Sunday, 1 March 2009
Future War Commander: A Tabletop Review
Future War Commander
Fast Play Tabletop Wargames Rules For Combined-Arms Operations, The Future
by Peter Jones
From: Specialist Military Publishing
140 pages, A4, colour photos throughout, including:
- 25 pages of core rules
- 8 pages of game set up, playing and 11 basic scenarios.
- 10 pages of specific rules within the Army List section
- 61 pages of Army Lists
- 2 pages of point values for army creation
- 6 pages of Individual Skirmish Rules
- Illustrated examples of game play and rule explanations throughout
- A4 Doublesided Quick Reference Sheet
Fast Play Tactical Future/Science Fiction
Small game = 20-40 elements per side
Large game 60-100 elements per side
Where an element represents one playing piece, an individual tank or apc, or a base of infantry. This is called a "UNIT" in FWC.
The game has no predetermined unit scale. You choose on a game by game basis whether your individual infantry bases represent a fireteam, a platoon, a company etc. Same with AFV's. A tank model can be an individual vehicle or represent a platoon of 3-4 tanks.
UNITS are grouped into "FORMATIONS". Formations aren't strict in FWC. You can breakup and reassemble as you please throughout the course of the game.
The game can be played at one of three levels:
- 1 UNIT = 1 Platoon (the scale the game was designed for)
- 1 UNIT = 1 Squad or Individual Vehicle,
- 1 miniature = 1 UNIT = 1 Soldier or Vehicle.
- Ground scale is 1cm = 20m or 1cm = 10m respectively.
One game turn represents up to 30 minutes of real-life action.
Any number of miniatures can be on a base. No preferred base sizes are stated. You can also use single miniatures if you wish.
4ft x 6ft recommended for 6mm and 6ft x 8ft for 15mm/20mm.
2-4 hours realtime
PLAYING AIDS REQUIRED:
Normal 6 sided dice (the more the merrier)
A 'Directional Die', where the numbers or pips are replaced by arrows
A tape measure
A circular template 20cm in diameter
A circular template 30cm in diameter
Markers/dice for denoting 'suppression' etc
All UNITS have the following basic stats: ATTACKS/RANGE, ASSAULT, HITS and SAVES.
The Attack value represents the offensive capability of the UNIT and the range that it can carry out those attacks. It's normally described in the terms of '4/30' - eg this UNIT can roll 4 dice when firing at an enemy unit up to a range of 30cm.
The Assault value is the number of dice rolled in close combat.
Hits represents the humber of hits a UNIT can soak up per turn before being KNOCKED OUT. Hits are not cumulative between game turns and disappear at the beginning of the next turn.
Saves represents the armour and protection of the UNIT. The Save value is the minimum score required to prevent a hit.
The results of combat may force a UNIT to be SUPPRESSED, FALL-BACK or be KNOCKED OUT in which case it is removed from the game.
I have to keep reminding myself that FWC is a Fast Play set of rules. When I do that, it's a great, fast moving game in itself, with a slick Command and Control system. There's not an unnecessary die roll anywhere. It has a lot of positives but equally is disappointing in so many ways for a hard Sci Fi grognard such as myself.
The fact that FWC is a development of Blitzkrieg Commander shows through like a bad paintjob. The cover photo of GZG armour advancing through Hampshire should have warned me. For instance visibility and intelligence of the enemy in FWC is determined by Line of Sight - SORRY?, I thought this was Future War Commander not Napoleonic War Commander! Real-time intelligence? Integrated firepower? Individual soldier command interface? Netted fires? Electronic battlefield? I could go on. As for Recon.......
Despite the fact the author actually says "weather is a vital factor in war and often overlooked", it's relegated to three short paragraphs in FWC and equally, there's no rules for fighting on planets with different or even no atmosphere, gravitational effects, environmental or seismological events.
Tech Levels are reduced to Primitive, Contemporary and Advanced. Whilst I can see the advantages in this over worrying about the exact technology available at Tech 11 as opposed to Tech 9 armies and it's relative effectiveness, I think it would have benefited from a further 'EXOTIC' category which covers 'Ultra-Tech' human or superior alien science and technology.
Where FWC wins is that it is slick and fast play, and does has a whiff of futuristic wargaming (as opposed to warfare), so it does what it says on the tin. The army lists include factions from most the the major Sci Fi miniature games on the market in recent years, so it can bring together gamers with armies from different canons and allow them to play against each other on the tabletop in a game which gives them a flavour of what they are used to when playing within their original game universe.
An added value of FWC is that it includes individual skirmish rules based on the core game system. It means you can play Sci Fi/Futuristic man to man skirmish games without having to learn new rules. And again it's great for getting guys in your gaming circle who may already play Blitzkrieg or Cold War Commander to play Sci Fi skirmish games with a system they are familiar with. The skirmish rules themselves are a bit ersatz, but do the job quite well in 6 pages.
The unit creation and points system in FWC is both versatile and flexible when it comes to building your forces for each battle. It's probably the strongest element of the game. By simply adjusting the basic Stats or adding either Technological Upgrades and/or Unit Attributes you can turn the humble grunt into a SPARTAN III, Eldar Striking Scorpion or similar. For instance, if I just increase the Assault rating by 1 for my infantry, they are now bio-enhanced soldiers for the coming scrap. An extra one or two on the Attack value means my guys are armed with the latest in assault rifle calibre airburst sub-munitions without having to worry about separate rules or additional die rolls.
Comparing notes with the Master Chef, we are agreed that FWC has a very playable game system which is going to encourage more gamers to try out Sci Fi gaming, and allow those who are currently locked into their own Sci Fi miniatures game systems to play against each other on the tabletop. We think it's a great chassis upon which to build our own vision of future warfare and also recreate the XBox and PC Sci Fi games we both enjoy.
We suggest that if you want the gritty feel of futuristic combined operations on the tabletop, stick with Dirtside, Stargrunt and their ilk. However, Future War Commander doesn't pretend to compete with these games and despite lacking Rock and Roll, FWC is a complete package that offers within it's own parameters an easy to learn, fast and enjoyable tactical game.
Future War Commander Website
Future War Commader Design Group