This article originally appeared in Pyramid #6
THE MUTANT CHRONICLESSiege of the Citadel
Published by Pressman Games
Published by Heartbreaker
Published by Heartbreaker
Written by Henrick Strandberg and Magnus Seter
Like one of its own Undead Legionnaires, The Mutant Chronicles joins the streaming legion of "dark" games. Its undead shamble is different from the others, though - The Mutant Chronicles is a game that has great potential.
Thematically, The Mutant Chronicles reminds me of a cross between GDW's Dark Conspiracy and Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000. The milieu is one of squalid, alienating retro-tech horror. Set in the distant future, it shows the fate of Mankind locked into its little solar system. The Earth is dead, desecrated by war, uninhabitable and barren. The race of man has been forced to move to the other inner worlds, terraforming them for habitability. Luna, the Earth's moon, is one vast underground city, holding the majority of the system's population. It is a super-slum, barely keeping humanity alive and civilized, where everyone but the very rich live in what a middle-class American would call squalor (but would be above-average in many places of the world). Inquisitors for the Brotherhood, the religious society, constantly prowl among the populace, looking for signs of the great evil that threatens to overwhelm the system. Venus has been transformed into a sweltering mega-jungle, Mercury into a barely-habitable mining colony, and Mars into an arid but survivable desert.
There are no more governments, there are only the five corporations and the Brotherhood. The corporations - Capitol, Imperial, Bauhaus, Mishima and Cybertronic - control everything and everybody. They gather the resources, they process them, turn them into product, and sell the products to their loyal employees. The situation is altogether depressing and mechanistic, reminiscent of the Pink Floyd song, "Welcome to the Machine."
But wait, things get worse. Ancient powers sealed into timeless tombs on the tenth planet from the sun have been unleashed, unholy daemon-lords and their minions whose only goal is to corrupt and destroy mankind, turning everybody into ghoulish slaves of the great evil. These emissaries appear on human worlds and erect great fortresses from which to launch their wars of domination. There is no negotiating with them - humanity's only chance is to destroy them.
The destruction of one of these citadels, the greatest of the Martian outposts, is the goal of The Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel. It is a boardgame for up to five players, with eight geomorphic board sections, status displays for the players, game cards for equipment, evil forces, evil reinforcements and mission objectives. Also included are 38 plastic figures in 28-30mm scale (the same scale used by Games Workshop) for the Doomtroopers (players) and the forces of evil. The equipment for the game fills the box well.
The game itself can be played as stand-alone scenarios or as a campaign of 10 scenarios. During this time, the Doomtroopers, two figures per player, rack up points for destroying the enemy and receive more resources for equipment and for completing missions. The mechanics use special six-sided dice (included with the game) to determine success in combat, like Hero Quest. In a novel move, one of the players controls the dark forces in the game, and gains points and more equipment by offing his fellow allies! Fortunately, directing the enemy passes from player to player each scenario.
The Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel is a very attractive game; its physical quality is very high, and its price is reasonable. Finally, its rules are almost flawless! Only one minor rule leaves any uncertainty (does the Bauhaus trooper get his extra attack die on all fire rolls, including a dual attack from the Nimrod autocannon?). The rules take a little reading through, but they're all there, which is a nice fact, considering the amount of errata in most modern games.
Blood Berets is the next logical step in the boardgame series, a more intense small unit tactics game. It details the efforts of the Blood Berets, Imperial's elite-of-the-elite commandos, and their fight in the jungles and caves of Venus against the Dark Legionnaires and their Nepharite overlords. The play uses nine small, two-sided geomorphic maps which the Blood Berets have to explore to find and defeat the enemy, and to accomplish other mission objectives. The Dark Legion player knows where all his opponents and forces are, of course, and tries to wipe out the Blood Berets before they can do their job.
Blood Berets has far fewer figures than Siege of the Citadel, six figures for the Blood Beret player and ten for the Dark Legion player. They are the same scale as those in Siege of the Citadel, a fact which becomes important later. Along with the figures, the maps, the 20-sided die and counters for everything from initiative to exploded weapons, the game includes a full deck of cards for equipment and characters. The entire array doesn't fill the box, but the bottom half turns into a foam figure tray for storing the figures, a nice touch.
Game-play is much grittier than in Siege of the Citadel, as the players use a counter-draw initiative system. Combat and other tasks are accomplished with a d20 roll, using statistics that are the same as those in The Mutant Chronicles' RPG. Additional rules include hidden movement, mines, more weapons, and the evil mental powers of Dark Symmetry.
The Mutant Chronicles roleplaying game is a 208-page, perfect-bound rule book presenting the dark game-world, character generation and combat systems. The European design and development team has done a fairly decent job of getting the ideas across, filling the solar system with the intrigues of the five corporations, illustrating corporate activities and doctrines, adding to the background flavor of the series. The book also includes the complete character generation system, generating the skills used in Blood Berets. Lengthy sections detail the psychic powers available to Brotherhood mystics and Inquisitors, the powers of Dark Symmetry, and a fairly long list of weapons.
Of course, The Mutant Chronicles RPG has its problems, notably the obvious fact that the designers have a lot of material that they couldn't cover for lack of space - this game will have a lot of supplements. The missing information gives the book a sparse look, and makes the fiction segments appear superfluous (I wished for more hard data and a lot less fiction, because the fiction segments are at least 20% of the text space). Because of this, almost every section of the book has holes that complicate play - missing weapons and equipment stats topping the list. The additional fact that the fearsome weapons listed in the game will scarcely scratch Doomtrooper armor is a serious flaw.
A note on graphic quality: All of these games are beautiful. The pictures, illustrations, game boards and pieces are first class. Like most European games, The Mutant Chronicles has the visual appeal down pat.
Considering other qualifications, I'd rate The Mutant Chronicles at about a 7 on a rate of 1-10. So why do I wish I'd done this myself? Because The Mutant Chronicles looks like it can and will accomplish what Warhammer 40,000 failed to do, which is to provide an interlinked game background between several games, including bringing a roleplaying game into the mix. If you buy all three games (a total of $85), you not only have an easy, multi-player game, a challenging two-player game, and a roleplaying game, you also have enough figures and map boards to seriously enhance the roleplaying game without needing anything else! The Blood Berets and Doomtroopers make excellent player-character figures, as well as NPCs, and the Dark Legion figures provide for most of the evil forces that you're likely to run into. And all at a reasonable price. If you want more figures to add different forces to the scenario, Heartbreaker is making more and different figures as you read this. It's something the industry has been lacking for a long time. As I say, I just wish I'd done it first.
- Craig Sheeley
Article publication date: April 1, 1994
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