04 February 2018

Round of Fire skirmish game rules review

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a fellow member over at the Lead Adventure Forum who asked if I would be interested in making a review for "Round of Fire". After some delays I finally managed to sit down, read through the rules and actually put together a review.

Round of Fire is a skirmish game that at the core focuses on modern and sci-fi settings but can be used for other periods as well. The game combines the old familiar D6 dice for combat with the new idea of "the wheel", which is a new type of unit activation system. The game can be played from 6-28mm and has range scales for movement and fire adjusted depending on the size of the models.
Being a skirmish game you will feature a warband made up of units of single models or groups of fighters.

We might as well talk about "the Wheel" right off the bat as this is the most prominent feature of the game and sips into all aspects of the rules. Basically, instead of having a IGO-UGO or card based activation system, units are activated on a large wheel. Each unit/character/vehicle is represented by a token on the wheel. Each round of the wheel is broken into 8 smaller steps, and unit tokens on the wheel will shift clockwise (sometimes back) on the wheel then they perform actions/are activated.

At the beginning of the game, unit tokens are placed spread out on the wheel in one of 6 starting steps. How the wheel works is that when a unit successfully performs an action, the corresponding unit token will move on the wheel. The more expensive the action the further the unit token will move, meaning that you will not be able to perform several expensive actions each turn, but may well be able to perform more limited and cheaper actions several times each turn. 

Additionally, units that split up their actions within the unit - one soldier shooting, another one moving etc, will advance the unit token a number of steps on the wheel according to the most expensive action. 

The cost of actions depend on the unit cards that come with the game and which make up character archetypes for troops.  For instance, a "Runner" which is a light infantry type profile does not feature a short movement step, but can perform a regular movement and fast movement at reduced cost. Obviously this makes the unit more geared towards movement and maneuvering the battlefield. Shooting, suppressing fire and assault actions may also be cheaper compared to the "Insurgent" archetype unit card. You will instantly see a dip in quality between the two when comparing stats, how expensive actions are in regard to moving unit tokens on the wheel. The difference is also in points value. Expensive troops can do more each turn, cheap troops are slower and more expensive to activate.

The difference between troop quality and point cost is a familiar thing in miniature wargames. Some games like "Muskets and Tomahawks" reduce the combat abilities of units such as militia and civilians by giving them fewer action each turn. Round of Fire makes this even more evident as all the different action have completely different activation cost. This would be overwhelming and a bit too much to keep track of, had the game not come with ready to print profiles for all types of archetypes and weapons you can field. The cards can be printed and then sleeved for quick and elegant reference mid game.

The system is aware of its own limits though, the designer warns about using too many units as the wheel can become too cluttered with unit tokens. The game itself tells players to limit their forces to 3-6 units per side. Units are made up of 1-4 models depending on whether they are groups of fighters, special weapon teams or characters.

The unit limit seems reasonable for "regular small scale skirmish games" which is about the zoomed in actions of grunts more than that of vehicles and large support weapons of large scale combat.

As told earlier, the primary setting for Round of Fire is near future/sci-fi. But it also includes unit cards and weapon cards for gunpowder age and medieval/ancients. There are also a bunch of special rules that you can add to units to make them more specialized and thematic. 

Below is a summary of most of the general movement and combat actions.

MOVEMENT ACTION

Single model units move from center of the base, groups move with their leader and you measure unit coherency of all models to the leader of the unit at the end of movement.

Movement with units can be performed accordingly:

Short Walk (one distance unit)
Walk (two distance units)
Run (three distance units)

I like that you can move through gaps if the model size would fit through a gap in the terrain even if the base is bigger  than the gap itself. Close combat is performed by moving into base contact with an enemy model.

COMBAT ACTIONS

A single model or unit element are activated for ranged or melee combat actions.

Combat actions are:

Assault - which is close combat
Shoot - regular ranged attacks
Suppressive fire - slows down and pins enemy models and units.

There is also an overwatch mechanic which works straight forward by the unit in overwatch stance putting a marker on the table and firing at the first enemy that passes through the line traced back from the token to the unit leader of the ambushing unit triggers the overwatch.

Combat also has crossfire, where one or more friendly units fire at the same time on a enemy (friendly units must be in the same Wheel section). Preferably crossfire is triggered when the enemy can be fired upon without cover by at least one friendly unit in which case the cover is ignored. Should the enemy be in cover you attack as one mass of fire instead without any cover reducing benefit. I think this is a nice and fairly easy application of the idea of crossfire.

Go to ground - is a free action during an activation which allows you to increase the cover of your troops, but the action must be followed by a "wait" action meaning that you will not be able to shoot back at the enemy that turn. Units can also react to certain circumstances and fire back, but at lower accuracy.

The game also features rules for reloading weapons such as rocket launchers, throwing grenades and treating wounds of wounded troops by using a medic to heal them. Wounded and incapacitated models can also be carried back to friendly territory. Killed and wounded models make a difference when counting victory points so it is a nice touch that you get a reason to haul back your shot up buddies to your friendly line.

SCENARIOS AND OBJECTIVES
Continuing to the scenario/objectives side of the game it is always nice to see games that feature combat but are about completing objectives rather than just killing enemies. A nice  idea at work in the game is that several objectives are used - but some of them have hidden victory point values revealed at the end of the game. An element of bluffing is added to the game since during placement players will know more about their own than the enemy objectives. The game also features something familiar from "By Fire & Sword" where you try to complete objectives and keep your own casualties low since you will get a point deduction if losses become too numerous. Losses are also divided into several subcategories such as killed, wounded, MIA, models that are down and who became prisoners.

The game board for 28mm sized models should be 3x3' or 4x4' and forces are normally made up of 500 points. As an example, a team of 4 "insurgent" soldiers costs 45 points for the troops alone, then you can add different weapons and upgrades for additional points. Some scenarios are "asymmetrical" in that one side fields fewer troops and the other side is much stronger but may be attacking in waves or something similar.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There are a lot of miniature wargaming rules out there, even a lot of  universal skirmish game rules. All games need at least one unique selling point, and "the Wheel" is definitely the major idea of this rule set. It's another new idea attempting to break up the classic IGO-UGO turn structure and make things more asymmetric within its own balanced turn system. The D6 based combat keeps things simple and fluid when determining results of tests, while the activation step is where most of your thoughts. The unit card templates are a nice touch, and something I have started to implement in other rule systems just to speed up rules reference of unit stats. There are also empty template cards that you can fill out with your own stats for custom units so that you can tweak and play around with the different ideas of the rules yourself.

Round Of Fire - Core rules $9.99- Authors: Giacomo Pantalone & Federico Valsecchi 
- 94 page full color PDF rules sold at Wargames Vault
- Additional PDF documents for unit and weapon cards as well as the Wheel available for free
- Assymetrical activation IGO-UGO driven skirmish game
- 3-6 units of 1-4 models each per side
- 6-28mm scale

- D6 based combat/action mechanics
- Ranges are based on distance units that depend on the scale of models - or using a grid based table.

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