So, as B97 mentioned last week, Spinespur holds a very fond place in LXG's heart. It was our first Kickstarter, first time I'd really gotten to personally sit down with a game designed/owner/creator in a long time (it's frustrating working with a bunch of Nottingham folks while living in Philadelphia sometimes!), tied for first "small box" game that our group all had models for painted and ready to play, and really the only game we're playing in its genre (because, well, anytime we look at anything else skirmish and horror based, we always go "hey, we could just play Spinespur instead.") With Street Chum being released to backers, Mordin and I settled in to play a down and dirty game of Spinespur: Street Chum Edition, with the hopes of shaping it into a regular campaign feature.
For those not in the know (read: not backing the Kickstarter), there's going to be a spin off game for Spinespur called Street Chum. Here's yet another example of Mr. Mervine showing he's a gamer first and a future hobby millionaire, um, well probably never- The game is designed to focus on models that at one time were really key in Spinespur, but as time has gone on (and more figures have been released) those models have seen less and less play. Yup, you heard me right, Comfy Chair Games has designed a spin-off game to convince you to better use models you already have and have simply forgotten why you loved them.
Street Chum is a skirmish-sized game designed to be played in long-running campaigns where you and your gaming group/club all take the roles of different Gangleaders trying to carve out your own little stretch of turf in the damned city. As such, the game focuses on the actions of the low-life denizens of the dark alleys: your common street thugs.
There are two different methods one can use to determine gang size in the campaign. The first is everyone starts with 60 "resource points"- the catch-all phrase used to include food, money, drugs, booze, available hookers, blackmail photos, and anything else you might have as a means to get what you want. This is by far the fairer method... but if there's anything Spinespur is all about, it's not being fair. Thus, there is a second method.... a random roll. This was what we all decided on in the LXG "staff campaign."
Belgarath97: 113 points
Mordin56: 113 points
TokenGamerChic: 60 points
2ndClass: 23 points, two free skill rolls for leader
Aiyup, kinda like that. Life's not fair, grab a helmet. Not to worry though- I've played through enough campaigns to have a sneaky edge: no matter how well balanced most campaign systems are, eventually it comes down to resource management and knowing what to throw away, and what to keep. In this case keep gear and supplies safe, and throw away the lives of your lesser lackeys like they're ugly knit sweaters from Aunt Gertrude.
The first game to be played was between myself and Mordin. (Game, by the way, is a polite way of phrasing "prison rape massacre.") There was no question I was going to be up to my eyeballs in more than I could handle, but that's okay, because my secret was I wasn't trying to win- just trying to grab something, anything, and skip off the table.
We set up on my nearly finished "Fallout: New Vegas" themed table, because it was new and beautiful looking if I do say so myself.
So, Mordin set up with his drawn up band of cold blooded killers: the three Dark Age Scut models would fill in nicely as punks with short blades. The Chainsaw thug is, oddly enough, a chainsaw Lt. model of the Brawn variety. Pigskin is a fancy looking thug with a cleaver. The pair of Dark Age Warchiefs are thugs with blunt weapons. The Trench-coated guy is a thug with pistol and longblade. Greygun in his primed glory is the gang's brainy Leader, also equipped with a pistol and long blade. Mordin's Leader first rolled "Dog Handler, which we decided to reroll as there's no options for dogs listed anywhere yet. Second roll came up with "Cook", which lowers his upkeep costs.
Which seemed like a whole heck of a lot in comparison to me. I've got a Leader and three unarmed punks. Yup, unarmed punks. That's okay, I figure one or two of them will be wormfood, but the other guy will come away with something pretty by the time this is all over. My Leader took his free rolls from the Brains list, and then began life as a Slasher. He started with The Saw is FAMILY (free upkeep for a chainsaw), Macabre Hustler (allows you to sell off body parts of enemies for resources), and Handy Guy (5 extra resource points after the game). So, my plans for economic domination were actually setting up pretty well pre-game.
There's no Scenarios listed in the Street Chum rules, so we borrowed one from the rulebook. We did roll on the "Hellheart Table" to see what random occurrence would be greeting us, and we got Pot Shots. I figured that might work to my advantage. Pot Shots gives a slim random chance that some hidden sniper is taking shots at people on the table, and outnumbered 3:1 it seemed to reason it would do more damage to him than me.
Mordin set up pretty much center table, while I began huddled behind the large rock-
Two turns of uninterrupted movement later, and we're about to get down to business. Oddly enough, the sniper's been completely silent during this time. Mordin sends one of his Punks out into the open as bait, and I got the jump on him with two of my Punks. One whiffed like a blind baseball player, the other injures the punk but isn't strong enough in his unarmed state to take him down. Mordin brings in a Thug to counter one of my punks, and gives the kid a pretty bad bonk on the head. My leader then steps up, shanks Bait, and spending his last action searching the body for weapons...and kidneys to sell off. Poor Bait, not even given the luxury of a tub of ice.
As the rest of Mordin's gang comes in, our narcoleptic sniper finally wakes up. His thug finishes off my punk, and as the rest of the gang comes in my leader decides it's a nice time for a vacation, and starts high-tailing it out of there. Bullets start raining down- no, not from the sniper, he takes one shot the whole turn and nets a total of one point of damage- from the pair of pistols Mordin has on hand. The fight pretty much begins to resemble a footrace as my leader and remaining punk start running for the door making "whooping" noises as they run like sissies... which is about the time Mordin points out we don't have any specific rules for leaving the table voluntarily. On the fly, we got with "hit the edge, one more action to leave."
My leader (codename: Chicken McGee) has managed to keep terrain and the other punk between him and the hail of bullets up to this point- in fact, you can see the red acrylic outline of what's left of the punk in this image. Chicken McGee right now is feeling about as welcome as Kunta Kinte at a Merle Haggard concert, and is one pair of actions away from skee-daddlin' off with his ill-begotten organs. It all comes down to initative on this one.... and as luck would have it, Mordin wins the roll. The game ends with the sound of shots fired from the pistol of Mordin';s leader, and it's lights out for Chicken McGee.
So, the bloodbath ends in about the manner expected. Now on to the post-game. Here's where things take a turn for the poorly written. Mordin rolls first, and his out-of-action punk scores a Torso Wound injury which reduces one of his stats to a zero. Decision on the field is that a stat of zero means he probably couldn't recover from the injury and take the field with a 0, so is dead an in the graveyard (this becomes important later on.) Three models get 1 XP for taking out a model, everyone but the dead punk and a thug get 2 XP for surviving uninjured, and his leader gets 3 XP for taking out my leader (we think, because there's no clear information on what level a Leader stats at). With an average of less than three XP per model gained, it's going to be another 13 games before anyone goes up. Onto resources and upkeep. We know that chainsaws have an upkeep because "The saw is MINE" lowers it... but there's no record anywhere of what it is, or if any other weapons with consumables (such as pistols) have any. Mordin decides to just call it as 2 points for the saw, and one point for each pistol. This makes his upkeep 31 resource points... we think... as we again don't know what level a Leader is, or how much upkeep gear costs. Everyone aside from the dead punk is sent out scavenging for resources. The chart is random- and very much so- and Mordin's lucky street continues. 112 resources points, minus the upkeep costs, gives him 81 points to spend on his gang... which is a ton!
My upkeep isn't quite as spiffy as his. We start with a punk being turned into a Bloody Mess, and sell him off to the docs. My leader rolls up Dead, and shuffles off to the graveyard. Punk #2 gets Pretty Banged Up, and needs to miss the next match. Punk #3 gets a Torso Wound injury, which drops his stat to below zero. Which, according to our early field call means he's dead. Even if he wasn't, I'd have no models available for the next game, leaving the gang in an eternal loop of waiting for a game to be able to come back after it. And no models to be able to scavenge, so no way to pay upkeep. Decision is that this quad-pack of losers are down for the count, and it's time to try a new roll for a new gang.
VERDICT: Well, the game was fun, but that's mostly because the game was Spinespur, and that's never a bad thing. The parts that were specifically Street Chum kinda fell flat- poorly defined, poorly organized, and pretty badly incomplete. But good readers, here's the upside: Bob knows about it. B97 put together a huge revision/faq for Bob (nearly as long as the document itself), and after a conversation with Bob he's admitted it needs a lot of work- he weighed finishing the document through the holidays versus getting people something to play with on time, and it's obvious which way he went. Bob is really one of the best- and old school gamer who designs for the love of the game, not for making money off other people's hobby. So, let's hope there will be some updates to Street Chum in the very near future- perhaps even some things posted here by your friendly neighborhood bloggers. As it is, it looks like the Street Chum campaign is going to be on hold until version 1.1 is released.
See you on the other side of the table,
The Second Class Elitist