Review: 5150 Missions: Infestation

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I got this in the hope that it would fill in the gaps in 5150 No Limits Maiden Voyage, and it does. No Limits leaves out some things you might expect if you are a seasoned role-player, and while they are by no means essential – you’ve seen me play an entire season of the Arioniad under No Limits without them, and none the worse for it – I am still pleased to have them available.

The game has the same basic rules engine as No Limits, and you’re encouraged to freely move on and off New Hope, mixing and matching the games to taste. However, rather than being an adventurer or budding merchant prince as in No Limits, in Missions you are an infantry squad leader balancing completing your assigned mission with keeping your squad alive.

About half the rulebook is the rules, factions and generic scenarios, while the second half is a mini-campaign of 16 linked missions, lasting at most 24 battleboard encounters – this is two game hours, so we can infer each encounter lasts about five minutes. Since the character normally gets one encounter per month, there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait going on.

New rules:

  • Factions. Gaea Prime, Free Companies, the Hishen Empire (including grath), and zhuh-zhuhs. There are also a few notes on xeogs buried in the mission brief for the main scenario. Put this together with the notes on the Rings in No Limits and you have a basic game setting.
  • More toys. Three more kinds of armour, and half-a-dozen new weapons. Oh and a security bot, which initially shows up as something you might encounter in the mini-campaign.
  • Campaign rules. Your skirmishes as an infantry squad are assumed to be part of, and representative of, the overall battle for an individual planet. This is tracked through a campaign morale stat; success or failure on missions, together with a random factor, adjust your side’s campaign morale and the enemy’s – if either side’s morale drops to zero, they leave the planet. If your side won, you begin the next planetary campaign with higher morale, if it lost, your starting morale is lower.
  • Psionics. Psis have several abilities; first, psychic interaction, which allows them to probe a target’s mind or make a suggestion. Second, psychic blast (like razors), which is a ranged area effect attack. Third, read thoughts, essentially a variant on the normal Challenge rules which allows you to know what the target is thinking – as a player, you’re encouraged to make up something that furthers the story. Fourth, premonition, which allows your psi to gain the initiative in combat. Fifth, if you’re playing a game including No Limits, psis can cheat at gambling.

Modified rules:

  • Attributes: While in No Limits you roll one attribute at random and choose a second, in Missions you decide what troop type you’re going to play, and that determines your attributes – all Star Army grunts, for example, have the Crack Shot attribute, making them better shots than the average bear.
  • Skills. There are no skills in Missions, just Rep.
  • Your Lifetime Rep when the character retires has different outcomes than those available to merchant princes in No Limits. Grunts don’t have as many options for a luxurious retirement, but can still do OK.
  • Missions in this game are much simpler than in No Limits; here, instead of the complex branching sequence of possible encounters I’m used to, there are seven basic types: for a simple campaign you use only Attack, Defend, and Patrol, for a more advanced one you add Escort, Find, Questioning, and Raid.
  • Linked encounters. You can declare a series of encounters to be ‘linked’, in which case the figures roll to recover from injury after each encounter, but only roll for improvement at the end of the linked set.

Things I hoped for that are not included:

  • Razors and bugs (although bugs are mentioned in a couple of places). No matter, I can import them from other products in my 5150 collection.
  • While there are rules for play on a tabletop with minis and terrain, as well as on a battle board, these don’t extend to proper movement with rulers and whatnot, instead the tabletop is a set of nine battle boards linked together. I had hoped for something like the appendix in All Things Zombie Evolution, which includes more conventional movement in inches. However, in effect all parties move one battleboard at a time; that certainly speeds up the game, but it removes a lot of the feel of a skirmish wargame.

Reflections:

  • The focus on connecting battleboards to make a table means I could use a hex and counter game like Squad Leader to generate epic battles, with each hex becoming a battleboard as one enters it. That would take more time than I usually have, though.
  • Although I mainly bought it as a supplement for No Limits, this looks like it’s worth playing as a campaign in its own right.

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