One of the most persistent images of humanity past its fall involves flooded cities that have been reclaimed by the jungle. So if the only thing that that formula was missing was dinosaurs, then
The Drowned Earth has you covered. It’s a dynamic skirmish miniature wargame where your hero might just be riding a dino.
Listen to the Fortified Niche episode.
The Drowned Earth takes place many thousand years after a civilization-shattering cataclysm. Polite society hasn’t been rebuilt, so it’s entirely OK for you and five of your friends to go into the ruins to do parkour and shoot other parkour enthuasiasts. Also, some of your friends are lizardmen, bird-people and she-gorillas.
The Drowned Earth is played with small warbands of named characters. Most of them have two action points that can be spent on movement, shooting and other fun activities. Like in Infinity, you can do two actions at the same time. Usually, this means shooting in the middle of your move. Unlike in Infinity, AP are needed to react to enemy actions. There’s also a cap on how much AP a unit can spend a turn, seriously cutting down on Ramboing potential.
When you think about The Drowned Earth, is like a more streamlined mix of Infinity and Carnevale. We already mentioned the influences from the former. From the later, it inherits the desire for for water and dynamic movement as well as having a fairly unified mechanic for everything.
Tests in The Drowned Earth are mostly carried by rolling an Ability die (a d10) and a Feat die (a d10 with the Feat symbol instead of 1). Rolling under you Ability score with the Ability die nets you a simple Pass. If the Feat dice is also under the stat, then you get a Nailed It! result. It’s what lets you move further, shoot further out, and hit harder. There’s also the Feat result, which is achieved by rolling the Feat symbol: it gives you a Nailed It! result – Ability die be damned – and you get a single AP at the of your activation. This means that your miniature will have a single AP for a reaction even if you used up their normal allotment. end
An almost overlooked feature of The Drowned Earth is that characters fall into one of the five classes, four of which have bespoke abilities (the fifth is just tough). The most important one is the Leader being able to transfer (if they succeed a test) AP from one trooper to another. Pumping up a gorilla brawler with the AP he needs to cross the table and punch someone can be crucial. You can also just boost the Leader themselves. The only other class with such a prominently expressed ability is the Scout, which grants them infiltration deployment – curiously enough, it’s the scenario that decides just how that happens.
Unfortunately, neither army building nor scenario design are any more impressive than that. When constructing your team, you build it to the points limit without duplicating named characters. If there’s a slight difference of points left, you can spend it on special event cards to be used once per game. As for scenarios, they’re largely OK, but nothing more inspired that Infinity’s ubiquitous “push button.”
In the end, The Drowned Earth is a neat little game, but it’s not spectacular. You can clearly see its influences, but outside of putting some good limits on order shenanigans, it doesn’t exceed the example they set. On the other hand, this podcast will never sneer at you for claiming this to be your favorite game. For whatever is there in the game, it can be guaranteed to work – and work quite smoothly.