Last Saturday I attended “Legends in the Fall”, a regional “Games Day” hosted by the game store “Legends in Time” and held in the Doubleday Hotel in Mundelein, Illinois. Skip Peterson, owner of “Legends in Time”, put together an excellent gaming day.
My focus that day was on the “Ambush Alley” games system, particularly “Tomorrow’s War”. There were open games being run all day and evening, with Shawn and Peggy Carpenter, the creators of “Ambush Alley” there to run the games along with Jim Roots, one of the game design contributors.
When I got there they had one table set up with two separate terrain sets side by side – one for “Ambush Alley” and one for “Tomorrow’s War”. The morning was dedicated to “Ambush Alley”.
A section of a small Iraqi town was laid out. On a rooftop in the middle of town was a squad of 4 U.S. Marines who had been scouting the area. They were cut off and surrounded by several groups of insurgent forces. They needed to be rescued…
The main force of the Marines arrive on the map. However, during turn one the trapped Marine squad was overrun and captured by several squads of insurgents. Around 20 insurgents were lost in the operation. The captured Marine was of course exhibited on Al Jazeera…
The main force had exchanged fire with a couple of small insurgent squads, wiping them out. The delay caused the mission of the main force to change from “rescue” to “get out of injun country”.
The Marines started advancing down the street, “dealing” with the insurgent forces in the way Marines do best. Note the lone RPG gunner on the rooftop center left in the map. His entire squad perished around him, yet he passed his morale die roll and stuck around with fanatical determination. This would prove to be a key occurance.
As the Marines advanced they were attacked by two squads of insurgents wielding AKs, Machine guns and RPGs. Also, the lone RPG gunner made his play, damaging the Bushmaster cannon on the IFV, reducing it to 2 dice firepower. While the Marines eliminated the two attacking squads, it was at a cost. One Humvee was disabled and the other was reduced to a flaming wreck. The Marines incurred several casualties at this point.
One Marine Hummvee made it off the map with a squad – performing a recon under fire. The other squads were moving at best speed with their casualties while under the protection of the damaged IFV. The insurgents have some reinforcements coming on the lower right side of the picture.
The newly arrived insurgents took cover in the building with the tower and took the Marines under fire. They had a bad reaction roll ( a 1) and drew a “Fog of War” card. This card provided reinforcements for the Marines. In this case, the Army arrived to rescue the Marines. While one of the Marine squads took more casualties the Army vehicles prepared to do some shooting of their own.
The Army unit and the Marines laid some devastating firepower onto the remaining insurgents – at a cost of another Marine casualty. The Marines then made it off the map under the protection of the Army forces.
The Insurgents definitely ruled the day, disrupting the Marines’ mission and causing significant casualties and equipment damage, as well as capturing a prisoner. While the Insurgents paid a high price for this – approximately 60 casualties – their casual disregard for their own forces lives worked in their favor.
“Ambush Alley” as a game is fast playing and full of action. With two of us running the insurgent forces and one person running the Marines we rarely had any “down” time. Lots of fun and an amazingly good recreation of asymmetric warfare.
Now in the evening the game was “Tomorrow’s War”, Ambush Alley Games near-to-median future wargame. The scenario that was laid out was a tank battle game – only armor units. In this case it was units of “Hammer’s Slammers” vs (I think) the Neu French. The game quickly taught us a lesson in achieving game balance – we did not have things adjusted right at first and the Neu French tanks commenced to slaughter the Slammers forces. A quick reset and adjustment of troop quality dice led to a much better and more balanced game.
So, we began the “reset” scenario with three Slammers hover tanks and four Slammers combat cars on the left side of the river. Their job was to repel a rapidly advancing force of Neu French hovertanks. The Neu French forces were at Tech Level 2 and the Hammer’s Slammers forces were at Tech Level 3. The Neu French forces thus had a lower troop quality die. To balance things out the Neu French forces would have the initiative for the entire game – the Slammers couldn’t just sit back in overwatch and pick them off as they emerged from the trees. Slammers had somewhat limited mobility, with fortifications behind them and the river in front. The Slammers tanks could only cross the river on the bridge, while their combat cars could cross the water anywhere. The Neu French hovertanks were light enough that they could cross the water anywhere but the bridge was still strategically important to both sides.
The Neu French forces advanced slowly out of the woods on the left side of the map. The initial fire exchange took out a Slammers tank almost immediately (bad defense die rolling). Then the exchanges got more brutal, brewing up two of the Slammers’ combat cars, immobilizing one of the Neu French tanks and brewing up two others. Not a good trade for the limited Slammers forces.
The Neu French continued to advance, immobilizing a Slammers combat car and losing another tank in the process. Their overly cautious advance was really costing them.
Now the Slammers tanks (called “Blowers”) were really living up to their reputation, shrugging off shot after shot and hitting hard in return. One downside for them was that their main guns are considered “slow firing”, so that they lost 2 firepower dice for every subsequent action shoot after the first. If the enemy forces could survive the first couple of shots from them during a turn then the following shots were far less worrysome.
The Slammers combat cars were special – a “medium” gun in a “light” vehicle. They epitomized the concept of “a hammer protected by an eggshell”. This scenario did not allow them to employ the mobility they normally enjoy. Taking on main battle tanks in an open-topped hovercraft is not the normal choice for soldiers who want to retire with a pension.
The next turn went poorly for the Neu French forces. One of their tanks lost its main gun. Another pair of them charged down the road, taking out the damaged combat car but losing a tank in the process. Not a good trade for them.
The game came to a conclusion when the last Neu French tank took out the last Slammers combat car only to suffer a main gun destruction in the return fire. This left the Neu French forces unable to advance, with their tanks either destroyed, immobilized or de-gunned. The Slammers paid a high price to accomplish this, losing one tank and 4 combat cars. Game result: marginal Slammers victory.
The “Tomorrow’s War” rules made for a fast and furious game. The rules were pretty straightforward and gameplay focused on fire and movement – not pouring through tables and diagrams. I had a lot of fun playing.