Wargame Wednesday – Tomorrow’s War Today in Mali

 

Courtesy Ambush Alley Games

Tomorrow’s War from Ambush Alley Games has its problems, but if one keeps to the infantry combat heart of the system it actually plays very well. The game is also very good for low-intensity, insurgent conflicts and for the use of the “Grid” to help show the impact of information warfare on command and control (C2) as well as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance).

One of my favorite aviation blogs, The Aviationist, has been following the war in Mali quite closely, and in early February posted an entry named The taking of Tessalit airfield in Mali: air assault as seen from the camera of a Harfang droneIt covers the assault on Tessalit by 50 paratroopers of the Parachute Chasseur Regiment and their subsequent link-up with a flying column of the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment.

So this got me thinking….

The first scenario is a dropship insertion by a company-sized force to seize an airfield. The attacking force is TL2 in Tomorrow’s War terms taking on a nebulous TL1 insurgent force. The attacker has a TL2 Grid with ISR drones and can call on air support.

The second scenario involves the attacker moving a small convoy of armored vehicles through the city to link-up with the inserted forces at the airfield. Again, the attacker has a TL2 Grid with ISR drones and air support on call.

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RPG Thursday – My Top Seven RPG Internet Meme

James over at Grognardia started it, and I am late to get on the bandwagon.

My top 7 played RPGs in 2012 (and a good marker for the past several years):

1 – Classic Traveller (Admittedly not so much the RPG but the setting. I especially have played the games of Classic Traveller such as Striker, Book 5: High Guard, Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron, Imperium, Fifth Frontier War, and Power Projection: Fleet; as well as using adventures such as Adventure 7: Broadsword as inspiration for Tomorrow’s War.)

2- Mongoose Traveller (including Hammer’s Slammers, Outpost Mars and Orbital)

3 – Battlestar Galactica

4 – Serenity

5 – Prime Directive

6 – Mouse Guard

7 – Others I played around with in 2012 were Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and the new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner’s Game. Also messed around with Space: 1889 and A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones Edition.

RPG Thursday – Broadsword Mercs in Tomorrow’s War

Broadsword and ATV (biomassart)

Looking to create a small unit in Tomorrow’s War, I drew inspiration from Classic Traveller Adventure 7 -Broadsword. The Broadsword-class mercenary cruiser is an 800 dton spherical-hull ship (an obvious nod to Nemesis from H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking novel). The ship carries a 28-troop mercenary contingent along with a pair of modular cutters and an air raft and ATV for the ground force.

The Vargr require special rules. Treat the Vargr squad (Third Squad) as an Irregular Unit. Vargr attributes are Augmented Senses (see exception) and Natural Weapons. Generally speaking, a Vargr unit has higher morale but lower confidence than a human unit. Vargr units use the Morale of the Leader for all Morale Checks. If the Leader dies the next-highest leader assumes command. If there are multiple leaders of the same rank the unit takes on the Animosity Attribute, though Vargrs will only snipe amongst themselves. Vargr have Augmented Senses except for at night where the Night Fighting rules (TW p. 80) apply unless using night vision equipment. Twice per game, a Vargr may use Special Rapid Movement which is 2x the usual Rapid Movement distance. Once both Special Rapid Moves have been used, the unit can only use Tactical Movement (no more Rapid Movement allowed) for the remainder of the scenario.

Using the data and personnel presented in the adventure, the unit  in Tomorrow’s War terms could looks like this:

Basic Force Attributes
Initiative Level: D8
Confidence Level: High
Supply Level: Normal
Body Armor: Combat Armor (TL2/2D)
Fusion Gunners wear TL2 Standard Power Armor (3D)
Troop Quality/Morale: D10
Overall TL: 2 On Grid: Normally, No.
Attributes: Medic, Old School
(Vargr use special rule; see Third Squad)

Broadsword Mercenary Contingent
Command Element

Troop Commander w/Auto Pistols (Gauss Rifle Available) (Leader +2)
Leading Sergeant w/ Gauss Rifle
Runner (Vargr) w/Gauss Rifle

First Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
ATV Driver w/Auto Pistol
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Second Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +1)
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +1)
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
ATV Driver w/Auto Pistol
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Third Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +2)
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
Demolitions Specialist (Carries Breaching Charges, Sticky Bombs, Satchel Charges/Limpet Mines)
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Available Assets
[Asset/Operational Momentum Points Expended]
ATV/4
Man-Portable Tac Missiles/2 (Different versions available: Anti-Air – treat as Light AD Environment; Anti-Armor – treat as TL2 ATGM; Anti-Personnel – TL 2 ABW Lt AP:2; each soldier can carry a single round; can be fired in lieu of regular weapon)
Modular Cutter in Interface Strike Mode/12
Modular Cutter with Assault Boat Module/10
Modular Cutter with ATV Module/10
Modular Cutter with Weapons Module/8

Vehicles/Landers
ATV
TL:2, Wheeled
Armament: Gatling Laser (TL 1 EWS, Lt. AP: 2/AT:1 (L)
Front/Side/Rear/Deck Armor: each 3D8

Crew: 1+15
Attributes: TL2 Armor, Amphibious
Note: The ATV does not carry a dedicated gunner; gunner must come from carried passengers

Air Raft
TL 2, AGV (but treat as DTV for movement)
Armament: Light MG (TL2 ABW, Lt AP: 2)
Armor: Soft-Skinned 1D6
Crew: 1+3
Attributes: Open-topped

Modular Cutter
As Interface Strike (6x Medium PGM)
As Dropship – Combat Modules Carried:
– ATV Module (1xATV)
– Assault Boat Module (16x troops in 2x sections; upon landing power spades scoop out entrenchments and troops drop through bottom doors; troops in entrenchments are in Improved Cover (+2D))
Other Combat Modules Available:
Weapons Module (Triple Laser Turret, TL2 EWS, Hvy AP: 4/AT:2(H); can only fire when Cutter is grounded)

Gauss Rifle

I originally made the design decision to ignore the 4cm RAM GL but now am thinking twice. Some of the color commentary from Central Supply Catalogue (CSC p. 81) is needed to understand a few of my (new) design decisions:

“Rifle, Gauss 4mm…The round itself consists of a dense armour piercing core…excellent stopping power and good armour penetration…A single-shot RAM grenade launcher is fitted…takes two full combat rounds to load a new grenade…either the rifle or the grenade launcher may be fired in a given round….”

Comparative damage in Traveller terms is 4d6 AP for the Gauss Rifle and 6d6 for a 40mm grenade (CSC p. 81/p. 109).

With all that in mind, I propose:

Gauss Rifle w/4cm RAM GL, TL2 (Lt. AP:0*/AT:1(L) *Note: Armor Piercing – When used in Infantry Combat target reduced by 1D of armor/cover; Grenade Launcher can be used as Support Weapon (Lt. AP:1) in lieu of Gauss Rifle in ONE Round of Fire or Close Assault per turn (no armor piercing bonus)

The Lt. AP:0 looks funny but this is to avoid making the Gauss Rifle a super weapon. With Lt. AP:0 each figure has a Firepower of 1D when firing the Gauss Rifle; whereas if I call it Lt. AP:1 each figure gets 2D Firepower (Number of Figures + Special Weapon Dice – see Firepower Table on P. 62 of Tomorrow’s War). Also, by making it Lt. AP:1 (representing the 4cm GL) the weapon gets the advantages of a Support Weapon – making it worth 2D FP in combat (TW p. 60-61) – but not so much that it counts as an Advanced Support Weapon (TW p. 74-76).

Sources Used: Adventure 7 Broadsword (Classic Traveller), Alien Module 3 Vargr (Classic Traveller), Mongoose Traveller Pocket Rulebook, Mongoose Traveller Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977 – 2008 Far FutureEnterprises.

Wargame Wednesday – Tomorrow’s War SOP

Elite Soldier by wiredgear

I am still trying to get Tomorrow’s War up to a condition I really call playable. I have been over the Rule Book more than a few times and think I may have something close to a workable Sequence of Play.

Basic infantry combat in Tomorrow’s War plays well but when one tries to add in all the extra modules (vehicles, artillery, etc.) it quickly becomes confusing. It certainly appears the developer did not put all the pieces together to see the seams in integration. For instance, in Infantry Combat you modify Firepower, whereas in Mechanized Combat modifiers are to Defense. Generally the modifiers are for the same reason (Tech Level, movement, etc.) but in Infantry Combat you add/subtract from Firepower unlike in Mechanized Combat where you add/subtract from defense. The net result is the same but confusing because there is a lack of internal consistency to the rules.

Like I have said before, the whole game sorta feels thrown together. A complete Sequence of Play is lacking. Below is what I think is a good stab at a complete SOP:

1. Campaign – Spend Operational Momentum Points (p. 177 Spending Operational Momentum Points)

2. Initiative (p. 38-40 Initiative)

3. Apply Loss of Grid penalties (p. 159 Loss of Grid)

House Rule: Units in a TL2 or TL3 force that suffer Loss of Grid are considered Pinned for purposes of FIRE COMBAT at this point; MOVEMENT restrictions for units Pinned this way take effect during the Action/Reaction segment.

4. First Aid; Call for Medic; CASEVAC – Walking Wounded (p. 64-68 Casualty and Casualty Evacuation)

5. Stress Test (p. 88 Stress Test)/Regain Confidence (p. 88 Regaining Confidence)

6. Morale: Pull Back Units noted as Regrouping (p. 86 Pull Back)

7. VTOL Morale Check (p. 134 VTOL Damage Effects – VTOL Damage Chart – Withdraw)

8. Arrival of Reinforcements (p. 37 Start New Turn – Arrival of Reinforcements, Hot Spots); Insurgency Level Test (p. 168 Insurgency Level and Reinforcements)

9. Resolve Airstrikes (p. 126 Calling in an Airstrike)

10. Dropship Landing (p. 130 Dropships)

11. Hot Drops/Parasail Assaults (p. 134 Hot Drops & Parasail Assaults)

12. VTOL Landing/Take-off (p. 131-132 VTOL Troop Insertions)

13. Fast Rope or Grav Belt Insertions (p. 132 Fast Rope or Grav Belt Insertions)

14. Declare (and test for) unbuttoned AFVs (p. 103 Tank Commanders – Buttoned Up & Unbuttoned)

15. Declare Hidden Units (p. 80-81 Special Fire Combat Rules – Hidden & Stealthy Units)

16. Merge Units (p. 53-54 Merging Units)

17. Declare Controlled Dumb Bot; Recall Bots (p. 144 Independent Dumb Bots; p. 146 Recalling a Separated Bot)

18. Drone/UAV Detection Check (p. 80 Aerial Drones and Hidden Units); Distributed Drones Grid Quality Check vs Hidden Units (p. 148 Distributed Drones)

19. Disperse/Manipulate/Transform Mobs (p. 160 Regular and Civilian Mobs, p. 161 “Popular” Leaders and Civilian Mobs)

20. Declare Overwatch Units (p. 70 Special Fire Combat Rules – Overwatch)

21. Initiative Force activates unit (p. 41 Actions)

• House Rule: If a TL2 or TL3 force with Initiative suffers from Loss of Grid, the active unit must act as if Pinned (p. 159 Loss of Grid, p. 86 Pinned)

22. Resolve Reactions (p. 41+ Actions and Reactions); Round of Fire (p. 41-44 Reactions)

• Resolve Reaction Tests starting with non-Initiative unit nearest to activated unit and work outward

• Resolve Reactions starting with non-Initiative units that lost; nearest to farthest from Active unit

• Resolve Reactions where non-Initiative units won Reaction Test nearest to farthest from Active unit

23. Repeat 21 and 22 until all Initiative Units have been activated (p. 35 SOP)

24. End Phase

• After all Initiative units have activated, any Non-Initiative units that has not made a Reaction during turn may move and/or fire.

• Regular Initiative units who are fired at may react as part of a Round of Fire, as may units on Overwatch (p. 35 SOP)

25. Move civilian mobs (p. 160 Civilians on the Battlefield)

26. Morale: Pinned units become “un-pinned” (p. 86 Pinned)

27. Grid Quality Check/Jamming Grid Quality Check (p. 155 Grid Quality Check, p. 158 Jamming the Grid)

• No ECM Unit present = “regular” Grid Quality Check

• ECM Unit present = “Jamming the Local Grid” check

28. Remove Smoke (p. 74 Smoke)

Wargame Wednesday – Tomorrow’s War Really is Yesterday

Courtesy BGG

Product:Tomorrow’s War: Science Fiction Wargaming Rules (Ambush Alley Games/Osprey Publishing, 2011).

System: Force on Force. The game is self-touted as “a science fiction military miniatures wargame with emphasis on “hard” science fiction rather than “Space Opera” or “Science Fantasy” (p. 5).

Appearance: Mid-size (9.6”x7.7”x0.9”) full-color hardcover. Cover art is a bit dark but evocative of setting. Content is 260 double-column pages with border art. Inset text-boxes and tables use a darker shade of green-gray for offset which is easy to distinguish from the core test. Interior art is a mix of color miniature photos and artwork.

Content: Twelve (12) chapters along with Introduction, five Appendix, Fog of War Cards and Index.

  • Introduction (5 pages) – The true introduction is written by Jon Tuffley, designer of my favorite future skirmish rules Stargrunt II. Here is where you also find the time and distance scale (both undefined) as well as Designer’s Notes (in two sections – core text and an inset box)
  • Tomorrow’s War: Interstellar Combat in the 24th Century (24 pages) – Introduces the “optional” setting. Can be a bit confusing since several game concepts (such as Tech Level) are discussed without any game reference to assist in understanding
  • Commonly Used Terms and Concepts (2 pages) – Not an index but a compilation of 20+ items; interestingly most do not appear to be cross-referenced with the index
  • The Turn Sequence (3 pages) – Details the Sequence of Play for “Equivalent Forces.” Through experience I have discovered this chapter covers only a very basic game and does not cover many of the other rules
  • The Basics of Play (10 pages) – Covers “the basic, recurring mechanics” though “the actual application of these mechanics is explained in more detail later” (p. 38)
  • Units & Leaders (8 pages) – “…explains the structure and characteristics that define the nature of units and leaders” (p. 48)
  • Infantry Combat (44 pages) – The heart of the game and in many ways the “basic rules.” This section ends with a 3+ page “Putting It All Together: Lost & Found” scenario that attempts to showcase the rules just introduced
  • Mechanized Combat (25 pages) – Rules for vehicles and interactions with them. Ends with the “Putting It All Together: Tigers by the Tail” scenario
  • Close Air Support and Interface Operations (12 pages) – Rules for airstrikes and VTOLs and paradrops; no “Putting It All Together” scenario provided here
  • Off-Board Artillery (6 pages) – Artillery fire mission rules. Ends with the “Putting It All Together: The First Battle of Vallin Farm” scenario
  • Special Unit Types (23 pages) – I call this the sci-fi special rules section; robots and drones and aliens and (most importantly) the Grid – or network centric battlefield rules. Ends with the “Putting It All Together: Bugs in the Reactor” scenario
  • Asymmetric Engagements (7 pages) – An obvious nod to asymmetric warfare of today (and a legacy of the Force on Force rules), this section covers rules for irregular units. The scenario “Putting It All Together: Ambush at Bonaventure Crossing” is found here
  • Tomorrow’s Campaign (17 pages) – Designed to make your games more than just “one-shot” scenarios. Adds an “After Action Sequence” as well as rules for developing your combat team and combat fatigue. Even talks about how to build an insurgency
  • Appendix 1: Common Unit and Vehicle Attributes (8 pages) – Defines attributes for squads and vehicles
  • Appendix 2: Organization Examples (16 pages) – Uses the “optional” Tomorrow’s War setting
  • Appendix 3: Vehicle Examples (8 pages) – Again uses the “optional” setting
  • Appendix 4: Scenarios (20 pages) – Lays out five scenarios yet again based on the “optional” setting
  • Appendix 5: Artwork (1 page) – Credit where credit is due
  • Fog of War Cards (16 pages) – Actually eight sheets since each is printed front-back. Not made to be cut out unless you do it yourself
  • Index (2 pages)

Comment: I have already stated my bias above; when it comes to sci-fi skirmish games I love Stargrunt II as well as Striker from the Traveller game line. I am also a long-time RPG player where in many cases combat is basically a skirmish rule set.

Verdict:  BLUF – There is a good game here…somewhere.

I bought this game as an impulse buy at Barnes & Noble. I saw the beautifully illustrated hardback on the shelf and was sure that the association with Osprey Publishing would guarantee the inside to be lavish and interesting. So what if it was $34.95 retail? I get my 10% off as a B&N member! Surely it is worth $31.50, it’s Osprey! I have to say the package is a bit disappointing. Inside you don’t find the nice Osprey 3-D maps or the Osprey uniforms that are so wonderfully detailed. Instead you get pseudo-computer display maps and artwork that is evocative but not the “Osprey style” that I associate with the name. I do like the miniatures photos (actually I am jealous of all those nicely painted models).

I was also drawn in by the promises in the Designer’s Notes. The authors boast:

“This isn’t to say that Tomorrow’s War is just a modern or WWII wargame dressed up in a space-suit. The battles you’ll see unfold on your table will have some things in common with those fought today or even sixty plus years ago (tactical skill and human factors of morale and confidence will always make themselves felt as long as men are present on the battlefield), but you will see significant differences. We’ve gone to great lengths to model the presence and impact of realistic advances in technology with these rules. You’ll see robotics used to support (and sometimes replace) human troops on the field and the impact of a truly networked command structure. These and other “futuristic” developments will make your games of Tomorrow’s War unique in flavor, both from other science fiction games and from historical games in general.” (p. 8)

Unfortunately, I think Ambush Alley misfired with Tomorrow’s War. I expect more from a system that costs over $30 and claims it is going to be a “unique” experience. Indeed, for a game that draws on their Force on Force roots I expected more finished package. To begin with, the order of rules is horrible. Everything from Terms & Concepts through Infantry Combat is essentially the basic game but some rules are introduced before other dependent rules and there is little cross-referencing. This makes it hard to follow. Fortunately, you can play this part as the Sequence of Play is (generally) complete.

Mechanized Combat to Asymmetric Engagements feels more like bolt-on modules that can be added or subtracted from the game. But even doing that is hard because there is no overall Sequence of Play beyond the very basic one introduced early in the book. So many rules state that they take place at the nebulous “beginning of a turn” without further detail. I cannot help but feel that each of these “modules” was built in a vacuum from one another or even the basic game. The “Putting It All Together” scenarios are a great idea but fail in execution. For example, the “Tigers by the Tail” scenario at the end of Mechanized Combat focuses on infantry versus vehicles only; for vehicle versus vehicle combat you have to use “The First Battle of Vallin Farm” which doesn’t have any artillery though it is located in that section. “Vallin Farm” also uses the Grid which is not covered until the next section! Indeed, only one other scenario (Scenario 4) has anybody on the grid.

Nearly 20% of the book (closer to 25% if you count the scenarios) is devoted to the “optional” setting. This is not as bad as it seems since I find the “optional” setting quite well thought out and interesting enough. I especially like the stories in the flavor text. This focus does make me think Ambush Alley missed their chance to try and make the game a “generic” system. Why not show us a mercenary tank regiment? How about two armies with one based on genetic replicants and the other on Smart Bots? What about humans against a force of bots and synthetics? Oh by the way, synthetics are talked about in the flavor text but there are NO RULES!

Then there are the Fog of War cards. First off, these are not cards or even sheets but pages. There is no clean way to cut them out. Sure, Ambush Alley says you can go to their webpage and download a version. That is what I want to do after spending over $30 – NOT!

The two items that the designers hang their hat on as the core of the “unique” gaming experience, bots and the Grid, are covered in 11 pages,or less than 5% of the overall content. The Grid appears in only two of 10 scenarios. Bots actually do not appear in ANY scenario though you do get one scenario with bugs (aliens) and one with powered armor.

I don’t think Ambush Alley achieved their goal of avoiding a modern game dressed up in a spacesuit. Nice concept; poor execution.