$1 Downloads: Army Ants

Posted: 7 June 2011 in Reviews

I’ve seen a number of $1 downloads appearing recently at RPGNow, and since I’m on a coffee detox at the moment, I decided I should virtuously encourage some of the creators by diverting my coffee money to them. (Yes, I know I’ll never actually play most of them, but I do enjoy reading them, so I think of games items more as another kind of book these days.)

First out of the gate is Michael T Desing’s Army Ants Resolute Core Rules. So, you know the price is $1; there are two files in the download, one 8 page version which fits on two sides of A4, and one 7 page ebook version. The missing page in the 7 page version is the introductory scenario.

As you might imagine, characters are army ants – anthropomorphic military ants sent on missions to defend their colony in the backyard.

Character generation is a simple point-buy affair; there are 11 abilities (a mixture of what would be abilities and skills in most RPGs) and two applications (feats, edges, call them what you will) and you buy them with points. Your character’s equipment is determined by his skills; if he’s good enough to use it, he gets one.

Task resolution is simple; roll two dice, add the relevant Ability, and match or beat a target number. If your task was to attack someone, you now roll for damage, and the target rolls to soak that damage based on how tough his shell is. That’s pretty much the entire rules engine, right there.

By doing some web research, I eventually discovered this was meant to be a rules-light intro to the game and the setting. That wasn’t clear to me from the RPGNow page where I downloaded it.

LIKED

The inclusion of an ebook version suitable for reading on (say) a Kindle.

The print, cut, fold into a booklet nature of the 8-page version. EABA does something similar.  Although, I had to do some web research to figure it out. A sentence in a text file included with the download wouldn’t have hurt.

DISLIKED

No background information whatsoever. I guess most potential players will have come to this game through the comic or an earlier edition of the RPG, though, so they probably know it already. I don’t, so it fails as an intro.

This is a more serious gripe than it might sound; without it, I can’t tell what’s cool and different about being an ant grunt, as opposed to being a human grunt.

CONCLUSION

I loved the concept of army ants, and the idea of the campaign being based in the referee’s back yard ("Look out the window. You’re under that tree, see? The bad guys are behind that flower pot.")

But… I’ve been spoiled, I guess. I look at what I can get for a buck elsewhere ($1 for Sufficiently Advanced, review to follow soon) or entirely free (Stars Without Number), and this isn’t in the same league.

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Comments
  1. andyslack says:

    Oops, thought today was Wednesday! Never mind, another review tomorrow. 🙂

  2. Thanks for taking the time to review the game. I intentionally put a design limitation of getting the whole game into one page, so I had to condense as much material as I could into the package. FYI, the reader-friendly version is also the full game (including the starter adventure); I was just able to get into into only 7 pages (and add a little more art) because I had more breathing room.

    Thanks for supporting games like mine, and for taking the time to compose a thoughtful response to it.

    Mike Desing

    • andyslack says:

      You’re welcome, and I do really like the concept – enough to keep an eye out for some of the comics, and maybe one of the other editions of the game.

      You’re absolutely right about the scenario being in both versions; my bad, I must’ve missed it somehow when reading the second one.

      Thanks for responding. 🙂

  3. I just wanted to follow up to let you know that I’ve posted a short Army Ants comic as a free download on DriveThruComics, and that should give some idea of the game world, and how it’s different than straight-up military gaming.

    Thanks again,

    Mike

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