Stargrave: Dead or Alive – Under a Blood Red Sky

The science-fiction variant of Frostgrave was officially released yesterday, so I played a game.

Venators Laxx and M’Kavin. Mood: sky blue.

After a long, busy day of socially distanced work, my wife suggested an unusual activity. Therefore, after the Thursday evening Tupperware/key party with the neighbours, I agreed to play co-operative Stargrave with her.

Some erotic art from space, yesterday.

I have had the Stargrave rules for a week or so and I have been itching to get some games in. The rules are familiar, with the core rules being very familiar to anyone who has played most of Joseph McCullough’s other games: Frostgrave, Ghost Archipelago and Rangers of Shadow Deep. I have recently been playing quite a bit of Rangers online, so the core rules are fresh in my memory.

Because of the times that we live in, Osprey Games and JMcC decided to make a small, but fun solo play supplement available for free download on the day of release. Stargrave: Dead or Alive can be downloaded from Osprey HERE.

The DoA solo rules are intended to be used by players with a full Stargrave crew of ten models, hunting a “Mark” and associated “Gang” for bounty. All the info is in the free PDF, so I wont go on too much about it here, apart from saying that it is a fun read.

Although that format sounds like a perfectly good way to play the game, I don’t really have much enthusiasm for solo toy soldiers. YMMV and all that, variety is the spice freighter of life etc. Co-op toy soldiers against a simple AI system on the other hand, is my (space) jam.

Having played a lot of Rangers recently, I was confident that we could get an intro game of SG: DoA played where two of us each used a “Captain” as our bounty hunter.

The aim here wasn’t to maximise how much loot we could grab (much harder with only two pairs of boots on the ground anyway) but just to play through the game and see if we could overcome the odds, or at least make some headway. I took a handful of photos as we went, but not too many, as I didn’t want to disrupt enjoyment of the game itself.

We picked two Bounty Hunters that were pretty similar (see above), so that we didn’t have to remember too many extra rules in our first game. There was a spread of Target Designation and Coordinated Fire, which we figured represented the sort of intense levels of soundless communication that a pair of space bounty hunters in matching pyjamas would probably have.

Arrowhead Mire: fragrant like a cargo bay full of of rutting dedfurds…

The bounty puck led the Venators to the Arrowhead Mire swampland settlement on a moon of the third planet in the Tetanus system. Table set up for “Swamp Town” is quite specific, so that the various flowchart generated behaviours of each of the Marks interact with the NF (Notable Feature) terrain pieces in specific ways.

A Phulsus Poppy (known for its medical and hallucinogenic effects) and a rare Shildrun Egg make up the two Physical Loot items that we generated.

As mentioned earlier, with only two protagonists it would be tricky to do a number of things in game, such as 1) not get killed and 2) collect Loot. Just in case we had a crazy streak of good luck, and because nice Loot Tokens add to the vibe, we included those two above anyway.

A Guard Do…Cat, a Commando and an Armoured Trooper pose operatically outside Notable Feature 1.

There are five varieties of “Gang” that can be generated to guard The Mark. We fudged this a bit, to suit the miniatures that we had access to and to keep things straightforward for our first game. And then added some figs because they are fun to look at.

Two Runners and a Burner at Notable Feature 3

In this case, Skabsquigs Skallywags, Scourge of the Seven Systems were drafted in the role of hired garrison/bodyguards. A sub-group was set up at each of the Notable Features.

Two more Runners and a Gunner at Notable Feature 2, a cursin’ the squishiness o’ th’ laaand beneath their feet… no place fer an ork with with his space legs…

Although there was an opportunity to add some “Complications” to the scenario, we decided to leave them out this time, for the sake of simplicity. However, that did mean that we could finally determine which scumsucking, slippery piece of bantha poo-doo we would be trying to bag…

Disgusting.

It turned out to be Kim Jong Bono, known astro-tax dodger and quisling, loathed for his associations with unsavoury orkoids. Repugnant

Kim Jong Bono takes some time off from his busy no-fixed-abode tax dodging schedule to make an unsavoury deal with known mobster Swayzork. Revolting.

Suitably fired-up for a bout of morally-justifiable and pre-meditated murder, the “Vague Sense of Regret” touched down near Arrowhead Mire and M’Kavin and Laxx followed the distant “YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAAAHHH!” sounds.

Our “heroes” got to the settlement just in time to observe Kim Jong Bono’s quick final check on his secret store of illegal (and frankly, immoral) aphrodisiacs before leaving the planet.

Sticking together and veering west, the Venators made slow progress through the toxic swamp. Alerted to a presence, but not quite aware of what it actually was yet, the defenders moved to intercept the trespassers, led by an ork that appeared to be in angry forklift cosplay.

Before they had got out of the stinking swamp, the Venators were taking pretty heavy, ever increasing fire. Laxx took light hit, grimaced and engaged “Plan B”.

Realising that they would be overrun rapidly unless they took some bold action, Laxx hand signalled his intentions to M’Kavin before running through a storm of plasma and light blaster fire, straight for the shack that The Mark was irritatingly finger-gun dancing towards.

With a subvocalized command to his PDD, M’Kavin stepped out of cover as a series of translucent blue hexagons coalesced into an Energy Shield around him. With shells and plasma being absorbed by the Shield he primed a “Meteor” pattern photon-frag grenade and lobbed it into the trigger-happy greenskins, blasting three of them into smelly cutlets.

Distracted by the chunks of still-screaming chum pitter-pattering onto his “Peacemaker” exo-suit, the Armoured Trooper didn’t spot Laxx’s flanking manoeuvre. The Guard Cat and Commando however, were used to stealthier combats and intercepted.

Gunfire, throaty meowing and ham slicer sounds came from behind the shack before a blood-stained Venator leapt through the shack window, rolling into a single knee firing stance, blasting with his overclocked “Equalizer” pistol.

To the disgust of music lovers galaxy-wide, and despite the intensity of the Power Spiked blaster shot, a Displacer Field shunted Kim Jong Bono out of this reality as the blast travelled through where he had been nanoseconds before. Unfortunately he returned to this reality very rapidly, like a suspicious mole.

You still haven’t found what you were looking for, friend!” laughed the barely coherent and fundamentally objectionable astro-creep as he blasted Laxx with solid slugs individually etched with a image of a middle aged human male wearing a cowboy hat… but it wasn’t enough.

As predictable as an overproduced jangly guitar riff, an overconfident Bono had overreached. While desperately reloading, a bloodied but unbowed Laxx rose and with a cry of “You are a pox, and I’m the topical cream!“, hacked the hack into purée.

Somewhere in the galaxy, a million music-lovers suddenly cried out in joy and had to change their silver space-underwear.

With their employer smeared all over the interior of a pretty disgusting shack in a smelly swamp, the Skallywags had limited enthusiasm when pursuing the Venators, who got back to their ship and set course for Risa. Where else?

Will we ever hear about the further adventures of M’Kavin and Laxx?
Can enough of Kim Jong Bono be scraped off the shack walls to clone him? Would anyone bother?
Those space aphrodisiacs, are they real in any way?

None of these questions and more, will be answered in the next
instalment of…

STARGRAVE: DEAD OR ALIVE!

19 Responses

  1. > Distracted by the chunks of still-screaming chum pitter-pattering onto his “Peacemaker” exo-suit…

    You do have a way with words, sir.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I managed to leave out a comma though…

      Thanks Allison. I will never be an author or journalist or anything like that, but part of the reason that I started this blog was to publish and be damned, and to enjoy myself while hopefully becoming at least a little more practised while writing things. I do enjoy melodramatic, trashy pulp writing styles, but I find it difficult to emulate without sounding like someone quoting Monty Python.

      Regardless, it fits here for sure.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite the fun rollicking read! Thanks for sharing the game with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that both the blog post and the game itself, each came together as well as they did Mark. Hopefully the report at least shows some of the enthusiasm that I have for the system after trying it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like you had the good time there. 🙂 And saved the galaxy from Kim Jung Bono to boot! Laves a little more space for Müshrööm Klöwd to play. Excellent! *Jangly guitar noises.*

    Liked by 1 person

    • As rulesets go, I think that Stargrave is an ideal one to get Mushrööm Klöwd on the table again SP. it is a matter of “when” rather than “if” I think 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the setup, love the background, love the game!
    Looks like you enjoyed the ruleset.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Over the years I have played many rulesets, but only fully got to grips with a handful really. One of the things that I really miss is the sort of game that happens when all players know the rules well enough that the mechanics fade in to the background to an extent, and the focus can be on the narrative.

      The JMcC rule sets are the first time that I have experienced that for quite a while, and I am really enjoying it. I’m glad that some of that comes out in the post Will, thanks!

      Like

  5. Nice! I’m really curious about the game, thanks for this, I think I’m getting a copy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bought Frostgrave in 2015 and found that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, which put me off for a while. But I was wrong about aspects of the core mechanics that had put my gaming group off a little. I just needed to step back and look at it from a different different perspective.

      Stargrave is the same game engine, so the same applies. Try to put your preconceptions to one side and embrace the more unpredictable results that the game generates in comparison with some other similar types of game. This random element is an intentional design decision, that pushes the narrative aspect, which is what I like the most about games.

      I genuinely hope that you love it Suber 🙂

      Like

  6. Keen to give this a go myself! There must be other astro-musicians to hunt…

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I said to Suber above applies to you too Barks. I do hope that you enjoy it.

      As for pop culture influences in games, there is never any shortage and they inevitably make the experience more entertaining for me. That said, the Kim Jong Bono thing happened organically, an unintentional result of a project that was pointed out to me after the fig was finished. It is usually best to roll with those things I think, and make a feature of them.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Like

  7. Loved the Bono references. Very funny

    Liked by 1 person

  8. thanks for that. Your report had me in stiches!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for this. The Bono stuff had me in stitches 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aul Bono is an easy target really, although he appears to be less of a toe-rag than some if his ilk.

      As I mentioned above, the figure was fully painted before there was even a mention of the guy, but it made sense to roll with it when it was pointed out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] Stargrave: Dead or Alive – Under a Blood Red Sky @ Sho3box – This is a cool rundown of a Dead or Alive session. The writeup is well done and entertaining and the pictures are gorgeous. Thanks a lot for sharing this! […]

    Like

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