PRIMETIME MURDER JUSTICE (working title, probably going to become actual title thanks to laziness) is a new boardgame that I have written over the last month. After much assistance from friends (mainly my wife Mary, my friend Chris and Aidan, who rings me up three times a week to talk at length about game mechanics) and a couple of private playtest sessions, I’m ready to take it out of the incubation chamber and start showing it to people. Maybe even ready to stop fiddling with the rules every single game* and see if what I’ve got actually works.
Here’s what you can expect from PMJ:
TELEVISED ULTRAVIOLENCE. You play a Sponsored Operative, loosely “employed” by the police to clean up the mean streets of some unnamed cyberpunk city. As part of Unnecessary Force, a popular TV show**, you’re airdropped into the worst parts of town and told to kill your way out on camera, carving through legions of cyber-augmented mutant bastards, gun-toting gangers, automated turrets and robot canids to earn profit from your sponsors.
The team with the most profit at the end of the game wins. There are a variety of ways to gain profit – killing lots of stuff is the easiest, but you can also earn it by taking damage, eliminating high-value targets, staying mobile, flashing a winning smile at the cameras or making sure the advertising blimp is always in shot.
RULE OF COOL WEAPONRY. I like giving things awesome, over-the-top names, and current trends show this is not going to change with this project. You’re not carrying a pistol – you’re carrying the Kill-O-Watt Laser Handcannon. That’s not a riot shield – it’s the AEGIS-pattern Reactive Defence Unit. The Inferno Emberblade. The Turretomatic Nanovendor. The Hell’s Teeth Chainglaive. I wanted to create things that players want to play with.
Each player gets two pieces of kit to help them survive on the mean streets, and by investing profit they can unlock more effective and useful functions – grenade launchers, invisibility fields, volcanic auras, jet-boots, hacking ability, and more besides.
DEVESTATING GAMBITS. Combat works off a hand of cards with special abilities printed on them; they can be played face-up to use the ability, or face-down to either make a basic attack or power a special feature granted by your equipment.
Depending on your class (and we have classes like The Sentinel, The Daredevil, The Gunslinger and The Blitzer) you’ll be able to combine certain kinds of special ability in the same hand for massive damage – so you’ll be able to, say, Parkour over an inaccessible roof and then Run Riot, attacking every enemy in the room. Or Eagle Eye a shot at massive range against some snipers and soak up the return fire when you Go To Ground.
EASY MONSTER ADMIN. Monsters react to one thing only – Aggro. You earn Aggro by killing things, and you can play certain cards that can raise or lower it if you want to attract or lose attention. Monsters move towards the player with the most Aggro and attack them – if they’re not in range, they attack the nearest valid target with the highest aggro.
CO-OP AND COMPETITIVE PLAY. You’ll be partnered with one other player, and work against another team to win. But thanks to the Producers advising against direct conflict (it’s bad for ratings and costs them too much money in med-evacs) you’re not permitted to attack the opposing team.
Of course, you can shoulder-barge them into a building full of crazed mutant psychopaths and lock the door behind them. Or piss off a load of cyber-gangers and run away, landing them right on top of your rivals. Or blow open a hole in a wall to open up line of sight so some hostile armoured turrets can open fire on someone you don’t like. Those are all entirely valid tactics.
NO ONGOING CARDS. I can never remember things, especially in games, so I’ve tried to make one with as little upkeep as possible. No card hangs around in play for longer than a round at most, and the only thing that maintains between rounds is Profit and how dangerous your Equipment is.
RANDOM BATTLEFIELDS. At the start of each game a handful of tiles and connections are laid out by all the players, creating anything from a standard grid shape to a long corridor of death to a branching network of paths. Variable connection ratings, representing how far apart the arenas are and how difficult the route between is to traverse, allow for some nifty shooting and mobility tactics.
ORIGINAL ART. Even at this playtest stage, all the mad scratchings on the cards are drawn by me in a fruitless attempt to avoid doing any real work. Hopefully actual artists who are able to use colour will be involved on any “finished” project.
FUN. It’s fun to play. I’m really buzzed about that. On Saturday night I stood off against the chainsaw-toting gang leader, worth a mighty 5 profit on the kill, with my top-level Vaul Battle Gauntlets and attempting to pound him into a sort of fine red paste. I rolled abysmally, leaving him with only 1 wound remaining. I shouted and swore and the other team rejoiced and finished him off with a suit-mounted rocket launcher and won the game on the next round. Those bastards.
It’s a game that makes little stories, little pockets of spotlight time where a player can really shine. I think it could go places.
SO! I need playtesters. I can do it at a pub, but I’d rather do it at a house – mine or someone else’s – because pubs are tremendously noisy places and are covered in a thin layer of card-knackering beer. I can offer dinner and drinks in exchange for an evening of your time and your honest feedback. Please get in touch via email (I’m gshowitt [AT] gmail [DOT] com) or Facebook or Twitter or whatever and I’ll try to sort out a session with at least four people.
Right, I’m off to design an SFX rig with smoke machine vents and subdermal entrance music speakers. You’re gonna love it.
*This will still happen
** The USA’s top show after Cruel and Unusual, a Cop Interrogation Show