Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Melee of Champions - Part I

This project was going to be a bit more "background" than most, but given the huge amount of interest I got on the Super Miniatures Gaming Facebook Group, I thought I'd get going on it now. I've had the idea for a while to run supers games at various community festivals and events which my club attends, but I wanted to make the games more engaging and accessible for people unfamiliar with miniature wargames. Though I'm not much of a video gamer, I knew about the Disney Infinity figurines and Nintendo Amiibos and thought there was some potential there, but SuperSystem just seemed a little too complex for what I wanted to do.

Thankfully, Scott P came up with Super Mission Force [SMF], a lighter, and faster-playing version of SuperSystem which would be easier for new players and young people to pick up. Thanks to my chronic under-employment, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to get this project going, but I finally managed to get my hands on SMF and play a few games to get a feel for it. As I've said before, I'm not so much of a fan of it as a game for me, but the rules work fine and only require a couple of tweaks for the kind of game I want to get people playing at a convention or festival. Specifically, the changes I make are that all attacks do Knockback and there is no Dice Pool Cap for bonus dice, there are a couple of reasons for these changes. With the Knockback, I'm running the game on a smaller area and use "ring-outs" as a second win condition, so characters flying all around the place makes this happen a bit more often. For the Dice Pool Cap, I found with my Ultimate Alliance games, which are aimed at a convention crowd, more dice meant more fun, especially when a player got lucky and could make a huge attack.

So lets talk theme for a minute. With my SuperSystem games, I built my own "Platinum Age" setting, complete with history, teams, aliens and even alternate universes; this gives me a chance to tell my own stories and flex my creativity. For Ultimate Alliance, I wanted a game where I could combine all of the various characters I had from different publishers and continuities and do all the crazy stuff that copyright laws and corporate interests would never allow. When I came to SMF and had bought some Disney Infinity and Amiibos (ok, so I did already have some, I do own a Wii-U, 2DS and Switch), I decided to approach it from another angle. Given I was was aiming at a younger audience, my mind drifted to a favourite of mine, Super Smash Bros. 

It's a tad obvious when you think about it, take a crossover game franchise filled with popular characters and reproduce it in miniature form. Of course, being me, there's more to it than that, there's a healthy dose of Contest of Champions in there as well, which is how I'm thinking of framing it for players; "Choose your champions and battle to decide who is the greater power", kind of deal. Incidentally, if you haven't read the new Contest of Champions, pick up the two trades, they're really good. 

So now I had the rules and some figures, what next? Thankfully, the online community for SMF is pretty awesome. Through the Lead Adventure Forum, I found this site: http://smfcards.000webhostapp.com/ which has a couple of hundred stat cards for heroes already done up, plenty of Marvel and DC, but also some indy stuff and even a few anime characters. That lot only covered five of the Marvel characters I had, so being time-poor in the extreme at the moment (in the middle of an 18-day work week as I write this), I went the easy route and decided to just adapt characters that were already in the huge amount of work done above. I'm not much when it comes to image manipulation, thankfully Marc P from the Super Miniature Gaming group came to my aid and put together some great images at no expense. You can find Marc's work at the end of this article, for the originals, please support the previous link.

Some of my Disney Infinity; Thor, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Iron Man and Hulk. 
At the Whitehorse Community Festival here in Melbourne, Australia, I had my "Melee of Champions" stuff out and ready to go, intending to do my best to sell the hobby of miniatures gaming to the general public, despite the popular image of neckbeards and body odor. Whilst I had a lot of interest and even ran a few turns, what I talked about most that day was my profession, that of being a counsellor, primarily working with youth, especially those with diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder. This kind of work is just something I fell into, finding that I had a talent for it as well as the interest. Some of my best work has involved the use of board and card games to help develop a rapport with clients that may not have a great deal of interest in verbal communication. To help with this, my Counselling kit includes such exotic paraphernalia as copies of Infernal Contraption, Kill Doctor Lucky, Man Bites Dog, One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Rhino Hero.

The Incredibles, courtesy of Disney Infinity 

After this past weekend though, I'm thinking that maybe there's room for wargames in my Counsellors' toolbox. I doubt I'll ever have the audacity to hand out "Getting Started in Age of Sigmar" books at any school were I'm working, but Melee of Champions, as well as games like Tribal, Wars of Insurgency and whatever my kaiju project turns out to be all have potential for being educational and theraputic as well as fun. Games are a great way to get students involved with mathematics, estimation, strategic thinking and, for ASD and other youth that have trouble reading non-verbal ques, learning to gauge the truth of what a person is saying. Not so much teaching people to lie that may otherwise have trouble, but to better pick up on when someone else is being untruthful. Obviously, games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf are better for this than miniatures gaming, but there is an element of bluffing to wargames that I feel many overlook, especially once hidden objectives and unexpected combos come into play. 
Disney Infinity Gamora and Rocket Racoon represent the Guardians of the Galaxy I have so far. 

One of the better aspects of this project is the cost, or lack thereof. I tend to game a bit on the cheap anyway, being chronically underemployed, but I also don't mind spending money on my hobby to get the pieces I want. For example, I have a Flesh Eater Courts army for Age of Sigmar, which I really enjoy playing, but damn if it wasn't one of the more expensive armies I've put together. For the most part, the Disney Infinity figures can be found second-hand for a few dollars each, and I tend to buy the Amiibos on sale for around $9AUD each. As mentioned above, I use the Amiibos for my Nintendo hardware, so the price also includes the added play I get there. SMF is a pretty affordable book and the Stat Cards are printed on photos, around 10c each at the local office supply chain store. 
Some of the Disney Infinity really exaggerate the proportions, I'm not keen on Syndrome, but it looks good on Ahsoka Tano and Rey. 

Part of the appeal of a cheap project also helps with my public displays, where the aim isn't so much to convince people to join my particular wargames club, as it is to raise awareness of the miniature wargames hobby and how people can start playing quickly and easily. Something that's as affordable as SMF and some toys that many parents may already have too many of laying around looks a lot less daunting than Warmachine or Age of Sigmar. I've found that most children over around 10 (depending on developmental skills) can pick up SMF after only a few turns, especially with the nice cards that cover most of the Powers and skills. I struggle sometimes to not use phrases like "D6" and "Alternating Activation", after so many years of playing with wargamers, but practice makes perfect and all that. 

Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa from Disney Infinity and Captain Falcon Amiibo make for a trio of Captains. 

So this is the part where I ask for help. Not so much for anything in particular, but to start working on something we can all use. As mentioned above, the stats I have for The Incredibles, Syndrome, Rocket Racoon, Ahsoka Tano, Captain Falcon, Falco, King Dedede, Meta Knight and Bowser are simply rebranded versions of existing cards taken from the link. Not to mention needing stats for new acquisitions Rey, Barbossa and Captain Jack. Whilst Marc has expressed an interest in making up more cards, I've never actually done up the stats of a SMF character, and do need to learn, but of people out there, in the community are keen to have a go, please do. Perhaps we can build a database or wiki somewhere? I'm not great with computers, so would be willing to hand that idea off to someone. If you want to help out, comment on this post, in the the original link to this I posted in the Super Miniatures Gaming group. 

Falco, King Dedede, Meta Knight and Bowser, the Amiibos are actually really nice for the money, well sculpted and the painting is crisp. 

Thanks for sticking around til the end of this one, I have a couple more ideas for figures for this one, if Disney, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel and Nintendo aren't enough for you. First of all DC did a line of "DC Animated Universe" style non-posable heroes called "FIGZ", which look perfect, but I can't find anywhere anymore: 

Seriosuly, if you find any of these, please let me know, I'd like to grab a few. The alternative is the Schleich versions, but at $20+AUD a pop, they're out of my range. Similar designs can be found with various Anime franchises, but I'm, again, waiting to find some in my price range, mostly Dragonball. If video games are more your thing though, you may want to take a look at the Playstation Totaku collectables, but wait until they go half-price at your local EB or Gamestop. 

Personally, I'm waiting for a Ratchet and Clank, but the Tekken stuff is tempting. Hope all of this is helpful or at least interesting for those who got this far. I'm starting a proper counselling job again next year, with a look to do more "games as teaching", so expect something more along these lines in the future. 

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