Monday, July 8, 2019

Star Schlock: Bad 80's Sci-Fi Movies as a Tabletop Skirmish Game

After receiving a batch of brand new command cards for my sci-fi game Star Schlock, I was eager to get a some figures on the table to run them through their paces. My son and I only had an hour to spare between chores, but that turned out to be plenty of time to see how the latest version of the rules fared.

The Combatants

I fielded the heroic Doctor Owens and his Space Cadet daughter who were once again aiding primitive furry locals in throwing off the shackles of enslavement at the hands of the Totalitarian Dominion.

My son ran the 'that floating fat man', Totalitarian Overlord, and his right hand man Captain Vrok. They'd be supported by white armored dronetrooper lackeys.

The Battle Begins

My heroic freedom fighters, picking their way across the desert barrens, hoping to avoid civilian casualties.

My force consisted of three squads (15 figures total), the doctor, his daughter and two helper droids (a total of seven units). My son and I each drew a hand of command cards and secretly chose one, revealing them simultaneously. With a higher initiative for his chosen card, my son was able to activate his dronetroopers who rushed out to secure one of the objectives.

The Totalitarian Dominion deploys, ready to seize key objectives from the rebellious aliens.

My alien rabble, the furry krogloggs, loped forward and opened fire with their long range neutrino rifles.
Blistering neutrino bolts crackle across the desert landscape.

My son rolled poorly on his defense dice, losing two troopers and suffering two "pins". The pins would keep his dronetroopers from moving and susceptible to further attacks.

To keep the pressure on, during the next initiative I activated one of my support droids, the stalwart R-TOOT. Trundling forward the little fella used his special skills to provide ammo to one of the krogloggs. With their weapons reloaded, they'd be able to attack again.

The feisty and indomitable R-TOOT.

On the other side of the battlefield my son's dronetroopers were able to capture their first objective. While not an optimal choice, I decided to activate my krogloggs again. Since they'd already activated, I'd only be able to give them one action (rather than the usual two actions).

Command cards used to activate units are kept in play, functioning as an additional pool of resources to aid a player's units.

To make my single action have the biggest impact possible I played one of the command cards from my hand for its command effect. My "Furious Attack" card would add three additional dice to the attack.  I'd also be able to add a few more dice to the attack since my target was pinned down.

Zap zap!

While not great shots, the command card and bonus dice from pins gave my krogloggs a pretty strong fusillade of fire to pour down range. With a crack and the sharp smell of ozone, neutrino bolts lanced towards the dronetroopers.

In response my son played a "Collateral Damage" card, gaining additional defense dice and panicking nearby bystanders (here represented by some 1/72 Airfix Germans until I can sculpt some proper panicked bystanders).

A bad day in the Totalitarian Dominion.

After totaling up my hits I'd eked out just enough pins to send the surviving dronetroopers in the unit hustling back towards their own lines.

The Dominion Strikes Back

With things swinging in the heroes favor it was only dramatically appropriate for the Dominion to unleash a devastating counter attack.

The dronetroopers on my left flank that had been advancing unscathed saw their opportunity. With most of my forces bunched up my son readied a heavy weapon attack (some sort of shoulder mounted ordinance launcher no doubt) and played an "Explosion" card, dropping an enormous blast right in the midst of the bulk of my forces.

The heroic R-TOOT was obliterated by the blast! Doctor Owens and his kroglogg allies were flung from the impact site, stunning them for the rest of the turn.

The doctor laid out by the explosive attack!

My Desperate Ploy

On the following turn, with the smoke from the explosion clearing,  I took a gamble by sending Space Cadet Owens rocketing forward on her jet pack. Unfortunately, while she landed close enough to the objective I had squandered too many of my command cards and didn't have the ones I needed to capture the objective. My only hope was for her to hold off the approaching Totalitarian horde until I could draw the proper command.

As they approached, the dronetroopers opened up with their laser rifles. Luckily Space Cadet Owens' training along with a "Stray Shot" command card I played granted her enough defense dice to escape with a light wound and a few pins. The stray shot also ignited a nearby cargo container, the resulting fire granting me the chance to draw additional cards at the end of the turn (more mayhem = more bonuses).

Fire erupts from an ignited flammable cargo container.

The villainous Captain Vrok saw his opening. Striding forward he sent Space Cadet Owens fleeing with deadly fire from his fletchette rifle. With the Dominion poised to take a second objective I rushed my space mercenaries into the gap.

As the next turn began my luck began to change. Drawing "The Duel" card, I saw an opportunity to put the hurt on the nefarious Captain Vrok if I could only get into hand to hand combat with him.

Knowing the fate of the krogloggs was on her shoulders, Space Cadet Owens rallied and jet pack jumped back into close range of Vrok. During his activation, Vrok unleashed his fletchette rifle again but a timely use of 'free ranged attack' resource saw Space Cadet Owens return fire. Deadly laser blasts erupted between the two at point blank range!

Pew pew!

My forces on the flank were recovering from the shock of my son's explosive attack and were readying a new assault on the enemy held objective. With "The Duel" in hand, Space Cadet Owens only needed to hold out until the following turn before she'd bring Vrok to grips.

As we drew our cards for turn four, an alarm beeped. The hour I'd allotted to test the game had run out, and the annoying digital beeping reminded me I had lawns to mow, dogs to walk and groceries to buy. *sigh*

To Be Continued

While I had to cut the play test short I was pretty happy with how the game is shaping up. Heroes and villains duked it out out, squads of mooks maneuvered and traded laser fire, and neither type of unit dominated the other. The cards add a layer of complexity and additional tactical decisions, but I don't think they are overwhelming the actual table top play (after all this is a table top wargame, not Magic: The Gathering). The battlefield was rocked by explosions, raging fires and panicking civilians, and ran along at a good clip. I'm looking forward to running the game with one of my regular game groups to get more feedback, and eager to refine Star Schlock's scenario rules and vehicles.


  1. It looks like fabulous fun John!

    1. Thanks Michael! We certainly had a great time with it. :)

  2. That looked like tremendous fun!!

    1. It was! I think it provides something a little different to a lot of wargames. Maybe I'll get a chance to share it once I iron out all the bugs.

  3. I like the look of these special effects 😁.
    Great report, sounds like it was quite fastflowing and the cards certainly seem to add a lot to the game.

    1. Glad you liked the special effects! One of my goals was to make the battlefield "look" like a battle, so if you glanced at it in mid-turn you could get an idea of how things were going.