Wednesday, October 12, 2011

5150: Star Army

For my first foray into 15mm sci fi gaming I decided to use Two Hour Wargame's 5150: Star Army.

This book is a revamp of the original 5150 and centers exclusively around military combat from skirmish up to company level.

For $25 I received a comb bound soft cover book of 97 pages. The front and back cover are color with a black and white interior. A .pdf copy was also included for free. I happen to carry my .pdf copy on my phone.

Inside we are treated to a genre specific treatment of the Chain Reaction 3.0 rules. This is not an IGOUGO set of rules.

Truth be told, even on your activation not much seems to happen. The beauty is in the reaction system. As you meet the enemy (or THINK you do) things begin to happen. Sometimes involuntary movement triggers new reactions which cascade into a whole different set of reactions. This is all handled very simply and moves quite quickly.

In the end it is not impossible that you discover the enemy and the initial contact quickly reaches a crescendo of violence that leaves one side or the other quite dead. This is roughly what happens in the real world. As the old military axiom states, "No plan survives contact."

This is a nice set of "loose" rules. They move fast and do not require a ton of time to learn. Ed (the author) has also included a little "STOP" point at the end of each major section with a suggestion to play with the new pieces and parts until you are comfortable before continuing.

These rules do not have points values assigned to the units. Period. This is not a tournament set of rules. It cannot be played that way.

What I like is that the rules can be played head-to-head, solo, or cooperatively. In fact the rules mostly seem to revolve around the solo gamer. Which is why I picked this set of rules. You do not need anyone to play against and the "enemy" army plays realistically even though dice rolls decide their actions from moment to moment.

Oh, one other thing, you only have a modicum of control over your own forces. Once the Chain Reaction is set off, your forces can fight bravely or even flee the board whether you want them to or not. The one exception is your Star. He is your, "in-game" avatar and will do what ever you want every time.

Miniatures scale is left deliberately vague and the rules work quite well with either 15mm or 28mm (the two scales I game with).

Terrain, buildings, cover, concealment, and vehicles all receive their due and are quite comprehensive.

There are seven premade army lists and a brief fluff/background section that I cheerfully ignored because I brought my own. The background is based off a RPG setting written by Wes Davis. So, you could always go there to learn more if you wanted to.

My gripe. My only real gripe is the editing. I would love to edit this rulebook for Ed.

The sections seem illogically placed for roughly 75% of the book. The are are no real section breaks in terms of page breaks. One section stops and the next immediately starts. Even though it would have made more sense to continue on a new page. Campaign rules are before the mission rules, etc. Just seems to me, to be illogically laid out in most places.

Charts...Ed loves himself some charts. They are neat and easy to read and I fully understand why they are needed. What I would have liked to have seen is ALL of the charts compiled at the back of the book so I could print them out as a booklet of only charts. That said, most of the charts aren't even needed in a typical game but, it would have been nice.

However, I would not let those two things discourage you. For the price you get a very flexible and robust set of rules. There is a very active Yahoo Group that supports these games and publishes a lot of user content that you can drop right into your game.

I give this set of rules a rating of 75%. Damn good with room for some improvements.