I am a fan of L5R, and I really liked 7th Sea, but I have lost touch with John Wick’s work after then, and I’m certain that entire games have slipped me by. But today we take a look at his new game: The Aegis Project.
I have to admit that I’ve been looking for a good Mecha game to run as of late, so when I saw the blurb for The Aegis Project stating that it was John Wick’s take on 80’s mecha, I just had to pick it up and see it for myself.
I’m reviewing a PDF copy of the game from DriveThruRPG and the first thing I noticed was the lack of bookmarks. It’s not a deal breaker, but it would really be nice if this file could be updated with some bookmarks for usability purposes.
The Aegis Project tugs on the very same heartstrings that made me jump at the chance of owning a copy of Cthulhutech. The backstory is evocative of Robotech with a little sprinkling of Evangelion, set in a sweeping span of time to form a epic akin to that of Dune, hundreds of years are covered in this game, but it settles on three primary eras in which the game can be set.
As with most of John Wick’s newer work, there’s a strong narrative angle to The Aegis Project, which I will attempt to internalize and understand as best as I can.
So to those who enjoy watching an old and perhaps slightly outdated guy try to tackle a game of this sensibility, feel free to point and laugh.
First off, despite the informal tone of the writing, I found that John Wick’s ability to convey rules is pretty sharp. The concepts are new to me, but understanding them is not so difficult.
Noncombat scenes work in a manner that might be familiar to indie games in the sense that it exhibits a shared narrative. Players roll a pool of d10’s and count even numbers as “Bangs” and odd numbers as “Blanks.” Each Bang scored nets the player the priviledge of narrating one fact about the action taken in question. Blanks just sit there and do nothing.
Character Creation is a matter of picking a template and applying a few points to customize. Quick and easy and pretty servicable. I’m already starting to see this game as perfectly suitable for online play via chat or play-by-post.
Some little touches I like are the fact that there are limited equipment slots, as opposed to encumbrance, as a metagame means of simulating the “Want vs Need” conflict rather than resorting to dull tallying of kilograms vs strength.
Combat deviates a bit from the normal flow of the rules as the narrative falls solely to the GM. Also, there’s the concept of simultaneous initiative. Everyone acts at the same time. This leads to very tense combats as you’re not ever really sure if someone’s going to shoot at you back, or if the bad guys might focus fire on you, but that’s war for you.
Movement is handled in an abstract use of range bands, which is a mechanic shared with range characteristic of various weapons. Again, elegant and simple, but servicable.
Combat is fairly traditional as far as I can tell, but holds keeps things pretty tense.
The fact that this is also a game about mecha means that here shoudl be some mechanical support for the Aegis Armors, and I’m amused by the way it was implemented here. Each armor has a series of systems, where an on-board AI can divert battery power to. Each system has a minimum and maximum threshhold, and the AI manages the power flow to these systems on the fly. It’s a neat mechanic that I’ve always enjoyed seeing in systems and helps push the feel of being in a giant mecha.
Okay, this shared Narrative thing actually permeates all levels. Even mission design is by committee. Gm provides a one line description, and then players add a detail to it, in round robin fashion, up to the number of intel points their character has. Priorities are then set by the GM and off they go!
This leads to an interesting feeling of a contained or episodic structure. It works, but i’m more used to being in charge of an overall narrative. This sort of manner makes me more reactive, however, which might be a good thing to keep me on my toes as a GM.
Overall, The Aegis Project is a solid game with an interesting setting and a rules-medium approach. There are narrative gaming elements woven in with more traditional systems that make this something of a unique product.
The writing is clear and concise, and I feel that the game does hit all the right notes for a military-esque 80’s mecha game.
It requires input and a measure of proactiveness from the players but I feel that this is a good thing. The Aegis Project is easy enough to learn and can be picked up and run with a few hours of study and is suitable for most groups. The game is fairly self-contained and doesn’t seem to require further supplements to really make it shine.
You don’t have to be a fan of John Wick’s work to enjoy the game, and even old traditional types like me can get into it.