Search results for: 5150 star army

Review: 5150 – Star Army

Two hour wargames has a slew of settings using their Chain Reaction rules (which are available free). Their sci-fi ruleset is 5150: Star Army which is designed for a variety of scales but works for best for 15-28 mm. Now Chain Reaction has been out a while now and this is not the first iteration of their sci-fi rules. Their latest version, which came out in 2011, shows that as it seems much more polished and refined as a dedicated ruleset of military style engagements.

The game is designed to handle small squad engagements up to a company in size. More rapid games usually run about a platoon size with some armor assets. It truly is a skirmish game however, with individual models taking actions and isn’t necessarily abstracted out to the squad level like some other games (ex. Bolt Action). Because of this, units have a lot of flexibility on the battlefield and can split and form up easily. This is especially nice as you could have a support team set up to cover the rest of the squad when it assaults, allowing for more interesting tactics.

The core aspect of Star Army (and all Chain Reaction games) is the reaction system using a couple of d6. When called upon to do something, the model rolls 2d6 and tries to score equal to, or under, a set value of its reputation or ‘rep’. It can either pass these tests with both dice, one, or none. Rep ranges from 2 (very poor, civilian type troops) to upwards of 6 (hero-like reputation) with most troops ranging from 3-4.

Initiative is randomly determined based on rep. Each player rolls a single d6 and all units/models that have a rep equal to or higher than the roll can activate for that turn. Leaders can utilize their leadership for units under their command, allowing a group of irregulars with a rep of 3 to likely activate with a well-trained leader’s rep of 5. Once a unit has activated and done their movement and firing it’s done for the turn.

This looks initially as a simple IGOUGO system, however it’s actually a very fluid action system where units can fire and react multiple times. Each time a unit sees an enemy pop into LOS, or is fired upon, they can attempt to react and return fire. So all units are consistently on overwatch and react to events around them. This is curbed by the requirement of passing checks to react.

The number of passed tests indicate what actions they can undertake. If they pass with 2 dice, then they’ll likely fire to full effect. If only one die passed, limited fire is an option, with no dice meaning the unit might actually scramble for cover instead. All of these tests are based on a chart broken up by the action the unit is reacting to. If it’s fired on it uses a specific row. If it suffers casualties, a different chart row is consulted. If it requires a cohesion test, another row is looked at to determine results, etc.

To explain the shooting steps further, each weapon has a number of dice rolled based on its target value (or effective firepower) with most rifles throwing 3 dice. The player rolls a d6 and adds their rep value trying to get over 7. This target number is increased upwards to 10, based on cover for the target or actions from the firing unit (like firing on the move, etc.). All rolls that hit are then rolled for damage, where a player needs to roll under the impact rating of the weapon. The impact rating will vary depending on the armor of the target. Soft armored troops have a higher impact rating for weapons compared to heavy, or exo-armored troops. Typically wounds are scored on a 1-2. It’s an easy system to resolve.

Close combat is a little more abstract. Units roll multiple d6 based on armor and weapons. Rolls of three or less are considered successes. The difference between the scores becomes the number of casualties for the losing side. This may also force a morale test where the losing side can break and run. Overall it’s a pretty simple, abstract system to run.

There are also rules for vehicles, however most revolve around armored fighting vehicles like tanks and APCs. Flyers are not really part of the rule system for on table models to use. Rather they are incorporated into scenario assets as air support, or for rapid insertions. As for these additional rules, there are a lot of options including snipers, artillery strikes, boobytraps and mines, even defensive ambushes from small teams.

There are a few simple scenarios presented as a patrol or a defensive/offensive actions, where the player can determine the objective for their units (ex. either to destroy as much of the enemy as possible, or get units off their opponent’s side of the board). And there is a rather interesting campaign mode detailing the attempt for invading a planet.

I’d be remiss to not mention that the rules also support solitaire play. As the game revolves around passing reaction checks, the authors were able to come up with some clever automated rules. Enemy units are represented by random tokens. When the player finally gets a token in sight, what it actually represents is randomly determined depending on the type of scenario played. Each unit has a scripted AI sequence and provides an engaging opponent. It works rather well as a solo game.

The background of the universe is paper thin. There are not any set rules for creating alien races. However there are unique abilities and characteristics for different races provided. Further the reaction tables for each race are somewhat unique. They can be tailored to fit a variety of unit types. There are also additional rules for ‘bugs’ or alien races that are more feral and primarily employ close assault attacks (for those folks wanting to try an Aliens or Starship Troopers type of game). The game also incorporates different armor and weapon systems. Combined with rep values, you can model a variety of troops with the default charts and tables. This could allow a disparity with tech values among alien races, to pitting battle-hardened veterans against green irregulars.

Another key aspect of the rules are the leaders or what the game calls, Stars. Models are split into either grunts or stars. The stars are larger than life heroes. Many of their reaction rules are ignored, allowing greater autonomy over how a star reacts in battle. Additionally there are rules for making them more resilient to damage.

What you should be able to take from this is how utterly flexible the rule system is. It can surprisingly incorporate a lot of different play styles and genres. If someone wanted to run a Star Wars type game with jedi and sith duking it out as stormtroopers and rebels fire away with blasters, it can be done. The base system is rather simple, but incorporating company assets you could get a variety of off-board support for a patrol scenario. Additionally there are rules to allow a simple firefight to roll into a larger engagement, with additional reinforcements coming into the fray.

There might be one detraction with this system. It is very much an old school wargame ruleset. There are no points. There isn’t really any guidelines for making a balanced fight. Instead the players are asked to use their judgement and try to make the game as fun and challenging as possible. The rules assume that the game is run through a gentlemanly agreement rather than a competitive tournament style.

The Good – How the turn progresses is very fluid. The chaotic escalation of a firefight where units either hit the dirt or return fire is engaging. Everything comes down to leadership, with poorly trained troops being unlikely to react to events unfolding around them, but occasionally they might show initiative and react accordingly. It’s very organic despite the apparent free flow of play and is a nice skirmish set of rules.

The Bad – It can take a bit to wrap your head around the rules. Things are broken up well and it encourages the slow digestion of rules followed up by play. Nonetheless it requires a lot of charts and condensed quick reference sheets for each force. You are rolling off on tables and there are differing results depending on the condition of the target unit.

Lastly, the game does commit one great sin in my eyes. Not all die rolls are interpreted as high or low. For most of the game rolling low is good except when it comes to shooting, where you want to roll high. This small difference can break up teaching the game and impedes the processing of rules some. Lastly the game does depend on players with a similar mentality for balance and fun. There is nothing stopping a side from going all out in a battle, bringing in tons of tanks and platoon assets, with troops armed (and armored) to the teeth, other than being a jerk. I find it refreshing to have rules adopt a more free attitude towards force construction but some might like a more concrete set of rules for platoon composition.

The Verdict – I really enjoy 5150: Star Army. It’s got dynamic play with unit activation and reaction. It handles military small unit action very well. It’s a surprisingly flexible system that can incorporate a lot of different genres, and can handle quite a few units on the table. It could easily be tinkered some to run a modern insurgent-type squad engagements, up to more cinematic, over-the-top heroic action. The sheer amount of layers of rules is fantastic. From campaign rules to solitaire or team based games (being run against an AI opponent), there is a lot of muscle with the rules to run a variety of skirmish games.

One slight detraction could be just that. It is very much an individual model skirmish game. Actions and reactions are based at times on individual models. This can slow down a game some with a lot of units. Especially when you have multiple units reacting to the same acting unit. However, this also means the game can accommodate a lot of different playstyles, where players could throw heroic type individuals into the mix of different squads and still have a fun game. Not all game systems could handle this well.

Overall I would recommend 5150: Star Army. It’s a solid set of rules for military skirmish wargaming. Turn progression and resolution of actions are dynamic allowing for each player to roll a lot of dice and (hopefully) react to their opponent. The solo rules alone could be a reason to pick this up. If you are looking for a sci-fi ruleset for platoon infantry combat, you’ll find this book a good buy and fun to play.


Thinking up a campaign for Gates of Antares

3_round_campaignGates of Antares is my sci-fi skirmish game of choice as of late. One particular aspect I enjoy about GoA is that it has embraces more narrative scenarios over just having your typical tourney smash em up. However, one thing the rules lack though is a set of campaign rules.

I’ve been thinking of some ideas to get a framework of rules together for campaigns. Digging around I fell in love with some stuff over on another wargaming blog, Steve’s Balagan. They worked up a branching campaign system which is concise, builds on previous battles, and doesn’t get mired down in a lot of rules. I love it. I still want to putter around with some ideas for dealing with casualties and resupply. I might dig into Star Army: 5150 for that, as they have some nifty rules for running a campaign game.

While I might consider working on some static campaign maps, I wanted to possibly consider using a random mission system for battles. There is some great stuff out there which looks nice. I may use the idea of a static defender and attacker to shake up the mission objectives some, but the rules I’ve looked at are pretty robust. I also enjoy that each side has some more hidden objectives to add to the flavor of a particular engagement. Certainly a bunch of great stuff out there to tinker with.

2015 gaming (and some blogging) resolutions

Another year has rolled around. Looking back I dabble in a lot of different gaming topics. I’m sort of all over the place. Unfortunately it does leave of a lot of unfinished projects lying around. Especially with my miniature wargaming, I’ve probably bitten off more than I can chew. So I’m hoping this year to get some more focus with my hobby.

Get Pacific terrain done – Working with 20mm WW2 stuff, I really want to get more Pacific-themed terrain finished. I made a decent stab at western European buildings and such, but my Pacific terrain is lacking. Having some buildings and jungle terrain is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but have never gotten around to. I need to rectify that.

Paint at least 80% of what I own – This isn’t monumental but it’s a heavy load to lift. I’ve accumulated a lot of different armies over the past few years and I really want to get them painted. I still have a 15 mm sci-fi platoon to paint up, along with a bunch of bugs, APCs, and a few tanks. Getting those done would be nice.

I have made a ton of progress with my Bolt Action stuff. I’ve got Germans, British, Japanese, and Pacific US Army platoons painted all in 20 mm. I’ve got a British paratroop platoon to work on. Along with some more armor kits to paint up. The big task will be to get my 28mm Russians painted. Not sure how much of a dent I can make into those ruskies at the end of the year, but I want to try.

I’ve also got a Relthoza Firestorm Armada fleet to work on, not to mention my SAGA Viking and Saxon warbands, and a Flames of War Russian infantry division to finish. The latter is really on my back (back, back) burner as I haven’t played FoW in years. I might look into an alternative ruleset to FoW so I can kickstart my desire to get back into WW2 15mm

Find skirmish sci-fi rules I like… – Over the years I’ve picked up several rules for sci-fi wargames, including making some alternatives to existing rules. There are quality rules out there but nothing that I quite like. I was gung ho to jump into Beyond the Gates of Antares however there are some aspects to the rules that I find clunky. Still on the prowl for something I would enjoy more.

…or write some of sci-fi rules of my own. – A few thoughts on a rule set have been rolling around my head though. I’d like a platoon skirmish system that doesn’t require a ton of bookkeeping and charts. Maybe a bit of rules for some armor. I really want to dabble in a fog of war system too. What I want is a little specific to what’s out there, so I’m considering working on a set of rules of my own making.

Buy RPGs I’ll play – I’ve adopted this already in 2014 and will be sticking to it. Over the years I bought a lot of books. I ended up dumping most and decided from now on to get books for games I plan on playing. Savage Worlds will likely be on that list for some setting specific books. I’m on the fence for D&D though. No clue if I will be running a game any time soon. I’ve got the starter set and will probably get the PDFs bound, but don’t see me buying the core books unless I can get a game going. Unfortunately, my group is pretty keen on other RPGs so not sure if 5E is in the cards for me.

Get more board game reviews done – I have a decent collection of board games. I really want to get a good chunk of my games reviewed. Very slowly I’ve been building a base of reviews and linking them to the Board Game Geek site. I enjoy making a contribution to that community. I might have to dabble in some tabletop wargame reviews also.

Compile my Expeditions of Amazing Adventure posts – There is an entire campaign setting there. Throw them together with a map. Flesh out some details on locations. Add a few more locations of interest. Yeah, there is something I could do with that for a fantasy setting. I want to get that done, along with adding a few more locales.

Revisit ASTRO Colony – A long while back I worked on a classroom social studies exercise, where students were different factions of a space colony, all trying to be the lead party in an election so they could gain resources and goals specific for their faction. They had to work with other faction groups to gain a simple majority by vote. It was an exercise to illustrate the how unyielding positions on certain platforms, and still being able to compromise, is a difficult issue for political parties. Especially if their own goals go against the immediate needs of the general public.

At it’s core, I’m happy with how ASTRO colony worked out. However I really need to clean the document up more. The presentation of the material is also unwieldy. I want to get an updated version of that done.

So that’s about it. It’s a pretty long list of goals. Hee. It’ll be interesting how many of these resolutions I can keep for the upcoming year. I sincerely hope folks have a wonderful New Year, and get a lot of gaming in with family and friends over 2015.


A few game resources can be found here:

5E D&D

5E D&D Travel Rules – A set of rules modified for adding some difficulty for travel and journeys for 5E.

5E Round-By-Round Initiative – A 5E variant for initiative based off of rules proposed by Mike Mearls.

4E D&D

4E D&D Action Pyramid – A simple graphic to pass on the concept of player actions in 4E.

City Chase Skill Challenge with a Flow Chart – House rules to run a city chase scene as a skill challenge with branching routes.

Coin Parcels to Treasure Chest Reward Rules – A house rule system to use an abstract form of treasure. With example values up through Heroic Tier.

Combat Initiative Cards – Simple printable cards the DM can arrange to keep track of who goes when and access basic combat-related information at a glance.

Geek Ken Combat Manager Sheet – An initiative tracker with space to write down defenses, HPs, and other conditions, designed to fit on a sheet of paper.

4E Condition Markers – A simple sheet with various condition markers.

General RPG Stuff

Dread Card Alternative – A way to replace a block tower in your Dread game using a standard deck of cards, with some tweaks.

Sci-fi Adventure Generator – A random sci-fi adventure generator. Can be used for just about any space opera type game.


Fiasco Setup Cards – A few sheets that can be printed up, cut apart, and filled in. Should be enough cards to cover your typical 5 player game.

East Sea Ire – A Fiasco playset. A sleepy Korean island village, nestled on the international sea border of its sister country to the North.

Savage Worlds

Savage World PC Cheat Sheet – A Savage Worlds cheat sheet to cover the mechanics of the game.

Savage Sun!– A Savage Worlds conversion for Dark Sun. I managed to track down the person responsible for the bulk of the racial text and the individual that did the foundation to much of the conversion, Rich Ranallo. You can dig through Savage Heroes to find his original conversion.

Savage Worlds Dark Sun Encumbrance Sheet – A character inventory sheet to keep track of items and equipment for a Savage Worlds hack of Dark Sun.

Savage Worlds Conversion for Traveller – A brief set of rules to use the Mongoose Traveller RPG book for your Savage World game.

Savage Worlds Traveller Weapons and Armor – Charts for different weapons and armor for your Savage Worlds Traveller game.

Planetary UPP for Savage Worlds – A more structured system to generate planets using the sci-fi Companion for your Savage Worlds game.

Planetary UPP Google Spreadsheet – A Google spreadsheet for quickly generating planetary UPP profiles your Savage Worlds game.

Travel Rules for Savage Worlds – A set of rules I’ve modified for adding some challenge to travel in your Savage Worlds game.

Terrene – A fantasy setting for Savage Worlds.

Terrene Map – A simple hex map of Terrene.

Wargames Stuff

5150: Star Army Unit Cards – Unit cards Star Army:5150 using the Chain Reaction rules from Two Hour War Games. Also includes a scenario asset investment tracker.

Firestorm Armada

Firestorm Armada Battle Log Scoring Tracker – A basic Battle Log scoring tool you can print and cut out for your Firestorm Armada games.

Geek Ken Firestorm Armada QRS – A quick reference sheet for your 2nd ED Firestorm Armada games.

Firestorm Armada MARS Sheet – A very simple MARs summary sheet for 2nd ED Firestorm Armada.

Firestorm Armada Terrain Sheet – A small reference sheet on terrain effects for 2nd ED Firestorm Armada.

Bolt Action

Secure the Sector – A scenario for Bolt Action designed to replace maximum attrition. Based on controlling table quarters, the player has to capture as much territory as they can while minimizing their losses.

Bolt Action House Rules – Various house rules I use for my Bolt Action games.

Bolt Gun Action – A conversion of the wonderful WWII miniature wargame, Bolt Action, into a sci-fi setting, with some very minor tweaks to the rules and units.

Bolt Gun Action QRS – A quick reference sheet for Bolt Gun Action, a sci-fi reskin of Bolt Action.


Campaign System changes for Frostgrave – An alternate campaign system for Frostgrave that adds some strategy to the out-of-game steps, as well as try to even out warband advancement among players.

Wound System for Frostgrave – An alternate system to track wounds for soldiers and creatures in Frostgrave instead of using health points.

Board Games

Terminal Most Wanted List – A MWL alternative for Netrunner now that Fantasy Flight Games is no longer supporting it. It uses a pool of all the released cards and relies on Universal Influence costs.

Netrunner Click-Credit-Counter Tracker – A play aid listing both corp and runner actions for Android: Netrunner along with a click tracker, all on sheet the size of a single card. In addition a few trackers for either 1 or 5 credits and virus counters (or tags, bad publicity, etc.) are included. Print them out on cardstock or sleeve them, throw in a few coins or counters, and they should work reducing the number of tokens needed for your game.

Zombicide House Rules – Some house rules for the base Zombicide game, tweaking shooting and vehicle combat, along with a means to heal and respawn dead survivors.