|Cover of "Tomorrow's War" - new skirmish rules that are generating a ton of buzz|
Wanting to familiarize myself with the rules and host a game in a timely fashion, I read a bit of the book each night in bed before going to sleep. Certainly a pleasant way to pass a few minutes at the end of the day - the book is beautifully designed, laid out and executed. The paper is glossy and heavy, the binding feels like quality, and the pictures are pretty. There is tons of background included, which some readers will enjoy, but to me is of marginal relevance as we use our own models and factions in our SF games.
Unfortunately the book worked rather better as a sleep aid than I had expected. As I said, I'm not too interested in the "TW Universe" (especially as there aren't model ranges specific to the factions) and I found the rules to be rather... dense as well. And keep in mind I spend my days reading stuff like this. There are just a lot of fundamental rules points where questions still exist. For example: what happens when there are no active models in a unit (i.e. they are all "tipped over" potential casualties) and no First Aid check can be made at the start of the next turn? Does the unit disappear, or just stay tipped over? (we think they remain on the table). Do "tipped over" models contribute to a unit's armour saving rolls when they are shot at? Can hits be allocated to wounded or tipped over models before active models? And my favourite, when reaction fire causes models in a moving unit to be tipped over, do these tipped over models "follow" the rest of the unit as they complete their movement? (Unbelievably to me, this basic question regarding a situation that will happen in virtually every game was answered on TMP by the designer with a "do it whichever way you like, in agreement with your opponent")
In any event, we were still eager to give the rules a go so we set up the "Rescue the Downed Pilot" scenario from page 96 of the rulebook.
|An overhead view of the table - the USMC faction can be seen advancing through the open on the right side of the pitcure, while the DPRG squads wait in ambush|
|The sturdy conscripts of Futurkom played the part of the DPRG in the game|
|Greg B's GW Kasrkin Models stood in for the USMC side in the scenario|
|The downed pilot - always a source of trouble for the REAL fighting troops...|
My d6 firepower rolls were no match for Greg's hot-rolling Reaction Fire with d8s.
|The Futurkom grunts wait in ambush...|
|USMC troops wait on Overwatch in the woods|
|The Futurkommers try and visit with the downed pilot...|
|What happens in "Tomorrow's War" when one side has a better troop quality...|
We set up the models again and the DPRG tried a more patient tactic, which worked somewhat better at first, lighting up a USMC team advancing in the open, working some angles to try and cover the objective, and mostly JUST NOT MOVING. We didn't finish the second run through but I suspect it probably would have finished similarly to the first, albeit with more USMC casualties.
Summing up? Tomorrow's War has some great points - turn interruption and Reactions are very cool. However it's easy to get mixed up as to who's got Initiative, who's reacted, and who can react, as well as the plethora of markers required to denote wound status and other things. The rulebook desperately needs some editing and organization. It's a beautiful book but some more attention to detail is warranted. For example, in the sample scenario we played, the terrain includes a stream and small lake. Referring to the "terrain effects" section in the book (also not easy to find), we see a statement to the effect that "the scenario will specify the game effects of the water feature on movement". Guess what? It didn't, so we had to agree on that ourselves. Not a big deal in this case, but if the scenario was designed with a specific water effect in mind, it was a well-guarded secret. Likewise the maps for the scenarios - the text listed table sizes as anything from 3x3 to 6x4, but the maps all show 4x4 layouts!
These are minor niggles, of course, next to the Big Unanswered Questions in the rulebook (like "what happens to tipped over figures?") but it bespeaks what many have complained about of late - an emphasis on rulebook form over function. There are a ton of beautiful looking rulebooks out nowadays and aesthetic appeal in game books is no longer the exclusive realm of Games Workshop. But I get the feeling with TW that more emphasis was placed on the physical product than on the guts of the thing - cogently laid out rules that are lucid and easy to find. The lack of a quick play sheet, for example, is inexcusable, especially when considering the number of pages devoted to background fluff. We'll certainly try TW again but we are increasingly skeptical of the "love bombs" (thanks Greg) for TW being dropped in carpet-fashion all over the web. Grade: B-.
Dallas has summed things up very well. My two cents - the book looks great, but was written as though you already knew the rules. At the end of the day, I think there is a great set of rules in there somewhere. It was neat to play a game knowing, for instance, that you could cover the advance of your own troops, and it made you plot out different approach paths etc.
But the rulebook itself is inexecusably baffling and incomplete - the lack of clear information on what happens to a casualty is the most galling example, but in general, the rules the read out like you should already just know them. Do you still exchange fire when you are fired at while on the move? How many times can regular units react? What is the difference between ambush and overwatch? The book implies the the answers are obvious. Sorry - they're not.
I really want to play TW again - so at that basic level, I would say the rules are a success. But to do that, we'll have to pile through all sorts of forums etc just to ascertain the basic mechanics of how the game is supposed to work. I look forward to an edition of these rules that contains the rules.