When I got the PDF book, I was mostly curious about the narrative rules system. Other titles from NWG have campaign generators that work well, and I assumed that some of that expertise would be applied in this title, too (spoiler: the book does contain a scenario generator.)
The text starts in a very general tone, discussing possibilities and play styles for the game. It sounds like a "meta description" of miniature games, and I suppose the decision to write it this way was to have a core set of rules that may be further expanded. This also means that newcomers to miniature games will probably end up reading through the book more than once or looking for tips elsewhere to figure out what options to use.
The action resolution system reminded me of the task system from Five Core, extended to deal with different situations during the game. Combat is similarly resolved with a single roll, as the level of detail here is that of narrative events, not recreating each moment of a firefight. There is also a system to answer general questions about the scenario, which is like a simplified Enquiry Table.
But how does it play?
Having read through the 27 pages of the book, the next step was to play a game to find out how it feels. There is no set scale for the game; instead, it is one of the things that players must define. I liked the insight that ground scale and time scale are tied together by the standard movement rate of units; while not stated, this is what is going on.
In this scenario, an invading force (on the left) must attack and destroy the defenders' outpost. The invaders have two regular squads, an infiltration team and an assault squad who are in charge of destroying the target. The defenders have three regular squads. One is guarding the outpost, and the other two are on patrol. Each figure represents two soldiers.
|Setup for the test game.|
I decided that the invaders had the initiative. One squad crossed the first patch of woods, reaching its edge. Then one of the defender patrols moved towards and spotted them! [I used two story rolls: "does the patrol move? yes", and "does the patrol spot the invaders (unlikely)? yes".] Before the patrol could radio the other defenders, the invaders opened fire, taking many soldiers out of action and causing the rest to retreat. However, the sound of gunfire alerted the defenders. [The defenders failed a delay roll trying to raise an alarm. The invaders won a combat roll, with a major consequence, causing heavy losses to the enemy.]
|At the bottom of the image: the defender squad that spotted the invaders, got into a firefight and retreated.|
The second invading squad moved forward, while the defenders took cover around the outpost. The invaders then moved across the woods and fired to suppress the defenders [I rolled a cautious combat between the invaders hidden in the woods and the defenders dug in by the outpost.] This allowed the other invading squad to advance.
|The defenders group around the outpost. I assumed that there are defensive works around for them to take cover.|
|Pressed by crossfire, the squad retreats. The other squad, which retreated to the forest, failed to recover.|
|The last squad held for a while... but the odds didn't look good.|
War Story requires that the players think like a game master or referee, as they will need to judge things like what are allowable actions and what are the odds of success. In this regard, it is somewhat like a Mythic RPG system, for miniature games.
This test battle took about 1.5 hours, much of which involved figuring out how to better use the action and combat resolution systems. At the beginning I was playing it quite like an alternate activation game. After a while I figured that the result of one action could be used to determine which side would act next. I think that the trick is in thinking about the narrative flow instead of a rigid turn sequence.