Anyway, BUGS! is a compact and focused game of humans fighting (or running away from) primitive but dangerous aliens -- the types with sharp teeth and claws. The reason to play it nowadays is mostly to gain perspective on the origins and evolution of the Reaction System. The core ideas are already present but yet to be refined. The whole set of rules fits in four pages of text and two pages of tables. The cost of this is that some definitions and clarifications are not included. When playing, I had to make some assumptions about things like front facing arc, group movement, requirements for charging, melee combat etc.
Battle ReportBased on information from the book I ran a simple scenario where a group of mercenaries and civilians must reach a shuttle to escape a facility infested with bug-like aliens. Every turn there's the risk that the aliens will burrow a hole to ambush them. Here is a picture of the setup. The green patches (woods) and gray squares (buildings) are impassable terrain. Some comments about the game system are given in square brackets.
Here's a closer look of the group, from left to right: Adrian with a grenade launcher (heavy weapon), Barret with an assault rifle, Claudia (the leader) also with a rifle, and the civilians Daisy and Edna, unarmed. [Characters have six attributes. I believe that two of them, weapon skill and willpower, later turned into Rep.]
Enquiry Table to ask if the aliens would try to surround the humans but got a "no" for an answer, so the rest of the aliens kept moving to join the first two. The mercenaries activated, moved backwards and fired at the visible aliens. The rest of the small aliens moved forward, causing several reactions. Adrian got a critical hit with his heavy weapon, killing two of the small bugs and wounding three others. The last two bugs emerged from the hole. [There is no system for enemy movement so I have the aliens mindlessly charge ahead, which seems logical in this scenario.]
Small aliens charged Adrian and Claudia, entering melee and causing some damage. Since there was no mention about leaving melee voluntarily, I assumed it was not possible, so the mercenaries would have to defeat their opponents. The last two small aliens entered line of sight of Barret (who was not in melee.) He missed one of them but critically hit and killed the other. [Since I can't find information about the soldiers' melee attacks, I assume they would use half of their weapon skill, half of the power and a single die of damage. That gives a definite edge to the aliens if they reach melee but I think it would be in the spirit of the game.]
ConclusionI had fun playing this little scenario and I could get a feeling of how the reaction system played at its beginning. BUGS! ran more smoothly than I expected, considering it was a much earlier version of the reaction system. The to-hit table in particular isn't as streamlined as more recent games from Two Hour Wargames (THW,) requiring more lookups. On the other hand, the rules are quite simple. Part of that comes from the fact that the core rules are stated but there gaps to be filled (for instance, the issues I had with melee.) I think that this trend for customization and for "just playing the game" is still present in the concept and subtext of current THW games but the rules are much more complete and thorough.
Despite this, I could not recommend playing BUGS! nowadays except for curiosity or game design reasons, when there are alternatives like 5150, Chain Reaction and Raptorz. However, the mechanics for the spawning of the "bug holes" might be useful in other scenarios or games.
That's it for now...