This is the first in a series of session reports about my games at Origins 2011.
I generally like to expose myself to new & unusual games at conventions; things that I can't play at home for whatever reason. This usually means I end up with a widely eclectic variety of games. While perusing the Origins pre-reg catalog I came across a Sunday morning miniatures game called: Smurf Wars.
Sunday 10am-1pm, Miniatures - Smurf Wars. $4, North Coast Gamers, Miniatures, Event 1591. Home Brew Rules
"It’s Smurf against Smurf in this all-out battle royal to save the village! The evil Gargamel has finally succeeded in turning the Smurfs against each other. Remember the classic toys? Players choose their Smurf warriors from over 100 figures and battle it out to see who are the true Smurfs and who are under Gargamel’s spell. Each Smurf has its own custom set of stats and abilities; some are good…some not so much. Try your hand at this fun and fast-paced take on a childhood favorite using a tailor-made combination of home brew rules. Prizes awarded. Simple rules. "
My live-in girlfriend was HUGELY in to Smurfs when she was young; it was the only toy she owned. We usually try to play at least one game a day with each other while at a convention, and so we decided this was to be our Sunday fare. It wasn't too early in the morning and looked like a pleasant way to end the convention.
While killing some time between games on Wednesday I took a tour of the Miniatures hall. The mini gamers generally fall in to two categories in my experience: simple setups with complex rules and gorgeous setups with simple rules. It's always a joy to peruse the miniatures hall at a convention and oogle with wide eyes the huge & interesting set ups some of the games have, and it's been my experience that Origins tends to have some of the more interesting & exciting sets. While wandering through the hall I was impressed with more than a few of the them; a giant pirate ship at least 3 feet long, a huge Heroscape set, giant-scale Mechwarrior battles, zombies & astronauts on the moon, pale blue felt tables with no other features. (I LOATHE ocean games. Very bad experience one year at WhosierCon.) It's clear though that one set stood out. In a sea of camouflaged soldiers/mechs and destroyed buildings there was a day-glow battleset. Yup, it was Smurf Wars. And Yes, It was BAD ASS.
I took photos of a game in progress, txt'd them to my girlfriend, and then wandered away and promptly forgot about it. :)
Sunday morning arrives and we are BEAT. The king sized bed in the hotel was worn out and we were too foolish to call the desk to get it replaced. We'd both had energy drinks/coffee the night before at 8pm before going in to a long & sucky LARP, and neither of us got more than about 90 minutes rest. We decided to skip our usual cold fruit & rolls room breakfast and hit the hotel restaurant for the first time to get some hot food in us to get us going again. After a lame bellhop & valet experience (I pay a lot and I frigging tip $20's; I expect service not excuses) we were off to the minis hall for the game.
There were five of us playing: myself, my girlfriend, a guy a little younger than me (he was in his late 30's maybe) who was very friendly & fun, a woman in mid-30's who had played previously, and an 9 year old boy playing by himself. Ug! I hate playing with kids. I should have expected it in a game called Smurf Wars, but still, I hate playing with them. I like my 2 kids, other people tell me they are well-behaved, but I still don't inflict them on others without supervision. It didn't help that my girlfriend and I had planned to get REALLY raunchy during the game. Like I said, Smurfs were her only toys when she was young and she was in love with Brainy, Hefty, and Handy. This led to the creation of gay sex jokes between the three of them, which led us to a critical decision about the game. Our Smurfs were going to be a cross between Bonobo's and a gay S&M club. Handy, Hefty, and Brainy in a three way. Oh Yeah! Upon seeing the kid we had to change our game plan. No longer would Brainy be able to 'smurf him in the smurf' (use your imagination, we were going to use the real words, not 'smurf') but now we were forced in to 'Brainy gives Hefty a hug', which would be a code word for 'Brainy smurfy Hefty in the smurf. Take it you smurf! TAKE IT!'. Have I mentioned yet how awesome my girlfriend is?
The game was being run by a late 20's early 30's couple from North Coast Gamers, Alex Ford and his girlfriend/SO/wife. They run miniatures games for non/new miniatures players. Besides Smurf Wars they were also running a Ghostbusters miniatures game on another well put-together board, and a kinder/gentler princess/fairy miniatures game for younger children. She & my girlfriend spent a decent amount of time discussing the authentic Smurf playsets that they were using on the battlemap, as well as their experiences with Smurfs when they were younger. My girlfriend started to mist up a bit. Pleas note that this is FUTURE SYMBOLISM.
They had over 100 different Smurfs to choose from. Each of drew cards and the high card drafted a single Smurf first. Then we went around in clockwise order until we each had drafted a single Smurf. We repeated this four more times until we each had a squad of five Smurfs. The drafts were a bit blind; we could see the Smurfs but we didn't know what their specific powers were until we had chosen them. I ended up with Brainy (I would have DIED if someone else had drafted Brainy. I LOVE Brainy), Vanity (I smurf him in the smurf!), Painter, Jokey, and Graduate. All of mine were selected out of the 'Basic/common' Smurf category. My Girlfriend ended up drafting Cowboy (her very favorite Smurf of all time when was a child), Cowgirl Smurfette (the only non-lame Smurfette in her opinion), Indian Smurf, Taurus Smurf (from the Zodiac collection, has a tail and bull horns) and Viking Smurf. The kid took Smurfs with weapons or who were militant. He had Archer Smurf, Judo Smurf, Fencing Smurf, Pirate Smurf, and then also Baby Smurf. The 'other guy' drafted Frankenstein Smurf, Icarus Smurf, Parachute Smurf, and a couple of other smurfs who I don't remember and didn't impact the game much. The woman who had played before drafted five new Smurfs, which was kind of her. It turns out she had signed up to play the Ghostbusters mini game, which ran at the same time, but no one else showed up. Drafting a completely new showed a lot of class and a good attitude, which I appreciated. We were all pretty in the game to have a good time.
The game set up was that Garagmel had finally succeeded in turning a group of Smurfs evil, bit none of the Smurfs knew which ones were evil. They were all duking it out in the village, and if the evil Smurfs won then they would kill Papa Smurf. We didn't know which Smurf squad was the evil one, even if they were our own.
Mechanically, the game was simple. Each Smurf could move 8 squares when activated. You could only activate 3 Smurfs a turn and the same Smurf could not activate twice in a row. This led me to a 'Activate three then activate the other two the next turn. Repeat.' motion, although you could choose to not activate Smurf in order to help re-time your squads. Combat was handled by a deck of cards. We each drew a card and the high card won the battle. If you were attacking then your attack was successful. If the defender won then nothing happened. If it was a tie then the referee would draw from their deck and something special would happen. If anyone drew a joker at any time, well, we were told it would be bad. The only other rules was if you disengaged from melee combat the enemy Smurfs would get a free attack on you. Each Smurf had a special set of powers, some good and some bad, and a variable number of hits. Normally most Smurfs did 1 point of damage and could take about 4 hits. The Smurfs were not balanced in any way and drafts were made solely on what the Smurfs looked like. There were three cakes/pies on picnic tables which would heal us for 1 point if we could get to them first. When you activated a Smurf you could move or attack, but not both.
After drafting we were handed the individual cards for each of our selected Smurfs. All of my Smurfs had average hits (about 4) and did average damage (1 point.) Brainy could make a ranged 'Annoyance' attack from four squares away. If successful the targeted Smurf had to disengage and immediately move to attack Brainy, and only Brainy. Vanity had his mirror, which blinded attackers and came them a -3 to the card they drew when attacking him. Painter could flick paint from up to 3 squares away, a ranged attack. Jokey has a one-use present bomb, which did +2 damage to ALL Smurfs within 4 squares when detonated. Graduate was a tool with no skills yet: he got a -4 to everything he did.
My girlfriends Smurfs were more interesting. Indian Smurf could not attack at all, but could heal adjacent Smurfs. Taurus Smurf had to rush & attack the closest object colored red: mushroom, snail, smurf, building, whatever was red & closest. Cowgirl Smurf did no damage but could lasso other Smurfs and drag them closer ("Get over here!", in your best Scorpion voice.) Cowboy 'Brokeback' Smurf (the name on the card, seriously) had a gun with a range of 4, but HAD to immediately move adjacent to any village people Smurfs ... and she had the Indian. Viking Smurf was her one without issues, he had a good attack & damage bonus.
Other notable Smurfs at the table included Gemini Smurf, who got to attack twice each round and had double health. Tricycle Smurf, who got to move 12 squares each round. Both of these belonged to the woman who had played before. 'Other guy' had Frankenstein Smurf, who had a MASSIVE amount of hits, 12 or something like that, and could only move 4 squares a turn. The kid has Narcoleptic Judo Smurf, who did +3 damage, but fell asleep after every second attack.
We set up along the edges. My Smurfs started behind the orange gourd on the far side of the above photo, with my girlfriend next to me down behind the small blue mushroom house peeking out behind the green mushroom in the lower right corner. The other woman started her Smurfs about where the kid in the green shirt was, behind the light blue mushroom house. The other guy started right around the corner, being the small beige mushroom house with the green roof. The kid started opposite me, just to the left where the guy in orange is sitting. I decided that Brainy was our squads leader, and spent the entire game talking like him, until he died.
We were off! The other woman immediately moved Gemini and two other Smurfs and sent them crashing in to Other Guys Smurfs which were right next to her. He retaliated, and send Icarus Smurf up towards the top of the board, over the footbridge. The kid moved his Smurfs towards the bridge and spent most of the game messing around the bridge, trying to hold it, trying to fort up in a house across the river, etc. He was actually very well behaved, paid attention, and had a good sense of tactics; using cover, holding chokepoints etc. It's too bad this game didn't have rules for any of those things. :)
I decided that rushing headlong in to my girlfriends smurf would not be a good idea, so I rush straight out with my Smurfs, intending to meet the kid at the bridge and engage. My girlfriends sucky Smurfs did not do well for her. Taurus immediately ran to a red mushroom and spent more than half the game trying to kill it. Indian Smurf was forced to run in to the corner, and Brokeback had to follow him there. Cowgirl had no damage attacks, and since Viking was on his own, he repositioned to help protect Indian & Brokeback. Her run in to the corner caused some good natured razzing & joking around, which TOTALLY DEVASTATED HER. She broke down in to hysterical crying, while also laughing at how silly she was being. At first Other Guy & Other Woman thought she was being silly and made a few more comments, then figured out that she was actually have some sort of emotional breakdown. She was an only child. She had no friends. Smurfs were her only toy growing up. A picture of her on a class field trip shows her with her hands in front of her holding Cowboy Smurf in her cupped hands; she wanted to have a friend while on the field trip. Think about some traumatic/emotional thing from your childhood, then imagine being confronted with it, people making fun if it, and you only having had 90 minutes of sleep the night before. You get the picture. You know your being an ass, but you can't help it. She's very cut & sexy, loves Hentai and Cosplay, and has a good job. She just has issues with Smurfs. :) This happened three different times during the game; she was very embarrassed, but pulled herself back together and continued on. (Like I said, she knew what was going on and that it was a bit silly.)
Franky & Gemini are duking it out, with a cluster of their other Smurfs joining in and I suddenly figure out that this is a PERFECT opportunity for Jokey to go all Unibomber on their asses. I sent him in to middle of them, position him to take out all of them, plus Baby Smurf who had just crawled out from inside of the log nearby. I was VERY worried that the activation rules and the "move or attack" rule would mean that he would get pounded before he got a chance to detonate. This nervousness was compounded by Jokey haven taken 2 of his 4 hits already from that stooopid cat Azrael. You see, whenever a Joker was pulled the referee would consult her chart and Azrael (a large stuffed cat) would run from one building to another one, doing a point of damage to any Smurf in his line, or adjacent to it. (They used a ribbon to draw lines of hexes from one front door to another.) Jokey had been hit twice and I would have been devastated if he had not gotten his bomb off. I lucked out though, and Other Guy and Other Woman were too involved in their battle royal to pay any attention to Jokey, and he got in to the middle of them and set off his package bomb. Three points to the entire cluster of them! I believe I took out about 3 Smurfs and severely damaged the rest, And Jokey was hanging on with about 1 point left. Frankenstein started to move off, with Jokey and Vanity in pursuit. In the meantime Other Woman had attacked Taurus with her one remaining Smurf, Tricycle, who had picked up a snail cart and was now tooling around the board with a speed of 24! Trike Smurf ended up the victim of an Azrael attack, after several bad draws against Taurus. Brainy, Graduate and Painter were involved in a fight with hobby horse Smurf in the middle of the board, with random attacks by Archer Smurf. Icarus, Judo, and Fencer Smurf were engaged in a battle right beside the bridge, behind a mushroom house. My girlfriend was still having trouble getting hers to do what she wanted, but had moved them out of the corner and in front of the house she was previously behind.
My three Smurfs surrounded Hobby Horse and make quick work of him, while Fencer & Judo took out Icarus, and then Judo promptly fell asleep. We moved off to surround Archer while Jokey & Vanity continued to concentrate on Frankenstein. At this point Other Woman had been eliminated, and Other Guy only had Frankenstein. The Kids had lost 2 while I still had all of mine, although they were all pretty injured. My girlfriend had her entire squad, all of who were completely full, despite several Azrael attacks, tanks to Medicine Man/Indian Smurf. The only exception was Taurus, who was too far away to get healed. She was still having major problems getting her squad to move around, thanks to a perfect storm of bad drafts.
A card 'War' tie came up, the 'tie' chart consulted, and Frankenstein had to escort the married couple to Papa Smurfs house about a bajallion hexes away ... and he had a speed of 4. And he couldn't attack or be attacked while doing so! Ug! But an Azrael attack quickly took care of that problem, and Other Guy was eliminated. I tore in to the kid, and eliminated all of his Smurfs except Judo, but ended up taking myself out since all of my Smurfs had been gravely injured and only had about a point left. My girlfriend had finally figured out a trick to get her Smurfs to move, lassoed Judo and hauled him over to be shot by Cowboy and stabbed by Viking, thereby winning the game. We then found out that I had been playing the evil squad and thus she had saved the SMurfs by killing me off. She got a very nice 'First Prize' Smurf as an award for winning, and we all got 'Smurf Wars' stickers for playing.
This was an absolutely wonderful game and a perfect 'Last Game of the Con.' It was lighthearted, silly, simple, fun, and very visually appealing. It was also a perfect game for beginning miniatures players or people who don't usually play mini games. It turned out the kid was great, and even very quiet. Other Guy was full of quips, I got to give lots of 'Hugs', and got to make up a lot of silly songs to sing during the game. 'I'm gonna smurf you up! Papa said smurf you up!' 'Im smurfing up so youd better get this party smurfing! Im smurfing up Im smurfing up!' It turns out having the kid there forced our adult dirty talk in to substituting 'smurf' for all the choice bits, which made it all the more fun.