Monday, March 9, 2020

'Mean Streets' a Success at Cincycon 2020

My newest-painted gang, the Franklinton Flippos in their creepy clown masks, saunter past the Shell Station
 As I prepared my gang warfare rules, Mean Streets: War in the Gang-infested Cities for publication, I was hoping that Cincycon 2020 would prove to be the final playtest. The core engine of the rules set had been proven in games I ran for the public at the Ohio History Center (as a simplified American Frontier rules set). The adaption for urban skirmish had worked in the playtests I held with my Sunday night gaming group. Now, I wanted it to meet the convention-going crowd. We all know gamers can do things we'd never expect when planning out our scenarios and writing our rules. Would Mean Streets, my newest rules for First Command Wargames, survive the tables of a wargaming convention?
The Eastmoor Kings investigate the back entrance of Wallace's Brewpub in one of my Mean Streets events at Cincycon
The answer was a resounding success. All of my players seemed to enjoy the game and had a blast rumbling with other gangs on the tabletop. The game seemed fun both on Friday and Saturday night, and in both runnings my players commented on how they liked the simple approach used by the rules. I noticed on Friday night that my players were running their own combats with next to no help from me from turn one. I stepped in a bit more on Saturday, as my players were quite as veteran I had on Friday night. Still, they knew what to do and only needed to ask my ruling when unusual situations came up.
The Bexley Blockwatch keeps an eye on the gang activity in the streets, ready to wield their walking sticks as clubs
I wrote down a few things to adjust in the way the rules are worded (gamers are wonderful at trying to push the envelope in rules, making you rule out the letter of the rules rather than just trying to get by with the spirit). I also learned a couple things on one or two of my missions. One proved too difficult and needs to be tweaked. Another was a bit too easy, I felt (mainly because where I had the gang deploy -- too close to their objective). When I plan on the primary and secondary missions I give gangs in my multiplayer games, I try to make everyone's projected path cross. I purposely adjust their victory conditions so that they have to encounter other gangs. I leave warnings in my mission explanations to look out for a gang looking to intrude on their turf or possibly interfere with them in other ways.
The Hilltop Highlanders cruise past the basketball court on their way towards their objective
In addition, I add in a bit of gang rivalry in the victory points. Players get VPs for knocking out opposing gang members, but certain gangs are worth double points because of a "bad history" with them. This ensures that punches are thrown and the players have a good time mixing it up. Although running around on the table completing missions without a combat may appeal to some players, most want to fight others and get into the spirit of inflicting a beat-down on rival gangs.
A shot of the 5'x4' board I used at Cincycon 2020, with three city blocks separated by two streets and numerous alleys
This game used a 5'x4' board with six players. I started four in the corners of the board, and the other two at the midpoint of the 5' edge. This spaced them out enough that they weren't jumped by other gangs on turn one, but kept them in close enough proximity to each other that fights were sure to develop. I used what are (in my opinion) my six coolest gangs: the Hilltop Highlanders, Sons of Thor (German Village chapter), Bexley Blockwatch, Franklinton Flippos, Eastmoor Kings, and Linden Daos. The Flippos were finished the week of Cincycon, with the final Dullocoate being sprayed on them Wednesday night -- two days before they threw their first punch in a game.
Arthur of the Bexley Blockwatch prepares to enter Wallace's Brewpub, while the civilians get edgy and nervous
I used most of my 28mm buildings that I have been working on for the last couple years in this game. I depicted three city blocks, separated by about 8" of street. The blocks themselves were divided between each building by 3" alleys. I had learned from previous playtests to ensure there was a 3" alley between each building and the board edge so that no one was bottled up too easily. The center block consisted of my buildings with the greatest depth -- Jack & Benny's Old Time Diner, the Shell Station, Sams Quick Mart, and a playground surrounded by a chest-high stone wall. One board edge was the apartment row, with four Sarissa Precision City Block buildings, with my scratch-built basketball court sandwich between. The other long board edge consisted of my two factories, the Street Market, St. Jennifers Church, and the corner of a city park. In retrospect, I think maybe the 8" streets were wider than I needed. I may try to add more depth to one of the blocks and narrow the two large streets. We'll see!
A rumble breaks out in the street between the Hilltop Highlanders and the Sons of Thor
What's more, I decided to upgrade my "chrome" for the convention. I created character cards for each of the six gang members players would have for the game. These were done over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday evening, with the printing and cutting out and putting in sleeves done the night before the convention on Thursday! Each card showed a front and back view of the miniature, along with their stats and special abilities, of course. Players said they were helpful, and I saw them leafing through their cards when they got into a fight to double-check if their figure had any advantages they wanted to make sure they used.
The Linden Daos tag a playground and Sams Quick Mart - notice my newly-made, circular tag markers with gang logos
Finally, I created 3-D "tag" markers. Gangs receive VPs for "tagging" buildings and other structures over the course of the game. They are penalized if a rival gang tags their home turf. I'd created circular logo-style tags earlier in the week for each gang I've painted up. I just wasn't sure what I wanted to attach them to, yet. I stopped in Hobby Lobby after school Thursday, and found a package of 60 circular, foam emoji faces in various colors. The best part was they were adhesive backed, which meant no gluing would be needed. I could peel off the backing and slap the printed out logo on it! I was really happy with how these looked. They look nice on the tabletop, and were a bright, visual reminder of what they'd done so far and where other gangs had tagged buildings. A number of times, they drew rival gangs to the spot to "tag over" their marker and spray-paint their own.
Friday night's five players were a good-natured bunch, except for the punishment they inflicted on rival gangs!
The games themselves went great, I felt. I had five players on Friday night, instead of the six slots I had available. I thought about jumping in myself as the 6th player, but I wanted to see if that unbalanced any of the missions. It didn't. The game went great, and saw lots of laughing and joking as gang members were knocked out, one by one. It also went a lot faster without the sixth player. We were done within 2 hours, including time for explanation of the rules. Saturday's game was full and ran a bit longer. It was still under 3 hours when my players decided to call it when the big, climactic rumble at the end became obvious which way it would go.
The Franklinton Flippos show their gang colors, moving stealthily past the Shell Station towards the main street
I think that big rumble was the most cinematic event of the weekend. The Franklinton Flippos (in their creepy clown masks), had the mission of "Show the Colors." Their job was to saunter down the street in front of the apartments and dare all others to bring it on. They intimidated the Bexley Blockwatch, who scattered into buildings and alley ways to let them pass. As the gang neared their goal of the far edge of the board, they spotted a lone Linden Dao dragging a reluctant basketball player from the court across the street. The Daos' mission was to "Protect a Brother" and go rescue the younger brother of the Gang Boss, who was playing basketball at the courts (and rumor said a hit was planned on). Since the Daos were being run by the brother of the Flippos' player, the temptation was too much to resist. They beat down the long gang member and were then promptly jumped by another three Daos.
The Flippos use their superior numbers to inflict a beat-down on the martial artists of the Linden Daos
At full strength still, the Flippos began to wear the black martial arts gang down. However, that's when the Flippos' West side rivals, the Hilltop Highlanders showed up. Fresh from the beat-down on the Sons of Thor, the Highlanders formed a line and began to slowly close in on the rumble. They soon charged in, and it was obvious they thirsted for clown blood, as they ignored the Daos and began to beat up the Flippos. At the other end of the streets, the Blockwatch appeared. Like with the Highlanders, they formed a line and began to slowly close in on the three-gang rumble. It was certainly a made-for-TV moment! The only thing missing was the clanking of pop bottles and the taunting cry from a hearse, asking the rival gang to come out and play!
The Hilltop Highlanders arrive on the scene, facing off against their hated West side rivals - the Franklinton Flippos
So, I think my players "digged" the rules, and it is my goal to get them layed out and printed by Daycon 2020 next month. A lot of times running games at conventions leaves me stressed out and tired, but this game almost seemed to run itself. That's a good sign, and I find myself re-energized to write the final passages of the rules covering different settings (like The Warriors, or Gangs of New York 19th century, or Peaky Blinders 1920's Engalnd). This is my event I will be running this convention season, so I hope you get a chance to catch it showing at a convention near you this year. The tour includes Cincycon this past weekend, DayCon in Dayton April 17-18, Drums at the Rapids May 15-16, Origins Game Fair June 17-21, Historicon July 8-12, and Advance the Colors Oct. 9-11. I might also run it at a few game shops in between -- we shall see!
Steve Cole, controlling the Flippos, watches his brother Mike move his Sons of Thor in the Saturday game
Master Okambo, Gang Boss of the Linden Daos, talks his younger brother into abandoning his basketball game
'Give me the keys to the red sports car!' demands Delroy, Gang Boss of the Eastmoor Kings, in the Shell service bay
One of my favorite moments of the weekend - Saturday's Big Rumble with three gangs and a fourth closing in
Finished the week of the convention, the Flippos were a hit at Cincycon - if not with their rivals!
Another look at the Flippos, as Marvin, Bud, and Canuck strut down the main street, showing their gang colors
Inside the Brewpub, Arthur - warchief of the Blockwatch - "convinces" the manager to pay protection money to his gang

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