Actual Play – Burning Taramai, part 3 (8/13/2012)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Taramai

Oh my, oh my, oh Firefight!

We knew this game was going to have the Firefight that almost happened last session. It was going to conclude the 2nd maneuver, which would most do a major blow to the Vaylen (Gambit scripted vs. Flak). I thought, foolishly that I had some time to built up to it however, so I kicked off a few scenes before the Firefight.

That was a mistake.

Scene Breakdown

VaylenArtoisConflictDuel of Wits with Routhy to make him "willingly" accept an optic hulling in exchange for his other son Micah's freedom.
HumanGraceColorPreparing the outlaws for the fight.
HumanMarcusColorWith Micah in the gardens, given him a medical examination to see if he has been hulled.
HumanMarcusInterstitialWith Routhy. Thanks him for his sacrifice. Tells him that he’ll look after Micah.
HumanGraceConflictOMG Firefight!

The last three scenes I’m shamed to admit I don’t remember very well. We were so damn tired after the Firefight.


At the end of Maneuver the human’s rolled and dropped the Vaylen disposition by 3, they lost 3 as well due to the Gambit maneuver. That left them at 15 and 2 respectively. Not enough to finish off the humans, but we decided we were done anyway. Mostly we were all itching to start World Building a new planet of our own.

The results were grim. We narrated Routhy going in to get hulled (as per his DoW condition), Marcus staying behind for Shoshana and Grace being the only one to make it off planet (Kessling was killed in the firefight).

Thoughts on this game

Firefight did a lot that I liked. Lets talk about that first:

It was unpredictable. Kessling died right out in close combat. He took an H10 wound with no persona (for Will to Live) and like that was dead. It wasn’t a high probability of happening but looking at the dice rolls that happened, it also wasn’t that exceptional (really it came down to the die of fate after he got hit).

There was a lot of back and forth. Trading hails of bullets with each other. I didn’t use the Ammo Check rules (mostly because I forgot until it was too late) but even if I had, I think the number of suppressible fire and direct fire maneuvers would have been tough.

Reducing disposition is TOUGH! I didn’t realize until I did it that you generally need to first create a shot opportunity and then take someone out with that shot to drop disposition. (There are other ways but that seems to be the default way to do it when scripting “Fire” moves).

Starting with a position, as the GM is brutal. You have all the cards. My Vaylen holed up in the most defensible position on the map. Speaking of maps, I was pretty happy with this one.

Having only one leader is very dangerous. The human side lost because Grace got hit, failed a steel test and her disposition was lost. They had no position or other advantages to give them disposition and in the blink of an eye were routed. I like that breaking morale has a huge effect on one side winning, as very few combats are fought to the last man.

The whole thing felt epic. We were talking about dozens of soldiers, multiple buildings, explosions, hails of bullets, and a lot of moving around the battlefield (several flank maneuvers were scripted).

I really, really like that Burning Empires is much more restrictive about FoRKs. In Burning Wheel, I see (and do) a lot of dice mongering. I like that in BE there are only a few skills for any action, and only those will help. It made a major difference if who pulled of what moves, and that shifting responsibility (like you see in Mouse Guard conflicts) is awesome.

Philippe Artois, despite his bureaucratic heirs and ridiculous obesity, still got his thick hands around Marcus’ throat to choke the life out if him. Two injuries, but no maiming.

Specialty actions are awesome! We had demolitions experts, Routhy recruiting said experts, signals warfare, and field medics dressing wounds. Very cool stuff.

What I didn’t like as much:

The whole thing took almost three hours. A lot of that was us just not being familiar with the rules and me having to look up stuff like circles difficulties, field medicine rules, and steel tests. I need to get a PDF copy for faster reference.

There were several times (and this is endemic to BE) where I was torn between advocating for the Vaylen and trying to help the players understand the system. It just isn’t fair for a GM (who already has advantages) that is the only one who knows the rules to be playing as hard as he can against new players. Generally I’m happy to be merciless in Duel of Wits, but as we were all learning here, I pulled back a lot, which led to…

Stalemate. Because the Vaylen grossly outclassed the human resistance it was very, very difficult to reduce their disposition, but because I was having the Vaylen choose sub-optimal moves, the weren’t knocking much disposition off the Humans either. In the end I think it would have been faster (and funner) for me to just play hard and crush the humans in a few volleys.

Clearly, not having the right skills to get into a firefight is REALLY problematic. We saw a lot of beginner’s luck (on both sides), which was cool in the moment (trying something risky) but predictably ended in a lot of failure.

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