Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Chain Reaction 3.0 Swordplay

I got some time to try Chain Reaction 3.0 Swordplay, which is the other free rulebook from Two Hour Wargames. The main question I wanted to answer was: how different it is from the "standard" Chain Reaction, which I have previously reviewed?

The answer is: quite different. Sure, the basics of character Reputation, passing 2d6 tests and reactions remain the same, but then you have different reaction tests, since this is aimed at fantasy/historical medieval conflicts. And there are different reaction tables for each broad type of unit, so that knights on horses react differently from archers or infantry. If the Chain Reaction 3.0 was already loaded with information, this one goes further bringing two scenarios, six historical army lists and four fantasy army lists, to boot.

I ran a quick game using 15mm miniatures and halving all distances and ranges. In this scenario, a small band of orcs controlled by me must steal two treasures from the undead, stored in locked treasure chests. The two orc heroes (in armor) are Rep 5 warriors with heavy armor and two-handed weapons. The one with the cloak is a star. The other orcs are Rep 3, unarmored. Two of them have small shields and swords, the other two have polearms.
The undead are organized into two groups. The first consists of five Rep 3 skeleton warriors, unarmored with various weapons, led by a Rep 5 wraith lord, protected (by magic) and wielding a mace.
The second group consists of three Rep 4 skeleton knights, unarmored and equipped with swords. The leader is the one with the slightly taller hat, in the middle.

To unlock a chest or bash it open, a figure must be adjacent to it and roll 2d6 against Rep. If they pass 2d6, they open the chest and immediately grab the treasure. If they pass 1d6, the chest is not opened but another character may try again in the same round. If they pass 0d6, the chest is not opened and another attempt can only be performed (by any character) on the next round. After grabbing the treasure, a figure may leave through any board edge.

I set up the map with a few forest patches and placed my figures. Then I rolled for the placement of the chests and enemy forces, using the same procedure for setting up terrain explained in the rules.
On the second turn, the undead knights approached one of the orc groups, prompting a Threatened reaction test. The orcs passed 2d6 attacking the nearest knight and defeating it. The knights took a Man Down reaction but didn't flee. Lusting for blood (due to an Exploit result on the melee combat) the orc hero charged another knight, engaging in a fierce fight [He would have been defeated but was saved due to his star power.]
The fight continued on the next round, and eventually the orc hero managed to defeat the other two knights, but one of the orc warriors ran into the forest when he saw the other orc fall in battle. He joined the other group, who entered the forest to reach the treasure chest. The orc hero in the forest smashed the first chest open and picked up the treasure. Meanwhile, the other hero moved towards the second chest.
As the orc group prepared to leave the forest, the skeleton warriors rushed to face them. Resisting the impulse to fight, the orcs moved back into the woods. The undead followed them and a battle took place.
The wraith lord defeated one of the orcs, and was knocked down by the orc hero. One of the orcs with a shield defeated two skeletons at once, and the orc with the polearm, who had previously fled, was killed by the skeletons. [Both sides passed their Man Down tests, so the fight continued on the following round.]
A couple of rounds later, the only standing figures were the two orc heroes. The combination of high Rep, heavy armor and two-handed swords made them really strong. I'll have to try pitting one of these against several opponents to see what happens.

Closing remarks
I had fun with this little fantasy skirmish, although I should have included some ranged figures too. In any case, melee combat and reactions worked well and the rules for different weapon and armor types allow you to play according to what your figures are wearing and carrying.

I also found the book easier to read than Chain Reaction 3.0. That's hard to judge accurately since I have already read the other book and took some time to think about it. However, there are things like the short clarification on taking multiple reaction tests on page 13 that help to understand the system. I think someone new to Chain Reaction might want to start trying Swordplay and then move on to the basic book. On the other hand, players sticking with Swordplay might want to "import" the Challenge system and the rules for hidden movement (PEFs, possible enemy forces) from there.


JF said...

Nice report, and, yes, ranged characters would have made a significant impact on a game of CR 3 Swordplay (sometimes too much). Regardless, I like Swordplay very much and have felt that it has been sorely underrated by the community at large, but I'm not sure why.

Also, your pics remind me to stop being lazy and get to One Monk already!

Ricardo said...

Thanks for the comment and the information on ranged characters. I didn't know Swordplay isn't very popular. If I had to guess, I'd say that's either because Chain Reaction is more well-known for modern battles or because Swordplay stands halfway between fantasy and historical gaming but both theories aren't very solid.

Monty said...

Great AAR, I have Swordplay but haven't tried it yet due to concentrating on 3.0...
For the sake of time (and because they are great products)I think I will get some One Monk figures too as an interim measure :)

Aleksandar Šaranac said...

Actually, Swordplay is not popular in itself because many 2HW fantasy players (including me) mix swordplay rules with Warrior Heroes Armies and Adventures, and then call it WHAA battle report :)
The main reason for this is because WHAA includes magic and some more detailed skills...

Ricardo said...

I completely forgot about Warrior Heroes... surely makes sense.

Slorm said...

One little and obvious answer.
Where do you get your paper miniatures?
At One Monk forum and where more?

Ricardo said...

All the fantasy miniatures in this post are from OneMonk -- both the paid lines and free forum hoards. I also have some I got from, look for publishers like Darkmook, Jabbro Jones, Okumarts Games, Offbeat Orc, Slick's Miniatures, among others I'm probably forgetting. Outside of DTRPG, Sanity Studios ( also has some great minis.

Slorm said...

Ok, thanks.

I was looking for some ACW troops, for 28mm skirmish, do you know where can I get some of them?

Ricardo said...

I knew I was forgetting someone. Precis Intermedia have a variety of miniatures in their "Disposable Heroes" line, including ACW. Look for "Disposable Heroes Soldier Statix 2: Civil War" on their site or DTRPG. However, their minis have a black silhouette for the backs, which may or may not suit your taste.

Slorm said...

Thanks Ricardo, I have seen them, but I friend of mine have sent to me this link:

I think that they will work very well with my project.

Ricardo said...

Cool, lots of nice figures. Interesting, I think Gwindel posts (or at least posted) on the OneMonk forum but I don't think I had visited that site before.