RPG Evolution: Army Men Review

Ever since Toy Story debuted, I've wanted rules to play with army men. Now we can!

Ever since Toy Story debuted, I've wanted rules to play with army men. Now we can!


You're in the Army Now​

I was always the kid who used those stat cards for G.I. Joe and Transformers and turned them into a tactical game of combat with my younger brother. It worked surprisingly well. Fast forward years later and we finally have more role-playing games for those toys than army men, despite army men preceding those toys by decades. There have been several attempts to provide some structure around imaginative play with army men, but this new role-playing game brings the setting to life using the System Resource Document for Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Designed by Neal Litherland and brought to Kickstarter by Josh Heath of High Level Games, it made nearly, $10,000, well above its goal.


The Setting​

The game is set in a war-torn world where players take on the roles of plastic soldiers from the Plastos Federation, fighting against the monstrous Vespoids. And let there be no doubt: the characters know they are plastic soldiers. The game's setting, influenced by events like the Polyvinyl Conflict and the formation of the Acetal Alliance, provides a rich backdrop for adventures. The different soldiers even have their own languages and cultures, like the Acrylic language created by Acrylica and the Ethylene Autocracy's clipped and short Carbonate. This allows for a variety of play styles, where players might find themselves negotiating peace treaties or leading military campaigns.

Because the game is D20 compatible it includes plenty of mundane foes, from gangsters to mangled bears and everything in-between. The main enemy is the Vespoids, an insectoid species of man-sized aggressive wasps. There are also arachnid Vespoids; if you've ever watched Starship Troopers, you get the idea (there's even a quote echoing that film, "I'm doing my part!"). There are giant centipedes and scorpions too.

There are five different territories the PCs can be allied with, including the Acetal Alliance, Acrylica, Plastos Federation, the Styric Republic, and United Polymeria. Each territory comes with its own language and religion. The book makes it clear that the characters take all this very seriously, even if the game doesn't (it's meant to be a parody of warfare, much like Starship Troopers).


Character Creation​

The color of your plastic soldier determines your class, species, or creed, with each color representing different traits and abilities. For example, Green soldiers are persistent fighters, Gray soldiers are leaders and tacticians, Blue soldiers have odd abilities and perceptions, Red soldiers are grounded with common sense, and Tan soldiers are independent and marine-styled.

The character creation process allows players to choose from different resin types, each granting specific ability score increases and unique traits. Greens, for instance, receive a +2 increase to Constitution and a +1 to Strength, reflecting their robust nature. They also benefit from an ability called "Resilient Resin," which gives them an Armor Class of 13 plus their Dexterity modifier when not wearing armor. Reds, on the other hand, gain a +2 to Intelligence and +1 to Constitution, emphasizing their technical know-how and durability.

There are several classes, known as casts (as in "plastic casting," get it?), to choose from, ranging from the grunt (fighter), to ordnance (blaster), scout (rogue), tactician (bard), and medic (cleric). Each cast has subclasses, which further subdivides their abilities. Grunts have training schools that divides them into machine gunners, riflemen, and trench fighters. Medics have an area of expertise like pharmacologist, PSYOPS, and surgeon. Ordnance have specialized training known as Chemical Ammunition Program (CAP), that includes High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) weapons, grenadier, and burner. Scouts have Specialized Purpose Endeavor Conditioning (SPEC) that includes sniper, infiltrator, and sweeper. Tacticians have combat doctrines, including assault leader, bulwark, and firebrand. There's plenty of variety amongst the various character types, and the levels go up to 13 (those higher than that are classified as "Old Soldiers" and are promoted to NPC status).

Backgrounds grant a unique feature, skill proficiencies, and bonus exploits (feats). With backgrounds ranging from celebrity to conscript, sailor to supply specialist, you can further customize your army man (or woman!) such that no two are alike. The bonus exploits cover a wide range of features, like granting advantage when an ally is reduced to 0 hit points (Vengeful) or shooting a thrown projectile out of the air (Trick Shot).

In addition to the usual suite of skills, there's the aforementioned languages and even faiths. Will you be a Destinarian, who believes that everyone, despite their plastic color, is from the same source? Or the Hursini, who believe that all resinous peoples are made from plants?

Since Army Men uses the 5E system, it's pretty easy to pick up and play for fans of Dungeons & Dragons. Characters can requisition gear (reminiscent of D20 Modern's system), where they're assigned a certain number of points to purchase arms and armor.


Should You Get It?​

Army Men is meant to be a complete game, which means a lot it has is repeated with standard D&D, sometimes with slight (but important) tweaks. It spends many pages repeating what you likely have in your Player's Handbook, which makes it easier to dive in -- but also means it's a bigger book with rules you likely already know.

This is much more of a tabletop role-playing game than a miniatures game. Army men are not 28mm scale; there's no specific reference to miniature scale in the rulebook, except for an appendix that borrows the Creature Size and Scale from the 3.5 rules (listing Fine and Colossal creatures, which are no longer a thing in 5E). Traditional miniature wargame scale these days is around 1/72nd scale, and army men are about 1/35th scale, or 54mm. You'll want to keep that in mind if you start introducing giant bugs or other toys, with 54mm being Medium-size.

All that said, a lot of effort went into coming up with the setting, the game, and the monsters. The art is colorful and diverse, with a surprising range of people from all walks of life (men and women) portrayed throughout in their plastic casts. The sample adventure is a rescue mission that includes plenty of bug-stomping action.

If you love Starship Troopers, if you've ever wanted to use your plastic soldiers in a tabletop game, or if you've looked at a giant plastic bug (or your cat!) and thought "I wonder how an army would fare against that thing?" and you're ready to do your part, this game is for you! You can purchase it on DriveThruRPG in PDF or Print format.

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

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