Tomorrow’s War- First Impressions.
I’ve been lucky enough to be given a review copy of Tomorrow’s War by Osprey Publishing and Ambush Alley Games. I’m not affiliated with either, and haven’t been involved in the playtesting or development of the game, so beyond getting a free copy of the game I hope I can be reasonably objective.
I have only skimmed the book so far (in casualty whilst I was waiting for Amazing Geek Girl to get her head X-rayed after a nasty collision during her adventure race yesterday), but I’ll give you my first impressions.
The book is hardbound and full colour throughout (like the new version of Force on Force). The interior text is crisp and readable, and the pages are well laid out with good use of art and graphics. Pictures of models from a variety of Sci-fi ranges including (that I have seen so far) GZG (of course...), Khurasan, Old Crow, Pig Iron and Combat Wombat.
The first section of the book details the default setting for the TW universe, which I dipped in and out of. It seems perfectly serviceable, but I already have a background in mind for my games, so will probably just steal bits from it. I do like the names, though - The Republic or Arden and Democratic Peoples Republic Of Glory - with its Dear Leader Mk1 and Mk2 tanks- very North Korea In Spaaaaaaace.
The rules that I read are similar to the the aforementioned Force on Force and use a couple of systems that I'm unsure about. The first one is that in each turn, events are effectively dictated by who gets initiative. The player with the initiative (IP) activates all of their units one by one, and the non-initiative player (NIP) then tries to react to them. Once the IP has finished activating units, the NIP gets to try and activate any that are left. There are a couple of wrinkles to this basic system, but essentially it means the IP gets to act, the NIP gets to react.
I quite like the thought behind this, and can see how it reflects modern/near future combat where if you act decisively and aggressively towards achieving your goals and you can keep up the initiative of your actions you will be more likely to succeed.
I, however, have been accused of being a very Queen Theory, reactive war gamer (Queen theory - you concentrate on taking out the most units or the biggest, baddest unit on the table; King Theory - you concentrate on meeting the objectives) who is good in defensive scenarios, but too timid in attacking, so I'm not sure how I'll take to it.
The other area of uncertainty for me is that the figures on the table don't actually represent where the figures are, but an "area of control" for that unit. You don't fire at individual figures, but at the unit, and the majority of the unit has to be X for X to take effect - cover, AOE attacks and so on. To me, this is open to abuse. I like simple, unambiguous situations where it's clear what is and isn't the case. I've had too many arguments about rule interpretations over the years and can see that this would cause many more (another thing I've been accused of more than once is being argumentative - I, of course, disagree with this most strongly...).
Throughout the book there are many examples to show how the rules work in effect, which is most welcome. The rules are also divided up sensibly, with scenarios using the rules at the end of each section, so you can apply what you have read about in a practical way. This is a very nice touch as it means you can get playing without having to digest the whole, weighty tome.
There are rules for differing tech levels and how to build interesting alien races, so you could have plucky human resistance fighters facing off against weird high-tech aliens, or tech savvy marines fighting against toothy, acid blooded aliens, or stealthy, invisible hunters. All of these could be created very easily using those rules.
My next step is to have a game with my two nephews, who I'll call Goblin (11) and Orc (14). They enjoy gaming and enthusiastically critique each rule set we try them out on. They are both fans of the TV series Falling Skies, so I might try a scenario with some plucky human resistance fighters facing off against weird high-tech aliens.
In summary, I'm very impressed by my first look. I don't think I've seen a set of war games rules with such high production values for a long time. The rules are clear and well explained and appear to comprehensively cover everything that i was looking for. Ambush Alley and Osprey have clearly got a good partnership going if this is anything to judge by and if they can keep the quality of content and product up, they will be on to a winner.