Home Forums General Game Design Horizon Wars: Zero Dark – 15-28mm skirmish from Precinct Omega

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    Robey Jenkins

    I can’t believe I started threads about this on Warseer and Dakkadakka and not here!  I mean: Warseer?  What was I thinking??  😉

    Anyway, I think you guys will be about as interested as anyone out there to follow along my thoughts and process in developing a new game in the Horizon Wars setting (but still generic, because I know you love that).

    Zero Dark is a skirmish game aimed at the scales between 15 and 28mm, taking into its warm embrace all the 28mm-like scales up to 35mm.  Frankly, it’d probably work fine at 54mm, too – which would be appropriate, because this game’s origins are much, much older than those of Horizon Wars.  They can be found way, way back when I was a passionate Inquisitor player and nearly – so nearly – got the green light form GW for an official fan-led second edition of the game before they legal team nixed it, the fools.

    However, although it started way back then, it has mutated almost entirely beyond recognition in the many years since.  In fact, for a long time it languished, barely remembered, as “Project Marmalade”: a term I used to describe my sporadic but ill-fated efforts to develop a sci-fi skirmish game without it turning into Infinity.

    A curiosity about my design process is that I like to curate Pinterest boards that act like game design mood boards.  You can see my public boards here:


    There’s one there for Horizon Wars and one for every other game I’ve written or have in development in one form or another, plus more for a range of other interests.  When I hit a wall, I head back there and flip through my pins – some of which I’ve put notes on and some of which I haven’t – and I see what leaps out to inspire me.  Well, a few months back I was back on my Project Marmalade board, flipping through when I realized how many of the pins were art from PC games like Ghost Recon.  And it got me thinking how much I love those games, but how little time I have to play them.  Which got me thinking about what it was I liked about them compared to miniatures games.

    It hit me that what I love is the multifaceted gaming options.  You can play on your own, in a team, PvP, through a story or a campaign, or in a league, or just for fun in a pick-up game.  And I thought that the current crop of sci-fi skirmish games – many of which I’m a big fan of – didn’t give me that.  Generally speaking, you played PvP all the time, every time.  Yes, there might be a campaign, but the narrative was pretty pasted on.  Leagues happened, but not well.  And tournaments… well, the less said about my record of tournament play, the better, to be honest.

    Once I hit on the idea of a miniature skirmish game that was designed to be played solo, co-op or PvP, things started coming together.  Even before I really had the core mechanics nailed down, I wrote an AI system for the opposing force, using playing cards to determine which enemy models would activate and what they would do.  From there, I went back to Horizon Wars.  The mechanics have an elegant sparcity that still appeals to me (I’m not proud of a lot of what I’ve written, so when I am I figure it must be OK) and I wanted to capture that in Zero Dark.  It’s a skirmish game, so the rules granularity will be much denser than in Horizon Wars, but players who know Horizon Wars will find a lot in Zero Dark that’s familiar.

    Right now, the game is in active, open development.  So on my beta-testing forum you will find current-ish versions of my alpha rules:


    They will always be current-ish as I’m perpetually working on them.  But I’m enjoying developing them and will be regularly updating various threads about the game.  So do join me!

    Angel Barracks

    So rather than casting orders, I found myself looking at all your pins!
    Both curse and bless you!

    Robey Jenkins

    There are a fair few I re-pinned from the Wargames Website, to be fair.  But yet, Pinterest is a bit like TVTropes in that respect.  Just one click is never enough!  😀

    Robey Jenkins
    The alpha test rules are updated here:
    Yes, you’ll need to sign up to my forum to download them.  But, if you’re on the fence about that idea, let me tell you a little about what’s in the updates.
    First, in the core rules update there are the new rules for Electronic Warfare!  Hack your enemy’s equipment and dominate their synthetics.  This is especially useful when a Defence Mech turns up behind you!  Buff your allies with better fire data or save them from enemy hacks.
    Second, the Red Force rules have been updated.  Now the Red Force, too, can have its own synthetics.  Invisible to infrared visors, but vulnerable to being dominated: turn the enemy’s synthetics against them and draw them off while you dash for the objective!
    Finally, some minor tweaking on the Upgrades, too.  Indiscriminate weapons are super-effective.  But now you only get one use per upgrade, so choose your moment… wisely.
    Want to know more?  Sign up for the Precinct Omega beta testing forum (it’s free) and download your own copies.
    Robey Jenkins
    The latest update to the alpha-test version – 0.2.4 – is up for download via the PO Beta-Testing Forum (yes, you have to register #sorrynotsorry).  Latest updates include:
    1. Negative tests are gone.  Feedback from playtesting was a mix of dislike and confusion and it had some pretty swingy outcomes.  They been replaced by counter-tests which will be familiar to anyone who’s played Horizon Wars as they are directly inspired by the Defence roll in that game.  Counter-tests differ from the Defence roll in that they also get critical success outcomes.  This should serve to barricade against the swingy results of negative tests.
    2. Upgrades have introduced the Spook, amended the Leader slightly and clarified that synthetics are immune to stress.
    3. Speaking of stress, that got a bit of an overhaul.  Grit is gone (should have gone last update!) and now replaced with stress.  Stress can make a character under- or over-perform.  Suffering stressful experiences while you’re clear-headed and unwounded is likely to mean over-performing.  Suffering it whilst already stressed and/or wounded will have the opposite effect.  Really pleased with the stress testing of the, er, stess test.
    There’s still some work to do on the alpha-test edition, but it’s looking like a really solid, interesting game for solo, co-op and PvP play.
    An unexpected outcome from the solo play is… it’s really quiet playing a miniatures game on your own.  I was slightly freaked out by the experience, only ever having played solo card games before.  I recommend playing solo with a suitably cyberpunk soundtrack and possible talking out loud a lot.
    Now I have to get back to doing some Ragnarok hobbying and get that game finished, illustrated and published.
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