Space Patrol – GenCon 2003 Demo

The tenets of this game began with a “Sci Fi” setting in which “Earth is No More” and humanity has been reduced to a “Caravan of Dispossessed Vagabonds”.  Human tech is “primitive” and the caravan is “being pursued by pirates” who want to harvest human organs.  In an interesting twist, one of the players declared that the pirates were actually the protagonists of the story, not the humans.  This led to some interesting twists as we tried to reach a conclusion where the pirates were more important characters than the humans.

The first scene started with a lone straggling human ship being attacked by a trio of pirate vessels including the “K’tara”.  The K’tara was captained by an alien named Jorel who was “Cunning”, “Sly”, and a “Total Bastard”.

As one of the pirate ships docked with the fleeing human vessel and began to board her, a mutiny was taking place on the K’tara.  The crew of the K’tara, feeling that their captain was an “Evil Slave Driver” wanted to leave piracy and join the Space Patrol.  They had taken control of much of the ship and had sent a message to the Space Patrol of their intentions.  The Space Patrol Cruisers “Steel Claw” and “Jade Falcon” were dispatched to the scene with orders to aid the pirate crew to defect and protect the humans.

There were a few loyalists among the crew and they had notified Jorel of the impending mutiny and so the crew had failed to secure the ship before the Patrol Cruisers arrived.  The Steel Claw was captained by one of the few humans to join the Space Patrol, Captain “Red Jenkins”.  He despised the alien pirates who preyed on humanity and despite his Executive order reminding him of his orders to aid the pirates, he determined to attack and destroy all of them.

Unbenownst to him, however, the captain and crew of the Jade Falcon were on the pirates payroll and so maneuvered to interfere with the attack.

Finally the crew of the K’tara overpowered the Jorell and his remaining loyalists taking complete control of the ship.  Meanwhile the Steel Claw finally managed to line up an attack run and drive off the third pirate ship.

At that moment an all alert priority one message was received from Space Patrol Command ordering the Steel Claw to terminate its current mission immediately and return to base.  Priority One Alerts cannot be refused and Jenkin’s XO intimated that he would be forced to relieve him of his command if he disobeyed and continued with his attack.  Both the Steel Claw and Jade Falcon left the scene, leaving the humans to fend for themselves.  They did manage to defeat the pirate boarding party with heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, the K’tara had frozen Jorell in carbonite and dumped him into space.  They then headed off to a neutral port to refit their ship and rename it the “Leviathan”.

When the Steel Claw and Jade Falcon returned to base, they discovered that the Space Patrol had been disbanded for lack of funding.  The captain and crew of the Jade Falcon turned to piracy while Captain Red Jenkins became the founder of a new  independent Space Patrol.  The first volunteer members of the new Patrol were the crew of the Leviathan.
Featured Element, Giant Complication

The most amazing thing about this demo was that the entire story above, all of it, was told with a single giant Complication.  After the tenets were established I won the first scene and opened with the lone straggling human ship.  This quickly led to the introduction of the pirates and a Complication between them and the humans.  Every other even of the above story, (with the exception of the epilogue regarding the founding of the new Space Patrol and the Leviathan volunteering) was told as part of that Complication.  There was no second scene.

Each of the elements — from the mutiny, to the loyalists, to the arrival of the Patrol ships, to the Jade Falcon being on the take, to Red Jenkins being a human wanting to kill the pirates, to his XO desire to follow orders, to the orders themselves — were all Components invented and Traits added and justifications for dice purchases prior to the actual roll.  When all was said and done there was a three way contest between Jorell and the pirates, the mutinous crew, and the Steel Claw the smallest pool of which was 10 and the largest 18 dice.

Everything after that, from the mutineer victory, to the emergency orders from Space Patrol Command, to the stare down between Jenkins and his XO, to the human victory against the pirate boarders, to the spacing of Jorell was part of the spending of the Coins won in the Complication.

This was something I’d never seen before.  An entire story from beginning to end narrated within a single Complication and a single set of rolls.  It was fascinating to watch as each of the three players maneuvered to try and get the biggest pool and determine how the story would end, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to make the pirates be the protagonists.  Ultimately it would be the mutinous crew who became the main characters, but it could just as easily been Jorell, or perhaps even the crew of the Jade Claw.  Each of the three of us continuously tried to trump each other with counters and counter counters.  I, representing the Space Patrol introduced the Claw.  Jorell trumped me by introducing the Falcon and making them support the pirates.  The mutineers tried to drag me onto their side with orders from Space Patrol to help the mutineers “defect”.  I trumped that by making the captain of the Claw a displaced human who would kill all pirates on sight.  They countered me by creating Captain Jenkins’ XO as a by the book officer who insisted on following orders.  The mutineers went after Jorell by launching a surprise mutiny.  Jorell countered this by Creating a faction of Loyalists who revealed the mutinous plot and so on.

It was truly one of the most impressive displays of Complication cleverness I’ve witnessed, and by two first time demo players to boot.

—Ralph Mazza


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