On a typical Saturday the kids and I play in the weekly Heroclix tournament down at the local game shop. But the kids had a passel of homework and other things to do this weekend, so we skipped the Saturday tournament.

Poor Sam spent most of his weekend doing homework. Cody finished his work by mid-afternoon on Saturday, and he asked me to teach him to play Men of Bronze.

Men of Bronze mini-boardgame by Avalon Games

Men of Bronze mini-boardgame by Avalon Games

Its core concepts are similar enough to various other games to enable me to teach him to play in about five minutes. We had a great time with it. Cody played the Sky Patrol (Doc Bronze and a Sky Trooper) while I played the Masters of Terror (Baron Zero, an Iron Warrior, and a Robot), using a map we made from the Star Wars minis/RPG’s Galaxy Tiles. The game was pretty unpredictable with some insane swings of fortune (Baron Zero paid an Adrenal point to make a Deadly Cut against Doc, rolling three dice and needing a seven to hit – so of course I rolled three “1’s”. And Cody and I both laughed our heads off). We did have to houserule the robot’s special to make it less powerful, though, otherwise the robot is essentially unbeatable.

Sam was finished with his homework by late afternoon, so we had time to play a session of Cody’s SRE campaign right before dinner. What’s SRE? It’s a free set of RPG rules that’s so sparsely “old school” that the entire rules set fits on just two pages. Cody took this set of rules, looked up (and converted) a heap of creatures from 1st Edition AD&D and a smattering of other games, and cooked up a very cool retro-gaming campaign. His game is set in a strange post-apocalyptic (yet very near) future, in which the player characters are “street people” who live in an urban shantytown/Hooverville environment (very similar to the late, lamented Max Headroom sci-fi/cyberpunk series from the 1980’s [which, by the way, Cody has seen and loved – and which he readily admits inspired his SRE campaign]). It’s a strange work in which magic, medieval weaponry, and modern technology exist side-by-side; you start the game with a sword or spear, but hope to earn enough cash to buy a rocket launcher some day (not likely, given the inflationary state of his world’s economy – a coil of rope can cost $25 or more).

His campaign begins on the street, when an old lady is robbed of a treasured amulet. She saw the thieves take off into the sewers – there’ll be a reward if we can find and return the amulet. So off we went. My character is named Will Comply (tip of my cap to Eisner there), a cutlass-wielding child of the streets who is always looking to make a quick buck. So, of course, I dropped what I was doing (which, at that point, was having lunch at a Swill stand – and “Swill” is indeed what the stand’s sign says, it being a trademarked brand name in Cody’s world) and joined with two other characters to venture into the sewers to try to retrieve the amulet.

The game is so old school that you practically have to blow off the dust to play it – and that’s a good thing. Traps are disarmed by clever plans, not by die rolls; the same applies to the numerous puzzles that are found in the dunge- uh, sewers. The “battle of wits” element is great fun, along with the many laughs we have along the way.

Cody: In the middle of the room is a shallow pool. Guarding it are four men, armed with tridents. The men have heads very similar to fish, complete with huge goggle eyes. One of the fish men sees you and says, ummmmm… [checks his notes]

Me: “It’s a trap!”

Cody [laughing]: NOOOOOOOOOO!

That’s how you play a RPG, boys and girls. I haven’t had this much fun playing a RPG in a long time and the fact that the “rulebook” is two pages long just proves the old adage that good campaigns aren’t the result of the game, but of the gamers.

Sunday we had just a little bit of time to play games, so Cody and I played Men of Bronze again (Sam was once again stuck doing homework). This time it was Cody’s Sky Boy, Samson Jones, and a Sky Trooper against my Major Pain and three Iron Warriors, played on the Paizo “Prison” Flip-mat. It was another touch-and-go battle and, as in Saturday’s game, I got to make a 3-dice attack (Pain’s special “Brutal Blow”) and again rolled three “1’s”. If it happens the next time we play, these dice are going to end up out in the street.

Speaking of Men of Bronze and the Steel & Glory game system, I also spent part of the weekend working on a new genre expansion for S&G. I don’t want to say much more than that but I guarantee you that if the special abilities of these characters pass editorial muster, this expansion is going to take S&G to a whole new level of fun. Time will tell…

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.