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Subject: Lost and alone rss

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Mark
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EDIT: This is a review of the of the original version of Lost Patrol.


If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

I came across Lost Patrol just last week. It's long OOP, and pre-owned copies would be very hard to find and very expensive. Not to worry, there does exist a PNP version. I’m a sucker for Print-and-Play games, and I quickly (and cheaply) made a good full-color copy, and now have a few sessions under my belt.

Acquiring and constructing the game is easy. There is an excellent download available, just use a search engine. I’m being purposefully circumspect so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of one Games Workshop, which seems to have forgotten that games like this are avenues to their wonderful world of Warhammer 40K and its miniatures.

Once I downloaded the pdf, I printed the tile-and-Lurker scans onto glossy paper (I have an inexpensive laser printer). I then used spray adhesive to glue the sheets to comic book cardboard backer boards. Smoothed out any bubbles, let them dry, and then used scissors to cut out the hexes and Lurkers. You could use full sheet adhesive label paper to avoid using glue altogether. Making the game takes very little time and effort, and no particular skills or equipment (if you don’t have a laser printer, Kinkos does). The game looks good, and if one has superior cutting skills, it could be made to look great.

The pdf comes with paper cutouts for the Marine Scouts. Sorry, I have standards, Homie don’t do paper dolls. I still have ancient, primitive Mohawk Scouts from way back when. Perfect for a homemade Lost Patrol copy.

Or, go buy a box of Space Marine Scouts so that GW will see Lost Patrol PNP is actually a good thing for them.

OK, if you have read this far, you are asking, "Is it worth downloading and making this game, even if it requires very little effort and expense." The answer is (wait for it)…Yes! No! Maybe.

If you are a hardcore 40K gamer, sure, why not? If you are a hardcore boardgame Geek, again, yeah, why not? If you lean to the more casual side of life, read on…

As a game, it’s OK. What we have here is a lite game that is VERY luck dependent. First of all, even though it’s PNP, it does look good. The rules are easy to read and understand. You move miniatures, grow the jungle by placing oversize hexagon tiles as you go, fight Lurkers (deadly jungle creatures represented by round disks with red eyes and outlandish teeth). Very evocative of a WH40K alien Death World (emphasis on Death) that the hapless Scouts must, well, scout. They move, they fight, they laugh, they cry, they die.

The jungle is malign, the Lurkers are vicious and hungry. Lurkers and the jungle itself are controlled by the other player. BTW, the game plays very well solo since the Lurker/jungle player’s actions are determined by game rules and fairly obvious decisions. Still, it's fun for the Lurker.

There is depth to the game as tile building can cause intended and unintended consequences. Scouts must avoid being cut off by the jungle path looping back on itself, or the squad being divided in the jungle. When those happen, some Scouts are lost in the jungle (i.e. removed). The Lurker/Jungle player controls the alignment of newly placed tiles, hence the jungle is indeed malign. When to fight, when to remain still, and when to run are Life and Death decisions. I have NO problems with the game as far as components, atmosphere, and game play are concerned.

However, there is trouble with a pair of dice. Trouble comes with play balance. The rules as written make the game VERY difficult for the Scouts. As is noted in previous posts, this is intentional. Jake Thornton, a talented ex-GW game designer intended for the Scouts to have a tough time on the Death World. Mission Accomplished. I appreciate his intent, I do not applaud his methods.

Let’s assume you're a regular gamer without serious personality issues. Who doesn’t like a challenge? Who doesn’t want to pit their skills against the game? Well, not so fast. First and foremost, you are pitting your luck against the game. You do have some interesting decision making. But, you will be forced to make many die rolls that will kill many of your 5 scouts, should you roll poorly. And, lets face it, we all roll poorly sometime. You can increase your odds, but not by a lot.

Here, the design lets us down a bit. One reason WH40K is popular is gamers get to roll lots of dice and kill lots of critters (creatures). Lost Patrol? Not so much. Most shooting by scouts is ineffective. So much so, it’s just almost not worth wasting the actions on firing. That’s bad for a shoot-and-scoot game. Worse, Lurkers are replaced faster than they die. So, even a lucky round of shooting is quickly nullified. Even worser, the Lurkers “re-spawn” after shooting, but before Melee (Ambush). Lurkers that are shot dead are immediately replaced before the Lurkers Ambush (Melee) the Scouts. Lurkers have no ranged attack, but Melee quite well, thank you. So, Scout's shooting just isn’t effective, the Lurkers replace anyway, and they always fight at maximum capacity. This takes on a "what’s-the-point?" feel.

Finally, the infamous end-of-game victory conditions are unattainable unless certain scouts survive to the end, and the player rolls a 6 (or 5) with either of a pair of dice. If those two scouts don’t survive till the end, you don't get the bonus(es) required to defeat the last stack of Lurkers. Game over, man!

The scouts loose 3 out of 4 games, or more. It’s possible to get more proficient, but unless I unlock a key strategy, I really don’t see the game-as-written being played more than a few sessions. Not because it's hard, but because it's hard to do anything that seriously improves the chance of winning.

Yes, winning isn’t everything. But, it IS something. It gives a game a purpose. It gives players a challenge. It’s more fun for both players to have a more balanced game. Especially if luck already plays a big part. Sure, a victory against all odds is supposed to be more satisfying. I dunno, losing a bunch more often than winning is not a game winning formula. It wont hold my son's interest. In fact, when I introduced the game to my 10 year-old son, I changed the Lurkers number of actions per turn from three to two. This limits their re-spawn to only 4 Lurkers per turn, instead of 6. That made for a more fun game for the good guys. It made shooting more significant because Lurkers didn't recover as quickly, which meant melees were less deadly for the Scouts.

It would be easy to tweak the game. It would be easy to expand the game (more jungle, more scout squads?). Or, create new stats and rules to add in more types of Space Marines (Tactical, Assault, Terminators) or Imperial Guard, Orks, etc. You're not going to play this game hundreds of times, but for the price (not much) and effort to make (not much), you do get much.

We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come
We will find our way home

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