The past 12 months have seen the release of several campaign-driven miniature games, combining story and tactical gameplay. Titles like Games Workshop’s Necromunda and the Corelian Conflict for Star Wars Armada have brought this type of gameplay back to the forefront. So much so that we’re even starting to see card games get into the mix with Android: Netrunner’s Terminal Directive. Heck, if we’re really honest about it, legacy games like Pandemic Legacy and Charterstone are really nothing more than board game campaigns!
On the RPG side of the fence, this sort of mixed game hasn’t been as popular. Battletech players have been doing it for years. Battletech’s Time of War (formerly known as Mechwarrior) has options for integrating your RPG with combat using the Battletech rules. The Malifaux miniature game also has an accompanying RPG (Through the Breach) that borrows nearly all of the miniature game’s mecahnics.
As a long time Battletech player (let’s not get into how long…suffice it to say, I was introduced to the game in a previous century), I can tell you that these games can be pretty time consumign. Many groups stage these games so that the miniature battle takes place in a different sessions from the RPG sessions. That’s more the nature of Battletech than anything else (though now that I’m thinking about it, switching to using Alpha Strike rules – Battltech, but quick – might make it more palatable to have both sessions on the same day!).
So there are a lot of great miniature game rules out there (if you’ve not checked out Osprey Games, you’re missing out). And obviously, we’ve got a ton of great RPGs out there. But before you go kitbashing your own hybrid, there are some lessons learned from years of hybrid Battletech/Mechwarrior games:
- Mechanic compatability – One of the great things about Battletech/Mechwarrior is that the rules were largely designed to be compatible from the get-go. Most miniature games aren’t built to work with RPGs, so you need to think about how stats will transfer. This isn’t too difficult most of the time – miniature game stats tend to be simpler than RPG stats. But something to consder is how persistent effects will transfer over – damage, items/equipment and other things all need to be converted.
- Keep it real – One of the things that D&D 4th edition did really well was to create a compelling miniature game that still had the sensibility of a RPG. For me, this means that death was a real thing for PCs and the PCs were discouraged from throwing away their lives needlessly. Miniature games are fundamentally different – you accept that your figures will die (generally; obviously this is changing somewhat with games like Frostgrave). You absolutely must shift the way the players think about their figures in the miniatures portion of the game in a way that keeps mortality in mind.
- Make sure it flows – Flowing between a RPG session and a miniature game session often feels jarring. Consider saving a miniature gaming session for special battles where you know what the scenario will look like. This way you can leverage your existing terrain and other goodies to create a great gaming experience.
With new RPGs like the Infinity RPG from Corvus Belli, miniature games and RPGs keep getting closer and closer. Take some time and see if the combination can work for your game!