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On the Bounce: Cicada-Inspired Miniatures Mayhem

Cicada-inspired madness!

The Scrum Club had its second in-person gathering in 2021, and the first with the entire group fully vaccinated. I got to see some friends in attendance who I haven't been able to hug and toss dice with in about 15 months, and it was a beautiful thing. 

We ended up with six of the nine Scrummers in attendance, and like last month, we've made it an all-day affair with back-to-back games.

GKR: Heavy Hitters

Sadly, Rich fell under the weather at the last minute and had to back out of GMing the Thieves' World role-playing game he had planned for the 1:00 p.m. slot, so I set up GKR: Heavy Hitters to keep us occupied until the main event at 4:30. 

I had played Giant Killer Robots: Heavy Hitters twice before in the past month, once with John Sears and the second time for a rare weeknight game with Josh O'Connor. I was excited to put the game through its paces with four players instead of two, and I will say it is much deadlier with the additional players. There are two ways to win the game: either be the last robot standing, or tag and claim four buildings for demolition. The previous two games had both ended with one side tagging and demolishing four buildings before his opponent, but if we hadn't run short on time this past Saturday, the four-player game was almost certainly going to be a last-mech-standing victory instead. When we pulled the plug, two of the heavy hitters had been destroyed (mine and John's), and nobody had managed to demolish more than two buildings toward that alternate path to victory.

I quite like GKR: Heavy Hitters, especially with four players. There are a lot of tactical choices to make without being a brain burner, and the Sponsor Cards bring a great amount of thematic color and unpredictability to the proceedings (I typically refer to the Sponsor Card deck as "chaos cards" because that seems to be mostly what they inject into the game...but in a good way).  

Josh has a second set of the game, and as is our club's wont, we're already looking for ways to blow it out by combining the two into a massive eight-player battle royale.

Sadly, I was just so happy to see folks and play games that I forgot to take any photos of this first game, beyond a couple when I was setting it up before everybody came over.

Gigi wants to help set everything up.

My wife Ellen trying to explain to Cha-Cha that she's not yet old enough to play this game.

Thanks to John, I got this one in-game photo, with Jared on the left and me on the right.

On the Bounce

The 4:30 slot is reserved for our customary miniatures games, and the ever enthusiastic and inventive Steve Braun wanted to make sure we honored our insect conquerors this summer by creating a cicada-inspired, Starship Trooper-influenced game. He dubbed the rules On the Bounce after a chapter in the Heinlein novel. He asked me to collaborate with him (as we had in the past on our Conan game), and we both wanted the game to have a beer-and-pretzels vibe. In all honesty, 90 percent of the game was Steve's brainchild, and I acted as a "facilitator" and sounding board for his creative spurt of ideas that consisted of a lot of cool mechanics he'd been "collecting" and looking for an opportunity to put into a game design of some sort. We spent an evening at my house a couple of weeks back, tossing ideas back and forth and trying to anticipate where the "friction" in the design might need addressed. Steve then started pulling together all of the 15mm miniatures and terrain we'd need. The amazing thing is that two weeks before game day, we had almost none of it in hand. Steve took it from zero to 60 faster than I've ever been able to. 

He typed up some rough notes, and I tried to contribute my "value add" by giving them a close read and a thorough edit to see where the holes were and what might not work as hoped, organizing them all in a quick reference sheet, and formatting all of the troop stats for easy reference at the table.

Saturday was definitely a play test, and at first it felt like we might have woefully misjudged some of the units' stats. But in retrospect, although I think there is a fair amount of tweaking that can be done to the mechanics and unit stats, it actually wasn't as lopsided as it may have initially appeared. You just had to adjust your strategy to your team's strengths and weaknesses, and those really weren't fully captured in the stat blocks. For example, once the Mobile Infantry team understood how to use the Bounce maneuver and their tactical nukes, all of the worrisome disparities in troop levels and combat or armor stats became less hobbling. 

But it sure didn't feel that way at game's start. In the initial round of play, before I even had a chance to move my squad, the bugs had wiped out nearly half my five-man squad. That was a "what the hell?!?" moment right out of the gate, but once my mobile infantry team started "bouncing" and shooting nukes--rather than trying to go head to head with the terrifying bugs--I was able to help retrieve the scenario's objective while suffering only one more casualty in my five-unit squad.

Below are some photos that my wife Ellen and I took during the game. Always presume that the good photos are hers...because they are! I'll include the sample quick reference sheet and the unit stats below, too. Also please note that I think we were just so excited to see each other again that there are as many photos of the players as the miniatures.

For the Mobile Infantry players, we had to drop three of our squads at least 18" away from the abandoned base (our objective was to retrieve its data files and then blow it up), but one of our squads could drop in anywhere on the map. Of course, we had them drop right onto the base. That squad was eventually killed, but it's NCO did get out of the door far enough with the data files that we were able to bounce to his corpse, grab them, and bounce toward the excavation point.

(left to right): Zach Howard, Jared Smith, John Sears, Joe Procopio, and Josh O'Connor

Steve Braun and Zach.

Quick! Everybody snap a photo!

And here is the quick reference sheet and the unit rosters...

Parting Shots and Closing Thoughts

All in all, a fun evening. We'll definitely keep working on this game, and get it to the point where we feel like running it at a convention. Steve and I both are wanting to see the Scrum Club build up a "library" of club games that we can run at conventions like our own Scrum Con and the HMGS conventions, and On the Bounce takes us one more step in that direction.

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