February 14, 2017 by brennon
With neat twists in the game mechanics to make it faster to play on the tabletop, removing a lot of the busy work, this game is worth taking a look at. Let’s dive in and talk with the guys…
BoW: First off can you tell us a bit more about Nuclear Shrimp and how you came together as a company?
Nuclear Shrimp Games (NSG): Nuclear Shrimp Games was formed when Tsipis Kypriotis (Titan Manufactorum) decided to go ahead with his dream and create a brand new wargame. He worked on it for a few years but there were too many challenges to tackle alone so roughly a year ago he asked his long time friend Yannis Red Manesiotis to come on-board. He happily accepted and together we planned, worked, playtested and finally released our first game.
At the same time since we decided to look at board game development and ideas started pouring for more games and suddenly the waking hours of every day seemed to not be enough. We’ve both been gamers since our early years and the prospect of creating the thing we love so much is whats drives us every day. Keep in mind we both do this as a full-time job, meaning we work on this every day, all day. Despite the long hours we put into this, working has never felt so good.
BoW: As you mentioned on IndieGoGo, Black Earth is a new Sci-Fi universe. Can you give us the background of the world?
NSG: Black Earth takes place in a parallel universe Earth in the near future of 2071. The events leading up to the current game time are largely inspired by recent real world geopolitical events – with a hefty amount of exaggeration of course. In short, the world was experiencing recurring global financial meltdowns and, right at the moment where all the superpowers were mobilising for war, an unexpected breakthrough on Fusion Energy in ITER saved the day.
All diplomatic and economic tensions were released thanks to the prosperity this new technology would bring to the world. To prevent anything like this from ever happening again, the idea of one giant confederation of states gains momentum and finally in 2035 the ‘United Earth Federation Institution Act’ is passed with a significant majority of the UN vote.
Not everyone is happy about the UEF. Some see it as a Big Brother oppressive authoritarian superstate, others see it as a socialist, bureaucratic dystopia while some regard it as the ultimate crony capitalism haven where the proletariat get the short end of the deal. The people become further polarised when the UEF announces the construction of brand new cities of the future.
These ‘Hubs’ house tens of millions of people in cities designed for the needs of the human of the 22nd century. The unsustainable old cities would gradually be abandoned and recycled into this new paradigm of smart construction. This polarises the people further eventually giving rise to a revolutionary wave.
For ten years the streets of the major cities of the UEF turn into battlefields. It all begins with the Riot Police fighting skirmishes with young enthusiastic revolutionaries. As the years go by the Army takes to the streets and uses live ammunition against armed paramilitary groups. The world then experiences something unexpected.
At the ten year anniversary of the Institution of the UEF thousands of nuclear warheads are launched targeting all the major ‘Old Cities’. Not even the bomb sirens are sounded as no warning is given and up to this day, no one knows who or what caused this genocidal event. Billions die.
The next day finds the world numb. The dead are soon forgotten as the largest refugee wave the world has ever seen becomes apparent. Armed forces are deployed around the world in an attempt to keep the peace and for years to come, the world lives in fear and chaos.
Four years after what will come to be called ‘The Event’ a new power rises. A group of twelve of the most powerful people in the world come out in a surprise press conference proclaiming to be the heads of the Tecton Order. This organisation is a secret society, probably responsible for the many conspiracy theories that circulated up to this time, that wishes to become the ‘benevolent monarch’ and lead mankind into greatness.
In a series of formal and informal denouncements, the UEF and the Tecton Order relations fall apart. To show its power the Tecton Order launches a surprise attack on the headquarters of the UEF Army in Brussels, former Belgium. The UEF and the Tecton Order then only sign a cease-fire in 2051.
With the troubles of the past almost forgotten, the world is again shaken in the early 2060s when a new threat rises from the decimated irradiated Old Cities. The Homo Inhumanum, or Brutes as they will commonly be known, is a new species of the Homo genus, effectively the first time Humans will come to have a living cousin after the extinction of the Neanderthals.
Unfortunately, this species is incapable of intelligent communication and is extremely violent and aggressive. The Brutes begin looting and pillaging anything that is relatively close to their lairs. Their stunted intelligence seems just enough for them to handle simple salvaged weapons and vehicles.
At first, the Homo Inhumanum are regarded as an exciting discovery for evolutionary biologists and Sci-Fi enthusiasts but they soon prove everyone wrong when they start to threaten Hubs situated hundreds of miles away. The UEF finds the opportunity to launch a military campaign to exterminate the Brutes and show the world that they truly are the protector of the planet.
Operation: Meteorite begins in November of 2071 and two weeks later the UEF finds more than they bargained for in the deathtraps of the Old Cities as the Brutes seem to have far greater numbers and firepower than initial intel showed. If that weren’t enough, the Tecton Order, despite the thin peace treaty, is not going to allow the UEF to succeed in this publicity stunt.
BoW: At present you have three factions detailed for the world. Can you tell us a bit more about them and their motivations?
NSG: We are launching the game with the three factions that take part in Operation: Meteorite. The United Earth Federation mobilises in an attempt to eradicate the threat that the Homo Inhumanum poses to all mankind.
This is hardly done for altruistic reasons. The incentive behind this operation is to allow the UEF to take back the political power it lost during the years surrounding The Event by showing that it alone is capable of protecting mankind.
The Brutes don’t seem to have any motivations besides playing on their instinct of survival. In fact, this is a sneaky lie. What we really mean is that the story behind the Brutes is not yet meant to be revealed.
The Tecton Order do not want to see the UEF regain the power it lost.
The media blank spot offered by the remote and hazardous Old Cities allows the Tecton Order to engage the UEF without being exposed as breaking the peace treaty and at the same time endangering the few seats they control in the parliament.
BoW: One of the fascinating things that drew us to the game was this sense of real time combat. Can you explain how this works in-game and any other cool game mechanics that set your game apart from others?
NSG: The game is played over a series of activations where both players activate one of their units. At any single time, one player is said to have the Initiative and that player gets to decide where the action takes place. Although it is not entirely accurate, you can imagine that player as being the attacker.
The Initiative will pass from one player to another when certain criteria are met. Generally speaking, when the attacker suffers a setback or is tactically beaten by their opponent, the initiative will then change hands (something called an ‘Initiative Pass’). Not having the initiative is by no means a disaster. In fact, if your army is well positioned it is entirely possible to win a game without ever having the initiative (although that is highly unlikely).
We have also made an attempt to streamline certain common mechanics found in miniature wargames. Cover is granted when models are in base contact with any suitable piece of terrain. No need to check lines of fire – if a model is in base contact with a piece of terrain it will have a cover bonus no matter where the attack is coming from.
Although that might sound odd, it certainly gets a lot of mucking about out of the game and fits well with the abstract nature of the real-time representation in Black Earth.
We are also very happy with how we are handling morale in Black Earth. In short, it handles itself. When a unit has suffered a lot of casualties or some other type of calamity, instead of having a rule forcing that unit to run around like crazy, you as the player will actively make the choice of ignoring it. In the fast paced environment you probably will not want to waste an activation on a unit that will under perform.
BoW: Where would you like to take Black Earth going forward? For example, what new factions do you have ahead of you?
NSG: We have tonnes of ideas for the future. In fact, the initial plan had five factions in the launch of the game (and the removal of two of the factions had some of our playtesters disappointed). These two factions will be making their appearance in Black Earth in the near future.
Some of the upcoming model designs for the Giant Hounds. who will come as hulking beasts ready to hunt down those soldiers who are sneaking about.
One of those factions is the ‘Exiles’, the loosely organised poorer nations that didn’t make the cut in the UEF who have teamed up with the radical revolutionaries inside the UEF. These guys will have some really fun rules, including having civilian marked models that most factions will not be able to attack without severe ‘publicity’ penalties. In fact, we did run several play test sessions with those rules and it was quite a lot of fun.
Another piece for the Brutes which will give them some more long range firepower. Each of the guns will be able to pound the enemy from range and keep them pinned down.
Aside from other factions, there are a lot more units that eventually will populate the existing factions including really large models. For example, the UEF will be receiving a main battle tank while the Tecton Order will get a really large Combat Walker, probably around the size of a GW Warhound Titan.
At the head of the Brutes you get this BruteDozer which will give them some more armour. Imagine this rolling towards you!
There is also a ruleset on the drawing board for aerial combat which will be handled in a completely different layer than the standard game. Altitude will be a tactical choice. I’d rather not say more on that – it is rather early in the design pipeline.
BoW: Thanks for the chat guys!
The game sounds great and it would be fantastic to see what lies ahead for the world. Model-wise they seem to have a good look for their various factions and it will hopefully lead to plenty of interesting creations going forward.
Looking ahead they have plans for their stretch goals including some terrain options and there’s even a soundtrack you can get to go along with the game.
Have you given this one a look?
"We are launching the game with the three factions that take part in Operation: Meteorite..."
"In fact, if your army is well positioned it is entirely possible to win a game without ever having the initiative..."