As a result of the minor sh!tstorm that resulted from our group's less-than-overwhelmingly-positive first impressions of Tomorrow's War, "Ed the Two-Hour Wargames Guy" very generously offered me a review copy of his company's Sci-Fi skirmish wargame, "5150: Star Army". I duly promised to play and review the game and finally we've had a chance to do so. Here goes...
My hardcopy of 5150 comprises a 98-page rulebook bound "cerlox" style. The full-colour cover is well-executed and professional. The inside is black-and-white throughout, with no illustrations and a few line diagrams. While the layout is basic and unornamented, it's clear. Production quality is nowhere near something like Tomorrow's War, but then again, neither is the price. The writing style is conversational, in some cases a bit much so for my liking ("are you picking up what I'm putting down?" yikes) but in most instances, it works. The basic rules take up about half the book while the rest is comprised of the "army lists", scenario contruction and campaign information and the quick reference material.
Like Tomorrow's War, the game uses a "reaction system", where figures act and react to the actions of others, as opposed to the traditional "IGO-UGO" system where one side takes its whole turn, followed by the other side. Unlike Tomorrow's War, the reaction system in 5150 is relatively well-described and is more clearly laid out in the rules. There are a finite number of "reactions" and the circumstances for tests are pretty clearly described. An interesting feature of the rules is that each faction has its own reaction tables and a die roll that would result in success for elite troops often is much less positive if your troops are not as good. I like this feature but it results in a chart-heavy game...
So we played an introductory scenario, "Rescue the Pilot", pitting three squads of PDF (Rep 3 and 4) against two squads of Star Army troops (Rep 4 and 5). We used Greg's cool new individually based 15mm figures, and just substituted centimeters for inches for movement and range purposes.
|The "pilot" is in the building in the middle of the table|
|Star Army squads moves on|
|Hapless pilot, "objective-ified" yet again|
|PDF waiting in ambush|
|Star Army crosses the river|
|PDF lurking behind a hedge|
|Star Army squad decimated by PDF fire|
|Star Army survivor makes off with the pilot|
|Star Army squad withdraws|
I think the guys enjoyed the game, but personally, it is gonna take more to move me off my beloved IGO-UGO (I know, I am a bit of a dinosaur that way). The different charts for the different factions are pretty cool, but it is the sheer volume of charts in 5150 that blow my brain a little bit. There are over 100 (!) in the rulebook... including three dealing with Spider Holes (standard chart plus "Discovery" and "Occupancy"), two dealing with Grenades ("Ready" and "Throwing"), etc. Granted, most won't be used in a game, but still... I guess there were about three pages in the book I had to flip back and forth regularly from, and that's not too bad.
I actually think I prefer the reaction system in 5150 to that in Tomorrow's War, because it seems more clearly laid out and a bit more intuitive. For example, I like that 5150's "Received Fire" reaction is to either duck back, snap fire (at reduced effect) or fire at full effect... and that a firefight can rage back and forth until one combatant is hit, or ducks back out of sight. Very cool.
We didn't get into advanced stuff like leaders' dice in the first game, but I can see us getting detailed in future games. As I said, IGO-UGO may be less "realistic" but on a Thursday night, after a long day at work using my grey cells, sometimes I just want to crack a beer and kick back to some non-brain-melting Warhammer or Lord of the Rings-based gaming. My pleasure is mainly in pushing some nicely-painted lead around a well manicured table. But while I don't need "fancy" in my rules, I have to admit that from time to time it's nice to stretch the brain a bit and I think 5150 could do the trick for that.
Thanks again to Ed Texeira for the review copy. 5150: Star Army can be purchased as a hardcopy or .pdf from Two Hour Wargames.