Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Chain Reaction 2015 playtest 1: Rebel Rescue Raid

These ARE the droids for which you are looking! 
In proper English, the language of the Empire
Vintage C3PO Rap Video Featuring R2-D2

Having read the rules three times, gotten questions answered thrice at the forum, and played wrong several times, I finally felt like I understood the rules well enough to playtest the game for real and post it.  The rules are free at this location:
Free 2-Hour Wargames.com
And as will be seen elsewhere on the site, it has applications - for sale - in a number of different genres. Obviously, that's why they want you to try the rules.  This is necessary since the rules are quite different from most rules where players intent is almost always met, and the main source of friction is player error or bad dice rolling.

The main problem is that while the rules are written reasonably clearly, what the rules actually mean in game play is not as well explained, and the included explanatory diagrams don't illustrate the full implications of the rules as written [an unfortunate lost opportunity]. With 34 years of gaming behind me, including several games designed, developed and a few published, I feel that says a lot for the challenge of a newbie to read and play the rules correctly. In short, I don't see how a newcomer to the hobby would reach the conclusions that one is supposed to upon reading the rules and translating them into game play. Hopefully, this post will help out, because I feel these rules are worth the effort.

One of the appeals of the design concept of all 2HW designs is that they can be played solo, all players against the game [you'd still have to move and roll for the enemy] or player - on - player.  This design concept results in a game system that is very accommodating to one of the chief limits of modern gaming culture, which is time / inclination to actually get together. With constant distraction and entertainment provided by smartfones, people's time, energy and interest is limited for live interaction and social connection. Also, let's face it, people's attention span is rapidly decreasing, so any attempt to create a continuing storyline in any game is a challenge!

With all that said, I enjoy the challenge of cultivating community as well as playing the occasional solo game.  I figured out how the rules play, which took several playtests and multiple close-reading of forum replies, and the first result is below using my Wizards of the Coast pre-painted plastics from their now-unsupported Star Wars collectible miniatures game. Overall, I think these figures are perfect, taken as a whole, providing durable miniatures that are quickly available, as well as one of the most famous backstories in the modern world. As tragically flawed as the world is philosophically, theologically and realistically, it is still a rich place to mine for stories, and that is an important part of gaming, IMHO.

Scenario: Rebel raid to rescue a droid from the evil hands of the Empire. 
In this case, a force of New Republic Commandos is seeking to liberate an astro-droid with information critical to the survival of the Rebellion against the Empire [stop me if you've heard this before...]. The Rebel commandos must enter the board, beat enemy forces and retrieve the droid.

Below, setup and start. In the center of the 3x3' board are the targets of the rescue.  They are not in that location, it just reminds me what the objective of the game is! The Rebel force has a Reputation [Rep] 5 Star with a semi-automatic rifle - SAR, three Grunts with Rep 4 [one Squad Auto Weapon - SAW, and two SAR] and an alien scout, local rebel agent of the planet Caina V, with Rep 3 and a Pistol - P. 

The force attempts a Fast Move [FM] onto the board, scoring a 6 and 2 for one Success, resulting in 4" of bonus movement to their regular move of 8", or 12" total [each success on a FM attempt results in 4" extra movement]. Given the mission parameters, and my past experiences, they move not to the buildings but towards the best cover they can find on an indirect approach path. They have to clear or confront one or two PEFs before tackling the buildings which are much more likely to have an actual enemy force in them.

Below, turn 1: the Imperial Force is not yet revealed.  Instead, three Possible Enemy Force tokens are placed onto the board rolling a d6.  The board has nine sections and three are at the entry point of the attacking Rebels.  The remaining six are numbered 1-6 and red sighting markers denote the cross-section points for sake of the viewer. So 1-3 are the top three left to right, and 4-6 are the middle three sections, left to right. 7-9 are the bottom three sections, and enemy PEFs do not start in them.

3d6 are rolled to place the PEFs.  With a 2, 2, and a 4, they go into the middle of the woods in area 2 and the building in area 4.  They do NOT have Line of Sight [LoS] outside the building or woods at this point. LoS is always mutual, by figure, and one needs to be within 1" of the woods edge or at a window/door of a building to see/be seen across the board.

Turn 1 below. Activation is rolled, with the Empire rolling a 6 and the Rebels rolling a 4. Thus, the Empire wins Activation but as they can only activate with Groups that have a Rep of 6 or higher, and all their PEFs are Rep 4, they cannot activate anyone.  Losing with a 4, the Rebels can activate their Group second since it is led by a Rep 5 leader. 

The Rebels fast move with two passes for the entire force. Fast Move is rolling two dice equal or lower than the individual Rep of each member of the group, in this case Reps of 5, 4, 4, 4 & 3.  Rolling a 1 & 2 on d6 means that the entire Group has passed with two dice, for 4" Fast Move more each, or 16" total.  

The Rebel force zips up the right flank 10", keeping the woods entirely between them and the enemy [out of LoS] until moving into the woods the last 3" of movement [woods costs double to move through] and taking up firing positions at the edge of the woods. As they are Active, and are not in LoS of any PEFs, there is no possibility of them provoking a Reaction Test, so they will also count as in Cover during the next round of activations.  If there was an enemy Group in LoS, then I would've had them go Prone at the end of their movement for free.

Turn 2 below, is a repeat of the last Turn of rolling, the Empire again rolls too high to activate anyone, a distinct possibility of rolling higher during the Activation roll-off. In essence, one wants to win the roll with a low roll, which allows more of your force to activate. If you lose, you want to lose on a natural '3' or less since that will let you activate everyone you have in your force. The lowest Rep in CR2015 is Rep3. 

The Rebels like their position: in Cover and controlling the open space between them and the PEFs with firepower. They sit tight and do nothing, awaiting the Imperials blundering up to them [not that that ever happens...right?]

Turn 3, below, the Imperials win Activation but also roll low enough to finally resolve their PEFs. The first, the farthest away in the building, fails 2 dice and does nothing - the possible enemy force is apparently sitting around talking about the latest landspeeder adverts. The second farthest is at the top of the woods. They get Two Passes, rolling 4's on the white dice, and move to the edge of the woods and into LoS of the Rebels in the other woods. They then roll Two Passes - a 4 & 1 - and become an actual enemy force. They then roll a '5' which makes them two larger than the Rebel force of five. 

Given the size of the force, and that they are military, I give them a Rep5 leader, four Rep4 Stormtroopers [1 with SAW] and two Rep3 techs in black, just barely visible on the ends. As the PEF has been resolved and actualized into a real enemy force that is in LoS, we will now roll-off the In Sight Test [IST]. Note that the Imperials have the option to move 2" after coming into LoS [and actually being a real force] but with a strong force and some firepower edge, plus usual Imperial aggressiveness in the face of "Rebel Scum" I go ahead with the roll-off. If the Imps get some damage, I feel they're reaction test will give them an opportunity hiding won't. Clearly, the player has to make some decisions based upon the scenario - losing an IST is pretty bad since the enemy will shoot first.

Turn 3, IST roll-off below. The Imperials are activating, so need to beat the Rebels for successes against the Rep of their leader, so 5 on Rep 5 for the Rebels. Note - I should've taken away 1 dice for each side due to the concealment they both had in the woods. As it was an even roll-off either way, not a big deal. The Imperials are well led! They win the roll-off with two successes to one. A success is rolling a 1-3, failure is a 4-6 on d6. This lets them act first, and they must Fire according to the rules. This will be bad - very bad - since they've a lot of firepower and the SAW has a higher Target value - 4 v, 2 on SAR and 1 on P - and will Outgun all the Grunts. Stars are never Outgunned.

Turn 3, In-Sight Reaction Fire by Imperials. First, one has to assign each weapon and it's dice to each enemy soldier. You must assign 1 dice to every Target before you can assign 2, and 2 dice before 3. Below, the SAW has four dice spread out on the squad - everyone but the Rep 3 alien who's not that good, anyway. The two Imperial Techs shoot their P's at the Rep 3 alien. The remaining three Stormtroopers put their two dice on each Rep 4 Grunt, while the Rep 5 Imp Group Leader shoots a P against the Star.

Turn 3 below, the dice are rolled and lined up. As the Rebels are in Cover, the total of the dice rolled and the Rep of the shooter must be >10  and anything less than 7 is always a miss.. 

Turn 3 below, the misses are removed. The Techs miss the Alien, rolling a total of 4 and 6. The SAW-trooper gets two clear hits with two 6's + Rep4, and two misses with an 8 and 7. 8-9 are misses when the Target is in Cover. The Group Leader hits rolling a 5 + Rep5, and the two Stormtroopers with SAR each get a hit on one target, rolling 6s.

Turn 3 below, the hit results are figured out. In CR2015, if you roll a natural 6, the target is "obviously dead" [OD] with head blown off, etc. If you roll the Target's Rep or higher, they are Out of the Fight [OoF] and cannot do anything except get dragged off the field by their friends. This is where you really find out who your friends are! If the roll is below the Rep of the figure, the figure gets a Duck Back [DB] and hides, in cover, out of LoS of the enemy. If in the open, they would Go Prone and still be in mutual LoS, but being prone results in misses up through 8. 

The results from L to R are DB, DB/OD [removed], DB, OD [removed]. The two OD figures are pulled back, laying down in the pic. The two DBs are pulled back an inch to signify they've DB'd. The Rebels have now lost two of their five, and have to take the Reaction Tests for Received Fire and Man Down [the two OD guys].

Turn 3, Reaction Tests for Received Fire and Man Down below. They roll 2d6 for the Group, and a bonus d6 because the Leader is with them. This results in three passes for everyone, which is limited to the max of two passes. Even the Rep 3 Alien passes on the '3', but you max at two passes. 

Looking at the chart, the results are applied to each figure's Rep individually, with the Leader and Rebel Commando having no effect - their Damage Result was "Duck Back, no Reaction Test taken. And even if the result did apply using the Man Down Reaction Test, it is only "Carry On" so they Carry On with their Ducking Back I guess! The Alien has two passes and applies them to BOTH Reaction Tests, getting a "Carry On" from the Man Down test and a "Return Fire" from the Received Fire test. Applying the worse result, means the Alien returns fire. This is actually worse than Carrying On since his fire will provoke a reaction test from the powerful Imperial squad and result in him getting blasted, most likely.

Turn 3 below, the Alien misses and the Imps react. In their reaction, the Imperial squad gets two passes, returns fire, and gets four 6s which is four Hits. These result in three OoF and one DB result. These don't add up, so he takes the worst result and is OoF.

Turn 3 Imperial Activation Concludes. The Imps go to their next farthest PEF and roll two failures v. the Rep4, so do nothing. The last PEF in the building rolls two passes - the 3 and 2 - but is not in LoS so will not be resolved. I accidentally rolled to resolve it but forgot to take the dice out of the pic. Also, I should've resolved the one in the building first as it is farthest at this point, THEN the second PEF in the woods.

Turn 3 Rebel Activation below. Remember, there is a Rebel activation in this turn! With two unresolved PEFs, and a large squad with overwhelming firepower already pasting their pitiful force, the two surviving Rebels gather up their wounded scout and run, leaving their dead for the Imps. The Star can automatically retrieve wounded, Grunts have to roll to do so.

Conclusions. Well, this was pretty much a RAW playtest. I had to make a couple of decisions in the forces, like choosing Military force for Imperials and the Rebels alike. As the potential to roll strong enemy forces in the RAW is about 50-50, if you want a squad to survive over several encounters, you had better balance that desire against the game's mechanics! 

Next time, I'm going with a more thematic approach, with the Rebel Commandos staying the same while the Imps roll randomly on the Ganger / Guerilla table, to represent the bias of screen writers against them, as well as the concept of the Rebel force being elite, hand-picked commandos. I guess what they really needed was a Jedi, eh?

I think that the Action-Reaction system works just fine, with pretty realistic results. The gamer has to make a few decisions like when to go prone, but common sense can prevail. My lessons for next time will be that anytime anyone activating can be fired upon, but is not in Cover, they will go prone, except when resolving a PEF. I feel that is the only advantage the attacker has, that patrol work tends to result in boredom and no amount of threats by superiors are going to force soldiers to walk around doing combat rushes on a routine patrol! However, once shooting begins, I will always allow PEFs to go prone since it is now proven that there IS an enemy out there!

One unrealistic aspect is knowing the Reps of the enemy, and placing your dice to the best effect. Obviously, not usually possible to quickly gauge the quality of an enemy squad in a visual encounter, but perhaps... The alternative would be to randomly place dice, but since one has to spread them around anyway it's not a big deal.

While I wish I had WWII or other "real" combatants, at the moment, I don't have anything painted up. The Star Wars stuff is fun and one doesn't have to take it seriously, since it is from cinema and not Afghanistan. I think the rules will work well for any generic setting, and provide a nice basis for hosting a game at home or the store without a lot of effort learning and teaching rules. And everyone knows the Star Wars 'verse, anyway. 

So, another playtest is coming up with the modifications to the Imperials and a second attempt to rescue that un-named astro-mech droid who has information critical to the survival of the Rebellion against the Empire!


  1. Thanks for taking the time to play and post. Also nice that it is a very clear example of how the mechanics work. Just out of curiosity, did you use the Stop boxes that are in the rules?

  2. One more observation. After running literally over 100 games over 15 years at conventions all around the country, you'll see that the players won't need you after the third turn. Also newbies pick the game up much faster than experienced gamers who have been exposed to other rules - especially those using IGOUGO. Thanks again,

  3. Ed, thanks for dropping in - to the reader, Ed T is THE 2HW guru dude. I used the stop boxes on my read thru, and answered the questions from memory whenever possible. I found them helpful, and a good idea.

    As for second comment, I bet you're right! The game will probably be easier for people who do First-Person Shooter video games than some old geezer who grew up using IGO-UGO.

    My only suggestion would be to use a combo of stop-boxes and diagrams to clearly illustrate the tactical implications of the In Sight Test, as it more or less shapes ones decisions from Turn 1. Not that massacring a few Rebel forces is a bad thing, but it will accelerate the learning curve.

  4. I should add that I found your AARs at 2HW blog really helpful.