Many tabletop fans look past popular franchises like “Warhammer 40,000” for rules that more accurately reflect science fiction combat. Games like “Stargrunt II” have long since provided the perfect outlet for that need, so when Ambush Alley Games announced that they would be creating a spiritual successor to “Stargrunt,” named “Tomorrow’s War,” the hype was palpable. “Tomorrow’s War” takes on most of the concepts that “Stargrunt” was built around and puts a number of twists on them, but whether or not “Tomorrow’s War” is a viable replacement for such a tried and true classic remains to be seen.
“Tomorrow’s War” is a rule set for sci-fi gaming; it does not include any miniatures and is intended to be played with storylines created by the players, although there is a loose future history detailed in the first few pages to provide clarity for examples and give players something to build off of. As a book, “Tomorrow’s War” beautifully produced. The illustrations are of a very good quality and the layouts are easy to follow and appealing. As a boon to fostering the tabletop community, there are many photos of different miniatures with the product and manufacturer’s names listed below.
When reading the book, you’ll find plenty of exciting ideas and rules, many of which are clearly inspired by “Stargrunt.” The game attempts to cover the majority of near-future and futuristic concepts such as repulsor engines, robots, exoskeletons, combat drones and even information networks. The scope of the rules is impressive since they account for detailed aspects of war such as destroying buildings, executing breaches, getting injured units to medivac points, calling in artillery strikes and information warfare. The game places emphasis on the troopers themselves rather than the equipment they’re using; although troop quality and weapon and armor type factor in, there isn’t an extensive list of stats for each weapon and troop type which is what you’ll find in “Warhammer.” Instead of a single system with numerous stats, “Tomorrow’s War” blends multiple systems for much more, theoretically, complex gameplay.
The most important thing to consider about “Tomorrow’s War” is that, like “Stargrunt,” it is geared towards objective specific scenarios that are about both players having fun, not competing in wholesale eradication. There are no point values, and there are no ironclad rules for scenario creation. This lends itself to unique, detailed scenarios that are more fun to play than they are to win. If you absolutely must have precisely fair teams, two players can easily play with armies of comparable stats.
While all signs pointed to “Tomorrow’s War” being one of the best sci-fi tabletop games available, there are a number of glaring issues that get in the way. The first problem is that “Tomorrow’s War” does not have any type of range limitation. “Stargrunt” gave defending units a higher chance for survival depending on how far away they were from the attacker, modified by the attacker’s troop quality, which is a very common-sense principle. “Tomorrow’s War” in turn has no range limitation, and only rewards attackers with a minor firepower bonus for being within optimal range. In effect, even the worst troops are very effective at firing no matter how far away the defender is, which is counterintuitive to the stated intentions of the game.
One of the coolest concepts turned out to be the most confusing game mechanic. “Tomorrow’s War” has a self-described action reaction system instead of traditional turn based gameplay. Before each turn, unless otherwise outlined by the scenario, each player roles for initiative and the winner is the only one who gets to perform actions. The non-initiative player, the one who lost the roll off, gets to react to any activated squad as long as the reacting squad is within line of sight. Players then roll to determine which squad activates first, so a reacting squad might be able to shoot before the acting squad does anything. When only one squad is reacting, the system works perfectly, but when the active player performs any action that is more complicated than moving or shooting and multiple squads react, players are left with a confusing mess. The rules provide a system to resolve multiple reactions, but considering that active players can react to reactions and that the rules don’t provide enough clarification on the particulars of resolving reactions, even the most veteran players will to have a tough time.
“Tomorrow’s War” attempts to better reflect the organic and chaotic nature of combat by implementing the round of fire feature. Ideally, squads can enter multiple rounds of fire per turn but become less effective over time. Just like most of the game, this idea makes sense and sounds cool, but is effectively confusing. The rules aren’t very clear on when squads engage in a round of fire and when a squad simply soaks up damage. Furthermore, there’s an artificial cap placed on how much firepower, which is measured in dice, a squad can utilize. Although it makes sense that a squad with small arms can only be so effective and professional soldiers will most likely conserve ammunition, it seems all too easy for squads to max out their firepower and for defenders to max out their defensive dice which makes for stale and uninteresting engagements.
Despite confusion and gameplay issues, many of which not covered here, Ambush Alley Games has been extremely responsive and professional in handling player questions and criticism. The producers and designers are eager to explain rules. If the company was being graded for customer service quality, they would easily receive five stars, but the product itself was shipped in a semi-confusing state. “Tomorrow’s War” can easily be tuned to players needs, but this can only happen with hours of tweaking and agreeing upon how certain situations should be resolved. Hopefully a new edition will be released soon, or a general FAQ will be compiled on Ambush Alley Games’ website, because “Tomorrow’s War” is a game absolutely brimming with potential.