Thursday, January 19, 2012

Battle Report - Tomorrow's War - So THAT's How It Works...

View of the table at the conclusion of last night's game of Tomorrow's War
Last night we gave "Tomorrow's War" another go.  Our first attempt at the game was less than satisfying, as were the first attempts of others, it seems. But Ambush Alley can't have all those fans out there for no reason, and Conscript Mike A insisted (politely) that we would probably figure it out if we read "Force on Force" instead. So we did - and he was right! We tried Tomorrow's War again last night, and it was a lot a fun!

The objective - a disabled T-640 tank - sits in the middle of a 4' x 4' table

A T-340 burning away in the village, victim of the LuftSchwarm

LZ marker for the Gün Schwarm VTOL
The scenario was set on a 4'x4' table, with arid terrain and a village consistent with the vaguely post-pre-post-apocalyptic setting we enjoy for our home-grown sci-fi factions.  The setting was a big FuturKom counter-offensive on the world of Dnieper VII.  The Gün Schwarm faction was in retreat, but its air assets had managed to really stick it to a FuturKom armoured column.  Seeing the column in distress, TruKom rebels pounced and launched an attack.  Seeing that attack, Gün Schwarm command decided send in some troops.

FuturKom officer, lackey (right) and medical bot

FuturKom Motor Fuzileers before the fight - beautiful figures from Pig Iron Productions

Close up of a FuturKom fireteam - Dallas did an amazing job with these figures
The goal for the Gün side was to get to the disabled T-640 heavy tank (set in the middle of the table), gather some intelligence from it (what guns sights does it use? does it have a docking station compatible with the iPhone 400s?), and then blow it up.  The FuturKom survivors had to protect the tank, so it could be repaired later and sent back to the front.  The game length would be six turns.

Gün Schwarm side before the battle

Close up of the "TruKom" rebels - Kolony Rebel figures from Pig Iron Productions

Gün regulars, with heavy infantry to the left, just out of the shot
Futurkom had four six-man fireteams, a commander and a medical bot.  They also had a surviving BTR-800 APC.  Quality was D8 all around, with D10 morale.  On the Gün side, the TruKom rebels had two five-man fire teams, with D6 quality but D12 morale (in other words, fanatically ineffective).  The Gün regulars consisted of two four-man heavy infantry fire teams, a commander with medical bot/skull and extra special weapon trooper, and a five-man team of regular grenadiers.  They had a VTOL with light armament (4D8 AP) for transport. Quality for the Gün regulars was D8, with D10 morale.  The heavy infantry had stronger armour (2D) and laser weapons that made their optimum range 12" instead of 8".  Everyone's tech level was 2, and confidence was normal for all.

FuturKom occupies some cover - the CO keeps things running from the courtyard


FuturKom troops cover the street while the Gün VTOL buzzes the battle area


TruKom rebels get ready to move out
Dallas took command of his Kommulist Forces, while Brian and I took command of the Gün Schwarm side.  Brian was given control of the TruKom rebels - I think he thought that was cool until he learned they were only D6 quality, but full credit to him for fighting onward. Then I told him they were poorly supplied too...

TruKom fireteam showing the effects of heavy fire from FuturKom troops

These Gün heavy infantry would end up isolated as the VTOL was driven off, and suffer a "negative outcome" i.e. getting blasted to pieces

Another FuturKom fireteam, blazing away at the enemy

The Kommers got to start two fireteams on the board - others would walk on in the second turn.  Brian then set up the two TruKom units anywhere at least 8" away from the Kommers.  The Gün regulars would start trying to arrive via VTOL on the first turn - the VTOL had three marked LZs to choose from. The Güns would start with initiative.

TruKom rebels taking cover near some handy Kommulist-themed containers - Brian would roll Vegas on the first aid checks to keep these guys alive

FuturKom fireteam moves out into the street after the building gets a bit too hot...
It was a sharp, heavy firefight from the outset.  Brian's two rebel fireteams got into it right away, trying to advance on Dallas' troops.  It wasn't long until models on both sides were being tipped over.  My VTOL made an attempt on an LZ, and managed to unload just one fireteam before it was driven off.  Isolated and alone, this fireteam would ultimately be doomed.

 Gün heavy infantry fireteam confronted by the BTR-800 - it would end in tears for the Güns

On the second turn, one of Brian's fireteams was totally wiped out - they would lay there for a few turns until we got some medical help to them.  But the VTOL landed and managed to get the balance of the heavy infantry out into a good position, and they started to hit some Kom fireteams pretty hard. The VTOL, however, was hit by fire and forced to land, effectively knocking it out.


Gün VTOL forced to make a hard landing thanks to heavy fire by the FuturKom troopers

Gün regulars move out to try and support the TruKom rebels

Dallas rolled quite a few "1"s during his reaction tests, and so the Fog of War cards came out a lot.  A couple of these were benign - "the weather clears", but most of these were a big hassle for Dallas.  He lost one guy to a booby trap.  Another card turned one of his buildings into "Swiss cheese", which made it easy for me to mow down the troops inside. But it went both ways - I lost one of my squads to a misplaced mortar strike - and rolled Vegas to basically wipe them out - and Dallas got to have one of his fireteams go "in the zone", improving to D10 quality and D12 morale for a turn.

Worst. Reaction Rolls. Ever. Where is that Fog Of War deck?
There was one chain of action where we all rolled "1"s for the three teams involved!  This series of events cost me a heavy infantry fireteam due to mortars, and cost Dallas his cover.  Sigh.

Gün heavy infantry gets zapped by their own mortars...my best rolling the whole game, unfortunately

This building suddenly became way less effective cover for the Kommers, and I was able to wipe out the fireteam - but the medical bot brought them back next turn....darn it!
We did shoot up a few of Dallas' teams, but we never managed to get moving, as I continuously blew Overwatch checks.  The heavy infantry didn't manage to "get it together". By turn the end of turn six we were nowhere close to our objectives, while Dallas had covered his.  We didn't get near the T-640, while Dallas had put several of our fireteams below half-strength and shot down the VTOL.  Our standout achievement was to severely damage the BTR-800. Decisive win for FuturKom.

FuturKom fireteam covering the T-640 - the BTR-800 (in the background, at the right) has moved on to engage other targets

Gün heavy troops pour fire out into the streets...

Gün AT launcher engages the BTR-800 in the distance - they would manage to immobilize it...
I still screwed up several things - for example, I think I missed some modifiers that should have made it easier for Dallas to get the initiative back, meaning Dallas never managed to win the initiative.   I goofed on the interpretation of who can react to what in the end phase.  I'm pretty sure I screwed up a bit with the VTOL. We didn't try to check if seriously-wounded guys got hit again. We kept forgetting to try suppressive fire (which is something that might have really helped our side out). And I often forgot about Brian's guys being poorly supplied.  But whatever, I still loved it.  The scenario was fun, the terrain was fun, and the models were great. 


TruKom rebels engage the BTR-800, knocking out the main gun
FuturKom Officer - "Well, we're all seriously wounded, but job well done!"
Here are some thoughts on the rules now that we have a second (and much better) game under our belt.

Thoughts On The Good Stuff
Most games go much better once you understand WTF you are doing, and this was no exception.  The action/reaction sequence is very cool.  With a little planning and coordination (and not losing your overwatch reaction checks) you can move around the table and cover your own units.  This is far and away the coolest aspect of these rules, and makes for a very, very enjoyable gaming experience.  Looking back I can already see the mistakes I made by not getting my different fireteams organized to work together a little more.  The one heavy infantry fireteam which ended up isolated (and then hit by random mortars...oh well) would have made a huge difference for the rest of our troops, but just ended up getting zapped by a hot LZ.

I also enjoy the constant firefights.  You throw buckets of dice (which I love, although that's not for everyone) and everybody gets to shoot a LOT, in just one turn, which I think is fun. The game was only six turns, but we were blazing away at each other for practically the whole game.

The medic/medical bot aspect is neat - with the medical assets around, units can hang around longer, and keep fighting.

I also enjoyed the Fog-Of-War cards.  It helped that these mostly plagued Dallas :) but they are pretty neat, and didn't affect the game in an excessive way.

Thoughts On The "Meh" Stuff
I have mixed feelings on the casualties.  I have seen several other reviews where the players have remarked  one way or the other on this too.  For all of the shooting, there were perhaps five models KIA on Dallas' side, and maybe six on our side, for about 11 out of almost 52 infantry models.  Now - is that "right"? I'm not sure. 

To be clear, this is still 250% better than a 40k game, where the casualties are something like 90% (100% when I play against Dave V's Eldar), and yet somehow neither side breaks, and there are three or four models still on the table at the end of the game, which always feels stupid to me. Besides, what do I really know about the "right" level of casualties? 

Removing models by the bunch is just something I'm used to in gaming, so the approach taken by Tomorrow's War is really different from my perspective.  By keeping the seriously wounded troops with the unit, you do think of the game a little differently, and I credit the Ambush Alley guys for going with a system that makes the players think/act much more like "real" regular soldiers would with regard to injured comrades. They would be cared for, protected and evacuated, and not just flicked away to make room for a sweeping advance move. 

I guess it just seemed like the repeated accumulation of serious wounds in a unit should have had...some kind of worse outcome.  Just not sure what it is.  Maybe a fireteam with two serious wounds needs to do a TQ check to do anything, even return fire....who knows...but something.  All in all, I think this is something I will get used to once I play the game more.  Not a big negative, just very different.

Thoughts On The Not-So-Good Stuff
No question we had a way, way better experience with last night's game than our first game.  But I feel there are still some serious challenges with these rules.

First of all, it's a lot of "red tape" for a skirmish game - who is wounded, who is seriously wounded, who has moved once, who hasn't, who has fired, how many times have they fired etc.  You are keeping track of a lot of stuff for a small game.  You will need a number markers/chits for the tabletop. This is not the end of the world, but it will serve as significant check on the size of the game you can have. And not everyone likes a tabletop cluttered in chits.

A big bugaboo, in my view, is the separation of getting hit by fire and determining the results of those hits.  Considering that you are taking morale checks all the time in the middle of the turn, waiting until the next turn to see how bad the hit was just does not make any sense to me. The first aid checks should happen right after the round of fire is complete, and before the next activation.

Last, and most significant, remains the confusing structure and organization of the rulebook itself.  I simply did not understand "Tomorrow's War" until we read "Force On Force".  Tomorrow's War reads like you already know the rules - like you are all already "in" on the game. The fact that we would read a second set of rules just to understand the first set is a strong testament to the positives in this game. "Tomorrow's War" already appears to enjoy a very strong following (and we now see why). A properly organized version of the "Tomorrow's War" rules would surely draw exponentially more  new interest from gamers!

A final bit - this game need a proper and well-thought-out QRS sheet.  This is a good start, but doesn't quite cut it.

Conclusion
With the riddle of the rules unlocked, Tomorrow's War is a lot of fun.  It is a very engaging, firefight-packed game. I look forward to trying it again with the group sometime!

Thanks to Dallas and Brian for coming out to game last night, and to Dallas for bringing along his awesome FuturKom guys and vehicles!

A Word from Dallas

Great report, Greg, and thanks for hosting the game. I don't really have a lot to add, except to echo your comment that this go-through was MUCH better than the first one. TW makes a lot out of its ability to simulate "asymmetric" encounters but as I found in the first game, and Brian saw last night, d8 guys vs. d6 guys is generally not a lot of fun for the d6'ers. This is exacerbated to some degree by the difficulty of putting a man down in TW. Crap hordes vs. a few good troops works better (psychologically) in a game like 40K, where stuff dies. The horde player can feel good about getting a few kills on the other guy, and the good troops will kill horde monsters by the truckload.

But TW is more realistic... not everybody who gets hit will die, be seriously wounded, or even get a boo-boo, for Pete's sake. So it's a bit more cerebral and less visceral an exercise to "see how you're doing" when most of the guys you knocked down stand straight back up again.

I am also growing to be somewhat of a convert to the "reaction" system (as opposed to IGO-UGO). Limiting the number and quality of "reactions" is key, though, especially when the battle is asymmetrical. I enjoyed the way we played last night - that Initiative units were not allowed reactions once the non-Initiative units starting doing stuff at the end of the turn. "You had your chance to act - could have gone on Overwatch if you wanted - now it's our turn." TW allows a bit more "reaction" from the Initiative units so we'll have to consider that.

All in all a great evening's gaming!

15 comments:

Lasgunpacker said...

Thanks for the review/comments. The disorganization of the TW book is dismaying.

Any idea how it compares to SGII? The games appear to share certain mechanical aspects.

Craig Welter said...

So that's the trick. I read the rules and liked a lot of the ideas, but I also found the presentation of the rules to be somewhat confusing and not well organized. I'm not sure I want to buy another rule book just to understand this one. Any chance you could do a summary of the things you learned when reading the Force on Force rulebook that you found most enlightening?

Dangerous Brian said...

I think the disorganisation is a carry over from the free Beta version that actually DID assume you owned Force of Force. I didn't really spot the problems with the rules until you'd pointed them out because I was already a little bit familiar with Ambush Alley and Force on Force.

SGII is a great game in and of itself, that also helps to immerse the players in the suggestion that your grunt's are real people that need looking after.

One of my favorite aspects of SGII is that you can split off guys from your squad as the game dictates. Much as a modern British Army section might split down into a base of fire fireteam and a second "assault" fireteam that splits down into a second base of fire (pair sized this time) and an assault pair during a section attack.

It doesnt have the same facility for reacting to an opponents actions in his own move however.

Mike A said...

Great report guys! I am sorry I missed out. I am glad that it made a bit more sense this time and look forward to playing again soon.

Greg B said...

@Craig - sure, I can throw a few thoughts together for you - I will try and get something on the blog tomorrow.

@Lasgunpacker - sadly I have never tried SGII, so I can't compare. I think Dallas may know, however...

joe5mc said...

I believe in most combat situations 20% dead is quite high. You would expect to have several wounded guys for every actual KIA. In games terms a Seriously Wounded figure is actually worse than a KIA. Not only does he no longer supply firepower or defense dice, but he also prevents his fireteam from moving quickly.

Greg B said...

@joe5mc - good points. I suspect the troops involved wouldn't see it as "only" five KIAs....although the officers in our imaginary sci fi factions probably would.

Dallas said...

@Lasgunpacker

Just dug out my unpunched copy of SGII to have a look at... :-)

Lead Addict said...

I agree that the KIA's feels about correct if you extrapolate this as a hard sci fi game based on modern or ultra modern fire team warfare. Gobs of kills is gonna really force someone to bug out quick to fight again later. An army can only point a number of guns at you equal to the bodies that can cary them, so bug out and fight again when you have the advantage.

My initial reactions to the rules are very similar to your. Like a lot, hate the book itself and its organization.(worst page background ever, it hurts my eeyes to read more than 3 pages at a time), meh on the casualty situation, hate the chits so we dont use them and sometimes we forget stuff. Oh well, the battle still looks good.

Great review. Glad for your sake you came back to it. Like your background and history. and a vote from me for you to try SGII as well.

Lasgunpacker said...

@Dallas sounds like it is in the same state as my copy.

Mik said...

This was one of the best batreps I've read in a long time, and the table looked fantastic.

It looks like I'm going to be dusting off TW after all as this game shows more of what I'm looking for on the table than not.

Kealios Achilles-Fang said...

Nice read for your second battle. I am getting ready for my second game tomorrow night, and have also put time this week into reading Force on Force (the pre-Osprey version that I borrowed from a friend).

Im coming to terms with the casualty allocation in the game, which I think is my biggest issue. I'll post again soon on my blog. Thanks again!

Greg B said...

@ Kealios - casualty allocation was a big hangup too, but with the chits it worked out OK.

Really, you are only checking which model is hit if there are special troops like medics, civilians etc attached. Otherwise, toss a chit on the pile beside the unit, and bear the negative(s) in mind.

TrunkMonkey707 said...

Where did you purchase those cargo crates? I could do with a few of those!

Greg B said...

@TrunkMonkey707-those crates are from the AT-43 game system....they seemed to come with every box....