Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The one where I try out Chain Reaction 3.0: Final Version

It occurred to me that while I had lamented that Chain Reaction 1.0 /Guns & Girls did not use the same mechanics as the original Six Gun Sound, I had yet to read or try the new Chain Reaction 3.0: Final Version rules from Two Hour Wargames.

Before the Game

On Sunday night, I read through the PDF. I was struck by the workbook like feel. At the end of each section there are questions and exercises that quiz you on the preceding section's main points. As I dislike rules reviews that contain the statement "I didn't try the rules but...", I diligently grabbed some figures - 1/32 Russians and Germans -  and followed along.

In my opinion, this feature makes these among the most understandable set of THW rules I've laid my hands on (excluding the 1st ed. of Six Gun Sound, which I thought was clear). I definitely needed to page through the rules during the game, and would probably still need to ask questions on the highly active Yahoo! group for unusual situations, but the basics are all here. Not to say I got it right when I played (as you'll see below, I didn't), but the exercises let me dip my toe in the water and build my enthusiasm to try the rules in an actual game.

A notable change since I last checked is the way the In-Sight test is handled and resolved. It's more clear to me now as to when to take the test and how, but I find the resolution somewhat complicated, as most other reactions are temporarily suspended during the in-sight sequence.

As with prior versions, also included are the Possible Enemy Force (PEF) rules for creating surprise in solo and cooperative games and a basic campaign structure - although there is no review exercise for these sections. There are no vehicle rules included, but I don't think anyone can complain about that. After all, for infantry only actions, you have everything you need. If you like the rules, buy one of the complete sets.

Combined with the walk through posted over on the THW blog
, I felt prepared to give it a go on Monday night.

Playing The Game

Although the rules suggest a 3' x3' playing area, I opted to go with 2' x 2' since I'm using 15mm figures and I adjusted movement and ranges accordingly.

Per the rules, I set myself up with a Star leader (Rep 5, the female zouave) and rolled up four grunts (two Rep 4 and two Rep 5) and then generated the terrain for the patrol scenario since I didn't have any particular encounter to play in mind.
Here come the co-eds!
The terrain placement rules resulted in a full but not cluttered tabletop - perfect for a small skirmish game where shooting is quick and deadly and cover is a necessity for survival.

A pleasant piece of land to take a stroll through.
 And finally, I generated an enemy activity level (EAL) of 1 and placed my 3 PEFs.

An EAL of 1 is as low as it goes, and the chances of encountering a PEF that's an enemy is just 33%. Wouldn't you know, on turn 4, I came into LOS of a PEF and rolled an encounter of a force equal in size to mine. 

Not seeing any rules as to how to determine the Reps of the enemy, I rolled on the recruitment table for each and ended up with the same distribution as my own force and then rolled the in-sight tests.

Ignoring the fact that the two Rep 5s couldn't have passed 5(they each should have lost 1 die, the enemy for moving and my sargent for the triggering figures being in cover), it's immediately apparent, that aesthetically speaking, using dice to indicate how many successes were scored for the in-sight isn't going to work for me:

The field of battle is invaded by giant dice from outer space!
The next difficulty I have is that any reactions that would result from things that happen during the In-sight tests are held until after all in-sight reactions are resolved. Maybe it's because I get minimal sleep due to Young Lord Shadowmoss going through teething and a growth spurt, but I had a good deal of trouble remembering who received fire. Man-down was easier, as I use markers to show when someone is down or Out of Fight.

Here's the table after the in-sight's and activations were resolved for Turn 4:

The wounded litter the field.
I've lost THREE of my grunts (the two Rep 4s, one wounded and one ran away, and one Rep 5, wounded) and the enemy has lost one wounded.

The enemy advances on my squad in cover (based on how I interpreted their movement roll) and a fire fight in the woods ensues. The enemy is adept at shooting, more so than I, and my star is forced to make frequent use of her star power to avoid being knocked out. 

Eventually it was just too much. At the end of turn 9 she was down to just 3 star power dice remaining and failed on all 3 - out of fight.

Two enemy dead (the peg and the counter) but it just isn't enough for our heroes to win.

Some thoughts after the game:
  • Even with group activation and reactions, I felt like I was rolling a LOT of dice. I prefer card draws to activate a side, but those days for THW are long gone. Bob Cordery's MoB uses dice for activation too, so it's not a total deal breaker, as I love that set of rules. But rolling for the in-sights and all of the other reactions, the hit, then vs. the impact to test for a kill, plus NP movement and PEF movement, and it starts to seem like that's all I'm doing, which means I feel less involved in the game.

  • I've never tried the star rules before, but I see now why I should have. In essence, they're saving throws (although some don't require any dice). While combat is quick and deadly for grunts(unless they're in cover and even then they still drop pretty fast), using the various star rules, you can keep your star going. If you're playing something less action-adventure movie and more historical, you'd probably just ignore the star rules.

  • Keeping track of who scored how many successes for in-sight with dice is too ugly, in my opinion. It works fine with just one or two figs on the board, but 5 on a side and suddenly there's a third army, a dice army, on the board. I didn't even get to the point of using markers for hunker down, duck back and the like. I think, if I decide to play again, I'll design a playing mat of sorts for handling keeping track this and tracking statuses like duck back, out of ammo, etc.
All said, I like the reaction system and using the star abilities alleviates some of my objections from previous editions (I can see even having multiple stars on one side). If I could just get over rolling dice so often, and design a way to keep track of all of the statuses off table (a roster system of sorts), I might even consider buying Nuts! or 5150.

1 comment:

  1. Keep in mind that Nuts and 5150 (Star Army) don't use the "new" in sight, and so work faster for more models.

    Also keep in mind that models dont' necessarily have to shoot when its their turn in the In Sight... they can also duck back.

    5150 New Beginnings is similar to CRFV but is more clearly for less figures.

    You could also try using the "new" in sight test but rolling by group, with the whole group acting simultaneously. I'm going to try this for some larger level games.