Wednesday 26 September 2018

My Experiences Playing "Death Match"

At the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend Rochester Games, Models and Railways to enjoy a demonstration given by Dave over at Wargames Terrain Workshop, who was showing off their tabletop game Death Match. In addition to meeting Dave and getting a chance to chat to him about any and all things tabletop (Dave is also heavily involved in WTW's scenery production, and I found myself picking up a few bits for other games which would make good use of the various crumpled barrels and fence elements that they produce.

Billed as a 2-4 player game, but with potential for up to 8, Death Match sees you take the role of a gladiator from one of four races (there are plans to include more in the future) and do battle with your opponents inside the gladiatorial arena. Compounding the battle are the 4 monsters around the edge of the arena, who enter the fray at pre-scheduled points throughout the turn order as the game progresses.

The best way I can describe the mechanics is the combat from games like Spartacus: Blood on the Sand, mixed with that episode of the original series of Star Trek where Spock and Kirk have a fight (with *that* music, you know the one I mean), mixed with elements of the Geonosis Colosseum scene from Attack of the Clones mixed with a random dose of the WWE Elimination Chamber. If that sounds interesting, then this is the game for you!

I was involved in a demonstration game, pitted against two opponents over the course of the day. The first was Clint, of Anything But A One fame. The second, at his enthusiastic request, was the young son of the proprietor of the shop in which the demonstration took place. For each game, I chose a different race to play as, in the hopes of experiencing as many of the unique mechanics for each race as I could in the time given.

The turn breaks down like so. At the beginning of every turn, the players roll for initiative. This is done using 2 green and 2 red dice, which form the entire dice element of the game i.e. everything done within the game is done using a variation of these 4 dice. Each face of the dice has a combination of swords, shields, stars and skulls (certain races can use the stars for addiitonal successes, which I quite liked as a mechanic).

The player who rolls highest at that point is able to take the Initiative (represented, as in the pictures, by a really awesome skull token). Nothing out of the ordinary in that mechanic in and of itself, although I did find myself taking a little more time to form a strategy than I would in a game *without* killer beasts at the side of the map. The addition of the beasts to the edge of the map certainly makes you more likely to rethink an otherwise sound strategy just before beginning!

Once the initiative has been decided, you roll 2 dice to determine how many action points you have that turn. Any player has a base value of 5 which is then added to the number of successes you roll with swords, shields or sometimes stars (although this can be frozen by rolling one skull on your two dice and even reduced by rolling two!). You then take the action points and use them to perform various actions listed on the character card, which add a fair bit of variety to proceedings.

If you're kitted out with a ranged weapon, you can take a snap shot or spend a little extra to aim for an additional success to add to your combat roll totals. If you're purely melee focused, you can Charge (1 Action point plus 1 for every inch you have to travel to reach your opponent). Any player can also Showboat, a mechanic I didn't appreciate the power of until it cost me my first game! Showboating can, in the event of a success, bestow a favor token upon your character on the crowd's behalf. Three of those wins the game using popularity. In the pictures below, these are represented by the rather spiffy coins.

For combat, the resolution is straightforward. You choose any two dice (you may opt for two red, two green or one of each depending on your tactics and how big the other fella is) and roll them out. Swords and shields are successes, skulls not so much. You total up your hits and/or blocks including weapons and armour, the opponent totals up their hits and blocks in the same way and then you reduce your respective hit points by the total number of wounds you take after all is said and done. It's simple, lightweight and yet entertaining to see how it all turns out. I particularly enjoyed the close-up fracas of the melee combat, with both opponents potentially able to take whacking great lumps out of each other.

Overall, I'm really positive on Death Match. It's simple, but with a rich backstory for those interested. The mechanics are lightweight, clear and enjoyable. The monsters are an entertaining addition, and the imagination on display is top-notch in every respect. It's definitely a game I will explore more information on, and I heartily recommend everyone to check it out over on the Death Match Facebook Group or the Wargames Terrain Workshop on Facebook.

For more of Dave's tabletop stuff, check out The Gamers Cupboard!

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus is always on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the host of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train" and "The E14 Gamecast", as well as the host of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel. He is also the editor of the Talk Star Wars podcasts.

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