Uncle Mike is back with the third part of his review for Warlord Games’ Strontium Dog, this time he gets into the meat of the game and shares his thoughts on the gameplay and the mechanics.
Is it good? Is the game fun? Is it easy to play, yet complex enough for multiple plays? New players often have a variety of questions about unknown games, and fair enough! Miniature games, with the modeling and painting, require a bit of extra effort on the part of the players, so I feel the questions should be answered up front. Happily, the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’. Let’s look at why.
Written by Andy Chambers and Gav Thorpe. If that statement doesn’t fill your inner 12-year-old with hope, then you haven’t been mini gaming very long. These two have written, supplemented, novelized and generally sweated out some of the most quality gaming product of the last 20 years. A game written by these veterans is sure to be non-linear in construction, story-driven and quite a bit of wacky fun.
Learning new games is always the part that I like best…and the least. While I love getting my models based and painted, sometimes it can be difficult to ‘get into’ the rules…or learn them in a way that uses each aspect of them before they are fully understood. This can be challenging. The Strontium Dog boxed set makes it easy for new players by providing them with a scenario pack to work through. These scenarios will familiarize new players with the game mechanics and are also based on classic Strontium Dog stories, so the fanboy in me is also serviced.
Models come with a stat card which has all the information needed for play. Main characters like Johnny and Max Bubba have a double-sided card, while minor characters have only one side. Both players have access to two playing card decks: Chicanery and Armoury. These cards supply the game with unusual or unexpected events as well as strange and unique weapons, both adding an excellent narrative structure to play. These really do help make the game exciting, varied and very characterful, once again, just like the stories they are based on.
Each model has one chip, or one-star chip (which is better) in the case of most major characters, which is put into a bag. Players draw chips for activation of models. The turn ends when all the chips are out of the bag. Again, this simple dynamic really makes the game feel like an epic movie shoot out. Math is kept to an absolute minimum thanks to the custom dice provided.
When activated, a model gets either two single actions or one double action, depending on the players choice. As you might expect most actions have a ‘single action not as good’ or a ‘double action better’ variant. The number of available actions (as well as all statistics…) will go down as the models’ injuries and general fatigue increase. Some cards will also modify these statements…probably just when you think the gunfight is going your way!
On these strengths alone, I would advise the purchase of this game, but wait there’s more! The versatility of the product keeps on giving. After you’ve worked your way through the scenarios provided you can then take the game in several directions, depending on your individual gaming needs, budget, and existing collection.
The named models (and their cards) are all point costed for easy team building when playing the larger scenario framework. These can be supplemented with additional named models (and cards…) ranging from cool through bizarre. Players are also free to build their own characters with the customization rules provided…or any combination of those things. Also, the weapon customization rules are super fun and again, just like the Strontium Dog universe.
Possibly my favourite thing about the game is the set-up of the scenarios. Players recruit a posse, get cards, spend collateral on all manner of things, set-up, re-setup, hire more guys, buy scenery elements, allies…there really is so much going on before game that helps set the stage for the game itself. Anyway, I gush.
So now you know, I would highly recommend this game for some fast-paced, nostalgia-driven summer evenings, and you could do worse if you wanted a balanced bounty hunter game as well. It’s a harsh universe out there and you’ll be lucky to make it out alive without taking a snecking bullet in the back. So, collect those bounties and slap leather on anyone foolish enough to try your patience!
– Uncle Mike
Uncle Mike is a game designer but more frequently he is a game player. His specific sub-genre of nerd is miniature games and he boasts a large and varied collection dating back into the antiquity of gaming itself. Here he talks and talks about the things he likes.