Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tomorrow's War: You Made Me Do This (Revisited)

Almost a year ago to the day, I posted a blog entry entitled "You Made Me Do This!"  In a nutshell, it was my rant about the terrible state of PC gaming.  At the time I had every intention of checking out of PC gaming and devoting my free time to board games and miniatures, something I hadn't done since the mid to late '90s.  Unfortunately, that never came to pass.  Shortly after setting up my first game of Tomorrow's War, I became ill and had to let it sit fallow for a few weeks.  By the time I felt better, the madness of the holidays had arrived and I just didn't have time.  Then the holidays passed, and while I did finish painting a few more miniatures, I never did recover the impetus to return to the game.

Winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer and, as is usually the case, summer turned to autumn, and now here I am, right back where I started. With the exception of needing to clear off some dust, and making a few repairs (I am discovering rubber cement cannot be trusted), the game board is almost exactly as I had left it.  Seeing how PC gaming has only marginally improved over the last year, this has proven fortuitous as I am, once again, seeking an exit.

So let's return to this futuristic battle, shall we?  It is long past due for this battle to be resolved!


Notes:

1) Obviously, all images are heavily touched up.  I have done this because a) I have become addicted to fancy PC gaming screenshots (LOL), and b) I am just a beginning miniatures player, so both my artistic skills, as well as my paltry collection of minis and terrain, need all the help they can get!  Plus, I like the graphic novel look I came up with.

2) I make no pretense about the accuracy of my rule interpretations.  I am finding Tomorrow's War to be a bit hard to digest at first.  I am also finding myself deliberately changing things just to suit my own sensibilities. One of the great things about non-PC gaming is that I can tinker with the 'programming' all I want!

3) I added graphical snow and, sometimes, a bluish tint to the images because I love winter fights when it comes to a sci-fi setting.

With that out of the way, let's begin!


This is based on Lost & Found,  the infantry-based training scenario found in the rule book.  Here, a technologically superior USMC force (on the left of the board) needs to cross a river and rescue a downed fighter pilot who is sheltering in some ruins.  A force of technologically inferior DPRG troops (deployed on the right of the board) are going to attempt to stop that from happening by ambushing the Marines.

I began by sending Fire Team 3 from its patch of wooded ground in an attempt to cross some open terrain and make it to the crashed fighter (the fighter is my personal addition to the original set-up).  Meanwhile, Fire Team 2, which was hunkering down in the same patch of woods, would provide overwatch fire if needed.

As they left the woods, Fire Team 3 came under heavy fire from a five man DPRG squad that was hiding in the patch of woods on the far right of the game table.  My overwatch team preempted their ambush by bringing them under heavy fire:

This DPRG squad took heavy fire from the Marine overwatch team when they attempted to shoot at Fire Team 3

The more advanced technology of the Marines made a big difference in this long range shoot-out:  they inflicted casualties on the enemy, stopping their ambush, and pinning them down.  The Marines received no casualties in return.

While that fight was taking place, Marine Fire Team 1 to the far north quietly made their way to their first objective, a patch of trees crowning a small hillock, meeting no resistance.

Before the battlefield could completely quiet down, however, the enemy decided to make a move of their own.  A large, seven man squad, including an officer, departed some ruins and made a quick run at the ruins where the pilot was hiding.  Their intention seemed not to be to capture the pilot, but to make a firing line along a low brick wall the lined the property, something that could prevent any attempted river crossing.  Fire Team 2 spotted the movement and open fire on the column of troops:

"Keep moving into cover!"

Again, the superior technology of the USMC weaponry took a heavy toll on this unit, pinning it down and inflicting casualties while receiving none in return.  So far, the Leather Necks were in control of the situation!



A medic was attached to the DPRG squad that was caught moving to the stone wall, something that helped lessen the severity of the casualties.

The medic (front) treats the man behind him (standing on a wound marker) while the CO orders everyone forward!
The most seriously wounded were stabilized, while the lightly wounded were stitched up and returned to duty.  Good thing, too, because they were going to need it!

The next few minutes of combat were furious as every DPRG soldier opened fire on Fire Team 3 as they attempted to cross the open ground and, eventually, ford the river and make it to the pilot's location.  Fortunately, Fire Team 2 was still on the ball and delivered devastating overwatch support to interrupt many of the planned DPRG ambushes:

Score one for the Marines!  This enemy squad's morale would break as a result of the KIA

Superior technology continued to prove decisive for the USMC.  Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time before the tremendous volume of low-tech enemy fire took their toll on the Marines.  Fire Team 3, as it neared the crossing, took its first casualty.
A DPRG team preparing to ambush USMC Fire Team 3 as it approached the crossing
The team leader was seriously injured by the squad of DPRG troops that was sheltered near the pilot's building:

Fire Team 3's leader is hit!
Their morale held, but would they be able to make it the rest of the way with such a badly wounded man?  Guess I would find out!

The SITREP at the start of Turn 4:



Despite successfully wounding the team leader for FT3, the situation looked grim for the DPRG.  Casualties were mounting, and morale was breaking.  Surely the Marines would be able to dash across the river, snatch the pilot, and get back to base in time for dinner!

Well...not so fast.  Even though the superior USMC tech had been savaging the DPRG, their troops were still a tough, committed lot.  They weren't going to allow these leathernecks to just waltz into their territory and snatch a high value target!  Whether by willpower or, more likely, by the threatening muzzle of their CO's sidearm, the DPRG suddenly roused themselves into action.  In an unexpected flash of fury, the DPRG regained the initiative from the USMC and unloaded on Fire Team 3.  Their fire was so intense that Fire Team 3 was forced to abandon their attempt to cross the river, and needed to flee for their lives!

These DPRG troopers mock the retreating Marines.  On a nearby hill, a USMC squad leader can be seen calling FT3 into cover

Even Fire Team 2's overwatch proved ineffective.  In a rare reversal, the dependable Fire Team 2 proved ineffective against the enemy.  This left Fire Team 3 totally unprotected.  Enemy fire nipped at their heels the whole way back to cover:

"We are just attacking in a different direction!"
But the DPRG wanted blood this day.  Even though the Marine fire team made it to some light cover in the form of sheltering pine trees, the DPRG fire exacted a heavy toll as the seriously wounded team leader would be hit again, this time fatally:

"Man down!"
The Marines had suffered their first KIA of the battle.  Fire Team 3 was now thoroughly shot up.  One man KIA, one man seriously wounded, it was down to half strength and incapable of fulfilling its mission.

In revenge, the USMC overwatch team did manage to shoot one member of a DPRG squad:

It was worth the price of victory!
If the news was bad for Fire Team 3, the USMC did get some good news further north. Fire Team 1 had managed to gain the upper hand in an attack launched by a DPRG team on the opposite hill.  This attacked proved to be a very bad idea as the DPRG squad wound up with three severely wounded men, one lightly wounded man, and just one man intact.  This enemy squad wouldn't be much of a factor anymore.

A calm descended on the battlefield, leaving both sides to lick their wounds.  The SITREP:


The original USMC plan was now in tatters as FT 3 was no longer in any condition to rescue the pilot. It  looked like Fire Team 1 might have to leave the fringes of the battlefield and attempt a crossing at the ford located further north, near a lake.

With time running out, the success of this mission hung in the balance!

With Fire Team 3 being a shadow of its former self, Fire Team 1 took the lead.  Taking the initiative back from the DPRG, Fire Team 1 dashed from cover and quickly forded the northern crossing.  They were covered the whole way by Fire Team 2:


"Cross quickly!"
Every unit still capable of firing on the DPRG side did so!  Fortunately, Fire Team 3 continued to provide deadly accurate fire, pinning almost every unit that tried to make trouble for the would-be rescuers.  The plan worked: Fire Team 1 made contact with the downed pilot shortly before 1530z hours.  The celebration was short lived though as the DPRG squad that successfully fought off the crossing by Fire Team 3 now made a furious charge and attempted to smash FT 1 in hand to hand combat.  The remnants of FT 3 and the overwatch team opened fire in an attempt to pin them in place before they could do much damage:

The white mini (unpainted, near the lead Marine) represents the pilot.  I like to think he is wearing a camo snow suit.

The USMC overwatch team was as deadly as ever, killing the DPRG leader mid-stride, and pinning the rest of the team.  Emboldened by the awesome "can do!" attitude of their fellow Marines (officially, a "It's a Good Day to Die" Fog of War card), Fire Team 1 redoubled their efforts to bring back the package. Grabbing the pilot, Fire Team 1 let loose one last volley at the pinned enemy before attempting a getaway:

"Semper Fi!"

Meanwhile, in the north, the savaged DPRG squad's morale finally broke - no surprise with one dead, three seriously wounded, and just one effective!  Disgusted, they trudged through the snow and left the battlefield:

It was the result of a Fog of War card called "It's a Bad Day to Die" - I reinterpreted it to mean a complete rout for this badly hit squad

Map update:


This was now crunch time for the DPRG.  If they didn't stop Fire Team 1 from getting away with the pilot, they never would.  With the unit CO killed the previous turn, it was up to the squad leader to rally the men.  With a bellow, the DPRG squad picked themselves up from the ground and charged through the snow at their USMC enemies once more.  Fire picked men from their ranks, but they managed to close with the enemy nonetheless:

"Do or die!" was the DPRG war cry!

But it proved to be not enough.  The full strength USMC fire team was ready for a fight and met the enemy gun barrel to gun barrel, iridium bayonet to iridium bayonet.  Despite their best effort, the DPRG squad was beaten to ground again, this time losing yet another member of the squad, with the rest receiving various injuries.  It was too much.  The DPRG had to break contact.  The USMC fire team was free to take their charge across the river:

The DPRG were licked!

Liars!  With their last rounds of ammo, the DPRG squad attempted once more to pin the Marines but failed miserably due to their casualties.  All they really accomplished was to get another squad member killed as he attempted to rush across the ford.


"Go!  We'll cover!"

Fittingly, it was the shot-up Fire Team 3 that stopped the attempted rear attack.  They might not have been able to complete their mission to get the pilot, but they certainly helped Fire Team 1 get the job done!

And with that, Operation Lost & Found came to an end as the remaining DPRG squads were all rendered combat ineffective due to casualties sustained during the course of the battle.  Victory for Charlie Squad of 1st Platoon!

Casualties

                              USMC       DPRG
Dead                         1                 11
Seriously Injured      1                 9
Lightly Injured         1                 1


Overall, I really don't have any thoughts on what I might have done differently as the DPRG player.  This was a messy play-through as I was just too busy coming to grips with the rules to have keenly focused on the optimal tactics.  Truth be told, I often just threw the troops at each other to see how the rules worked!  I will say that the quality difference between the USMC and the DPRG definitely swung the balance in favor of the Marines.  Even though the DPRG had far more troops, a d8 roll for the Marines versus a d6 for the DPRG was just too great an advantage at times, hence all the DPRG casualties.  Still, I like to think that the DPRG put up a good fight nonetheless!


Concluding Thoughts

Wow, that was tough!  This PC gamer isn't used to doing so much work myself to play a game.  Usually I just sit back and punch buttons.  LOL!  Being in total control of a game - not just moving the pieces, but also applying the appropriate rules and calculating the results - can be a shock to the system after having a computer do the heavy lifting all these years.  Still, it was a refreshing experience because it was nice to have such control.   Not having to wait for a dev to fix a bug or tweak a sub-optimal rule is a breath a fresh air (seems like PC gaming these days is 25% gameplay, 75% waiting for a patch).  Also, knowing just why a certain result was reached - that is, seeing all the usually behind-the-scenes calculations for yourself - makes for a much more transparent experience.  I found these factors made this a much more memorable gaming experience.

As for Tomorrow's War itself, I have to say that I find the rules to be a bit cumbersome.  Even though each part of the game is relatively straight forward, I find putting it all together can get confusing at times.  I think this might be do to how dicey the game is.  A d6 for this, a d10 for that, an initiative die for this, and quality die for that...it can all get very muddled.  I think I would have appreciated some streamlining abstractions instead as having to constantly recall which die, not to mention how many of them you need for a roll, can be a pain.  Still, I have no regrets about trying this system.  And I am looking forward to seeing how vehicles are handled....

Speaking of, that is the next chapter in the book that I need to learn.  However, I don't think I will be getting to it any time soon because I haven't even began to paint the three tank miniatures I received as a gift last Christmas, and I doubt I will get to do so anytime soon what with the Christmas rush kicking off NOW.  Not only that, but having the infantry portion of the game sitting on my table for so long has made me a bit tired of looking at this particular game (this is no fault of TW, of course!).  LOL!   So I think I will shelve this minis adventure for a bit and explore the many, many other board / minis games out there in the short term.  Still, I am eager to return to Tomorrow's War ASAP!

Addendum: I would like to thank Prime Dice D&D Pro for its assistance.  Without this excellent dice roller for my Amazon Fire,  playing the dice heavy Tomorrow's War would not have been such an easy experience!

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