Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Resistance Is Futile

Being a compulsive buyer collector of rulesets, I recently got some new games. Among them was "Resistance Is Futile" by AGEMA. Previously I bought and played their "Sacre Bleu!" rules which I am very fond of as the chaotic play sequence serves very well for solo (although it might be frustrating when playing against an opponent.) This led me to purchasing other games from the company, despite finding very little to no information about them.

"Resistance Is Futile" (RIF for short) is a set of sci-fi skirmish rules for 15mm or 28mm scale. The 32-page book includes a sample setting called "Sigma-14" and the author encourages players to make their own to add meaning and motivation to their games. The setting is actually an entertaining read, with a good amount of humor mixed with different sci-fi conventions. Take for instance this description of one of the factions:

"There are also within the towns and cities what is termed The Resistance which rejects all forms of government and who are effectively anarchists who love conspiracy theories and trust no-one, including themselves most of the time."

I have to commend the author for keeping with the "just play the game" spirit throughout the book. At all points there are tips and ideas about playing with what you have, using your imagination to justify it in sci-fi terms.

Regarding presentation and writing style, the text is clear and free of typos. There are some odd font choices for header text and the layout alternates between one and two columns but there is nothing unbearable. I just wish there was a printer-friendly version without the page borders.

Rules overview

On the rules side, RIF is a relatively simple skirmish game, with little bookkeeping. Figures are grouped into units with the exception of "heroes", which are deployed as individuals and have some benefits. Figures are defined by quality (irregulars, regulars, special forces), ranged weapon type, close combat weapon type and armor. They may also have a few modifiers. Weapons and armor are defined by a multiplier to die rolls. The same system applies to vehicles and robotic units. There is a points system to create forces, including some helpful examples.

Turn sequence is essentially IGO-UGO with a random activation factor. The player with initiative activates the first unit automatically, which may shoot and move. Then, a roll is made to activate further units and when it fails, initiative passes to the other player.

Movement distance is randomized, accounting for fog of war and command miscommunication. Shooting is performed with a hit roll followed by a damage vs. armor roll. There are no provisions for target assignment or priority other than line of sight restrictions. A unit may be placed in overwatch, granting a bonus to hit. Units may also choose to be suppressed when fired upon. Area weapons use a roll to determine number of targets instead of templates. Close combat allows shooting by both sides during the charge and then is resolved by an initiative roll and damage roll. Continuing close combat is fought again after each unit activation -- possibly several times on a player's turn.

The game includes a system for morale checks and once a side loses 1/4 of its figures, it may start to fall apart if it is based on irregular troops. Once a side loses half of its forces, its remaining units start checking for morale loss every turn.

Playtest summary

I had a total of ten playtest battles, played solo simulating both sides in a variety of scenarios, as described below.

1) Two forces with four units of five regulars each, with standard armor and weapons, on a cluttered 3'x3' board (five large terrain pieces scattered around.) Due to the cluttered terrain, many losses were caused in close combat. The battles were decided by morale check failures. I played this scenario twice, with playing times: 36 and 49 minutes.

2) One light vehicle with heavy anti-personal weapons and one unit of six regular soldiers against a unit of eight soldiers in power armor and heavy rifles. Fought on a 3'x3' board with just two terrain pieces. I played this scenario twice and the side with power armor dominated both. Playing times: 20 and 22 minutes.

3) Two light antigrav vehicles and a unit of eight regular soldiers, two of them armed with grenade launchers, against a heavy tank and two units of five regular soldiers with high-tech communicators. This battle was fought on a 4'x3' board with three terrain pieces. Despite similar point values, the heavy tank proved superior to everything else due to harder armor and weapons. Playing times: 41 minutes.

4) Ten regular soldiers with powered melee weapons charging an immobilized heavy tank with a heavy automatic anti-personal weapon, starting 18 inches away. I played this three times, with the soldiers managing to destroy the tank twice. Playing times: 7 and 5 minutes; I forgot to time the first session.

5) Three units of five armored robots with carbines and heavy claws and a robot controller light vehicle with a single gun, against two units of seven unarmored soldiers with heavy rifles and high-tech communicators. Fighting on a 4'x3' board with three terrain pieces. Lesson learned: robots are terrible chargers in this game as they have limited movement. The soldiers lost eight figures but won. Playing time: 39 minutes.

6) Two units of six regular soldiers with rifles, including one flamethrower in each unit, against three units of five irregulars with carbines and one grenade launcher in each unit. Played on a 4'x3' board with no terrain pieces. Morale failures from both sides made this a very close battle, and in the end only one soldier with a flamethrower was left in the board. Playing time: 21 minutes.

Remarks about the rules and playtest battles

Based on my test battles, I found the points system adequate. Powerful options such as high-tech communication, special forces status and weapon stabilizers are quite costly. Even heavy tanks may be swarmed and taken down by infantry in close combat.

The activation system reminds me somewhat of Song of Blades and Heroes, although the mechanism is not the same. Given the odds of rolling a failed activation, I believe that games with several units may be frustrating as some units will seldom activate.

Also, although the rules are meant for units of 5-30 figures with the occasional hero as an individual figure, there is nothing that fundamentally prevents them to be used in small engagements between half a dozen individual figures per side, like a shootout in a dark alley.

Unit cohesion limits are left to the player, which I find a little disturbing because other rules such as morale and area of effect weapons apply to the whole unit. Another issue is facing: generally, the text does not mention front facing so I assumed that figures have no defined facing. However, the rules for surprise attacks and overwatch are influenced by the unit's facing.

Some weapons have unlimited range but the odds of hitting something at over 24" are very low. Still, in my opinion 24" does not feel like too much of a range limit, even less if playing with 15mm miniatures. Also, the range bands and low move allowances make the game play well on a relatively small board.

Generally, there is little need for bookkeeping during the battle in case of just a few units. However, as their number increases, tracking information such as which units moved fast or won initiative in a round of close combat may require markers or notes.


In terms of complexity, "Resistance is Futile" is comparable to USE ME or FUBAR although, in my opinion, those games shine in larger battles with infantry and vehicle platoons in a big board. An important difference is the morale system in RIF that may decide battles -- sometimes even turning them around. The rules for vehicles are quite simple and I would risk to say that this game works best in small to medium squad-based battles with the odd mobile weapons platform for diversity.

From a solo player's standpoint, RIF has a good turn sequence and movement system. Other solo mechanisms should be easy to adapt on top of these rules. For these characteristics, I will keep using it as an alternative system for my games.

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