Review: We Hunt Bugs
Good evening everyone! Tonight I have something I am very glad to get back to: a majorly indie RPG. For a number of reviews lately, I have been looking at indie developers who have made a variety of things. Tiles sets, adventures, and more. I have also reviewed a handful of RPGs, but most of these are from slightly larger developers like Magpie Games. Tonight I am happy to get back to an RPG made by a much smaller developer. Orcs Unlimited Games has a number of great RPGs that can be purchased in PDF or as print from DriveThru RPG. You should head over to their website to explore some of what they have done and what they are working on. For now, let’s take a look at one of their games: We Hunt Bugs!
We Hunt Bugs is a game written by Patrick McNary and produced by Orcs Unlimited. The rules for this game are common among their various games and rather simple. Characters have stats based on, in this case, class. Classes include things like the engineer and include a specific suite of skills and abilities. Most of these come in the simple for of a small number which represents how many dice are added to a roll’s set. Dice are added to the pool based on ability, skill, and other bonuses that apply, while dice are removed based in the difficulty. Once you have your set, you roll and hope for sixes. A six is a success, but here the interesting thing. You only need one success. Any more are meant to make the action even more useful or spectacular.
Personally, this is a lot simpler a mechanic than I am used to, but it works well for games like We Hunt Bugs. While it could easily make for a long term campaign, the game is much more of an episodic or one-shot style. You can make a character in minutes and roll through a fun, action packed adventure. Characters advance, but there is not an extensive leveling system which allows for ever greater challenges like the way D&D and other large RPGs work. Don’t get me wrong there are special abilities, class features, and even things you get from whichever corporation you are affiliated with. This makes it a little more robust that it first appears, and definitely adds to the variety of adventures you will play.
The last part of the rules I want to discuss is the combat portion. This involves two specific mechanics: initiative and the combat grid. Initiative is utilized in a very interesting way in We Hunt Bugs. First off, all characters have an initiative score which represents (you guessed it) how many dice you roll. However, unlike other systems, each turn is six rounds long and you act on whatever round you rolled on the dice. Beginning with six and counting down to one, everyone takes actions on their rounds. Yes this means that PCs with a 2 initiative end up going twice each turn. The odd part about this is that if you are unlucky enough to roll doubles you only get one action. The combat grid is described in the advanced combat section, which is more of just a well detailed section on specifics. It covers everything you might run into during an actual combat scenario. The grid itself will be slightly familiar if you have played some old school video game RPGs. It is made up of a front line and back line for each side. You may encroach an enemy’s line, but cannot encroach on the back line unless you have someone else on their front. It is very…linear. A bit too much for my taste, especially for a game that prefers focus on loose, fun play. As far as I can tell, though, there would be no harm in using a free-form combat with or without grid.
This is what makes the game and, I suspect, what will make most of Orcs Unlimited’s games. We Hunt Bugs is an awesome sci-fi romp where you play a group of mercenaries who hunt giant bugs. These bugs exist in such a way that they are nearly impossible to find anywhere outside of a spaceship or station. The reason for this is that infestations occur during faster than light travel that takes a ship through a “bug bubble”. FTL ships cannot land on planets, so bugs are confined to space (though I can easily picture a shuttle infection vector scenario). Regardless, the point of the game is to hunt bugs. It is dangerous work, and sometimes involves retrieving items from infested stations or other similar scenarios. The game has a number of corporations which you might be affiliated with, which have their pros and cons, and these run all transactions. Luckily this means all monetary assets are easily and instantly tracked. This opens up room for some interesting black market scenarios because these are done money-free and in some form of barter. On top of all this, the book contains a large number of weapons, gear, and cybernetic enhancements. We Hunt Bugs makes for an awesome, quickly prepped game that can be picked up at the last minute with however many people you have. You know what to expect, but there is plenty of room for diversity and story that is limited only by your imagination. This aspect is incredibly important to RPGs and really benefits a small, simple-mechanic game like We Hunt Bugs.
Production / Design
The cover of We Hunt Bugs says everything you need to know about the game. It has a woman in slightly tattered clothes, sword across the back, and flamethrower driving back giant bugs. If you want to do that, this game has drawn your attention. The interior of the book is fairly well produced. Text is very simple to read, headings are noticeable, and things like stat blocks are well laid out. Art is all throughout the book, but much of it is in a sketch black and white format. The style, however, is consistent and gives you a great idea of what you are looking at whether its an individual or a bug. For a small developer with what is probably a very small budget, this book is very well done. The character sheet is simple and utilitarian, but there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, I only have two problems with the production of this product: the table of contents and the glossary. First off, there is no glossary. Second off, the table of contents simply lists the chapters. Don’t get me wrong the book is small, clocking in at 123 pages, so nothing can really get lost. Additionally, there are eight full chapters that are pretty easy to skim through. Still, a few sub categories in the ToC or a glossary to quick reference things like corporations or weapons vs equipment would be super useful.
All in all, I really love the work that Orcs Unlimited Games is doing. My brief glimpse at their other games alongside this look into We Hunt Bugs shows me that they have an underlying mechanic that is simple, loose, and useful for any setting style. Their focus is in making those settings a lot of fun, and We Hunt Bugs succeeds. There are dozens of ways you could play a game like this, but most systems might add too much complexity or big picture focus for what hunting bugs should be. This RPG provides you with a great, easy to play game that can be continued readily and easily without the work or concentration of a major campaign. I look forward to better looking at their other games and what they do with the mechanics to make them unique from one another. I hope that they shoot for bigger production value in the future. More full color art along with heaps of useful stuff. Not more mechanics but a much more robust set of bugs, robots, spaceships, corporations, and maybe even classes would be amazing.
In terms of value, this book is worth the cost but the softcover version is definitely the better value. At $15 this game could see a lot more play than board games that cost much more. The PDF is only $8 but, frankly, that’s not worth it comparatively. It isn’t a bad price, but seriously go for the softcover. Stay tuned in the future for some looks at other Orcs Unlimited games and (hopefully) some Untamed Dice one shots featuring them!