Wednesday, 14 March 2007

An Ode to Siege of the Citadel

When people ask, "What, exactly, IS Ameritrash?" sometimes you just want to grab a game, point at it, and say, "Here."

This is one of those cases where such an action would yield fruit.

If you've ever tried Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel--and I hope as a good badge-wearin' AT fan you have-- then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, then you really, really owe it to yourself to track down a copy on Ebay. Here are just a few of the cool things you'll find waiting for you inside:

-- Plastic Miniatures: There are a pile of plastic miniatures in here, from customized sculpts for each of the Troopers, to tons of grunts to mow through, to the fearsome Nepharite, and of course, the fear-inspiring Ezoghul, the two-piece monstrosity that was inspiring terror in gamers long before Doom's giant two-piece Cyberdemon came roaring into town. Though these minis aren't quite as impressive as those you'll find in modern Fantasy Flight offerings, they were still of such high quality that they could be released today as is and they would still be some of the better bits you'd find on the market.

-- Dice: Oh yes...there will be dice. Using the familiar system similar to Heroquest, each die has either a hit or a blank face. The 'lower level' dice have fewer hit icons on them, and the stronger dice naturally feature more hits on their faces.

A nice randomizer, and one that allows you to keep that random element while also allowing you to try to game the odds better. It also allows a great deal of satisfaction the first time you get to reach for the more powerful dice...

You've of course seen this system again and again, in great titles such as Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit and Heroscape, along with the fantastic Commands and Colors line of games (no surprise, really, as Siege of the Citadels was created by Richard Borg himself, which tells you a great deal about why this game is as good as it is.)

-- Co-operation/Competition: I'll admit to pleading ignorance about The Fury of Dracula and Scotland Yard back when I first played this game, but the awesome mix of competition and co-operation was completely new to me.

Most games that I had tried were either all competition--such as Risk--and games with the really high production values such as those coming from Games Workshop were generally two-player affairs (Blood Bowl, Warhammer). Plus, even games like FoD were not truly competitive amongst the hunters, only against Dracula himself.

Siege of the Citadel turned that on its ear by having each corporation playing for their own points. When you finished a campaign of multiple scenarios, there could be only one winner. Also, in a stroke of genius, players took turns playing the nasty Legion...but scored points for their own corporation while doing so. This meant that you as a pseudo-DM in this case didn't want to take it easy on the other players, because you improved your own situation by stopping them!

Most telling about the blend of competition and cooperation were the mission cards, which usually had a dual to help the team in general...and one that would actually harm another squad of Doomtroopers! It was a great mixture as you'd be providing cover fire for another player one minute, then playing a card that made them "trip" and lose their movement points the next, just so you could gun down some extra foes for more points.

-- Variable Player Powers: I have come to realize that I really enjoy games that provide variable player powers or positions. This adds replayability and excitement to a game, because of the different experience and challenges facing you from one game to the next.

The Doomtrooper corporations each have variable powers, so playing a different squad will give you a different experience than the last time you played. The Mishima corp gets to move more quickly than other troopers; Capitol troopers get to start with an extra Mission card (a rare and valuable asset); and the Imperial corp gets a free action point every turn, just to name a few of the abilities.

-- RPG-esque Character Building: It's no D&D, but if you play Siege through an entire campaign, your troopers earn experience points and money. With experience, your troops can level up, granting them access to more powerful weapons and allowing them to use dice that have higher "hit" ratios. With money, you can actually buy new weapons and gear to strengthen your troops for the upcoming missions. By the end of a campaign, your relatively weak Troopers with their tiny pistols and knives will have morphed into killin' machines wielding Autocannons, Gehenna Pukers, and room-clearing Violator Swords and hitting beasties with alarming accuracy.

-- Modular Board: Going back to the replayability part of the game, Siege of the Citadel uses seven large, square sections to form each scenario. By spinning them, laying them out in different directions e.t.c each game can and will be quite different. Plus, when you finish the 10 (!!) scenarios in the book, you are free to make your own using these components.

Also, the game comes with its namesake "Citadel" stand up, a 3-dimensional cathedral-looking piece that doesn't add anything to the gameplay but gives the game's appearance an extra "oomph".

I've stated many times that this game could be re-released as is (well...perhaps a bit cleaner rulebook would be in order, but still) and people would be none the wiser. It really has the high quality production values and "Ameritrash" gameplay we've been spoiled with as of late from Fantasy Flight Games. True, many of us who purchased this game got it from KB Toys when it was on clearance for $10. However, a point that is overlooked here is that when the game was at full retail, I believe it was around $35. Compare that to the heavy Games Workshop offerings at the time that hovered near $80 or more, and it's obvious that even purchased at full retail it was a great bargain. Were it released today as part of FFG's $50 range of games, no one would bat an eye at paying that.

Do yourself a favor. Hunt down a copy on Ebay. If you're dilligent, you will find them ranging from $20-$50...even at $50, it's worth it to have a copy. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd have bought every copy that KB had at the time...but such is life.

So there you have it..."Ameritrash" personified. Next time you get asked about what Ameritrash is exactly, grab a copy of Siege, grunt emphatically, and say, "HERE."


Ynnen said...

Oh yeah, it's a helluva game, one of my All-Time Favorites. I've probably put more table time into Siege of the Citadel than just about anything else in my collection.

It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly well it holds up against newer games - it still offers incredibly tight, rewarding gameplay and plenty of eye candy... Siege really engages all the senses...

Mr Skeletor said...

This game kicks the crap out of you and owns you're mumma.
So simple and yet so engaging.

Peregrine said...

I broke this one out over the weekend at Tennessee Game Days, it's always a good time.

Puffinslayer said...

This game steals your best sheep, dresses it up for a night on the town, sends you pictures and still somehow manages to be your best friend.

Julian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheRankO said...

One of the best things I found when I first played Siege was its (then) universal appeal. Back in those halcyon pre-Settlers years, the guys I gamed with were a weird combination of miniatures wargamers, budding CCG enthusiasts, and RPG freaks. All of them found something to enjoy in a full-blown five-player session of Siege.

That said, I don't think Siege (or Fury of the Clansmen, etc.) would be universally enjoyable; I can't see hardcore Euro fans digging any aspect of the experience.

crazytalk said...

This game kicks some major booty. I was a huge Mutant Chronicles fan and this probably got more play than Warzone and the RPG combined.

artmark said...

When we had gone through every mission 3 or 4 times, I just had to make up new missions, equipment, monsters, etc. just couldn't let this one stay on the shelf.

bourbaki said...

Great game. You are all together facing the common enemy, one for all and all for one...maybe...

Too bad about that broken leg...

Shellhead said...

I was too busy with RPGs and CCGs to notice this game when it came out, so I've never played. But I've been hearing good things about it in recent years.

So I got excited when I saw that Fantasy Flight Games is doing a Mutant Chronicles game this coming summer:

"Mutant Chronicles CMG
Interplanetary high-tech war between megacorporations and the invading eldritch might of the Dark Legion! Fast-paced action and innovative game mechanics will make FFG's first Collectible Miniatures Game an instant hit!

"Expected at FFG: August, 2007"

Sigh. Why does Mutant Chronicles have to be collectible? I thought that FFG had already figured out that the collectible game was dying off, judging by the way they are selling their Cthulhu cardgame these days.

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