Review: Chain Reaction 2015

I notice I have acquired a few Two Hour Wargames products I haven’t reviewed yet… let’s start with the core of the system, Chain Reaction…

My fondness for Chain Reaction and its stablemates from Two Hour Wargames is well-known, and I’ve been playing them on and off since 2009.

I was a little suspicious of this new edition at first, because the author, Ed Teixeira, said a few years ago that he was going to stop updating the rules and focus on settings and adventures, and this is (I think) the second time he has updated them since then; but I understand what he’s doing now, he is using the free Chain Reaction "test drive" as a way to disseminate the best of the tweaks that develop as the new settings are released; use them or not, up to you.

I’ve already reviewed Chain Reaction here, and this is really a minor update, so I’ll limit myself to the changes for this post.

IF YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED A THW GAME BEFORE

They’re skirmish wargames with roleplaying elements, designed from the ground up to be used for solo or same-side play as well as the usual head-to-head wargaming. Chain Reaction is the guts of the combat system, and each of the many other titles in the stable expands it with campaign rules, setting material, and so forth aimed at a particular genre or subgenre.

In most such games, side A moves, shoots and conducts melee, then side B moves, shoots and conducts melee. In the THW "reaction system", side A activates and moves some of its figures; side B reacts to that movement, which in turn may cause side A to react to that reaction, and so on. That goes back and forth until it peters out – usually one side dies, is incapacitated or flees – and then side A activates another group of figures. It plays much faster than that description would lead you to think.

Each player only really has control of one figure, the rest move according to dice rolls and the rules. That’s like Marmite: You’ll either love it or hate it.

SO WHAT’S NEW?

Just two changes really:

  • First, weapons no longer have an Impact rating; damage is now resolved by rolling 1d6 against the target’s Rep rather than the weapon’s Impact.
  • Second, melee combat is simpler and faster, as both Impact and the Evenly Matched status have been discarded.

Overall, I prefer the new rules. Faster, simpler, easier to remember. These changes, combined with tightening up the text in general, have reduced the page count since the last version.

CONCLUSIONS

Chain Reaction as a game system is even faster and simpler than it was before, and of all the tabletop games I know, this one has the best "AI" for solo gaming.

It’s free, it’s just over 30 pages long, and it works with any figures or terrain you already have, so it wouldn’t take much time or money to try it out. I recommend that you do. You can get it at RPGNow or Two Hour Wargames.

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