Friday, 13 April 2012

Shoot the Big Ones!

This afternoon my brother and I tried out Tomorrow's War, a 28mm sci-fi skirmish wargame. We were using our Warhammer 40K models, so the first thing we had to do was to translate the units into TW profiles. As this was our first game (more to learn the rules than anything) we kept things simple and had only two unit types each. My force consisted of four Imperial Guard fireteams (each four Guardsmen with lasguns) and two lascannon teams, while Vaughan had 3 Termagant broods (each of 6 Gaunts) and 3 Tyranid Warriors. We stated these out as follows;

Troop Quality: d8 Irregulars
Morale: d8 Normal Confidence
Equipment: Light body armour, SMGs
Special Rules: Caveman CASEVAC

Tyranid Warrior
Troop Quality: d10 Regular
Morale: d12 High Confidence
Equipment: Medium body armour, light support weapons
Special Rules: Hive node, Hard to Kill (d6), Caveman CASEVAC

Imperial Guardsman
Troop Quality: d8 Regular
Morale: d8 Normal Confidence
Equipment: Light body armour
Special Rules: -

TL2 Medium Laser, AP2/AT2

We agreed on a simple set of victory conditions. Vaughan had "get a unit across the halfway mark" and "kill lascannon teams" as Major objectives (5 VP each), and "kill fireteams" as Minor objectives (2 VP each). I had "kill Tyranid Warriors" as Major, and "kill Termagant broods" as Minor. Since it seemed more logical for a Tyranid horde to be rushing towards Guard defenders than vice-versa we agreed Vaughan would have the initiative first turn, after which it would be rolled.

Bugs versus Troopers

Rather than a simple IGO-UGO turn (like 40K, FoW), or even alternating activations (Epic, DW), Tomorrow's War uses a neat Action-Reaction system. Whichever side has the initiative picks a unit and takes an Action with it - this can be a Move then Fire, Fire then Move, go on Overwatch, etc. Once this is declared (but before it is resolved) the other side gets to declare Reactions from as many of their units as they like. So for example, Vaughan declared his first Action to be rapid moving a brood of Gaunts foward, then firing at one of my fireteams. I then had two of my fireteams take Reactions, firing at the Gaunts. We then rolled to see what order these actions would be resolved, resolved them, and Vaughan declared his next Action. 

Mid turn 2, Gaunts charging at the Guard line
It turned out I got to fire first... and it was about now we discovered a significant negative (IMO) of the system. It needs a lot of d8's and d10's. And you can't just reroll a couple of dice either, you need to have enough. How it works is, the shooting unit rolls a number of dice (start with 1 dice per firing model, modify for circumstance), and the defender rolls a number of dice (again start with 1 dice per defending model, modify). Any rolls less than 4 are discarded, and then the defender gets to match their rolls against the attackers. Any defense roll that exceeds an attack roll can negate that dice. Any attacker rolls that are left at the end of this are hits.

We typically found we were rolling between 3 and 7 dice in both attack and defense. As an old school D&D player I had (or thought I had) plenty of polyhedral dice, but I only had five d8's, and we needed at least 10 or more. We scrapped them up (borrowing from his fellow D&D-playing flatmates, and using d10's rerolling 9+) but I do regard this as a big weakness of the TW system.

Another weakness came when we were trying to decide on LoS. The rules say (and unfortunately I'm not kidding) to measure between a point roughly in the middle of the firing unit to a point roughly in the middle of the target unit. I'm sorry, but to me that is an absolutely useless and handwavy non-rule, a recipe for disagreement. My brother and I agreed to a house rule where we designated one model in the unit as the measurement point, and I'll probably stick to this in future.

Overall, I have to say Tomorrow's War is an even mixture of parts I absolutely love and parts I absolutely hate. The system has some great ideas, it's versatile enough to cover almost any sci-fi army, and it plays fast and smoothly on the table. It will need quite a few houserules to patch some of the worse aspects of the system, but the core rules seem good enough to make this worth the effort.

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