Through the Breach is a tabletop roleplaying game based in the world of Malifaux where outlaws, mages, mad scientists, and unspeakable creatures vie for power. Unfortunately for most, their destinies are already weaved into the great tapestry of fate, and there is only one path they can walk.
There are others, though, who were not weaved in so tightly. Great individuals who are able to embrace - or deny - their destinies. These individuals are known as the Fated, and they are the true shapers of the world. Players will take on the role of one of the Fated. They have a destiny, and the players will get to choose whether to accept the road that lays before them or wander off to forge new paths. In Through the Breach, the players’ destinies are tied integrally into their characters from the very beginning of character creation.
~ Determine Your Destiny ~
Character creation is a simple process that can be completed fairly quickly. The full details can be found in The Fated Almanac, but for now, we can grab a deck of cards and start making a character.
Through the Breach uses a deck of cards known as a Fate Deck to determine everything random in the game, and character creation is a part of this. The Fate Deck is a standard deck of playing cards with the two jokers, and a simple conversion for all the suits. This deck of cards represents exactly what you’d assume by the name: fate.
After the deck is shuffled, we’re going to deal out a tarot reading. This tarot, known as the Cross Roads Tarot, tells us the character’s past and present, and then we’ll step in and start to determine his or her future. This tarot is the most important step in character creation, and it is made up of five different card flips.
Once you’ve completed, you’ll end up with a Tarot that looks like the below, and helps tell the narrative about your character.
The tarot also tells you your character’s destiny. Each card of the Cross Roads Tarot has a phrase that, combined with all the others, is your destiny. Starting with the southern card and making your way back to the Station, you will discover what may lie in store for your character… if you choose to embrace your destiny.
~ Focusing on the Future ~
With the Tarot completed, it is time to looking forward to the future. It’s time to take things out of the hands of fate. The first step is increasing an Aspect or two. Your past may tell you a lot about yourself, but now you’re beginning to break out of your predetermined mold.
Next you’re going to choose your Pursuit. A Pursuit is a bit of a mash-up between mindset and occupation. It tells you a bit of what you’re good at, but it also informs how you approach the world. It is something that you can change about your character every time you sit down to play, and it is one of the core ways your character is able to choose their own fates. This is because the Pursuit, in gameplay, lets you draw cards in certain situations from a personal deck of cards called the Twist Deck. This deck is just for your Fated, unlike the Fate Deck. Your Twist Deck symbolizes your control over your own destiny, the ability to manipulate the very threads of fate to ensure something comes to pass. Whenever you flip a card from the Fate Deck, you can use a card you drew from the Twist Deck to replace it – grabbing a hold of fate and letting it know just who is in charge.
After you have your Pursuit, you’re going to pick a Talent from the list of General Talents. Each Pursuit has some of its own Talents, and coupled with the General Talents this will give your character a lot of flavor as they specialize in different ways. Sometimes Talents open up new actions, sometimes they let you use different Aspects for skills, and sometimes they modify things you can already do. Regardless, it’s in the Talents that you’ll see a lot of your Fated’s individual quirks.
Finally, you’ll need some gear if you’re going to walk the path of fate. You start the game off with some cash that you can use to buy equipment. Maybe you need a pistol or want a musical instrument. Regardless, the final step in creating your character is to fill your pockets by emptying your wallet.
~ Adventures in Malifaux ~
Once you’ve got your character worked up (the full details of which can be found in The Fated Almanac), you’re ready to go gallivanting through Malifaux – fighting with the aforementioned where outlaws, mages, and mad scientists on your journey towards your destiny. Each session you play in, you or one of your fellow Fated will complete one of their destiny steps and move closer to resolving their fate.
You can find more information on this process in The Fatemaster’s Almanac, the guide to running narratives in Malifaux, but the important thing is that every adventure moves one of the Fated closer to their destiny. Character stories, in this way, have a fairly clear beginning, middle, and end. After your character completes all 5 destiny steps, they have finished their journey through the Breach.
Everything in Through the Breach is designed to tie into the core concept of fate. As you saw above, the players all use the same deck, a Fate Deck, to determine the outcome of things. They have the ability to manipulate this by using a hand of cards, which comes from their own Twist Deck. It all gets sewn together to create a single unifying theme that permeates the mechanics and the setting at once.
The Fatemaster, the person running the adventures, also plays into this theme. Unlike in most other roleplaying games, the Fatemaster doesn’t randomize anything. The non-player characters in the game are not the Fated, and therefore they don’t touch the threads of destiny. Instead, the Fatemaster uses simple target numbers to set difficulties. In this way, the game shows that it is the players, and only the players, who have final control over fate. They are the architects of their own futures.
There are always more strands of fate that make up the Malifaux tapestry. You can find a quick-starter adventure, "An Easy Mark," in Wyrd Chronicles 14. You’ll be able to find multi-session story arcs in our Penny Dreadful releases, the first of which is the upcoming "In Defense of Innocence."
Future releases will include books that expand on character options, allowing players to explore more of Malifaux and see it through different lenses. All of our journeys through the Breach are just beginning…
I keep all of my email. All. Of. It.
Seriously, no matter how small or insignificant the message is, I file away email just in case I need it in the future. Dozens of mailboxes, broken down into even more subfolders, litter my mail program, but because I keep all of that old mail reachable at all times I can identify the first date that we started discussing what would eventually become Car Wars Classic: February 25, 2008.
Yes, almost seven years ago we were exchanging project ideas at the office when the suggestion of a reprint of the 1990 small boxed edition of Car Wars first came up. The idea changed very little from that initial message – “A near-exact reprint of the game, sized to our standard Munchkin box and priced at $19.95.” – and watching the excitement of fans at Gen Con 2014 when the advance copies of Car Wars Classic went on sale told me we had made the right decision in bringing this edition of the game back to store shelves.
~ What Is Car Wars? ~
First released in 1981, Car Wars was the first blockbuster title from Steve Jackson Games and even today, over three decades later, the classic edition of the game has passionate fans who get together weekly to go up against each other in duels to the death. Using dice, rulers, car record sheets, and the game’s clever turning key gives players everything they need to put the hammer down and race across the arena, blasting and ramming their opponents into oblivion.
Over the years there have been millions of Car Wars games and supplements sold, but with the last big boxed edition of the game being close to 20 years old, the act of finding a copy of Car Wars in stores is becoming more and more of a challenge. As we at Steve Jackson Games prepare an entirely new edition of Car Wars (more information below), it became clear that those initial ideas of a game reprint made perfect sense today: get the classic edition of the game into stores now so that old-school players can replace their battered boxes – and everyone new to the game can get a taste of what it feels like to drive cars...with guns. Machine guns, rocket launchers, even lasers – there are over two dozen kinds of weapons you can unleash against your friends. Add engine mods for extra speed, beef up your suspension for better handling, upgrade your armor, add a targeting computer for improved accuracy – your options are nearly endless. Build your car for speed and quick strikes, or bulk it up with extra armor and “turtle” your way to victory. Pull off your fastest, most furious maneuvers, but don’t lose control or else you’ll crash and burn!
Car Wars is set in a not-too-distant future where the lucky ones are holed up in glittering cities, where the latest in high technology stays one step ahead of the never-ceasing needs of the masses. Some keep themselves entertained following the exploits of their favorite autoduellists – professional (and sometimes amateur) drivers who face off in brightly lit arenas, seeking fame and glory from the driver’s seats of their armed and armored four-wheelers. And out on the open roads between cities, the rest try to scrape by surviving on what they can salvage, or take.
Car Wars Classic, reaching store shelves now, is a slightly modified reprint of Car Wars and includes everything players need to design cars – a significant part of the fun of the game is the option for players to custom-construct vehicles – and then take those cars into battle with their friends. It’s not the entire game system – this box focuses on cars and motorcycles and leaves out helicopters, tanks, hovercraft, and all of the other add-ons that were introduced as Car Wars grew during the 1980s and ’90s – but it is everything players need to get down to the core of the game: Drive cars really fast and shoot your opponents.
~ Car Wars Classic And The Veteran Autoduellist ~
If you’re an old-school Car Wars fan excited to rip open this box set, then you’ll feel right at home once the shrinkwrap is off and you have the components on the table and ready for play. The rules, counters, turning key, and maps will feel very familiar if you’re a longtime Car Wars player, and the only significant changes between this and the 1990 box are as follows:
And that’s it for significant changes. We made minor errata fixes to the rulebook in spots, but flipping through the game’s rules will definitely take you back to an earlier era and should spark gaming memories from the past.
~ Car Wars Classic And The Amateur Autoduellist ~
If this is your first shot with Car Wars, you’re in for an exciting time. Inside the box is what I consider to be the absolute best introduction to Car Wars that was ever created, taking nearly a decade of rules and experience with the game (at the time) and giving you everything you need for a great play experience.
You will want to read the rules over carefully – especially the movement and combat rules of the game – and for your very first sessions I suggest using stock vehicle designs. Get a couple of games under your belt before you jump into designing your own cars, because I think you’ll create far more combat-worthy vehicles after you see how the cars maneuver and fight on the battlefield.
And if your local store has an open gaming area, your very best way to learn Car Wars is to post a notice looking for players. I guarantee you that someone who visits your favorite local game store is familiar with Car Wars...and who knows, your posting on the store’s bulletin board could uncover a local Car Wars group that’s operating underground. With hundreds of thousands of Car Wars fans over the years, it’s not at all unrealistic to think that there’s an active group near you right now.
~ Where To Next? ~
Once you’ve got your hands on Car Wars Classic, you can enjoy the game for decades – many have! – without ever adding any expansions to the game. Creating your own vehicles, designing your own scenarios, and running local tournaments will let you play for hundreds and hundreds of hours without adding any game supplements to the material inside the box.
But if you’re having a remarkable bit of fun with Car Wars Classic, then we think that you’ll want to keep your eyes open for the new edition of the game. Currently under construction at a secret location (our offices), the upcoming Sixth Edition Car Wars game strips the classic game down to its chassis and rebuilds the entire machine from scratch, streamlining where appropriate and salvaging the best elements of the original game for what we know is going to be an awesome new edition of the game of car combat.
To guarantee that the new game is the best it can be – and to ensure that it is given all of the attention it deserves – we brought in an expert earlier this year, dropping Scott Haring right into the action and handing him the keys to the entire project. Longtime Car Wars fans will recognize Scott’s name from the golden years of Car Wars, when Scott developed and edited the best Car Wars supplements (and even designed some great expansions, including the fan-favorite 1985 Dueltrack box set).
We are still a long way from sending the new edition of Car Wars to the streets, though, so embrace the new (old?) Car Wars Classic game and use the ridiculous amounts of fun packed inside the box to either introduce new players to the idea of cars with guns, or to just bring back those memories of an age when you and your friends would gather around the turning key and push your cars as hard as you can.
The third standalone game in the LEVEL 7 series, LEVEL 7 [INVASION] continues the story that began with LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] and progressed in LEVEL 7 [OMEGA PROTOCOL]. In this chapter, the scope of the setting is now bigger than ever. Every nation on the planet is in danger — and it’s your task to save them!
Players familiar with the story of the previous games will recognize certain aspects of INVASION and be surprised by others. The biggest surprise is the status of Dr. Cronos, the evil Ghin mastermind who opposed the heroes of the first two games. INVASION introduces a new alien race, the Hydra, which arrives in our solar system with a single goal: to destroy Dr. Cronos and his few remaining Ghin allies. Unfortunately for the people of Earth, the Hydra conclude that mankind is standing in their way. The leaders of humanity have no choice but to work with Cronos if they hope to survive the Hydra onslaught.
As in the previous two games, INVASION explores the LEVEL 7 setting with its own unique rules. Three to five players must protect the world in this semi-cooperative game, defending their own interests while working with the other players to save Earth.
~ Global War! ~
When you initially open LEVEL 7 [INVASION], the first thing you’ll notice is the board. In the first two LEVEL 7 games, players explored the confines of the Subterra Bravo facility using maps made of tiles. The board for INVASION, however, depicts the state of the entire world during the Hydra attack and tracks many different aspects in the game. The INVASION board serves primarily to track the ongoing battle between the human defenders of Earth and the Hydra forces besieging it. Each player places figures on the map to represent his armies. These armies face the overwhelming power of Hydra legions that land each round in an effort to subjugate the planet.
Each round, players draw Event cards to determine if the Hydra will bomb major cities or attack the Earth’s food supplies. These cards also show where new Hydra troops will spread. A massive carrier ship sits in orbit above the planet and continually sends drop ships full of troops to the surface. These drop ships land in various territories each round, and invader units are spawned from them during the Event step.
In addition to the outright destruction caused by the Hydra attack, there is also a terrifying psychological impact. As in the previous LEVEL 7 games, fear plays a part in INVASION. Certain events and circumstances can cause Terror, and as Terror grows among the population, world leaders find it increasingly difficult to maintain the fight against the Hydra.
~ The Coalitions ~
The Hydra began their invasion with a massive bombardment of poisonous materials that decimated Earth’s population. This massively disruptive initial attack not only killed millions but also left many of the planet’s governments in shambles. The remaining governments have banded together into coalitions to offer one another mutual support. Each player controls one of the five coalitions: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, or Asia. Each coalition has strengths and weaknesses that make it unique.
Each player manages his coalition through a console. The console tracks a coalition’s Military-Industrial Complex, resources, territory status, Power, and Terror level. Military-Industrial Complex represents the workforce the coalition has, its manufacturing capacity, and its military infrastructure. This is the most important part of a coalition. If the MIC dial of a coalition ever reaches 0, that coalition is defeated, and that player loses the game.
Income allows a coalition to purchase units, upgrade technologies, and feed its people. A coalition can trade for resources it lacks during certain phases of the game, allowing it to purchase more than it would be able to muster on its own. The territory status and Terror level of a coalition can adversely affect its income. When a territory is overrun by the Hydra, the coalition loses access to the resources produced by that territory. As a coalition’s people grow more and more terrified, they will be less productive, hampering the coalition’s ability to gather resources.
The Power of a coalition determines how well its forces can fight against the Hydra. In addition to the console, each coalition has a set of technology cards to track its technological development. Players can upgrade their technologies over the course of a game. The Military Equipment technology increases the power of the coalition’s troops, defends against Hydra bombardments, and increase the mobility of troops. Communications helps the coalition control the spread of terrifying gossip, instill positive messages to its people, and build better systems for fielding larger armies. Biological sciences protect a coalition’s food supplies, help its people survive the poisons the Hydra unleashed, and eventually allow it to start rebuilding. Social programs control the paranoia of its people and keep the members of a coalition’s population from harm as they flee from the Hydra.
~ Cronos and Victory! ~
Long ago, the Ghin were the masters of an empire that spread across the galaxy. They used their mastery of genetics to re-form any life they discovered into perfect tools for their empire, controlling these subjects with the Ghin’s incredible mental powers. The Hydra were among the most useful races the Ghin ever found. Over the years, they came to trust the Hydra with more and more autonomy, until at last the Hydra freed themselves of the Ghin’s mental shackles and rose in rebellion. The people of Earth have only one chance to defeat the Hydra: Dr. Cronos has discovered psychic potential in certain humans. He is now working on a machine that will allow a human mind to disrupt the Hydra’s mental network, giving humanity a window to defeat them, but he must be kept safe until he can complete this project.
This idea is incorporated into the game by the seven cards of the Cronos Project. The first six cards represent aspects of the project that must be completed in certain coalitions. The order in which the cards can be funded is limited, forcing Cronos to move around the globe in specific ways. After the coalitions’ Cronos Project cards are funded, the final card can be funded to trigger the end of the game. If a player can keep his coalition alive until the end of the game, he will share in the victory.
~ How Much Will You Cooperate? ~
The semi-cooperative nature of INVASION is expressed in two primary ways: trading and Events. At the beginning of the game, each coalition has its own distinct strengths and weaknesses. As the game progresses, however, the loss of territories and increased Terror can diminish these strengths or increase these weaknesses. The coalitions must work together to complete the Cronos Project while also upgrading their technologies. Unfortunately, there are not enough resources for all players to fully upgrade their coalitions. In addition, when coalitions trade, there is always one coalition left out. This forces players to keep their best interests in mind and can create animosity among players.
Every Event card offers a choice between two evils. This encourages semi-cooperative play, because many times the severity of these choices is not the same. The player who drew the card may see both options as equally bad, or one choice may not threaten him in any way. This gives players the choice between taking a risk for the greater good or sacrificing an ally. In the end, the fate of the world lies in how well the coalitions can work together to save humanity.
~ Save the Planet! ~
Now it’s your turn. United we stand a chance, so take charge of your coalition and prepare for the invasion!