Turning UGS Into a Military Game

I’ve discussed the design philosophy behind UGS, but Starship Commandos and A Team of Losers derive from UGS rather than being UGS straight up. There are different needs for both of these games, though their needs are similar enough that I have developed them almost in tandem.

Both Starship Commandos and A Team of Losers are military games – in SC you are playing marines of the 121 MARSOC (Marines Special Operations Capable) in the year 2164 while in AToL, you are playing operators of an unnamed special operations force deployed to Central Asia – and military games have their own specific needs that UGS rules as written does not cover.

Advancing through the foliage
In the Foliage by Dean Martin

Military games by their very nature pretty much require resource management to be an important facet. Let me be clear, I am talking about military games rather than action games with a military setting. I’m talking Black Hawk Down vs. . . . wait, I can’t think of a good counter-example. Huh.

Anyway, if you talk to most soldiers who have been outside the wire, on patrol or in combat missions, weight and kit are the two mission parameters that seem to dominate their thoughts. In Black Hawk Down there is a great scene as the Rangers are preparing for their mission where Grimes, a desk monkey heading out into the Mog for the first time, is dissuaded from taking the equipment he actually needs – the rear trauma plate for his body armour and his night vision device – because they’re too heavy. Later, we see a Ranger shot in the back, where his trauma plate might have saved his life. Then the Rangers and Delta Force are forced to overnight in strong points, when NVDs would have been really helpful.

SOF by Dean Martin
SOF by Dean Martin

Therefore I need to include equipment and common load-outs for SC and AToL. Along with simple lists, this stuff needs to be explained. What is a Lensatic Compass? What is the difference between a first aid kit and a medical trauma kit? What do I care if I have the gun that weighs 12 kg rather than the one that weighs 2.5?

And once you have equipment, you need to provide limits – a key part of resource management. I’m doing this through weight. The weight and encumbrance rules are pretty simple, but they add a level of complexity I generally like to avoid. Still, to me, resource management is one of the keys for a military game.

There is yet more, but this post is already going long. Stick around if you want to meet a Starship Commandos character.

You can find the discussion of designing UGS here.

You can find the UGS rules here.

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