Wreck Age, released in 2013 by Hyacinth games, is a surprisingly effective hybrid of tabletop RPGs and miniature war games. Although it isn’t perfect, it should satisfy those who are fans of both, and have longed for a more story-driven wargaming experience.
Wreck Age written by Anton Zaleski,
Softcover 247 pages
The World of Wreck Age
Wreck Age takes place, as you might expect, after the End of the World as We Know It. The world has been ravaged by pollution and natural disasters, and there have been centuries of ruin, misery, and failure to rebuild. However, the Resurgence is beginning, and real hope is finally at hand.
The setting uses many of the expected tropes of a post-apocalyptic environment, but that isn’t to say that there are no fresh ideas. Rather, a healthy balance between tried-and-true story elements and new ideas is struck. The bulk of the setting’s identity comes from the ten factions included in the core rules, which are used to construct the communities the player characters come from. Ranging from the survivalist Stakers to the mentally unhinged and virtually immortal Stitchers, each faction has its own history, motivations, and desires. For me, merely reading through each faction’s description set off a dozen possible plot hooks ideas in my head. The setting remains familiar enough to build scenarios and characters, but maintains a unique identity that sets it apart from other takes on the end of the world.
Characters, and the Communities They Come From
By trying to meld war games and RPGs together, Wreck Age has created a system that streamlines characters to function in large battles, but still allows for a surprising amount of customization. Character-building is something of a hybrid between a class system and a point-buy system. Archetypes provide basic information (such as limits on attributes and starting equipment), but further customization is available through selection of traits and investing points into increasing stats.
Thanks to the incorporation of war game ideas and rules, the system provides a relatively painless way for a player to control multiple characters. Each player is limited to one player character (who gains special immunities), but it is possible for a whole group of battle-ready units to be under a player’s command. In combat, one character is “activated” at a time, which allows them to take actions. After this activation, a different player or the Narrator activates one of their characters. The cycle continues until every player and the Narrator has run out of actions for all of their characters, at which point a new turn starts. This allows for manageable mass combat scenarios between warring factions or communities (such as a siege on a small Staker settlement by Drifters). In addition, this system reinforces the importance of cooperation if one is to survive in the bleak world of Wreck Age. The number of units controlled by a player is meant to be limited by “resource units” that are spent according to how powerful an archetype is, and how much training a character has.
Resource units, however, is one of the problems of the game. Throughout most of the book, it is emphasized how important the Community is to every character. The community a character comes from and the factions within it are meant to inform ideologies, outlook, and even how powerful the character can be. Sure enough, the story of each faction is interesting enough to build a character around, and the settlements in the world are reasonably varied and compelling.
However, as far as mechanics for Communities go, Wreck Age is lacking. Although it does provide ideas for how a town may form a character’s personality, it doesn’t give any guidelines for the limits of a Community’s resources. It is difficult to estimate the resource units that a community should have based on its population, level of technology, etc. A Narrator has to merely guess how much a small town would have versus a large, militant settlement. It is possible that resource units are only meant to be used if the group is playing Wreck Age strictly as a war game, but it would have been nice to at least provide optional rules for building a community mechanically, perhaps by looking at the house-building rules in the Song of Ice and Fire RPG.
Rules of the Apocalypse
The rules for actions both in and out of combat are easy to understand. Outcomes are determined by rolling several six-sided dice and counting how many have a result above a certain threshold. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it is an effective and easy way to run the game.
When it comes to combat, it should be noted that the game seems incredibly lethal. There are only four categories of lethal damage. The first makes the injured character perform worse at nearly every combat relevant test. The rest render a character incapable of acting for varying degrees of time. The fourth means death. Wreck Age maintains a gritty, deadly feel, which is fitting for a depressing post-apocalyptic world. It also works to emphasize the game’s focus on community and teamwork. If a character is traveling alone, they better be prepared to die if they decide to try fighting.
Although Wreck Age had to make compromises in order to make war games and RPGs coexist in the same system, it still presents a functional, enjoyable ruleset for both. Characters are easy to make, but always unique, and exploring the intricacies should provide plenty of plot hooks and character backgrounds. If you are looking for an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic world, or a way to play both war games and RPGs at the same time, give Wreck Age a try. It shouldn’t disappoint.