Sometimes you just want to play with giant robots blasting each other to smithereens. That is exactly what I got to do when I was given the rare opportunity to not only play test a new game before it was fully developed, but also to do so with one of its creators.
The game that I’m speaking of is Iron Tyrants and the creator is Luke Myer of the Podge Cast. Iron Tyrants is a game of tabletop miniatures battles that he has been developing with his partner Adam Pinilla for over a year.
This game has a number of remarkable traits. The first that it is exceptionally fast paced. We were able to resolve a four player, eight Tyrant game in just over an hour, a length of time that would be necessary to play just a round or two in a game like Battletech.
The rules are also exceptionally simple and intuitive. We only needed Luke to walk us through a round or two of combat before we had all of the core concepts down and were essentially able to run the game without his aid. As simple as they were, however, the rules were neither boring nor limiting. Like many RPGs and CCGs these days it is a game of exceptions. The core rules are simple but each Tyrant has certain abilities that allow them to break these simple rules.
Key to these abilities is the concept of Overload. Essentially, Overload represents pushing a Tyrant past its normal limits and forcing it to do dangerous things in the pursuit of blowing up the other guy. The more you push your machine the more Overload you get and the more you risk damaging it. Even this is kept simple, however as all Overload lasts for only a round. Each Tyrant is capable of dissipating a certain amount of the Overload it has built up at the end of its turn. For each point left afterwards, the player is required to roll a die and add the results together. The total of all the dice is then compared to a chart with progressively worse outcomes.
Another way that the basic rules can be broken is through the use of faction and leader cards. Leader cards represent the various pilots and officers directing the Tyrants and bestow some special abilities upon their teams. Faction cards, on the other hand represent one of the three groups that are in conflict in the Iron Tyrants universe. While this demo contained none of the flavor text or background material that has been developed for the game, I still got a bit of a feel for the differences between the three factions through these cards and the abilities they provided. These cards depend on strategy dice and each use of one requires the player to spend a strategy die, requiring more long term resource allocation than Overload, but doing little to increase the complexity of the game.
In the demo I played, there were eight different Tyrants and, despite how easy the rules were, they actually felt like different Tyrants. Clearly, there is enough diversity in the game to make various types of Tyrants (I believe 20 or more in all are already designed) without things getting bogged down in a lot of complex rules and charts.
It should be pointed out that the demo that I played in was based on the basic rules and that there are already more advanced rules. The flavor or “fluff” of the game was not presented, either so I got only the vaguest feel for the universe where these Tyrants are going to be conducting their battles and no feel for why they might be fighting, beyond the aforementioned joy of blowing things up, of course. Nonetheless, it would require a great deal of needlessly complex rules to be added to make this game anything other than what it is: fast, simple and exciting. The flavor text can do little else than enhance the enjoyment of the game.
In the end, Iron Tyrants nicely blends the massive weapons, machines, and tactical choices players look for in any number of tabletop miniatures game with a simple system that is easy to learn and fast to play.