Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tomorrows War - First Impressions

There have been a rash of wargaming books from Osprey recently. Field of Glory is on sale everywhere, although I don't know anyone who actually plays it.

Now Osprey are entering the SF field with Tomorrow's War.

Physical Production: Not bad at all. You get a hardback 250 page book for £15. The artwork is surprisingly so-so for Osprey. It doesn't compare with GW or even small independents like Warlord.

Back Story: Not very exciting. It isn't tomorrow's war it's today's war. With these rules a player can refight Iraq or Afghanistan dressed up a bit. The backstory is very derivative. It's Stargrunt, only written as an American wet dream rather than a British wet dream. 2300AD is politically identical to 2000AD with America as top nation (although it now has a higher living standard than other first world nations), the UK as Batavians to America's Rome, plucky little allies, and so on. The black hats are Islamacists, North Korean style military dictatorships, and Soviets. It is slightly amusing that American colonies that are more economically powerful still owe allegiance to the mother nation across the light years. That has not been the British experience. :)
The science of 2300 is strangely patchy. Antigravity and FTL spacecraft are commonplace but soldiers still walk around battlefields clutching rifles and driving tanks. The life sciences do not seem to have moved forward at all, which is odd given the rise of molecular biology.
One point did make me smile. The suggestion that hovercraft-tanks can cross water. It reminds me of the old joke about the man who stopped his lorry before a flimsy bridge to bang on the side. When plod enquired what he was up to, he explained that his cargo was live pigeons and that he was banging the lorry panels to make them fly up in alarm -and so lighten the lorry before crossing the bridge.
Still, none of this matters very much. It's just an excuse for us to play toy soldiers, after all.

Rules: Bloody awful. The rules place more emphasis on training/morale than gadgets, which I whole heartedly approve. If technology won wars, Vietnam would have been a pushover and the Afghan war wouldn't have lasted longer than WWI and WWII put together with no end point in sight. But the rules are the most god-awful mess. Everything you might possibly want to play Iraq with gizmos is there but they are scattered incoherently all over the place. There is no attempt to separate core rules from side issues that most players will never use. This is basically a squad-level skirmish game played at one model represents one man.

There is no way into the game.

Worst of all, it has an interesting and complicated action-reaction sequence that I understand is characteristic of games designed by Ambush Alley. BUT NOWHERE IS THE SYSTEM ACTUALLY EXPLAINED. The player is left to make inferences by piecing together clues from all over the place. I have read it over an over again and I am still not sure I have it right. Yet this is the heart of the game.

Frustrated, you betcha, as the fragrant but incoherent Ms Palin might put it.

Finally there is no rules and table summary in one place. Ambush Alley want to get a set of Hail Caesar and learn from the master.

I am not giving up on this. I suspect there is a good game in there but I will never be sure how much I am playing the game as the authors intended and how much I am playing my game based on some of their ideas.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I actually thought the rules were quite well laid out, with gradual introductions and then a scenario allowing you to use the rules you have just read.

    However, I agree that the action/reaction system is certainly not intuitive or well explained. I've also read through several times and I think I only have a vague grasp of it at best.

    There are also several glaring omissions. For instance, in the morale system it fails to mention that only combat effective troops can make morale saves, which means that, as the rule stands, there is no degredation of morale as the unit takes casualties. They also miss out the table giving details of air support values, so although they say that a TAC can call in, for instance, fast movers and atmospheric interceptors, it fails to say what the stats for those vehicles are.

    Also a gree that a quick reference sheet should be a given for ANY system.

  3. Thanks, a very useful review. I've had my eyes on this rules set, but now I will be very cautious.

  4. I too appreciate this review John - I have been considering TW for awhile. Guess I'll consider it a bit longer now!

  5. I found a walkthrough of a turn for Force on Force (the same basic system) on the Ambush Alley site and that helped enormously in understanding how straightforward the basic system mechanics are.

  6. Dear GJD
    Perhaps frustration made me a little too critical but I got more exasperated with each reading.

  7. Dear MM & Paul
    These rules are certainly not for the faint-hearted. Only stout chaps who can laugh in the face of damnation should buy.

  8. Dear Al
    Thanks, have downloaded them and someone has made a set of table summaries on four pages and placed it on the site.

  9. I am suspicious of this review only because, just this week, I was looking at Tomorrow's War in my local Barnes and Noble, and noticed your own fictioon title just a few feet away on the shelf. ;)

    Thanks for the head's up on TW. I agree the art is a bit disappointing for Osprey. It is far behind MERCS and Hammer's Slammers: The Crucible.

  10. Dear Ken
    I hope you bought a copy of my fiction. I am sure it would be a good read. :)

  11. A friend of mine has been raving about this game but after reading your review, I'm not that sure about it now.

    Any tips for a first time player?

  12. Dear Col
    Yes, I have tried a game and will post tomorrow.

  13. Hello, John.
    A very interesting rewiev for me, because I have been thinking about to buy this ruleset, but now... I´m going to think a bit more.

    Thank you very much.

  14. Hmm, too bad. A friend and I were thinking of using these, but they sound like a headache.

  15. Dear Sons
    They have lots of good ideas but are not for the faint hearted.

  16. John - great post. We tried the rules this week and posted a review on our blog at

    Very similar thoughts to yours - I had just posted our review when a friend directed me to yours! Looking forward to reading your batrep.