Justin Kahler’s Beamswords and Bazookas is lightweight but packs a hefty punch. It’s a clever merger of two games; the first is a mech skirmish game and the second is an RPG.
The origins of the game is a Kickstarter project which raised just over $3,000 from 141 backers.
The Kickstarter achieved three out of the four stretch goals it wanted; printable paper minis and two illustrations by Muh Dipo. That’s been delivered, but as is characteristic of similar projects (such as Entromancy) there’s very little other art in the game.
It’s easy to read B&B, it’s a single column of large text. I was able to lean back on my chair, put my mouse on my leg, lean back and read from afar. That said, the layout doesn’t feel cheap, it feels straight-forward and effective (like a beamsword).
Beamswords & Bazookas system
Character generation fits almost on a single page.
You begin by assigning a d6, a d8, a d10 and d12 to your four different character attributes. Repeat that process for your mech attributes and your skill attributes.
Select one character trait, one mech trait and one skill that. Boost that selection with three more bonus traits.
Design your Mech. You can equip up to 2 hardpoints worth of weapons and cannot exceed your load rating.
Pick a character name, a cool call sign, a virtue and a vice. Lastly, calculate your derived ratings. For example, your energy rating is the highest value of your systems attribute. So if you’ve assigned a d8 to systems, then your energy rating is 8.
Pretty, neat, huh?
In the game, you typically roll two dice depending on what you’re doing. If, for example, you’re piloting a mech while trying to blast something with a machine gun, then you roll precision and arsenal. Dice that score 5 or more count as Hits. You don’t add the dice. If a single dice rolls 10 or more than that’s two Hits.
Another interesting mechanic is stress. Stress builds up as stuff happens or as you push dice towards success. If you don’t deal with stress, then it will take you and your mech out of action.
That’s where the virtue and vice selections come into play. In the downtime between mech fights, your character can drop their stress levels by engaging in their personal virtues or vices.
Pushing, which earns you stress, can be used to remove the rattled condition, re-roll any dice or avoid 1 damage.
The first successful attack tends to rattle mechs and their pilots. Attacks after that, which land, cause damage. This system is used instead of hit points.
One rule I didn’t get, just a little one, is the option to pick a different injury if you’ve already rolled it on the injury table. For example, let’s say you’ve been Rattled in your mech, hit again and rolled ‘Concussed’ so you can no longer roll your Wits dice. If I were to be hit a third time and rolled ‘Concussed’ again, I would keep it, as I have already lost my Wits dice for that combat. Call me unsporting, but I don’t know why I’d, for example, pick ‘Hemorrhaging’ instead and lose my Toughness dice.
The same basic rules apply whether you’re piloting a mech or not. What matters is whether you’re taking a mech action, a pilot action or a move action. There are rules, of course, for when mechs try and squash pilots who happen to be on the ground or when human-sized foes have access to bazookas and put the mechs in their sights.
If ‘vice and virtues’ are an excellent example of how roleplaying is infused into the mechanics of Beamswords and Bazookas the RPG, then the Move attribute is key to Beamswords and Bazookas the skirmish game. Distance is essential; it defines whether weapons can reach, whether it’s ranged or melee and whether your mech is in the right place or not.
I don’t think it is strictly necessary, but I think being able to move and measure mechs around a battle grid will significantly enhance the game. Thankfully it comes with paper minis.
There are no rules for beamswords. There are, however, rules for ‘Beam Melee’ and ‘2-Hand Beam Melee’ which I’m sure is the right category for beamswords.
The campaign world of Beamswords and Bazookas
There’s hardly any campaign world for Beamswords and Bazookas. It’s a 101-page PDF, and the campaign section begins on page 74. Page 77 is the start of a sample campaign. There’s only actually one page for the campaign setting. Kahler’s concerns seem to be more around helping you define your own and thinking through the basics before you dive in.
The premise is that Beamswords and Bazookas is set a hundred plus years or so into the future. The planet is on the cusp of another world war.
However, in the Running the Game section earlier, we had stats for giant monsters, which is a clue that things are quite different in the future.
There’s been an alien invasion, they’ve been fought off and haven’t been seen since. However, fighting off the towering aliens relied on using multi-national forces and the world cooperating with one another. Given enough peace, people hate that, as nationalism rears its head and people forget common interests to worry about cultural identity, borders and the allocation of resources.
The default setting for the game has the PCs in MASS (Mobile Armour Support and Suppression), a unit of the Global Protectorate which is one of those pan-national cooperations that the nationalists dislike.
The example campaign digs into what that sort of tension and changing landscape after the war could mean. While the campaign setting only gets a page, I think it is fair to say that the 10 episodes pre-written campaign brings that world to life for you.
I don’t like the name; Beamswords and Bazookas, to my ears, has a bit of a frivolous ring to it. It could be the title of a whimsical anime. It doesn’t seem to do justice the clever and quite harsh mechanics of the game and nor does it reflect the global tensions described.
I like everything else about the game. The system is elegant. I’m impressed by the four different type of dice working for mech rolls as well as human rolls.
I’d play Beamswords & Bazookas again in a flash but what I really want to do is have the luxury of visiting someone with a mech model collection and one of those impressive wargame boards. That’s how to get the full Beamswords and Bazookas experience.
Mech fan? Rules light RPG fan? Okay, I know those two things don’t overlap often, but that’s all the more reason to check out this $13 download if you get the chance. I think you’ll like it too.
Have you played it? Let us know what you made of the game.
My copy of Beamswords and Bazookas was provided for review.