Had the first play of Savage Worlds/Showdown rules the either night . We used our familiar swashbuckling 30YW/ECW figures to test out how the system played. For both Greg and I this is a favoured period, so we felt pretty comfortable measuring the system against our expectations of how the genre should feel.
The scenario was ridiculously simple: two equally balanced groups meet in the isolated village of San Christobel in order to get the scroll from a certain chest in a certain house. All that was needed to secure victory was for a Wild Card character to succeed in a Smarts test when alone in the building.
Characters were straight out of the Fantasy Bestiary Toolkit: two squads each of standard Watchmen (three with muskets – blunderbuss, and two with pikes), and two wild card characters each who were Watch Captains.
Since this game was a learning exercise we spent less time trying to beat each other and more time trying different things such as exploring the movement/terrain rules, ganging up, shooting into crowds, and so on.
On the plus side I found I actually managed to get a firing line established, with pikes in support, and managed to attack with my pikemen and make a difference. This has to be the first time in any game where this has been possible. Every skirmish/squad game I have previously played has failed to allow me to feel the inherent usefulness of pike or to lay down that sickening volley of fire that I imagine. In terms of actual hand to hand fighting the results came quick enough once we became used to the funky dice system – I could imagine it becoming second nature very quickly. The game gave a concrete result easily enough. At no time did I feel I had no options or that the game was playing itself.
At the gear level, the muskets were suitably useless at long range, and tremendously lethal at close range, so I was as happy as a very happy thing.
On the downside, given that the card draw activation system allows/enforces that every ‘unit’ move in a turn, it did feel as though both sides moved to the middle and slugged it out. However, I did design the scenario to be absurdly simple, so it may be that this was a factor of the tactical scenario rather than the rules structure. On that score, I am sceptical of systems that allow me to move everything in a turn. I feel as though I am being let off the hook of making hard decisions. Similarly, the randomised turn sequence leads straight back to The Sword and The Flame (TSATF) and therefore has a rich pedigree, but maybe I don’t want to activate in that order. Maybe I would only activate a certain few in a certain order. The retort to that is that SW gives you the option to Hold, so I still had that option. My reservations, then, are probably due to the system simply being ‘different’ rather than being inadequate.
My final thoughts are that the game played sufficiently well to want me to play again. No, even more: I really enjoyed them. They are different from what I have been playing recently, but they are more like what I used to play way-back-when,- but with a face-lifted core.
Before I played I had already primed myself to like Savage Worlds/Showdown, so the test was biased from the start. So it is probably not too much of a surprise that my impressions are positive enough for me to dash out and buy Thrilling Tales and Slipstream. But the system is good enough to transcend even this bias as I recall being equally positively disposed towards Warhammer Ancients: but a read of those rules and the otherwise excellent supplement, The Art of War, soon turned me off again. The thought of playing that game fills me with dread.
Savage Worlds has managed to withstand the terrible trial of ‘high expectations’, in other words, and I am looking forward to playing again soon with a more interesting scenario. The generator in the back of Thrilling Tales looks just right for my Anubis Gates (formerly StarGate1900) campaign.