"Ah, Tainaron. Best mercenary hiring hall in the sector. And do you know why that is, Dmitri?"
"Yes, but I expect you’re going to tell me anyway."
"Because it’s a balkanised planet where they’re constantly shooting at each other! It has more military actions per year than any dozen planets combined. Oh, look, now they’re shooting at us as well! And I was so worried they wouldn’t let us join in…" Dmitri peers out of the bridge window at the tracer zipping past, and starts involuntarily as a couple of rounds spang off the viewport.
"Don’t worry about it. It’s only 12.7mm, the meteorite shielding is perfectly capable of fending that off indefinitely. As you well know."
"So, are you going to tell me why we’re here? I only ask because, you know, it might be useful in deciding where to land…"
"One of my old contacts had her cover blown. She needs a ride out of here before they damage her pride. Or her fingernails."
"Oho, ‘she’ is it? Is this an old contact, or an old flame?" Dmitri is punching numbers into a keyboard.
"Why does she have to be one or the other? There… home in on that frequency. That’s her rescue beacon." Coriander pokes her head in through the bridge access hatch.
"Is this one of those ‘Hot LZs’ you boys are always talking about?"
"I’ll let you know when we get there," says Arion. "Oh hey, like the new outfit!"
"Yeah, well, I’ve been wearing those robes for over a year now, so it’s definitely time for a new look."
I wanted to try Arion under Chain Reaction: Final Version because one of the things that slows me down in other THW products is the range of reaction tables for different troop types. It’s a clever way of reflecting differences, but it’s slower than the original idea of one reaction table fits all. I also like the idea that the CRFV NPC movement table tells you what a group’s tactical deployment will be – I miss that, and I think that’s why it feels like I have to do more thinking for the NPCs in 5150: NB.
Character creation in CRFV is a snap: The Star is Rep 5, Grunts are Rep 3-5. I decided to make Arion Rep 5 and stick with the idea of Coriander and Dmitri as both being Rep 4 for simplicity. The figure has whatever weapons it has, and nobody has armour, skills or attributes. Job done.
In story terms, Arion & Co are looking for Dmitri’s contact, or at least the beacon she was using to summon help.
This is a CRFV Patrol encounter. Arion, Coriander and Dmitri begin aboard the Dolphin, which has landed just off the edge of the main board. To succeed, Arion must spend one full activation stationary with LOS to the centre of each board section, then exit the table from the edge by which he entered.
I roll 2d6 for Enemy Activity Level, taking the higher score: 1, 6 so the EAL begins at 5 (since it may never exceed 5). As usual, rather than spend time generating terrain, I just grab one of my battlemats and lay it on Table Mountain. The PEF generation rules (p. 31) give me PEFs in sections 1, 3, and 6. I decide that any other figures encountered are soldiers looking for Dmitri’s contact.
Activation: PEFs 4, Arion 1. It’s not immediately clear to me what the PEFs’ effective Rep should be, but I decide to use the EAL for the sake of expediency, and check whether that’s right later.
PEFs go first. Starting with the one closest to the PCs, that in section 6, I roll 2d6 vs EAL (5): 1, 6 = pass 1d6. As there are other PEFs on the board, the ensuing roll of 5 means it moves 8" towards the nearest enemy, staying in cover at all times.
Using the same rules, the second closest PEF (in section 3) moves 16" through cover towards the PCs, and the last one moves 8" towards the nearest friend stopping 4" away.
Arion’s original plan was to fast move up the centre of the board and thus gain LOS to several section centres at once, but this will place him in the crossfire between two PEFs so is a bad idea. Also, the rules suggest that he can only "collect" one section at a time. Instead, he moves into section 8 and gains LOS on the centre of section 9.
After reading the In Sight rules a couple of times I decide that since both Arion and the PEFs are in cover, they can’t see each other.
Activation: Arion only.
Arion observes section 9 and crosses it off his list.
Activation: Arion only.
Arion and his crew move up through cover to a place where they can observe the centres of board sections 4, 7 and 8.
Activation: Arion, PEFs.
Arion observes section 8 – it seems reasonable to start with the one he is in. The PEFs move according to the rules, and I’m intrigued by how well the simple statement that they must move through cover for the relevant movement results drives one into a great flanking position. By now, another is only 4" away, so I decide it must be visible and resolve it.
I roll 1d6 on the PEF resolution table, cross-referencing the die roll (1) with the EAL (5) to reveal a result of X – "There’s nothing out there, no worries mate." That PEF is removed from the board. A small, furry woodland animal perhaps, or a simple case of nerves.
Activation: Arion 4, PEFs 4. As per p. 9, this doesn’t count as a turn and I reroll – note that in other THW rules sets it would still count as a turn, but neither side would move. This is because in other rules something could still happen, for example in 5150 NB the police might get closer.
Unbelievably, the rerolls are doubles several times, but eventually we get to Arion going on a 4, then the PEFs on a 3. Arion stays put and observes section 7. He could have done that on the first turn, and in real life probably would have in case of ambush, but at a metagaming level I knew there wouldn’t be any PEFs in sections 7-9.
The PEF now in section 4 wants to move 16" towards the PCs while staying in cover. It can’t do that, but there is a way for it to sprint between two stands of trees without the PCs having LOS to it, so I decide it does that. However, after 10" it can’t get closer without breaking cover and triggering an In Sight test, so I decide it stops there.
Since Arion is active and observing that section, I decide he can take a Challenge test to resolve the PEF (p. 25). I decide that success will mean he sees and resolves the PEF, while failure means he decides there is nothing there and ignores it. 2d6 (1, 5) vs Rep (5) = pass 2d6, success.
Resolving the PEF gives me a B result, a small group, and a roll of 2d6 (6) on the How Many Grunts table tells me there are three of them. I pick three figures at random from my box of soldiery, and get three guys with assault rifles. It’s not immediately obvious what their Rep should be, so I roll on the Party Generation Table on p. 7: Rolls of 2, 3, 5 are each subject to a +1 modifier for the figures being military, so we have two Rep 4 Grunts led by a Rep 5 Grunt. Who is which will be obvious to me as two of the three figures are the same pose, so they can be the Rep 4s.
Time for an In Sight test. Everybody rolls modified Rep d6 vs 3, looking for passes; the red dice next to each figure show how many it achieved. Note that everyone is in cover, so their opponents roll one less die than normal; also, the former PEF moved, so rolls one less die than that. This means the soldiers roll 3, 2 and 2 dice; Arion rolls 4 dice; and the crew roll 3 dice each. Notice how the rules reward ambushes.
Arion goes first (4 successes) and fires his BAP twice at the enemy leader. He rolls 1d6 plus Rep for each shot and scores 8, 9. Both shots miss as the target is in cover. The enemy leader now takes a Received Fire test, rolling 4d6 vs Rep (the usual two, plus one for being in cover, plus the commander’s Leader Die): He passes 4d6 and so returns fire. He rolls 1d6 + Rep for each of his three shots; 9, 10, 10 means he hits Arion twice. Arion rolls 1d6 vs weapon Impact (3) for each hit: A 1 is an Obviously Dead result, and a 3 for an Out Of the Fight result. I don’t much like that, so resort to Star Power (p. 5): I roll 5d6 for the OD result and get 3, 4, 4, 5, 6. The 3 reduces the wound from OD to OOF, and the 6 is lost from my pool for future rolls in this game. I could roll to reduce the OOF to Stunned, but decide not to because I will still be OOF, there are no extra penalties for having multiple conditions of the same type, and a bad roll could reduce my dice pool further. Arion is now out of it, and needs to be recovered and healed off board.
Coriander and Dmitri now take a Man Down test. They roll 4d6 vs Rep (4); two as usual, one for being in cover, and another one because Coriander has taken over as leader. They pass 4d6 and Carry On.
Now, the enemy leader may act – note that although he reacted to coming under fire by shooting earlier, he is now active and might fire again. I roll 1d6 vs Rep as he is a Grunt, and get a 4 – he passes 1d6 so looks at the Available Actions list. As he is able to fire, he does so; three shots at Coriander get him 7, 9, 10. 7 always misses, 9 misses if the target is in cover, so only the 10 hits. He rolls 1d6 vs Impact (3) and gets a 3; Coriander is Out Of the Fight, and has no Star Power under CRFV with which to contest that decision.
A second soldier now acts. He passes 1d6 vs Rep so can act, and fires at Dmitri. 9, 9, 10 so one hit – and on a 2, Dmitri is OOF.
Notice that the third soldier, Coriander and Dmitri are unable to act before the firefight is over.
It seems clear that the opposition can kill or capture Arion’s crew at will; since the rules allow me to decide which, and I’ve grown attached to the little bundles of stats over the years, they are captured. The next encounter will therefore be a jailbreak.
All three of the crew now roll 2d6 vs Rep on the After the Battle Recovery table (p. 24). Arion passes 2d6, the others each pass 1d6, so everyone recovers to normal Rep before the next scenario.
I expected CRFV to be faster in play than 5150 NB, and it is. However, it was only when I played it that I realised how much more brutal it is, and how much more tactical sense the PEFs display.
CRFV has no rules for improving a character, however, and because eventually the recovery table will reduce his Rep, the best you can do is not get any worse. Consequently, while CRFV is fine for a skirmish wargame, I won’t use it as an RPG in its own right – and to be fair, all it’s intended to do is let you try out the core ideas of the THW rules before you buy them.
Figures: eM4. Battlemats: Wydraz, Cry Havoc Fan.