Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: 5150 Urban Renewal

Now that I have played a number of games with 5150 Urban Renewal (and New Hope City PI), I feel confident enough to write a review about it.

For those who do not know this game, a little explanation is necessary. 5150 Urban Renewal is the new edition of 5150 New Beginnings. This is a sci-fi miniatures game with noticeable RPG elements. By that I mean that there are provisions to help the players creating an overall story. While the rules can be used for one-off battles between small groups of figures, in my opinion most of its value comes from narrative play. For those who have already played 5150 New Beginnings, I suppose that the big question is: what has changed?

The biggest changes have been in the campaign system. In my opinion, the original New Beginnings was like a big toolbox for playing sci-fi narrative-oriented games, and it included a campaign system to help players getting started. On the other hand, Urban Renewal feels like a very detailed campaign system, which you may also tear apart to use only parts of it. So there is a change of focus, and a lot more cohesion between parts in this new edition. The goal of the campaign has also shifted from items to character improvement, and so the items system has been further simplified.

As the campaign system changed, so did characters. Previously, characters had a class, profession and motivation. The latter has been dropped, and a new system of social Circles has been added. The Science skill has also been removed, and now the People skill is quite possibly the most useful.

The rules for vehicles have been replaced with a comprehensive Public Transport system, that may also be used to simulate travel with a car. This also means that the rules for using a vehicle in an encounter are gone. The rules for buildings have also reverted to essentially the same found in Chain Reaction 3.1, instead of the more complex, floorplan-based ones found in the previous edition of New Beginnings. The chapter about media crews has also been removed. On the other hand, there are three new types of encounter: Confrontation, Gaming House and Deal, adding more options to the campaign.

In terms of writing and presentation, Urban Renewal is more organized and clear than the original New Beginnings. When that book was released in 2012, it showcased many of the newer rules for Two Hour Wargames products. Things like the new In Sight system, item system and building rules were presented but, at times, there was little "glue" between them. I think that this gave it the "toolbox" feel. In this new edition the parts seem to fit each other better.

In my opinion, 5150 Urban Renewal offers an interesting experience for solo players. It is possible to use the campaign system as is, in order to create various stories in the New Hope City setting. With some extra work, the campaign system may also be adjusted to fit other sci-fi settings. The streamlining and organization of the rules make it easier to learn and use, but it still has lots of information. Therefore, both new players and those upgrading from the first edition are advised to read the book carefully and make the "Stop!" box exercises.

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