Tuesday 23 August 2011

REVIEW: Tomorrow's War

The Dropship Horizon crew were delighted to be given the opportunity to review a copy of Osprey Publishing / Ambush Alley Games’ Tomorrow’s War wargames rules in advance of their publication in October.

The Book

With a few notable exceptions, table top wargaming generally has been predominated by rules publications which, whatever the quality of the actual rules, have had comparatively low production values due to the relatively high costs of publication and the comparatively low numbers of rule sets sold. In contrast, and as you may have come to expect from Osprey, Tomorrow’s War is a very professionally produced and visually appealing rule book.

Following an introductory section (and a forward by Jon Tuffley which was also included in the pre-release PDF edition of the rules), there is a 24 page Background section which provides a potted history of the (optional) Tomorrow’s War universe and both humanity’s expansion into space and its continued warlike nature.  For me, this was one the least interesting sections of the book, but I understand that many readers may require that a rulebook also provides a setting and it is therefore a necessary part of the book.

Similar to Force on Force, the book provides sections looking at the Turn Sequence and The Basics of Play common to all Ambush Alley Games rule sets. Larger sections then go on to look at Infantry Combat and Mechanised Combat and then Close Air Support, Off-Board Artillery, Special Unit Types, Asymmetric Engagements and a Tomorrow’s War Campaign. There are then several appendices that provide unit attributes, organisation examples, vehicle examples, scenarios, fog of war cards and finally that all important index!

If you've seen a copy of Force on Force, you’ll know what to expect. This is a publication that really sets the bar in terms of quality. Tomorrow’s War is a 260 page, full colour, hardback book. Tomorrow’s War features specially commissioned maps and illustrations, as well as good quality colour photographs of 15 and 28mm wargames figures – just as we previewed on the blog back in June. There may be slightly fewer pictures and illustrations in Tomorrow’s War than in Force on Force but this is likely due to the space taken up by additional rules content.

The Rules

Like Force on Force, from which it is derived, Tomorrow’s War will not be for everyone. This is not an ‘I go you go’ rule set; it seeks to capture a fluid combat situations through a creative and imaginative initiative system that hands one side the momentum in a battle, but at the same time keeps both players actively playing the game and allows all units to act (or react).

Initiative is determined by the scenario being played or by an opposed dice roll at the begining of each turn (with the player controlling the best trained force most likely to win the roll). The player with the initiative can have each of his units carry out actions (moving, shooting, etc.) and the player without the initiative attempts to interrupt or counteract each of those actions with his own units as they take place (firing first, returning fire, moving out of the line of sight, etc.).

As with Force on Force, the focus is on platoon / reinforced platoon sized engagements and (when scaled for 15mm sci fi) is played on 2 foot by 2 foot or 2 foot by 3 foot table.

Like Force on Force, Tomorrow’s War abstracts some elements of warfare (such as relative qualities of similar weapons such as assault rifles) in order to emphasise other aspects such as unit type (regular, irregular and robotic), troop quality, morale, confidence, supply and (new for Tomorrow’s war), tech level (weapons vs. armour and stealth vs. sensors).

The relative qualities of different units are reflected in different dice (d6, d8, d10 and d12) in opposed dice rolls giving a significant advantage to troops with better characteristics. You may need a few more of these dice than you currently own as you could be rolling one for each member of a fire team + additional dice for bonuses, etc. Throughout Tomorrow’s War the rules are illustrated with examples explaining how rule mechanisms work in a clear and concise manner.

Tomorrow’s War differs from Force on Force in providing additional sci fi specific elements, but this isn’t simply Force on Force with lasers and robots tacked on. I get the impression that the authors have carefully thought about how to integrate sci fi elements into the core structure of the game in ways that really work. The rules cover elements such as power armour, exoskeletons, combat drugs, advanced weapons such as energy and gauss weapons, anti-gravity vehicles, walkers, gigantic vehicles, dropships, robots and drones as well as advanced command and control on the battlefield.

One thing that may be lacking is a separate set of detailed rules for aliens. Tomorrow’s War essentially treats aliens and humans the same and a 4 page section suggests how to tailor alien forces for the rules based on their characteristics. Whilst this seems to work, it may not satisfy everyone. The other thing Tomorrow’s War does not include is a points system. This is a scenario driven wargame and not designed for tournament style play. Some wargamers like points systems and others (like me) don’t.

In summary this is a very well designed and well balanced set of rules and, for me at least, it sets the bar in terms of the quality and originality for science fiction wargaming rules. No rule set will please everyone, but I’d be surprised if Tomorrow’s War doesn’t come to dominate a large chunk of the sci fi wargaming market for some time to come. The very accessibility of the rules (distributed by Osprey to good bookshops around the world) may make it a great ambassador for sci fi wargaming and, potentially bring new gamers to the hobby.

There are, of course, lots of free sci fi rule sets available, but at £25.00 / US $34.95 a copy Tomorrow’s War offers good value for money given the price charged for other, often less well produced, commercial rule sets.

To see the previous sneak peek of Tomorrow's War go here.


  1. Lucky man !!!
    Could you tell us how many scenarios are we gonna find in this edition ?
    I guess there isn't any rules change compare to previous edition ?
    October...pfff it is so lOOOng !

  2. There are a total of 10 scenarios counting the ones in particular chapters in the book and those in the scenarios appendix. I did not spot any major rules changes between this edition and the pre-release pdf, but I've not reread the pdf so I could be wrong. The main difference is it's one, very nice, self-contained rulebook!

  3. Excellent! Still looking forward to it!

    Like you suggested, I could care less about points personally, so that doesn't bother me...

    What about Force lists or TO&Es, are you allowed to give a count as to (roughly) how many are included?


  4. Is there a option for solo play in the book? Thank you for the review.

  5. @ Sgt. Apone - a 16 page section provides example TO&Es for several human and a non-human force.
    @ Navarro - no specific solo play rules, no.

  6. looks really good, im debating getting this or the 5150 rules. An recommendations, as i've just started into 15mm from 28mm.

  7. @Impcommander - I've played 5150:Star Army a couple of times and really enjoyed it. I've played 5150 a LOT and again, really enjoyed it. Star Army is a completely different "feel" than the original 5150. I'm also a HUGE fan of THW.

    I'm also a HUGE fan of Ambush Alley Games and I plan on buying and playing Tomorrow's War. I think they'll have a very different feel to them than Star Army, that's just a guess of course. I've read through the original Tomorrow's War, I just never got around to playing it...I was waiting for the comprehensive rules to be released.

    5150:Star Army, MIGHT handle larger battles a bit better than TW, I can't say for sure since I've not played TW, I have played in a VERY large Star Army game though.

    I guess that really depends on how big you want your games to be. I like to be able to field up to a company or as small as a single squad if I want to, but that's just me.

    I know that doesn't help, that's just my thoughts on the matter.

    Bottom line is you probably won't be disappointed with either rule set.


  8. Thank you for your review on 'TW' im also not much of a point system player and much prefer scenario based games with objectives, im sure its to late now but i would have liked to have seen a larger sized section of the book dealing with alien races or creating alien races for you to play in 'TW' after all it is Sci-fi based and not post apocalyptic or near future.I also hope the rules are not to indepth so that they distract from the actual flow of the game play were you have to keep flicking from chart to chart which is a little gripe of mine, other than that i love the look of all the eye candy with extra sprinkles....

  9. Just a quick question;

    Is it a better game than Stargrunt?

    As a free download Stargrunt's value for money is VERY high and it will take a truly exceptional product to make me fork out 25 quid for a new set of rules.

  10. "If you've seen a copy of Force on Force, you’ll know what to expect."

    Do you mean the 3 spelling errors I spotted in the first 5 minutes of reading? Or are you talking about the missing chart? Yes it looked nice, but I'd expect not to see so many errors in an Osprey product.

  11. Thanks for the review. I am already very excited about this book.

  12. Thanks Sgt. Apone, i really appreciate it, my friend in i will be building our stuff in concert, and i'd expect us to go somewhere fairly large. So we'll probably hit from Skirmish on up.

  13. @pureteenlard -- honestly, I think you can think of this as Stargrunt 3.0. There are obvious parallels. Which is probably why they got Jon Tuffley to write the forward. :-)

    Disclaimer: I am inclined to be Jon Tuffly biased (as a regular participant in GZGECC). I have not read Tomorrow's War at all, but I have been using Force on Force for sci-fi engagements.

    And I do like it better than Stargrunt. It just seems to flow better -- and I haven't done any analysis, but the battles seem to be closer. (I think that might be because you are rolling more dice and thus averaging out results a bit more.)

    Also, there is no division to figure out partial hits. And armor saves are rolled into the combat results. I think that will help against the uber-power armor in SG2.

    But keep your Stargrunt counters! They're useful for TW. In fact, Osprey should consider printing up some counter sheets....

  14. Thanks, Nicholas, I shall certainly think about buying it. Stargrunt works well for me but I'm open minded enough to see it's flaws.

    As for power armour, I prefer a regular squad with a good MICV to back them up!

  15. Pssst . . . Nicholas . . . I use SG2 counters when I play Force on Force myself! ;)

    We're working on a deal to bring players of our games some nice tokens/counters, btw. Hopefully we can announce something soon.


    Ambush Alley Games

  16. Cannot wait to get my paws on this!

  17. Looks really good. The books has some top notch production values. Will get this one when it's released.

    One question on the models. Are the infantry squads represented as individuals or as teams. Meaning are the models based individually or based together as teams. I'm asking this because I have some New Israeli from GZG waiting at my work bench waiting and I want to get them finished before the Tomorrow's War's release.

    One question about the scenarios. How big are they in scale? Conflict wise. Can they be scaled for bigger/smaller games?

  18. NetDiver - Infantry are based individually but you could base them in groups and use dice to note casualties. The scenarios are scaled from a few squads to a platoon in strength so easily game-able.

  19. How does this compare to FAD4? FAD4 is a very complete game system and its FREE. Unless this is a vast improvement in platoon sized 15mm scifi combat, why should we fork out $34 for it?

  20. I've played Ambush Alley with 15mm figures on Flames of War bases and it works fine. Does meant you have to keep track of who has been hit but it works fine and it a bit quicker to move troops.