Wednesday, May 13, 2009

METROPOLIS: Battle-Force Conflicts (initial impressions)

Thanks to the good folks at Battlefield Berlin I received my copy of Metropolis by Urban Mammoth a scant two days after I ordered it. I imagine the post office had something to do with this as well, but I'm not sure. It's all pretty deep.

This is a game I was pretty into around 2003/2004 when it was VOID 1.1, and then it became Urban War, and I was so-so on it. The models had improved exponentially, but the game-play had changed to something reminiscent of Necromunda, and I already had one of those (scratch that, I had two of those); except this time there was no campaign element to the game, so I just had a bunch of figures running around killing things one-off. Now I have no problem with skirmish games when there's a campaign, as I can stand the fighting being centered in the middle of the board if wacky stuff happens to my forces afterwords, but with no campaign, I'd rather just play a battle game, thanks. I'll have to write another entry on that topic.

Regardless, Metropolis is the latest incarnation of VOID 1.1, and hopefully one that will stick around much longer than VOID 1.1 did. You may not know from the descriptor after the title of the game but the makers of a game they describe as "Battle-Force Conflicts" are, indeed, native English speakers, hailing, in fact, from Scotland. I'm just convinced that the chaps at Urban Mammoth like funny names for things, like companies. Also of note, the designers of this game were also involved with Warzone and Chronopia of which I spoke in my last entry. Clint Langley, whose art I shall forever be iffy about, did most (if not all) of the art in this book.

What about this book? Well, looking inside it follows a pattern which gets boring: Page of text, page of text with a picture of a guy/gal, page of text, page of text with a picture of a guy/gal, etc. I would have liked to see some battle scenes, or even a picture of two things fighting on a page. Or better yet, show me some models! I think Urban Mammoth makes some very, very, good figures, and yet there's not a single one in here. Not on the cover, not on the back, and none in the middle! Just pictures of the individual combatants. In this aspect I feel the book lacks. It feels at times, like flipping through the pages of an artist's portfolio. However nice battle scenes and miniatures would be, it wouldn't make the layout anything less claustrophobic. All the text is of the same font, and while neatly spaced and organized, it gives you a cramped feeling, and the line/paragraph breaks feel non-existent, giving it the feel of a long scroll of continuous text like something Jack Kerouac would have written. But like I said, it's still neatly organized.

Despite my ambivalent feelings towards Clint Langley, and the layout of the book, you have to admit that the price isn't that bad. For only £15, 22,50€, or $30USD it's not a waste of money for a gamer, though I don't know if someone just checking it out would like to pay that. It comes complete with all the army lists for every one of the seven factions inside, with listings for every available model (and then some), and an armory section. I'm very excited to start playing this game again.

The game itself plays much like 40K, which I think is a good thing, but many people wont. It doesn't play exactly like 40K, however, and I'll go into more depth in a later post, when I've had more time to look over and digest the rules, than the cursory, excited, glance I gave it after opening my mailbox. For instance the game uses alternate activation, each unit moving before the next is called to do so; there's no armor saves (there's cover saves), instead using only a 'to-hit' and 'to-wound' roll; the game uses d10s, but still does the bucket rolling method that Warhammer and 40K use, as opposed to the single rolls like in Warmachine/Dark Age; there's also cross-referencing charts like in 40K and Fantasy (strength vs. toughness, except in this case it's damage vs. toughness); and they have a fixed-range of weapons where short range is 12", medium range is 24", long is 36", and extreme (the coolest range) is 48". People who like 40K will like this game for the similar style it presents but with refreshing differences which do create a new playing experience, while those that don't like 40K will like it because it's got some of the best aspects of 40K along with alternate activation (which I personally find better than the Igougo® system of 40K/Fantasy/Warmachine/Hordes/etc./etc.), and other aspects which, as I've said before, do make for a different gaming experience than 40K.

I've actually been sitting here for 5 minutes after I wrote that last sentence thinking of a comparison of two things that is similar to the differences between Metropolis and 40K. I guess in all my ramblings on that subject, you'll have to read between the lines and make the comparison yourself. It's not like the two games are identical, but it's also not like they're as different as 40K and Warmachine are, however.

Regardless, if you're lucky enough to live in an area in which Metropolis is played, you can see for yourself. However, let me know when you find one that's outside of the UK, 'cause even if you find one there's a good chance it'll mostly be Urban War gamers, as Urban War requires only a few of the figs that Metropolis needs (around 10 compared to Metropolis' 40 or so). Though, I think that Metropolis will be a richer experience than Urban War, and it seems Urban Mammoth thinks this too, as they're adding vehicles to the game while Urban War will stick to infantry-based battles, and Metropolis is arguably their magnum opus, while Urban War was just the intermediary stage between Urban War, and Metropolis.