A Look Back at Dredd

Before launching into a full blown discussion of what has been done with the new Dredd game and why, I thought it might be useful to have a look at where the game all started.

The ‘house’ set of miniatures rules (well, aside from A Call to Arms, also used in the Victory at Sea games) has grown to be called Battlefield Evolution.  However, from the Modern and WWII rules sets that have just been discontinued, that rules system has been tweaked and refined for more than six years now.  Before games that were actually called Battlefield Evolution, the rules set was used in Starship Troopers.

However, it all started in a game called Gangs of Mega-City One.

If you have a copy of these rules, you can clearly see the core of the last version of Battlefield Evolution, very different though it played.  The two-action system is in there, where models each perform two actions per turn, having a choice of Move, Shoot, Charge and Ready each time.

This came from playing 40k a great deal, in its 3rd edition.  Rules for running had been removed, replaced by a flat movement rate, and Rapid Fire weapons had been introduced, giving the idea that if you stayed still and concentrated on your targets, you could put out more firepower.  A nice idea, but it was not uniform across other types of weaponry.

So, I started to think what a player would want his models to do, and how they could go about it – while giving the maximum flexibility.  In the end, it all boiled down to three things – moving, shooting, and fighting in close combat.  Move, Shoot and Charge.

Since well before Warhammer ever surfaced, there had been an idea in wargames that if you forgo movement, you can move twice, to simulate running or marching.  Well, if every model was given two actions, it was obvious that they could do pretty much what they wanted – Move twice, Shoot twice, Move and Shoot, or start adding Charge actions into the mix.

A Ready action was added, getting its name from having to ‘ready’ certain complicated weapons (such as a missile launcher that has to be loaded prior to firing), but it grew to cover all kinds of ‘special’ activities, such as planting bombs or activating special abilities.

It also had the benefit of being very simple to understand.  Once a player understands Move, Shoot and Charge, he can pretty much play the game without any assistance.  The Ready actions can alsways be added later (and you’ll see in the rulebooks that while Ready actions appear in the basic rules, we leave fully explaining them for the advanced sections).

The other big ‘trademark’ that appeared in Gangs was Alert Status – what came to simply be called Reactions.

This came from other miniatures games to, and I’ll use another 40k analogy here.

I used to get a little tired of, say, a Wave Serpent floating around a corner, disgorging a bunch of Banshees or Scorpions, and then watching them plough into my squad of Marines who just sat there and did nothing.

So, I started thinking about giving models ‘intelligence,’ allowing them to perform certain actions on the battlefield without the complete direction of the player.

Of course, models don’t move themselves and nor can they roll dice, so this idea was never going to go all that far.  However, it did lead to Alert Status, where a model who did nothing in his own turn could start acting in the enemy’s go if he was ‘triggered’ by someone getting too close.  Eventually, this was expanded with models being able to react to enemies even if they had performed their full quota of actions, and when they had been attacked, however far away the enemy was.  So, if mortar rounds started raining from the skies, your soldiers could either try to carry on pushing forward, dive for cover, or use their own long-ranged weaponry to try to destroy the mortars.

The current rules for the new Judge Dredd game are very different from Gangs, and bear little resemblance to even the last couple of Battlefield Evolution games.  I’ll go into the nitty gritty in the next post, but the trademarks are still there.

Every model still gets two actions, and can choose from a selection of four (though they are now called Move, Melee, Shoot and Special – for few reasons other than they sound better to my ears six years on).  Reactions are still in there, though they have gone back to being called Alert Status, a model has to forgo its actions to get it, and he only gets to perform one action if triggered, regardless of how many enemies surround him.

The stat line is now completely different though, and so are methods of attack.  Oh, and for Dredd at least, it is moving to a D10 based system.

But, then again, Battlefield Evolution has always been a flexible system.

Next time, I’ll go into the design philosophies that guided the new Dredd rules, as well as the ‘original’ rules that were drawn up for it, which will now never be seen in public.  Oh, and why that is.

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