First Impressions – MERCS

Yesterday I had the opportunity to try out MERCS, a tabletop miniature game. The system uses a D10 and an interesting card based movement gimmick. Being a skirmish style game you only have 5 models per side, at the moment each faction only has 6 and there are no point values associated with the models you just pick 5.

At the beginning of each turn you roll for initiative for each model on your side and then the highest score goes first and moves down the chain. In the event of a tie you reference a stat on the models card. Each model can chose to perform one action from a list on the quick reference card. For the most part this is either move or shoot. There are some special actions also available that add more depth to the game. Your movement number is the number of cards you can move. This is where the gimmick kicks in, each model has a stat card that has notches cut out of it. To move you place the card with the model in a notch and than move the model to another notch. Kinda cool but on a cluttered terrain heavy table it gets pretty awkward to accurately measure.

Cover is determined by levels, if you can't be seen you get a +3 to your evasivness and if you're partially obscured or snapped to cover your get a +1. Out in the open you get a negative.

When a model is shot if the strength equals or exceeds the armor value than the model suffers a wound (or more than one depending on the weapon) If you hit and don't exceed the armor value than the model has to test and see if their armor locks up. Which cause them to lose abilities and have negative modifiers.

During the demo I used the KemVar faction against the USCR. Just getting familiar with the rules the game seemed really imbalanced. The KemVar have special armor that always has them in cover, and if they're obscured or snapped to cover then they have full cover. Which meant the USCR player was unable to hit the models because even with modifiers it would require him to roll a 10 or higher. So his slow ponderous faction was plinked away by the speedier faction that he couldn't hit.

It seemed odd because if you can get the right modifiers you can auto-hit or auto-fail with no random chance or rolling a natural 10 equaling success or a natural 1 equaling failure. I suppose it could create a more tactical game but it seemed counter-intutitive to the way most games function.

The other oddity was the way the template system works. Having to roll against everything you hit (without some type of positive this is a friggin' template modifier) seemed odd as well. The USCR player unloaded his big template on my assassin and still need a 10 to hit him. Even with 3 dice he didn't come close and was charged, locked down and killed over the next two turns.

Of course one game is not enough to pass judgement, and I imagine there are more tactics and depth than what can be presented in a demo game, but based on the interactions we had during the game it seems like there may be some serious balance issues, further play is needed to make that determination.

I like the idea behind the game, the miniatures are great and as something to just pick up two factions or so I'd recommend it. It for nothing else than as a novelty to play once in a while. I don't know much about the company or their future plans but based on the current releases it seems to be a buy everything and you don't need anything else kind of game. Until I've seen and tried more games I'm gonna stay on the fence with this one.