It's been quiet around Ambush Alley, the creators of award-winning classics like Ambush Alley, Force on Force, and Tomorrow's War, for a long time.
But now there's The Next War!
For the time being, this new edition will only be made available as a print-friendly pdf (no images) and is therefore called the "development draft edition."
However, it is a complete rule set that has already been thoroughly thought-out and play-tested. The intention is to test them on the market and to issue the eventual final and complete edition only on the basis of feedback. So, in the meantime, you can buy an excellent rule set for a sympathetic price.
TNW is a so-called "big skirmish" rule set, in which there are dozens of figures per side on the table. The game also handles vehicles, mainly as transportation, support and threat to the infantry present on the table. This is not a game for large tank battles, but a game where infantry for example can chase a tank or vice versa.
In a business where standard dice and a fixed turn order are the first two of the 10 commandments of game design, this game throws both out of the window. In addition, it concentrates on the modern period with an extension towards Scifi, which is also not a common combination. Where so far AA has worked this into separate rulesets, The Next War contains all these elements at the same time.
Appearance isn't everything
What can I say about this? It is a print-friendly pdf and so there are no frills. Everything is functional.
So, those rules?
TNW is based on the Ambush Alley reaction system. There is actually no turn order. Every turn players dice for the "active" player who is the first to do something. As soon as he activates one of his units, the other "inactive" player can respond. Because the inactive player is actually not inactive at all!
Players test against each other (highest roll wins) whether the action or reaction takes place first. Is the active player completely at the mercy of the inactive player? No, because he can prepare for reactions by putting units in Overwatch at the beginning of his turn. They can try to interrupt or prevent a reaction.
As a result, a simple movement of figures can have dynamic consequences. They can be shot at by units of the inactive player before or while they are moving. If they win their test, they can shoot back. The inactive shooting units, in turn, can also be shot at by active player units in Overwatch before they can perform their action. The reaction can also be used for other actions such as ducking into coverage and other things. If the active player has activated all the units he wants (maybe he keeps a few to respond to the inactive player) it's the inactive player's turn and the same interaction is repeated.
This cycle of action and reaction is finite. Troops cannot respond to return fire and Overwatch, may not shoot more than once per turn at the same enemy unit, and figures that have already been activated may not be activated again.
But just as well, a single movement can provoke quite a firefight.
What about those dice?
TNW uses almost no dice modifiers. Instead, it uses dice with 6, 8, 10 and 12 sides. The better the quality of the troops or the cover, the "higher" the dice. In principle, a 4+ is a success. Most of the rolls are "opposed", made against each other. This means that a result of 4+ is usually a hit unless there is a Defense throw of at least 4+.
The rules are clear, uncluttered and displayed in a logical order in a pleasantly readable font and each paragraph contains a clear summary in an easy-to-find text block.
The rules start with a table of contents that is so detailed that it can actually double as an index. There are scenarios, ready-made units and vehicles and the so-called Fog-of-War cards, which are intended to make scenarios a bit more unpredictable.
There are different classes of troops, from angry civilians to elite commandos and all kinds of specific traits for troops, some of those specific to SciFi games.
An additional advantage is that the rules are retro-compatible with all scenario books that AA has ever released. Arguably the best in the entire hobby.
What could be better?
The rule set is very sparse. There are no images and no explanatory diagrams. So it is aimed at the experienced player, although knowledge of previous games from AA is not required.
And if you want to have the final rules, you have to buy it again.
The reaction system is very dynamic but does produce a certain complexity that is not to everyone's taste.
All in all, a fascinating rule set that delivers games with lots of suspense and suddenly exploding turns full of action. As far as I'm concerned, highly recommended. An AAR will follow.
The Next War Development Draft
Ambush Alley Games 2022
For more info: http://www.ambushalleygames.net/