My bro Evil Eli and I had had a look through the 5150: Star Army rules and the decision was made. Eli had that special look in his eye that said, “bugs”. So we sat down last night and he said, “I’m playing bugs, what are you playing?”. I answered, “I dunno, let’s see…”. I looked down and the sheet in front of me said ISS. Honestly, I didn’t know what an ISS was. Apologies to Ed at Two Hour Wargames, I simply hadn’t had time to properly read the rules. Eli hadn’t read up on the ISS either, so he simply said, “sure”. We definitely found out who the ISS is, that’s for sure.
5150: Star Army is a fun rule set for playing science fiction battles, concentrating on units from one squad to one company, with one figure representing one man or vehicle, basically like in real life. The system also has extraordinarily detailed yet simple and quick moving rules for terrain, weather, pre-mission intel and campaigns. One thing that we really like about the systems is the campaign rules, which add just a tiny bit of role playing into the game, and the complete absence of points for tournament games. We don’t care for tournament games, but really enjoy RPGs, so this is perfect for us. Your mileage may differ.
So now begins the game…
The first thing was choose sides… “ah, Marz, you already did that”. Wha? Okay. ISS against bugs.
So… reading Ed’s rules recommendations, this was a basic patrol. A roll for weather said it’s a clear day. A roll for intelligence said I know the investment level of my enemy (also, the rules for bugs say that you always know the investment level for bugs). Investment level is sorta like the level of commitment your organization (military force, political government, religious leaders, corporation) has to the particular piece of real estate your troops are about to risk their lives over. A high investment level means they really want this ground, and you get lots of support. A low investment level means they don’t care and you’re on your own. A quick roll indicated I was on my own. One eight man squad.
The battlefield was three feet by three feet, neatly divided in to nine squares, A roll for each square identified the terrain. This is what we got.
- Not much terrain at all
- One issue with the lack of terrain, is the my FLGS, The Tower, was positively rocking and traffic made me that last guy to the store..
So anyway, the rules of the patrol are that my squad leader or assistant squad leader spend one activation (turn) in each of the northernmost sectors (one foot squares) of the battlefield (which, unfortunately was the wooded tabletop).
So my plan is simple: start in the southeast sector, move straight north to the opposite table edge, move straight west to the northwest sector, and then straight south as fast as I can get home. Simple plan? There’s bugs in them thar hills.
Turn 1) ISS activates, no bugs on the board, ISS fast moves North.
Point of order here. Not understanding everything entirely, we started the game without even PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) on the board. Later reading reveals that we should have had some PEFs on the table. Logic indicates that the game would have been a LOT more satisfying with PEFs on the table.
Turn 2) ISS 5, Bugs 2 = a 7, which means a bug hole appears. YAY BUGS!!!
We roll and the result is “half as many bugs as there are ISS troops on the table”. Great. Four bugs come out of the hole. Now the iSS goes first, and terrain blocks line of sight to the bug hole, which appears in the Northeast sector (right where the iSS is headed, figures). So, the ISS starts moving north, and the bugs take an In Sight test.
In Sight tests are a major feature of Two Hour Wargame’s Chain Reaction system. Just like in real life, when you see somebody or something, you react. Civillians may just stand and gawk, trained troops probably open fire, bugs… CHARGE!!! And charge they did.
Now here’s the neat thing about the Chain Reaction system. The bugs see the ISS and charge. So… the ISS sees that they are being charged by the bugs, so we roll for the ISS reaction to being charged… “passive unit fires at full target”. In English, the ISS opens fire into the charging bugs and… one bug is wounded, the other three charge into combat.
So the bugs attack, and THW has a pretty cool mechanic for melee combat. Eli adds up his dice and rolls, I add up my dice and roll. Somehow, we ended up with nobody hurt and the fight’s still going. Now… here’s where things get interesting, the turn has just barely begun. It’s actually still the ISS activation, so… the rest of the ISS charges into the bugs who have charged. This is bad for the bugs.
So now Eli adds up his dice, and subtracts a couple and rolls. I add up a LOT more dice and roll. By now, we’ve figured out that in this game, the ISS KILLS BUGS DEAD. I mean, as we were later informed by the Great and Friendly Ed of THW, who actually wrote the game, and then personally responded to our questions (how many game companies do THAT?) we found out that the ISS ar kinda tailored to fighting bugs. Especially when the ISS outnujmbers the bugs by two to one (which is not really supposed to happen).
So, the next activation (Eli sorta didn’t get one since all his bugs were dead) the ISS moves into the Northeast sector. Mission objective 1 fulfilled. Next activation, North Central sector, mission objective 2 fulfilled. Next activation (okay, this is repetitive) anyway the ISS makes it across the northern edge of the battlefield fulfilling the recon objectives, the only thing now is to head due South and get off the board for an easy victory (remember up top, I said Eli should have had those PEFs on the table, this was too easy, my fault).
Turn… I dunno… anyway, ISS 4, bugs 3 = 7 = BUG HOLE!. And wouldn’t ya know it, it shows up in the South Central sector, behind the building in the middle of the battlefield, and this time the dice gawdz say, “… as many bugs as there are troops on the table…”. Time for a good fight! The ISS saw the bugs, yet did not fire, trouble is brewing.
Next activation, ISS 6, bugs 2. This means the ISS just stand there while the bugs run wild. On the other hand, the ISS had already seen the bugs and did not fire, so THIS time the ISS did not get another In Sight test.
Here I was, one turn from total victory and the bugs smack home. Eli is smiling largely now. Time for the charge test… the ISS fires “at full target rating” (lotsa bullets) while the Bugs definitely (if they survive) make it into contact. Not many did, so once again the melee combat dice did not go well for Eli.
Now, a couple important facts about the picture immediately above this line. First, all but 3 of the bugs are either “Out of the Fight”, or “Obviously Dead”. These are not the dice roll results Eli was looking for. To make matters worse, the three bugs who are on their feet (claws? appendages?) are “Stunned” which means “… no further action may be taken”.
Next turn, the bugs activate irst by doing… nothing. They’re all stunned into inaction. The ISS then activates and delivers a VERY anticlimactic coup de’ gras to the surviving bugs, and then exits the table. Just another day in the life of the Mobile Infantry.