Recently Osprey games has been cranking out rulebooks like crazy, and after the hit that is Frostgrave, why not?. One that recently caught my attention was Rogue Stars , a small scale Science Fiction themed skirmish game. Written by Andrea Sfiligoi, who is the man behind Songs of Blades and Heroes and Ganesha Games. Considering I have ton of Sci Fi figures and Terrain I rarely use and am familiar with the authors other games , was really all it took to get me to click "buy" over on Amazon.
Now while Song of Blades and Heroes never became my go to fantasy skirmish game for many reasons that I will not going into here, Rogue Stars is a much different game. A skill based game with a freeform turn system, that uses rotating “on the fly” turns based on one player voluntarily passing initiative or having stolen from him, via reactions to his failed activations. The game also revolves on accumulated stress placed on characters through successful actions which push turns to the limit where you eventually have to pass in order to manage character stress.
If this sounds way complicated, it is at first. Rogue Stars is, in its own way the antithesis of Frostgrave. While my 10 year old was rolling dice and playing Frostgrave like anyone else within a couple hours , Rogue Stars is for someone who is familiar with complexity of different wargames and likes rules heavy RPG mashed into a Tactical Wargame. Now that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine, I rolled enough RPG dice playing Traveller and Alternity back in the day, I immediately get what the author is going for.
Now that is not to say the book itself is not without its flaws, Like many of these Osprey Wargame Books, they are all of similar length regardless of the need for content. I found the RS book at 64 pages at least 46 pages short. So while character creation is covered in depth and good detail with all kinds of charts for Missions, Locations and Complications , and well wide selection of Themes for squads , equipment and skills, I found the core mechanic sections, jumbled , oddly layed out and somewhat confusing. To really get a handle on the rules to where I could play without going crazy took numerous visits to Authors Facebook Page, The Rogue Stars Fan Page, and the Lead Adventure Rogue Stars Forum.
There is also a healthy errata sheet and immediate updates available at those locations. In end I am fine with it being a living document with currently a lot of interest, however I think not really being an off shelf , ready to play product without alot of guessing rules intent Is really doing the game or Osprey any favors.
The book certainly need its front end reorganized a bit with a lot more play examples illustrated in detail. I also found it odd there is no section on “Movement” . Figure movement being so key to many a tactical to having the only mention of movement in game limited to Walk, Sprint and Run distances, some addition movement mention in some skills and equipment to be off putting, however after a test game I think this isn’t really necessary because the game doesn’t need it, it should just be spelled out early in the rules so you aren’t referencing other games in the back of your head wondering “how do I move”.
Despite these logistical shortcomings, Once I got a handle on it , I really enjoyed the game. A much different experience than the boardgame like feel of say Deadzone, (which I also like and love the figures for, as I am using them here) . I definitely think Rogue Stars is a game I will be returning too often. I’ll save play mechanics for my After Action Report coming up in part II. Let me close here with a quick recap.
Rogue Stars, Osprey Publishing
Overall **** 4 Stars out of 5.
Gameplay ***** 5 Stars
Rulebook *** 3 Stars
Pros- Fantastic skill based Character system, (no stats) Great mission layout and thematic details. Designed as a campaign style system. I love the old school RRG vibe the game is going for. its also D20 which I like, (some wont as it characterized a too wide a number spread, but I think this is countered by the option to roll multiple dice)
Cons- Mechanics are poorly laid out, lack of play examples , no quick reference sheet, relies heavily on charts that need to be referenced, three different live mechanics per character to be tracked , Stress, Pins and Wounds.
If you like old school Sci Fi Rpgs, like Original Traveller, Gamma World, or Alternity, and have an itch for narrative sci fi skirmish game and with the time to wrap your head around it…this is for you.
If you are wondering what the hell I have been up to since October I’ll be back with more of that after I wrap up the Rogue Stars AAR.
I’ll leave you with a couple shots from my AAR, which of course takes place on my Hirst Arts Space Station now augmented with Mantic terrain.