Kicking things off for a small spinoff section on BSoMT where special little gems are played and reviewed, that do not have solo modes, are not solitaire and go against all things that are natural.
*press PLAY for a Gettown Combat Arena ambiance while you read*
My adventure starts in a somewhat dystopian future where glory, fame and fortune are sought within the confines of the Arena. Gladiatorial in nature we stand awaiting combat, adorned in embossed leather thongs and tin-plate breastplates, hoping that it was sweat rather than nerves dripping down our inner thigh. The air thick with the cries of the blood hungry crowd, goading the contest…the bloodshed to begin. Many enter…only one will leave…victorious, alive and gathering the spoils of the vanquished.
The preparation and training for the event is a rigorous regime, styled to weed out the weak from the strong. Those surviving the arduous tests are worthy to face each other in the arena, face to face, man vs man (or woman or gender-nonspecific), dice vs dice!
Dice? Did I just say dice?
…the weapon of choice is a die? A die, I tell you!
Are you having a giraffe?
What’s All The Fuss About?
The fuss in this case is a little find from the UKGE…in actual fact it was Jon (part of the Earth to Games team) who found me whilst I was stuffing my pie hole with a meatball sandwich. I had inadvertently been chatting with Jon on Tinter-web without realising who he was. A private audience with Jon enlightened me to the age old martial arts of full contact dice combat. I was intrigued and the next day called in to the Earth to Games stand for a full-on combat experience.
In a world where humanity has fled from a dying solar system and colonised an alien planet, there is only one fast way to untold fame and riches. Each year, the mega city of Gettown plays host to a gladiatorial arena match that will determine who becomes its ruler.
Combatants with powerful abilities and high tech weaponry, fight to the death to win wealth, fame and, the ultimate position of Master of Gettown.
Masters of Gettown is a concept akin to the “underground” cage fighting only in this case the protagonists are dice thrown in to an acrylic arena, which is itself set in some futuristic dystopian sci-fi world. This is dexterity at it’s highest octane level requiring a good eye, a great dice launch technique and an ability to roll with the punches….as it were. Full contact really means full contact. One of the many mechanics within the game is the ability to use your own die as an active element of combat…a weapon, if you like, to be thrown at an opponent’s die in an attempt to knock it out of position or to blast it with superhuman strength so the upper face is changed…hopefully for a lesser pip count.
Immersion or Subversion:
There is a backstory to the game and there are many potential characters to be chosen from who may bravely enter the arena. Each character has some ability that can be called upon to influence dice in the arena. At this stage many of the abilities and potential items, equipment or weapons are in a prototype stage but all add to the post apocalyptic futuristic ghetto feel. The artwork, especially on the tiles representing each of the arenaks floor spaces, really reminds me of the TV series Robot Wars… an anarchic, futuristic industrial environment. So to wander aimlessly back to the initial question, yes it does feel immersive. Not only because of the look but because it allows ut to get into the action of a game that has a no-holds-bared feel to its combat. Physically assaulting opponent’s die to gain advantage…once in the arena, especially with multiple combatants in a knockout tournament, makes us feel as though we are participating in some form of real futuristic, illegal cage fight.
Not to belittle the game but playing is simple…chuck your dice, opponent chucks their dice and we see who has won the round…simples!…
…as if life were that simple! Yes, the game is a full contact combat dice arena game so throwing dice is as complicated as the playing gets BUT, and there is quite a large but (not in the American sence of the word, I must add)…Firstly pips on an upward facing dice contribute to the over all outcome. Each player has a die they throw in turn, then follows up with a second and a third (one has a special Icon that relates to individual player boards) Now this is where things can become competative…and rightly so. If player A has a jolly decent die roll, I, being the mad impulsive fool that I am as player B, can launch my die to firstly dislodge my opponent’s die whilst trying to score high myself. Angle, trajectory, force all become important factors when trying to SMASH an opponent’s die.
We must also factor in to the great scheme of things that each of the many possible arenas also has various areas marked that can present negative or positive effects on player’s die come round end (causing them to flip to an opposite face, add to a total and a whole plethora of interesting effects) Tricky decisions now…so not only do we want to score higher than our opponent to inflict wounds, not only do we want our die to rest in the positive areas of an arena, we also want to bash our opponent into minimal pip scoring and negative effect areas too.
Extra information is supplied in the form of player character boards used to track health (using an interesting use of additional dice),
special abilities and, as a player progresses from battle to battle in Gettown, the possibility to acquire or upgrade weapons that can be employed to influence the outcome of our own or opponents dice rolls.
Simply put this is a complete dice fest and, despite the random nature of dice rolling, skillful aim, power and accuracy are vital to success and as such, also help to mitigate the luck luck element ever present in die rolling.
In addition, carful use of special abilities and items/weapons also improve dice roll outcomes. There are numerous factions/guilds within the Masters of Gettown (about eight at my last count) each with their area of specialism. Some focus on offensive tactics, some defensive and others concentrate on immobilising or impairing opponents. This is full contact combat at its most ferocious…but without hurting players, obviously…unless they are struck by a wildly mis-thrown cube.
But how doe we feel about being eliminated early-doors? Personally it is exciting to spectate/find out what happens to the remaining players but when I asked designer, Jon, his thoughts on player elimination and down time this was his game theory…
The game is designed so that when a player dies, it increases the damage being taken each round by the remaining players (randomised abilities have less targets so damage is more concentrated etc), thus every death shortens the game length in a sense.
If you kill a player, you can take first pick of their items to increase your overall damage output and then any others they may have had will be picked up one by one during the following players attack turns (as a free, one of action you can perform during your attack turn).
Over all, multiplayer games usually lose their first player about 75% in to the game unless a spectacular direct damage attack happens early (when the attacker has a 6 on their smaller ‘ability die’ and their opponent(s) have a 1 on theirs and then don’t get to defend that round).
Their both Quick play or Pro play rule sets. Pro play sees players using healing and shielding items to defend themselves as well as using guns to damage each other. (This involves an equipment drafting round that sees players choosing (a certain points cost worth of) items one at a time going round all of hem in turn so they can choose items for a certain strategy for the fight, they can counter pick items that will thwart their enemies choices during the game etc). This is the most in-depth play style and thus when players die, it has less of an impact on the overall length of the game. This is further exacerbated by the inclusion of a health bidding round where players can actually risk the dice representing their health by throwing them in to the arena against other players, hoping to increase their own starting HP while (using full contact tactics) also trying to reduce their opponents.
In Quick play however, all these extra game lengthening additions are stripped back (this is how we demoed at the UKGE):
Players start with the base health printed on the cards (no game lengthening health rounds),
They may only field weaponry items (so it’s entirely geared for high damage, quick finish games) and not healing shields or utility items.
Number of players & Teams:
If you play 1 vs 1, then there is no elimination time,
If you play 3-6 player, all vs all, then there is elimination based downtime. This has been as much as 30 mins in 6 Player pro play mode but it can be mitigated by only playing Quick play if it’s too much of an issue. Also, as three 1 vs 1 games take as long as one 6 player game to play out, this can be an alternate method of play to avoid in-game downtime.
Team-play offers 2vs2, 2vs2vs2 or 3vs3 play.
With 1vs1, 2vs2 and 3vs3, we open the game up to a lot of player groups by offering three ways to play our player elimination game with absolutely 0 elimination based downtime.
Team-play is done using a collective pool of health with only a debuff to players who actually die before the team collectively bites the dust.
Yes 2vs2vs2 will have potentially 25%+ down time for two players, but, like 3-6 player all vs all games, these set ups are designed to give any tcg or player elimination fan a real exciting thrill. Being one of them, I truly understand the balance and excitement of knowing, ‘yes I may end up dying instantly, but I except that, sure in the knowledge that I too have an equal chance of winning in a spectacularly glorious fashion’
He who steps on the smallest of insects, pales in comparison to he who slays the mightiest of dragons.
Initially, no one will consider this relevant, but as time goes by and players learn and become more invested in each game of Masters of Gettown that they play, those minutes spent waiting for others to finish will begin to disappear as with every success a remaining player achieves, the eliminated players get to directly share in that glory.
In other words, our eliminated players aren’t watching people move cards around in their hands for 5 minutes before deciding to pass, having done nothing. They won’t be watching a eurogame style facsimile of what would actually be happening in the real world.
Our eliminated players get a front row seat at a really exciting show. Dice are always spinning around the arena, in and out of bonus and danger based effect areas adding to the tension. Some times players have one dice left and are 12 points behind on their defence and, the crazy ricochet shots they try and pull off to even the scores are amazing. Full contact dice battling warrants any and all approaches to changing the dice in the arena, whether through pool style shots using calculated angles off of the hexagonally arranged walls, or delicate drop shots, accurately dropping your die on to the edge of another to send it sliding across the arena in the direction you want (usually straight in to a danger area or out of a bonus one).
The more my testers mastered the game and enjoyed it, the less they cared about any downtime and the more they enjoyed watching how the rest of the game planned out. I am really hoping this will eventually reflect within the community and thus see more people who love the game in non elimination mode, to try it all vs all with higher player counts and slowly get over their previous reluctance to engage with player elimination experiences.
I am an idealist I suppose lol.
My basic basic summary of how we mitigate downtime is:
We offer a 2,4 or 6 player experience with 0% elimination time and, for the wonder of all the other options available that may result in player elimination based down time, we give them a hell of a good show to watch with all character cards, equipment cards and every combat throw made, fully on show for players to watch, learn from and plan equipment builds to thwart while they wait.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
The components I played with at the UKGE were great. The perspex arena worked a treat, allowed for competitive dice throwing and was lavishly adorned with some fantastic floor tiles. The dice were obviously stock dice and customised with stickers but I am lead to believe the finished game will sport custom dice.
The illustrations and player board components were clear, well illustrated and did a fantastic job of adding to the combat arena ambience. This may yet prove to be a work of great beauty as well as a work of dice carnage.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Publisher: Earth to Games
- Playtime : 20-80 mins
- Gangs of one: 2–6 ~pvp, Cooperative Play (Team Fights), Semi-Coop Play (Boss Fights)
- Age of Consent: 14+
- DOB: 2018
Yes…because this is a slight deviation from the norm, I have played and am writing about a game that, at present, has no intentions of being multiplayer…I suspect that no matter how complex an AI logic flow chart is, it will not be able to emulate the throwing of a die…that said, maybe some AI logic flow chart might direct the way a die is thrown on behalf of the AI by the player… “if a player die is on X bonus location, throw AI die to hit said human die” etc…I don’t know but perhaps an area Jon & Dan can look into. Full contact arena combat may yet become a solo venture in some shape or form…we shall see!
Obviously, just as many hex & chit wargames are, the single player can play…and I hate this particular application of the word…”solo” by playing more than one combatant, trying to play to the best advantage for each. Not my idea of “solo”. For me an AI opponent needs to think like a person so providing a worthy opponent or needs to be a game mechanic that pits me, the so.oist, aginst the game itself…but that’s just my beef with wargames that say soloable…when they obviously are not.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As this is predominantly geared up as a knockout format, there will ultimately be a winner and man losers. It is not a difficult game to play but most definitely one of those games that we will continually discover new techniques to add to our repetoir. Sadly players will find they are knocked out of the arena but the gameplay, especially with larger numbers, is so tense and invigorating that once a player finds themselves knocked out, it becomes an engrossing spectator sport.
- Rules is Rules Is Rules: The rules were verbally explained at UKGE which were simple and straight forward to comprehend. It was only a couple of minutes before I was able to jump nasal passages first into the thick of the action. I have not seen a written copy of the rules so cannot accurately report back on this area. (See also Johns thoughts above)
- Lucky Buggers: This is a dice fest to be sure. When ever we lob a dice into a container the godlets (micro-gods) of luck interfere dreadfully. But do not lose heart my fellow dice haters. We are throwing dice to physically contact opponent’s dice to reposition them or change their faces. We can influence this by practicing crazy rebound shots or adjusting the power with direct shots. Ultimately we have only the merest of control but our abilities, items, weapons all have the potential to effect the pips on a die so we can mitigate some of the randomness….but that said, this is a crucial element of the game’s entertainment. The luck factor most definitely adds to the tensio…and some of the shots we make can completely surprise us by their sheer stupendous brilliance. This game would be dull without an element of luck so, as much as I usually hate dice as much as they hate me, this is one of those perfect exceptions to the rule.
- Highs and Lows: The theme is a little dark, as it is a fight to the death (although I assume there will be clauses like “knocked out” rather than dead, so a player can nurse a wounded character i to future battles. The actual gameplay is full of the highest elation (when a spectacular throw lands just where intended) to uLtimate lows when not only your die ends up in a poor position with a low score, you also knock opponents die into a positive area and tip it over to high pip score.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The combat arena is approximately a 30cm hexagon so add in, say five player boards, a small coffee table could accommodate the game so table space is not so much an issue but making the arena accessible by all combatants for a full 360 degrees, smaller tables are likely to be a must for this game.
Me, Myself and I:
I was pummeled into the ground but, despite a small dose of vanquisedness…I thouroughly enjoyed this game. It is surprisingly engaging and the ridiculous lengths one would go to, to achieve the perfect angle for the perfect line of attack is surprising….phaaa, what do I know about ballistic trajectories. Very little it would seem judging by my attempts. Tentative throws get you know where. Fully commited hurls are the order of the day.
It is amazing just how difficult it is to perform a simple action of hitting an oponent’s die and equally fascinating experimenting with the crazy shots that can be made bouncing die off any number of walls of the hexagonal arena.
There is far more to the game than merely chucking dice willy nilly….indeed, so. We have special abilities which can be called upon to perform great feats of bravery or incredible acts of confruntation…but it is not a simple fact of drawing upon these “super-hero” abilities. Weapons and abilities require power to work…which is perfectly reasonable to expect and as such we have to build our charge in readiness for activation. Effects during the game can have interesting effects on our charge and careful use of the slightly smaller custom die will aid our “power-up”.
I like the notion that once one player has been eliminated (in games of mor than two players) the damage dealt is proportionally increased so that the more players become knocked out, the greater and bloodier the conflict becomes. Not only does this emulate a will to survive but also acts as a game shortener thus reducing time players have to sit out…but it really does ramp up the tension as the game nears its explosive conclusion.
I ramble once more. All in all this is a supremely entertaining dexterity game but unlike “flicky” games or “building towers” games or “balance the badly shaped animal meeple” games, this has a greater need for control of that all important dexterity element, for a dexterity game, requiring greater tactical positioning partly as a result of the bonus areas within the arena but for also being able to connect with the arena walls in such a way to creat those special “tricks shots”…and to be able to tip/flip an opponent’s die whilst maintaining your own positioning & orientation.
Without a doubt this is a project to keep an eye out for when it looks for crowd funding in the near future
Yay or Nay?
It would be unfair for me to encourage Gettown to roll my BSoMT 1d8 in the same manner as solo games (or solo variants) would as this does not currently have a solo planned. That said, it is remarkably entertaining, has been well tested and thought out, and engages players even after elimination. So to answer the question, this, even in its prototype state, is a resounding YAY!
…now, what a time to get cramp in my little pinky…my opponents are all on the back foot and a good dice hand is called for. How can I hold a die?….agony. Maybe I can try a medium lob shot and hope for a lucky bounce and a fortuitous rebound…
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
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