Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Alpha Blue

 Where's it slacking, frack face? The name's Amaranthia. You like what you see? Yeah, I can tell... or did you just pop a couple of blue dreamers?

There's a few things you should know about Alpha Blue, assuming you're planning on staying a few parsecs. You are, right? Otherwise, how are we supposed to get acquainted? That's good. So, this space station doesn't stay as stationary as you would probably imagine. Don't get me wrong, we're not trekking all over the universe like a battle cruiser... but Alpha Blue? She moves. One day-cycle we're orbiting that planet populated entirely by sexy gum-chewing twins, the next we're moving out of the neutral zone - which has just shifted boundaries by a few light years because of some intergalactic incident.

You also gotta know who to trust. Pretty much no one. The  girls are out to screw you out of your blue bucks - literally; the guys usually have allegiance to a large and dangerous group of space-hombres. As for the aliens... who even knows what crazy shit is on their three brains?

Me? No, I'm not a satisfier. However, I never turn down quick credits... especially when they're as cute as you. I see you eyeing up my new arm. She's a rental. Almost got it paid off. Just one more job for my boss - he's the one smoking over there in the corner booth. That's right. I'm not just a pretty face. I also jack people up with a blaster. Hey, maybe you could come with? Gars Amax likes to hire new blood. Wait right there, I'll go ask him.

So, this is a game I was aware of but it fell off my radar for awhile. It was not until I was reading about rules light science fiction/space opera games that the mechanics of Alpha Blue was mentioned and the game jumped back on my radar. I have been wanting to take a break from fantasy and I jumped on the opportunity to get my hands on something where the system focuses on narrative. 

Disclaimer: I was provided a physical copy for this review. 

Presentation: In a 112 pages you get full color covers and a very organized two column layout. The interior is full of black and white art with tables galore. Who does not like random tables? There are tables for careers, for creating your own alien species, mutations, cybernetics, personality traits, etc. They are all full of flavor of not boring at all. Non of the tables feel pointless or space fillers. The art is also black and white and has an old school theme - something that you can find in old copies of Heavy Metal, 1st editions of Gamma World, Star Frontiers, etc. There is a range of style of sharp pen lines to a softer pencil look. The art really fits the theme of the game. It really makes the aliens and cybernetics look interesting. There is also some amount of NSFW art inside the pages which depicts bare breasts, butts, and both sexes in skimpy outfits but there is no shown genitals. 

Character Creation: Character creation follows the steps below;
  1. Determine Occupations: You get two rolls (or choices) on the scoundrel and the respectable career table split up anyway you want. Can choose two rolls or choices on one table, etc. If you have an option on the scoundrel table then you roll on the scoundrel sub-table which determines the level of interest the law as on your activities. If you choose to use the Something Special table, to create an alien, or to play a mutant (roll or choose three aspects on the mutation table) you only get one choice on the career options instead of two. The reasoning is because humans need to be more versatile to complete against all of the crazy stuff out there. 
  2. Determine Starting Finances: Each roll on the Scoundrel Career table provides you with 2d6x100 blue bucks but you only get 1d6x100 blue bucks on Respectable Career table. 
  3. If your an Alien: You roll once once on the Alien Form Table, roll once on the Alien Size table, and roll once on the Alienism table - which is basically out of this world quirks and what not. Also, you need to roll a 1d6 as your alien has a 1 in 6 chance of not being able to survive in normal "Earth" like atmosphere. 
  4. Prior Experiences: There are three tables labled A, B, and C. A requires a 1d6 roll, B a 1d8 roll, and C requires a 1d12 roll. These tables are designed to give a character a little more background and examples of how gonzo the universe can be. 
  5. Fashion: Can choose to roll or use the fashion tables or make up what your character is wearing.
  6. Weapon of Choice: Your first weapon is free, the rest you need to buy yourself.  
  7. Astrology/Known Associates/Nature of Relationships: These are tables to continue to round out your character. Lots of fun. 
  8. Determine Sex Stuff: There are more tables for this but it is basically deciding what your character is into. 
  9. Record Health: All characters start with 25hp.

This is one of the few systems where character creation should be done in reverse order. Go through the character creation process and then determine your backstory and reasons for being. I also really like how the mutations and creating an alien are very alien. It is definitely not a universe filled with bipedal humanoid creatures with different face ridges or colors of skin. 

Resolution: Alpha Blue using a house system called VSd6 and it uses a base roll of 2d6 to determine success or failure and the degrees in-between. If you have advantage you roll 3d6 and if you have disadvantage you roll 1d6. The highest result on a single dice is counted;
  • 1 - Critical Failure ("No, and..." Something bad happens)
  • 2 - Failure ("No")
  • 3 - Mostly Failure ("No, but..." Something good happens)
  • 4 - Partial Success ("Yes, but.." Something mildly bad happens)
  • 5 - Success ("Yes")
  • 6 - Critical Success ("Yes, and..." Something even better happens)

That is it. The players careers allow them to roll on career related (non combat) activities with advantage and if the players are able to convince the GM about something in their background would let them roll with advantage then that could work too. It very narrative driven which I like. There are also some caveats for ship weapons, crazy alien gizmos, and horrors from beyond space and time rolling 4d6/5d6.

Combat is handled in a slightly modified way;

  1. Initiative: In smaller groups initiative is handled by whoever speaks up first then in follows what makes sense in the narrative. For larger groups or if you need something more organized, go in order of seating. 
  2. Roll for Attack: Roll using the core mechanic. There is no defense roll or to hit roll and tactics/situations in combat determines if the roll is made at advantage or disadvantage. The effectiveness and if the attack hits is determined by the attackers roll - 1 is a critical failure, 2 and 3 are failures, 4 the player rolls 1d6 for damage, 5 the player rolls 2d6 for damage, 6 the player rolls 3d6 for damage, double six 4d6, triple six 5d6, and quadruple six the player rolls 6d6 for damage. REMEMBER - ALL DAMAGE DICE EXPLODE!
  3. Determine Damage: Subtract armor rating from total damage and apply remaining damage to HP total. Most NPCS will have the stand 25hp while mooks will be taken down in one hit and more powerful opponents will have more HP. 

Crunch: Outside of the core mechanic, there are only a few additional crunch items that need to be addressed:

  • Saving Throw: If something happens that could end your character their is a d6 table to be rolled on. Good luck!
  • Stealing the Spot Light: Once per session, each player (and the GM) has the ability to "Steal the Spotlight". The player announces their attention to Steal the Spotlight and goes ham describing the crazy thing the character is going to pull off. This effectively doubles the characters dice pool for that action. 
  • Indulging in the Characters Preferences: If a character takes advantage of all Alpha Blue has to offer in conjunction with their preferences, then they get a bonus "Stealing the Spotlight" option for the next session. They do not carry over and if the session ends with a character having two Stealing the Spotlights, they start the next session with one.
  • Indulging in Pleasure: If a character decides to have physical encounters out of scene, they gain d6 bonus HP for the next day. 
  • Armor: Armor has a rating from 1 to 4 and reduces damage by that amount. 
  • Healing: Characters can heal 1d6 without medical help and 2d6 with medical help once per day. After an 8 hour rest they regain their full HP. 
  • Character Death: If a character is reduced to beyond their level in negative HP they have a 2 in 6 chance of being able to be saved by cybernetic or other synthetic parts. 
  • Leveling up: Each time a character levels up, they gain 5 hp. Level up is generally up to the GM but a simply XP system could be used. 


Final Thoughts: This is a really well put together game and it catches the crazy gonzo Heavy Metal vibe. I am sure the sex stuff is going to be the point on most people's mind when reading this review and the reality of sex and how a good check of Alpha Blue is dedicated to the universes greatest whore house is part if the setting. Though, it is presented in a tongue and cheek, campy, gonzo way where the group can give it as much or as little focus as possible (it is actually pretty funny and not as in your face as I thought it was going to be). It is not designed or meant for people to enact their deepest fantasies in Matrix slow motion - there are other avenues for that, like seriously.

At its heart, the station of Alpha Blue is a combo of Babylon 5, Jabba's Palace, Mos Eisley's, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Deep Space 9. About a 1/4 or a little more of the station is devoted to the Universes best whore house where the Satisfier's (think of Inara from Fire Fly - the whole Companion system) work and other people who are less skilled. The station also hosts about 30-40 other sections that have their own descriptions. In addition to these sections, there is 20+ pages devoted to "Everything you want to know about Alpha Blue but were to Afraid to Ask". This goes into detail about the operations, the Capt., the Computer and its systems, etc. Alpha Blue is described as the Wild West - Alpha Blue itself has its own Security, though their are section appointed Sheriffs,

The book also expands on the setting for the rest of the Universe. There are over 10 pages that talk about space phenomena and another couple pages that talk about different major factions such as The Federation, The Draconian Empire, The Krylon Protectorate, The Interstellar Caliphate, Brain Bugs, The Mega-Corporation Conglomerate, and Clerics of the 7th Age. There is also the Knights in White Satin, Knights in Black Satin, and Knights in Blue Satin which follow "the way" and are commonly known as Zedi. 

One of my favorite things about Alpha Blue is the adventure generator. It can lead to all kinds of crazy shenanigans in addition to a lot of inspiration. 

Some of the character creation is is mixed in with the core rules section but the core rules come before character creation so it is not that big of a deal. I do also wish there was a PDF of a more printer friendly character sheet without the grey scale and not just a jpeg. 

You can find it here:

There is a lot of supplements for it as well and the Alpha Blue Quikie adds in a new and improved character sheet and two layouts for star ships. These character sheets I greatly prefer but they are in 300dpi images and not a user friendly PDF. Though I am working on fixing that.

The final piece of advice I would give about Alpha Blue is do not let the 80s gonzo, tongue in cheek sleaze be the deciding factor of picking up this game or not. It is an amazing game with an amazing system even if you completely ignore the sleaze altogether.

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