saving measure; if you can buy an entire Lego-sized army for a few dollars but all your opponent has is classic D&D miniatures, why let the different in scale keep you from playing against one another? I tried to include every figure size I could think of in the rules, and some of the example brands mentioned on the page have already disappeared in the few years since the original version of the game and this newer edition. But again, the concept is sound, and putting any figures you have into VSGMR battles is one of its most interesting drawing points.

We’ll take a look at the other rules options and the motivation behind them next time.

USR Wednesdays: Warhammer 40,000

I didn’t get to see the preview of “Wrath & Glory,” the new Warhammer 40,000 RPG, at Free RPG Day a few weeks back, though it’s coming to PDF soon. The mechanic that I am aware of in the game, the one that caught my eye, is a balancing mechanism to make sure super-soldier Space Marines can be in the same party with low-level Imperial Guardsmen… it’s basically superhero tiers, like in Domino Writing-style USR. In that game’s case, the Guardsman has enhancements to reach the Marine’s level; in USR, of course, the lower-Tier hero has extra Narrative Points to accomplish the things other characters are expected to do normally.

But what if we added the 40K universe to the USR rules? There’s plenty of reference material — you know what an Adeptus Astartes is, even if you’ve never played any 40K game of any kind — and USR is a great way to tell the expansive variety of stories that can be told in that universe:

  • A down-and-dirty gang war (to show how tough and non-heroic ganger characters are, limit them to 2 Gear Points, take away all their Narrative Points, and roll dice to determine starting Hit Points, like in regular USR);
  • A battle against the ravening ork horde (take a cue from our exploration of tropes, and consider one ork blown away for each point of damage rolled by our heroes); or
  • A struggle between the mighty Space Marines and a daemon of Chaos (the main heroes and villains are at Tier 5 in a setting where the baseline character might be a Tier 2. Also, boost up their armor and weapons: Space Marine armor is probably worth more than a +3, maybe a +4, and Terminator armor is a +5 — higher than that and it will be tough for anyone to score a hit).
You're definitely stretching the rules with Space Marines.
Who doesn’t want to play these guys at least once? (image: Games Workshop)

If you’ve ever read any 40K fiction, or even watched 40K video game cut screens, you’ll know there’s not much to most characters’ personalities: with the exception of a few Imperial Guard characters, everyone in the 40K universe just wants to kill somebody else (usually a lot of somebodies). In a role playing game, characters need to be distinct somehow, to be a “role” you can play. If you don’t want to go too far off the traditional 41st Millennium character type, try Specialisms like “Lone Wolf,” “Carries Big Guns,” or “Quick To Anger” — they offer the right attitude without making the characters much more than traditional 40K killing machines.

Here’s some other Specialisms for 40K: Team Player, Aggressive (all orks), Good With Native Populations, Devoted To His/Her Commander, Natural Leader, Perfect Physical Specimen, Hates Psykers, Lockpicking Tools, Likes Big Explosions, Stealthy, Historian

Who will you be in USR 40K?