Saturday, April 12, 2014

Riot - A Review

Before I begin my campaign, I thought I might do a review of the rules.

What you get

I purchased the rules directly from Irregular Miniatures. They actually do bundles where you can buy the rules and the figures required for the game in various scale, but I bought only the rules booklet.

The booklet is A5-size and there are no additional charts, QRS, or counter sheets. The cover is a blue cardboard with a line drawing on the front (shown above), and inside you get 20 pages of text with occasional ink drawings which are quite evocative.

The rules

On the first page, the author introduces the rules and explains its inspiration and philosophy. We then jump straight into the meat.

The first section discusses the scale and basing.

I was actually quite surprised to learn that unlike its predecessors Tusk and Tusk 2, Riot is actually a grid-based game - the playing area is either physically marked or visualised as divided into 25mm squares, which regulate movement and combat.

Written with 6mm figures in mind, the game also accommodates 15mm or 25/28mm figures, all utilising the same "ground scale". Basing is nominally 25mm x 25mm, but as each grid can only take one base at a time, any basing that fits within a 25mm grid will do. For my campaign, I will be using 28mm figures based singly, which unfortunately takes something away from the spectacle the author no doubt intended.

To give the reader an idea of the scope of the game, a basic, solo scenario is played on a 60cm x 60cm area (i.e. a 24 x 24 grid) with about 5 bases of security forces (a generic term used for the side opposing the rioters) against 12 bases of rioters; an advanced multi-player scenario is played on a 90cm x 90cm or 120cm x 60cm area (i.e. 36 x 36 or 48 x 24 grid), with around 72 bases or more of rioters against about 20 bases of security forces. Rioters are organised into mobs of 6 to 9 figures, while security forces may be grouped as the player wishes.

Given that I only have about 40 "peasant" figures and that I am using one figure per "base", I can already foresee that my games will not be particularly grand.

The next surprise was the fact that instead of the players taking the opposing sides of the security forces and the rioters, the rioters are actually a "non-player side" which are controlled by an algorithm. Depending on their proximity to threats (based on the distance to the various types of security forces), their own type (Looters or Lynchers), and the result of a die-roll, mobs of rioters may loot, set fire to buildings, move, attack, withdraw, or flee during the rioters' turn.

The third surprise to me was that there is actually a third side a player can play: that of the reporters. The aim of the player playing the reporter or news team is to witness and record newsworthy "scenes" by being in proximity to the scene occurring, be it buildings burning, looting, or "Police Brutality". In the modern scenarios (bearing in mind that the rules were written in 1985...), the news team player is the antagonist to the security forces player, who must quell the riot without the whole thing becoming a "Political Disaster", which occurs if a certain number of News Points are collected.

Combat resembles DBX: opposing bases square off against each other, adding flank and rear support factors, and modifiers for charging, troop types etc. and the result is added to the roll of 2d6; a low score results in a rioter base being destroyed or pushed back, whilst a high score results in the loss or retreat of the security forces.

Finally, there is a section on looting and setting buildings on fire and fire-fighting.

The last four pages provide four different scenarios, ranging from a medieval peasant revolt, a Napoleonic lynch mob, to a modern street riot.

A typical game has the security forces player buying his "army" from a menu using the points allocated (e.g. 6 points for a tank, 3 for a missile-armed infantry, and 1 point for a transport or fire engine base). The number and type of rioter bases are dictated by the scenarios, but the formula used here seems to be 10 points of security forces to 12 bases of looters.

The news team player, in scenarios which include news teams, also buys his team from a menu using his allocated points.

During each turn each player will roll a d6 to determine the number of Activation Points he has for the turn, and the security forces player/s will go around trying to quell the riot, while the news team player/s try to document all the action.

Overall Assessment

Despite the few surprises, I quite like the rules as they fit with what I am trying to recreate here.

A grid-based system allows me to use 2D maps, which are easier to set up and take down. The use of grids to regulate movement and combat also speeds things up (no measuring required) and reduces ambiguity.

While I would have preferred to play the rioters rather than the security forces (wouldn't you?), I have to admit that it is a more reasonable thing to do to let mob actions be determined by a random die-roll. This allows me to play the game solo if I so wish.

The presence of news teams, while not relevant to my planned campaign, certainly adds a different dimension to the game, and is perhaps something that gamers who wargame modern conflicts can consider adding to their games.

As I haven't played a game of Riot, I am not sure how everything will come together. In fact, I haven't actually thought about what an effective strategy or tactic for the security forces player might be.

I hope to get a game in next week and update my readers afterwards.


danmer said...

Takes me back! I used to play these rules back in the late 90s. Enjoy!

fatgoblin said...

maybe the reporters could be spies that report back to the king... get too much evidence and the lord gets fired or something...

to get a really big game, you could use the armour warriors as "rioters" as well, and only use the elite troops as "police"

captain arjun said...

That's a possibility - maybe some local forces join the rebels.

Stephen Holmes said...

Interesting approach.

I've seen news coverage and been fascinated how small numbers of security forces can control a much lager mob. Discipline, command and equipment are clearly key, but can a set of wargame rules adequately model these.

It seems well suited to solo play.