Tuesday, September 20, 2011

After action report: 5150 Star Army

A large group turned out last week to try out 5150: Star Army, the latest revamped release from Two Hour Wargames. Our club had tried out 5150 (previous edition) earlier this year with mixed results, mostly owing to the fact that we weren't sure if we were playing the game correctly.

This go-round was much, much cleaner. We organized two side-by-side games on Karl's excellent desert wastelands table. I refereed (and played in) a 2-vs-1 game pitting two Free Company mercenary commanders against a single Star Army commander.

As is the spirit of 5150, we eyeballed the opposing forces and tried to come up with balanced armies. The two Free Company players each brought 15-20 figures to the table, organized in two squads each with one or two support weapons per squad. The Star Army player brought three squads with support. As this was a demo game meant to show off the rules engine, we didn't bother with a scenario. All future games will use scenarios, though, because it's more fun that way!

Anyway, the game played smoothly. As the referee, I had no problem at all leading the players through the various reaction tests as they maneuvered their guys around the table. The open-ended nature of the reactions meant that some turns were quite brisk while others turned into epic back-and-forth firefights. This was exciting for me, but the other Free Company player didn't seem to enjoy it as much.

Here's a photo of how our game shaped up. The Free Company squads are on the left side of the photo, approaching under the cover of some boulders and trees. The Star Army, on the right, is scaling the rocky hill in the center of the table.

They seized the high ground early on, which allowed the Star Army support weapons (rocket launcher and grenade launcher, mostly) to rain death down on our approaching troops. We got to learn A LOT about the outgunned rule while fleeing from these weapons. At one point two opposing squads were perched on opposite sides of the hilltop lobbing grenades at each other!

The game itself was a glorious meatgrinder, which was of course the whole idea in the first place. Nothing helps you learn a game like dishing out (and absorbing) heavy casualties.

In this pic, the Star Army player presses the attack with his badly mauled squads.

By the end of the game we had a good grasp of the rules. What's more, I had learned quite a bit about the differences between the various army reaction tables. Star Army is much more apt to shoot accurately under pressure, while Free Company is liable to panic and snap-fire an entire magazine.