Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Scavenge, Skirmish, Survive: a review

What's that? A new version of Scavenge, Skirmish, Survive? Yes please.

Ok, I've been sitting on this review for a while. I really like the setting and the feel of Scavenge, Skirmish Survive, it's a pity that I haven't managed to get a game of it yet and probably wont for the foreseeable future.

So a super-volcano has exploded, filling the atmosphere with crap and bringing about a nuclear volcanic winter - nicely sidestepping any political blame gaming for the apocalypse in the intro - letting us get straight into the action, which is all about groups of survivors with minimal equipment clinging to their lives. It's part The Road, part The Walking Dead. Some achingly beautiful terrain has been made for it and there are really nifty models for sale. The rules are free (but still in beta) and can be found here along with the rest of the store.

The rules are pretty solid and intuitive, seemingly geared towards multiplayer games, featuring an action point system and special event cards which change the weather (among other things). The blizzards are probably my only real quibble with the mechanics, as they seem to be related to the Protagonist Tracking InstaFreeze(TM) blizzards from The Day After Tomorrow, giving every character a 50% chance of dying every turn they remain exposed.

But that's enough praise, lets get to the hot spicy sexism!

Now, every model in the game is essentially the same, with only special qualities effecting rolls. Age and gender, however, are modifiers, and women (of all ages) get -2 to melee rolls.

Now, this irked me when I first read it, then it sort of made sense, then it started to irk me again.

Before I get started I would like to say that I am sure the author is not sexist, nor intended to come off as one.

My immediate reaction was; Christ, even D&D stopped pulling this shit 3 editions ago. Sure, men have a natural advantage in upper body strength but with enough training there's nothing to stop anyone from closing that gap, why model it in a game? Additionally, everyone in the S3 setting is going to be so malnourished and wasted away that most of that advantage will disappear.

Then it occurred to me that having women with this disadvantage created a 'second line' fighter that was quickly and easily distinguishable from others. It's not like there's a huge variety of differently armed and armoured troops running around. 

I've seen plenty of Blood Bowl games where all that distinguishes one type of model from another is a rubber band, or the colour of the base. And in a game like S3 that has no standardisation of model type, gender is one of the few things that's going to help give you some variety in troop types. (The age difference - and thus difference in fighting strength - in men is marked by whether they have beards or not... There's a joke in there somewhere but I cant find it*).

It would be nice if a sidebar was included explaining the reasoning though.

However, I started to look at how this was affected by other rules, and found some weird inconsistencies.

If we accept that the average man would win in fight against the average woman, how would this situation change if we gave her a machete or a sword and he remained unarmed? According to the rules he'd still have a fifty fifty chance of winning.


Perhaps to resolve this there could be negative modifier for unarmed combatants facing armed enemies.

There's also a weird insult to both sexes written into the points system.

Each gender/age bracket has a point value assigned to it, ranging from 6 points for an adult male to 3 points for a girl.

However, both boys and women are priced at 4 points. Children in this game are essentially worthless. They can't be armed, carry next to nothing and with a -8 modifier they will almost always lose fights.

What the rules seem to be implying, is that a male child - who can do essentially nothing - and a adult woman - who can be armed and fight - are worth the same.

On the flip side this would also suggest that some sort of inferred gender-cide is going on as, if a player had to take a child, they would always take a girl. All the (non)abilities of her male companions but 1 point cheaper.

While these issues are probably just oversights, if for some reason you think they are reasonable, I want you to imagine yourself explaining them to the female gamer in your life (if you're lucky enough to have one) while maintaining eye contact.

In any case, I've offered my ideas for house ruling these oddities and they'll be what I use if I ever get a chance to actually play S3, something I really want to do.

*Something about Samson and Delilah maybe? Or maybe a scholarly reference to Hamlet?

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