Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: 5150 Urban Renewal

Now that I have played a number of games with 5150 Urban Renewal (and New Hope City PI), I feel confident enough to write a review about it.

For those who do not know this game, a little explanation is necessary. 5150 Urban Renewal is the new edition of 5150 New Beginnings. This is a sci-fi miniatures game with noticeable RPG elements. By that I mean that there are provisions to help the players creating an overall story. While the rules can be used for one-off battles between small groups of figures, in my opinion most of its value comes from narrative play. For those who have already played 5150 New Beginnings, I suppose that the big question is: what has changed?

The biggest changes have been in the campaign system. In my opinion, the original New Beginnings was like a big toolbox for playing sci-fi narrative-oriented games, and it included a campaign system to help players getting started. On the other hand, Urban Renewal feels like a very detailed campaign system, which you may also tear apart to use only parts of it. So there is a change of focus, and a lot more cohesion between parts in this new edition. The goal of the campaign has also shifted from items to character improvement, and so the items system has been further simplified.

As the campaign system changed, so did characters. Previously, characters had a class, profession and motivation. The latter has been dropped, and a new system of social Circles has been added. The Science skill has also been removed, and now the People skill is quite possibly the most useful.

The rules for vehicles have been replaced with a comprehensive Public Transport system, that may also be used to simulate travel with a car. This also means that the rules for using a vehicle in an encounter are gone. The rules for buildings have also reverted to essentially the same found in Chain Reaction 3.1, instead of the more complex, floorplan-based ones found in the previous edition of New Beginnings. The chapter about media crews has also been removed. On the other hand, there are three new types of encounter: Confrontation, Gaming House and Deal, adding more options to the campaign.

In terms of writing and presentation, Urban Renewal is more organized and clear than the original New Beginnings. When that book was released in 2012, it showcased many of the newer rules for Two Hour Wargames products. Things like the new In Sight system, item system and building rules were presented but, at times, there was little "glue" between them. I think that this gave it the "toolbox" feel. In this new edition the parts seem to fit each other better.

In my opinion, 5150 Urban Renewal offers an interesting experience for solo players. It is possible to use the campaign system as is, in order to create various stories in the New Hope City setting. With some extra work, the campaign system may also be adjusted to fit other sci-fi settings. The streamlining and organization of the rules make it easier to learn and use, but it still has lots of information. Therefore, both new players and those upgrading from the first edition are advised to read the book carefully and make the "Stop!" box exercises.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dwarven Scouts

Today I played my first game of Warrior Heroes - Warbands. This is the Two Hour Wargames title that bridges the gap between Warrior Heroes and Rally Round the King. You control one or more units (of about 10 soldiers each) in the fantasy land of Talomir, and the book includes different ways of playing. There is a campaign system where you start as the leader of a single unit and try to rise in the ranks to become a warlord or king. Two other campaigns have you as a warlord, holding your territory between the borders of other nations, or defending from an invasion of evil forces. There are also rules for sieges (which are a part of the basic campaign.)

For my first game, I chose the simple "Scout" scenario, in which your leader must go through all sectors of the table to map out a region of enemy territory. I decided to play a dwarven unit, and rolled a group of nine dwarves with crossbows, plus my leader. The enemy would be orcs. I set up a board in MapTool, sketched some impassable mountains and wooded areas and spread the Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) around. Narrative bits in italics, [game-related comments in brackets.]

Debrok was one of the four sons of a dwarven master smith, and that gave him some benefits that other young dwarves didn't have. Like leading his own unit of hunters, despite his lacking martial skills. However, Debrok was still stubborn and proud as any dwarf, and thus eager to prove himself. As rumors of orc raiding parties in the southeast border started to arise, he ordered his men to prepare for a scouting mission.

The group arrived at the Gordar mountain pass and started looking for signs of orc incursion. This would be an obvious route to reach some of the more distant (and less guarded) dwarven villages. As they approached the woods that grew across the pass, a group of orc archers tried to ambush them. Disorganized and using rough short bows, they were met with a shower of bolts from the dwarves, and quickly scattered.
[As my unit maneuvered around the wooded area, the first PEF was resolved as a single unit of seven orc archers. The orcs' smaller numbers and the dwarves' better armor (and some lucky rolls, too) resulted in a victory for the small guys, with the orcs routing in a couple of turns.]