25 February 2013

The Swashbuckling Advantage

Via a circuitous route (looking up the Yaquinto war game Swashbuckler on boardgamegeek.com, seeing a photograph of a diorama inspired by the game, visiting the Web site of the diorama builder, and being referred to the Web site of Eureka Miniatures), I discovered a remarkable miniature war game called ...And One for All by Greg Hallam (available here as a free download and with illustrated examples of play). Its focus is the combat of swashbuckling movies both in style and substance. By "substance" I mean the gameplay itself is as freewheeling as the swashbuckling antics the game simulates. Anything you can think of doing in terms of interacting with your environment is permissible and actually improves your odds in combat. Neither time nor movement rates are measured in this game. The more actions you take, the better you fare, but the sooner you risk losing the initiative and relinquishing your turn. It might be the best interpretation of the genre ever designed.

I can't wait to try playing the game in the way it was intended, but I would naturally like to use it for other situations: Wild West brawls, for instance. In fact, this would work well with brawls in Boot Hill, spy action in Top Secret, martial arts in your favorite martial arts game, duels on Tékumel (Empire of the Petal Throne et al), or even the rough and bloody informal conflict in Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I'd say it's especially appropriate for D&D, where combat is far more regimented and low level player characters are scarcely able to hit anything. Even if it isn't optimal where spellcasting and ranged weapons are present, it would be a great boon for resolving mêlée combat more quickly and with more interesting results. It also emphasizes player skill, which is generally considered a desirable quality for a game to have as far as the Old School Renaissance is concerned.

One minor modification would need to be made if it were to be used in conjunction with D&D. Each character would need to be assigned a Rating from one to four. I would suggest the following change to rule 3B:

4       High level characters; high HD monsters
3       Medium level characters; medium HD monsters
2       Low level characters; low HD monsters
1       0 level characters; less than 1 HD monsters

Whether I adapt ...And One for All for use in my role-playing games or not, I intend to play it as a traditional miniature war game, too. I might also play it with LEGO Minifigures and a LEGO diorama. (Why not?)

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