Wednesday 13 February 2013

Another ADF Defector Joins The Bwendi

Bwendi Bugle

12th February 2313 Standard Reckoning

ADF Defector Welcomed Into Bwendi

News has reached us that another ADF defector has seen the light. Captain Melissa Ffortescue-Brown (32) of the ADF Air Force ditched the Froghopper spyplane that she was flying over Pyntagahl province in western Nova Ztumsia at 0400 on Tuesday, citing engine trouble, and landed near an abandoned mining camp. A Bwendi border patrol was fortunately on hand to offer assistance and we have been lucky enough to obtain some classified footage of the rescue.
A Bwendi border patrol takes up positions near Captain Ffortescue-Brown's crash site
Unfortunately, the ADF had despatched a section of the dreaded Burpa Regiment to drag her back to Albion. The Burpas are known for their ferocity and willingness to engage in close combat using their Plasma Cookery Cutters to sever the left big toe of every defeated enemy. The Burpas advanced on the Border Patrol's position, unaware of the cunningly laid ambush. As they dashed into sight a Bwendi fireteam opened up, seriously wounding two Burpas.
Captain Ffortescue-Brown looks on with horror as elite special forces from the dreaded Burpa Regiment advance on her position
The remaining Burpas quickly took cover and opened fire. Corporal Adelbert Nganges and his fireteam, who had opened fire first took the brunt of the enemy attack and two of their number were quickly rendered hors de combat by the Burpas. The fireteam all continued to lay down as much fire as they could, while Medical Officer Solange Makepiece quickly moved from her position with the command squad to tend to the wounded, before herself laying down as much fire as she could. However, it was not long before she too was hit by Burpa fire and the entire fireteam lay wounded at the edge of the woods. It was at this time that Private Fazila Katende was killed. Her family has been informed and she will be interred with full military honours. It is fortunate, given the ferocity of the Burpas, that she was the only fatality in this engagement.
The Burpas fall into a cunningly laid Bwendi ambush
As the Burpas advanced, the other fireteams of the Border Patrol joined the action and Corporal Wivine Ndungia's fireteam was also all wounded. Fortunately, the strength of morale of the Bwendi Border Patrol was sufficient to the task. The Burpas answered fire with fire and only realised too late that the Border Patrol's goal was to delay them until elements of the 102nd Armoured Infantry, who were luckily engaged in manoeuvres close by, could reinforce them. As a result of their heroic sacrifice, the BBP troopers enabled plucky Captain Ffortescue-Brown to reach freedom and about half of the Burpas were captured.

Captain Ffortescue-Brown has agreed to appear on a 'This Evening with Tarquin McDoenall' tonight at 1900 hours, when she will relate the full horrors of her life in Albion and her service with the ADF.

Closing remarks

We have been promising ourselves more time spent learning and playing Tomorrow's War, so last night we set up the Lost & Found scenario from the rulebook. It involves a pilot figure as an objective. The scenario, as written, sees an elite US Marine force (the Burpas in our game) with better equipment but fewer numbers trying to get to the pilot and escort her from the table within eight turns. The DPRG force (Bwendi in our game) is lower tech and lower quality, but has more figures and gets to set up in ambush, so it must time its ambushes correctly to take out the USMC. Time is limited, so the USMC player must advance quickly and cannot afford to spend ages getting into a firefight. Fortunately for me, Steve preferred to shoot rather than move, which meant that I was able to delay him long enough that he could not get the pilot off the table, although he did eventually actually make contact with her. I was lucky in this scenario, because Steve's dice rolling was phenomenally good all round, and it was only his lack of focus on the objective that gave me the win. He killed one of my troops and wounded about half of the rest. I wounded two of his troops.

The good
For this game we agreed to use the Fog of War cards, which was fun, although it had little impact on the game. Steve drew two cards that had no effect, while I drew one card that required a die roll. I got lucky and one of my fireteams gained +1 on its reaction rolls, which was useful. I liked the Fog of War cards even without the significant effects. They add an additional element of uncertainty to the game that we both enjoy.

The game system itself is pretty good. You get to roll lots of dice, so luck should even out overall. The disparity between different quality troops encourages you to focus on the objective of the scenario rather than on trying to kill all the enemy, and I like the way that technology is integrated into the game as modifiers to attack/defence among other things.

There is a basic campaign included in the rules. This looks like it could be good fun.

The not so good
We had both read the rules through, but there is a huge gulf between reading them and knowing them well enough for a game, especially with a tome as weighty as this one. As it happened, our previous two games clearly helped us, because we were able to muddle through well enough with the aid of much pondering and a QRS that I found online. That is the problem though. We had to muddle through. We both agreed that there is a good game in the Tomorrow's War rulebook, but that learning it was made harder by the layout and style of writing. Given that it is not a cheap rulebook, I had expected better presentation of the rules, perhaps keeping them more focused. The writing style is quite chatty and I find that obscures the meaning and makes the rules longer than they need to be.

The authors have also wasted space in the rulebook on a background that I shall never use. The book could have been about one third shorter without that background material, and that background material might have been better placed in a supplement. Replacing it with generic examples of troops and vehicles would have suited me better.

Another shortcoming is in the rules for irregular units. Unless I have missed it in my reading, there is no explanation or real examples anywhere of irregular units other than one scenario that uses them.

Finally, although I mentioned that the campaign included was a good idea, there are very few guidelines on how it should be set up. This is not really a problem for me, because I have already designed my battalion structure for the Bwendi army, but it would have been nice to have guidelines on table size included with the campaign. I asked about this on the forum but received no response. Table size is important, because it is one of the basic elements in designing a scenario. The campaign limits each game to between 5 and 8 turns, so table size will be critical in determining how quickly units can reach the objective, cross the table or withdraw off it, according to the scenario needs. It would also have been nice to have a couple of example orders of battle for the campaign. In some respects, this campaign reads like the author knew what they were talking about and forgot that their readers did not have all that knowledge.

So, more time spent tightening up the text and explaining the basic frames of reference would have been great. Less background material and more generic examples, please.

One other complaint that I have is that questions asked on the forum are often answered with reference to Force on Force, which Tomorrow's War is apparently based on. It appears that gaps in Tomorrow's War are there because the authors forgot to explain things that they explained in the other rules set. That actually annoys me, because I do not want to have to buy another rules set just to fully understand the one I did buy. At the price that they charge for Tomorrow's War I expect a full and complete rulebook that is well laid out, well written and readily comprehensible.

And finally
All that said, and at the risk of repeating myself, there is a good game in Tomorrow's War. It is just a shame that the learning curve is steep for the reasons cited. I find the writing style too chatty for easy learning, but I have enjoyed the small number of games that we have played so far despite that. With continued play, I expect we shall get to grips with the game and make good progress on the further conflicts between Bwendi and the Albion Defence Force. So, on with the arms race. It is time to show those Albionites what Englishness is really all about.