The Circles Game

My group has just started a campaign of Burning Empires, and I’ve got a number of questions about how affilitations work.

  1. My character has “Merchant Fleet 2D”. The character has access to a small fleet. Are these ships hard tech at the start of the game, in their basic iteration, or do I have to harden them up through tech purchases?

  2. The character also has “Merchant League 3D”, “Planetary Rep 3D”, + Sidekick 2D. I.E., I burned my character a huge bunch-o-peeps. How many lackeys are in this? For instance, can I say “The CorpSec Team enters the firefight” and have it be actually effective in game-mechanics terms? Or do I need to bring in the sec team through color and then resources? What about other teams – tech teams, for instance?


The Color / Hard dichotomy is not necessarily a Circles Mechanic.

I believe those ships do exist (at their basic level), but I would suggest using a building scene to introduce the ships and characters (you may need more than one) to the setting. Take a tour, have a meeting, or include your sidekick in a scene.

Also use of Interstitial and color scenes will help define the extent of your fleet and allies, so that when it comes down to the point where you need to use them, no one will question their existence.

Page 266 – Merchant Fleet Captain trait. Not just anyone can have a fleet in Iron Empires. You have to have special dispensation. This trait gives you that dispensation. Once you have that, you have access to fleet assets. They’re color. You may spend resource points on a hard tech or civilian craft mercator for your own personal use. In game, if you need more than that, check out page 350, Contacts and Technology. You can use your Merchant Fleet Affiliation to circles up captains, security teams or tech teams who come with the appropriate tech.

Is that clear?

Perfectly clear. Thanks a lot, Luke.

Let me make a related question. Let’s say I go through the “I Need a Gang or Crew” rules, and take 2D affilitiation with the Blood Rat Raiders, an Anvil company. I add 2D as “Reputation: BRR Commander” and a 2D relationship with Jack-Bob Bodine. In the first manuver of the game, can I lead the BRR into battle? Or do have to “hire” them first, by either spending resource points during character creation (is one anvil company a basic iteration?) or expending resources during play?

Thanks again,


First question out of my Iron Empires mind: Are you an Anvil Lord? If yes, then you get your grunts to make rolls for you without needing a Circles test.

Otherwise, you and JB can head right into combat, but none of your soldiers can test for anything – they all rely on you.

Mook soldiers are always color. Even if you’re leading them into a conflict. As soon as you need them to make a roll for you, though, you need to either pay for the gear or make a Circles test.


Thanks Luke. Now that I’m actually reading the rules (funny thing, that) I see what you are talking about.

This looks like a special rule for the Anvil and Hammer Lords; I’m not seeing anything similar for the Merchant traits (poor merchants; all they have are thundering piles of resource and circles dice).


Interesting. Does this apply to the GM as well (except for the reserves, of course)?

From actual play: We had a firefight, and I had described this one Filthy Worm Lover coming in with a bunch of goons to capture one of the PC FoNs. The PCs had a few (but fewer) mooks on their side, mostly to take the hits.

As we played through the Firefight, only the PCs and the main NPC made the rolls. But! Sometimes some of the mooks took individual shot actions (using the “one skill at 4, one related one at 3” thing) during a Direct Fire or the Close Combat action that finished the fight.

(The firefight was pretty cool; both sides were trying to capture someone from the other side. We kept rolling ties, over and over again, until I got in a Close Combat action as the NPCs, and then the PCs pulled off a Withdrawl. That left both side’s dispositions at 0, and we decided that, in the chaos of the melee, both sides were able to capture one person (named people, not mooks) from the other side. Which led to some awesome play as the PC used a Duel of Wits to get away from being Hulled, and the NPC making ground in convincing a PC that “the Worm is the True Path to God”.)

Anyway. My question: should we have made Circles checks to get the mooks in the fight in order to make those individual actions? If so, how would we determine the Ob for getting more than one guy - just increase it by +1 or +2, similar to Resources checks?

How about taking shots instead of dealing them?

Do you usually spend one or more building scenes of recruiting individual soldiers for your team if you don’t have a trait that gives them for free?

Look are you guys asking for something for nothing? Because this is the wrong game for that. You want something? You pay for it.

You want your gang of thugs to be actually useful in the game? Use the wonderful, horrible rules I’ve provided for you. Before the game begins say: “I have a gang.” Pay for the affiliation and reputation. “This is my lieutenant.” Pay for him, too. “There are 10 gunsels in my gang.” You get to say that because, you know, you just spent this ridiculous amount of points to have a gang.

Then, in a Firefight, the GM knows exactly what your gang is about. 10 goons can die before they get to you! And if a gunsel ever needs to roll for anything, you can look at the LPs and see what he’s got. Hell, you can even throw in an exponent 3 for the skills. I know, I know, it’s very generous. But take it, really, it’s on me.


Can I say “there are fifteen gunsels in my gang?” I think that’s fairer. No, twenty gunsels. And one of them has a Screw. And one has Sensors. That’s fair, I think.


Easy, cabin boy.

On Edit: Luke answered my question. I shouldn’t repeat it.


I would think that the group would have to either:

  1. Agree that it’s fine and keep playing (and expect you not to bitch when they ramp up their mooks in the same way)
  2. Tell you no way, that’s ridiculous
  3. Say fine, as long as you make a Resources test for the Screw (and maybe a Circles test for the Sensors tech).