Part 2 of 2. In which I greatly expand on the Mad Maximillian 1934 material…
Mad Maximillian 1934 (MadMax34) is a very small scale skirmish game set in a dystopic past– that’s right, the past, during the Depression. The publisher, Mana Press, doesn’t flesh out the back story very much, as I indicated in the previous post. Just take it as a given that some form of world wide calamity has occurred some time after WWI, roughly corresponding with our Depression. The setting has a decidedly English focus, which I like (although the publisher and the miniatures manufacturer are resolutely Australian). I just don’t associate English country roads with Dystopia, which lends a little charm to the idea. The theme of the game is car combat– on a much lower end technologically than comparable games from the past– such as Car Wars or games of that ilk. The Interwar years are a favorite period for me, and MadMax34 is definitely positioned “in there somewhere.” The rulebook, from Mana Press, is about 56 pages, with photographs on many pages and blueprints for cars and a turning template in the back part of the book. As far as I know, there isn’t a printed copy of the rulebook available at this time, but I could be wrong. I got mine as a watermarked PDF from Wargame Vault. I don’t regret the purchase. I can read the rules on my tablet, which is maybe slightly less handy than paper but that’s fine by me in the long run.
In terms of game mechanics I don’t think MadMax34 is going to give anyone a serious headache. They are dirt simple and “bucket of sixes” based. I like that– not every game has to be about gun calibers and armor thicknesses and firing aspects. The key mechanic is to roll a FATE roll and a FORTUNE roll. The outcome determines if you pull off your slick maneuver, or flip your tin lizzy into a scrapheap. Simply put, FATE = “bad things” FORTUNE = “good things”.
Taking an example right out of the rulebook, During the Movement Phase, Player A wants to make a tight turn. Her vehicle is already damaged, which adds FATE dice (everything is 1D6 based, but Fate should be red and Fortune white for ease of play). So she rolls a 3,4,5,6,2 & 6. Like a lot of games using buckets of six siders, you count 5 and 6 results. Player A counts 3 Fate here.
Player A then responds with a Fortune roll of Vehicle Handling plus Driver Skill, which sorts out as: 3,6,4,1 & 6. She scores two Fortunes. THEN, subtract Fate from Fortune, and that’s the modifier of -1. Yikes. Go to Skidding test.
Activation and Initiative, Turn Order, blah blah blah
In my mind, there are only so many ways you can design a game that involves vehicles shooting at each other, in motion, even at lower speeds. You have to take into account current acceleration, shooting, defending, maneuvering safely and at high risk, and what happens when you take damage or don’t make a turn. That is the core of it. I’ve played around at this myself– see: White Line Fever. They are all equally valid, great ways of simulating these factors. MadMax34 does a very good job of factoring in these elements in a straightforward fashion. Initiative is easy. The player moving at the highest Speed (at start of turn) Activates, or goes first. If tied, the smaller vehicle goes first. If tied, roll a danged dice, won’t you? Activation leads to performing each of the three actions in any order the driver chooses: Move, Attack and Special.
There are several nuances to movement and honestly I’m not going to go in depth with each one– a thumbnail would be: You can adjust speed up or down by one, with no problems. You can STOMP on the brakes but these vehicles are ramshackle and you may need to check the car to see if it skids or not. You can FANG IT (accelerate as fast as you can) but that also might cause the rather battered engine, which is likely running on corn squeezings these days, to explode or some other dramatic response. Really, my favorite bit of these rules is the turning template, which is design elegance.
Simply place the incoming (up facing) arrow aligned with the front of the vehicle, and twist the the adjustable (top) arrow in the direction you need to go. The farther you turn it, the more FATE DICE you have to throw to make the turn. I like this. It might be difficult to use in tight terrain but I’ll figure it out. There are special rules for special maneuvers like the bootlegger’s turn, and what happens when you skid or flip, but I won’t describe them in detail. Crashing is pretty bad in a MadMax34 vehicle, you basically roll to see how severe it is.. the consequences are rather tough on these (well used, poorly constructed) vehicles.
Winning is a rather loose concept, and usually involves pounding the snot out of your opponents. There are scenario goals that determine victory conditions. There are about 4 scenarios in the rules (I think).
MadMax34 comes with design-your-vehicle modules, just like the old CAR WARS game did. You have about four chassis sizes and each of them has a number of hard points assigned. The more hard points, the more creative you can be with what you strap on to the car to create mayhem with. Most of the vehicles I created had very few hard points– 5 or lower (five being average). I may have stretched the concept of “hard points” by including hand weapons, which I don’t agree would take up a mounting on your vehicle. I also add additional armor here and there and that technically is using a hard point as well– how many, I’m not sure. One of the reasons I hesitated jumping into this project was my perception that vehicles and drivers would be hard to find. That has NOT proven to be the case. A typical browse through Ebay will provide auctions for diecast vehicles that are perfectly within period. I have fielded a Bugatti Type 30, a Bentley Touring Car, a shabby 1932 Ford Pickup, and an odd “Shelby Walsh Hillclimber” that looks suspiciously futuristic but was historically built in 1936. Close enough.
In addition, I highly recommend 1stCorps in the UK for period armor vehicles (if you want to build the largest vehicles in the game), they also have a section for pulp style vehicles (not many) with a lot of style. I picked up a generic 3 wheeler Cycle Car and put a dual Vickers on it, along with a gunner that is armed with a side arm. In addition, I picked up a WWI era dispatch motorcyle with a Maxim machine gun installed, and added some civilian touches.
Of course, you can also get miniatures from Eureka Australia or USA, under their small (but hopefully growing) Mad Maximillian line. The twist is you can always use the same kits to make more than one radically different vehicle. I’ve only touched the surface of customization, I want to build a flame thrower car next. The real difficulty is obtaining vehicle weapons (which I found from a number of sources) and especially drivers. The scaling between Eureka and 1stCorp isn’t a perfect match by a long shot, but when the drivers are sitting down, it’s hardly noticable. Stan Johansen (of Road Warrior 20mm fame, I’ve mentioned him on here before), also makes some 28mm driver and gunner figures– pretty rudimentary but it does the job nicely– and a paintjob hides a lot of things. He also has a ton of add on hand weapons like ATRs, shotguns and the like, so their figures are customizable, more so than Eureka or 1stCorps. In addition to THAT, Sloppy Jalopy has some very spirited and thematic looking drivers and passengers (the Tommy gunner on the back of the Motorcycle is one). You need to check those out!
I don’t see terrain being a big obstacle. This game plays well on a 4 x 6 and even smaller space– I don’t recommend having more than 10 players due to the scale. Ground scale isn’t specified anywhere, but the models are large, and I forsee problems with table geometry. So maybe some craters, maybe some rubbled buildings.. a dirt road, some hills, dead trees, barbed wire.. I have all those already!
As I’ve alluded to, this has been a fun project to work on, especially the part about customizing and creating vehicles out of kits and diecast. I haven’t tested it yet but I plan to as soon as I move back in to my house. The vehicles were variably priced (the resin kits actually more expensive than the diecasts I found on Ebay, but more militant looking). The rules are very straight forward and almost expendable, really. You could play this with a game of your choice as long as you track the basic elements of road combat games– speed, shooting, protection, damage.. etc. My only disappointment (and it is very minor) is that the period fluff is almost absent. There is a long wheedling narrative at the front of the document but it isn’t a very conclusive or convincing depiction of the setting (can’t help kvetching, this is a favorite historical period of mine). Other than that, I would recommend it highly.
Some Youtube “Project Videos”
SOURCES MENTIONED in both posts
- 1st Corps (WWI range and 20th Century Follies. Also some good individual standing figures)
- Eureka Miniatures USA (and of course, Australia) The basic customizable car kits are produced by Nic Robson’s Eureka miniatures and Eureka USA for us Yanks. I highly recommend the custom parts kit you can purchase as an extra. You can also buy drivers and gunners (3 types) individually.
- Company B is a company that sells period authentic vehicle mount machine guns– mostly twin mount Vickers and Lewis. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
- Sloppy Jalopy sells a great line of 28mm drivers and passengers, right inside the period..
- For individual pedestrian figures, try Pulp Figures. In scale and totally in period.
- Copplestone’s gangster figures also work as pedestrians.
- Hexxy Shop sells all kinds of interesting bits for vehicle conversion and customization, although their SF stuff is pretty futuristic.
- Stan Johansen makes a Road Warrior line which is very futuristic but features drivers and gunners in 28mm that are dressed with minimal detail, so they work in the 1930s.