Rich Rogers is one of the Gauntlet's staple GMs, running a ton of different games, storylines, and systems, and with a gusto that makes me want to be a better advocate for "the hobby". One recent recurring set of games he's running is Star Wars Saturdays, where he has an open table playing different systems and stories that are Star Wars adjacent.
I got to play in 2 sessions over 2 Saturdays of The Rebel Few:
Hop in a starfighter, join a squadron of fellow pilots, and fly as members of the Rebel Alliance against impossible odds and the tyranny of the Galactic Empire...
The game system Rich was using was The Few RPG, a game about World War 2 fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain. Except in this case we'd be playing X-wing pilots.
The first session started with a bit of character generation. For most of these games I come in with nothing in mind, and like to be inspired by the table and other players. This game was no different. We ended up with a group of 5 pilots, with only one being the token human. This included a Bothan (lion-looking dudes), a Sullustan (like the guy who flies with Lando in the Millennium Falcon), a Nautolan (you see him as one of the many jedi who gets cut down in the early episodes), and me: Sorguc Le. Sorguc is a Mon Calamari (like General Akbar), and in fact is one of his many 100's of children (in my made-up head cannon). She's the only kid to not grow out of being blood-thirsty, and so has become a Rebel pilot. Also, Akbar isn't a general yet, since we're playing around the time of Rogue One.
We start after being briefed with our mission. Being an RPG with a very specific focus (fighter piloting), the route is fairly narrow. We're gonna be given a mission and we're gonna shoot down some Tie Fighters, or die trying. But, before we do so, we did a little bit of scene framing around the base, to establish some of our characters. We have a career pilot, a swoop biker gang leader, a Jedi smuggler, and youngster from a family of performers, and got to see some little vignettes and role playing scenes prior to getting into the "action".
The game itself is fairly simple. Trying to shoot down another pilot is relatively hard (roll 3d6 + your piloting stat, which is probably 2 or 3, and roll a 16+). That said, there is some tactics you can use, like building Advantage (to get a bonus to your roll), or flying on the wing of another pilot (to provide them better defense). The first battle was really about us learning how these different rules work and interacted. Much like the Star Wars Miniature game, it was a lot more fun that I would initially think. I'm not much into war games, but the action and moves are quick enough for you to get a feel for fast-pace battle. Before long we'd obliterated our target with some photon torpedoes (I think that's right... I'm not really a Star Wars expert), and fly back to base without any casualties.
Personally, I love having good background audio playing during games, and was happy to easily find free Star Wars battle music out there that did the trick. Many of us agreed that having that play during the combat really enhanced the experience (just the first track makes you dive head first into the scene!)
We didn't have enough time to do the downtime phase of the game, where we get to do some roleplaying back at the base, which is unfortunate since that's super fun (especially after doing over an hour of combat simulator), but we'd end up saving this for the beginning of the next session (and I was to play in that one as well)...
I don't often get to play in more than one session in a Gauntlet series, so this was a real pleasure. We went straight into the downtime / base scenes, where each of us pitched and ran a little role playing, in between combats.
For my choice, I decided we needed a Y-cert Vibrokey (some made up Star Wars sounding shit) from someone in the vicinity. Blaise joined me with character Borsk Ov'Ar, and Rich ran with it, and suddenly we were visiting a mafia-style Hutt to negotiate. Of course it turns out this Hutt has one of my compatriots, a Mon Calamari engineer, as a slave / prisoner. Well, this is Star Wars, right? So I pretend to trade our speeder bike for the engineer, but it's just a feint, and we get in a blaster fight, steal the key, and head home. Unfortunately I failed my Soldiering roll, so the way I spun it was so it felt like we saved the day and freed a prisoner... but when we get back to the base it turns out we damaged that Vibrokey during the fight. Now we lost the advantage we needed for some other part of our mission.
After our scenes, we floated straight into the next mission. During this one we were distracting some Empire vessels from our ground operations, which were on the planet surface. We were pretty quickly feeling desperately outgunned. I wasn't rolling too well, and Rich was, so suddenly my shields are down, and I'm pushing some risky mechanics - which resulted in my torpedoes going out of commission. We survive the onslaught of tie fighters, but then make a desperate run for the Empire's big ship. I go in, even though I don't have torpedoes, just to provide more targets for them, hoping it'll help us distribute the damage. Sorguc Le is killed in action... I like to think I might've saved one of my compatriots. The last scene I frame is the Mon Calamari engineer, working on some Rebel vessel, looking up at that moment, feeling the Force, and Sorguc's life departing from it. Star Wars, right?
Roses and Thorns
Thorns: The game is fairly simple, and most of us thought that the limited number of moves was a bit of a hindrance by the second session. We wanted at least another 1 or 2 (or 3) options, beyond "Support", "Tail them", and so on. Hopefully this would also provide more fictional directions to go during combat.
To that end: For story gamers it always helps to tie something of the mechanics into a way to further allow for narrative. As an example, in this game you can use the Force to re-roll any dice, normally once / battle sequence. When you do so, instead of making it just a mechanical thing, it would be great to have the player describe a flashback, or parallel scene, or something related. Don't get me wrong, most of us do this anyways, cause I mean: story gamers, but still, would be nice to make space and time for that in the middle of combat.
This is something that Stras has built into Atlas Reckoning, and I think done in a fabulous way. Resolving "traits" and marking "burnouts", all mechanical benefits during the engagement / combat phase, all have some narrative associations that you immediately take advantage of to frame miniature scenes and vignettes. It feels very cinematic. I think this game could use some of that.
Roses: The game sings well in regards to evoking quick and fluid combat. Combined with the background music (for those of us playing it) we felt like we were in that cockpit, and there was a sense of desperation as you'd expect, being a Rebel with the Empire breathing down your neck.
Rich pulled this off very well, and gave us some of the story elements we were looking for, combined with simple X-wing combat that felt cinematic, and evoked the desperation you find in the movies.