Like many modern wargames, Firefight includes a suppression mechanic called Pinning. Units are pinned when:
- They lose an assault
- In response to a Keyword or Order
- They Draw an assault
- Hit by a Shooting weapon with the Pinning Keyword
- Emerging from a destroyed Transport
- Hit by a Blaze Away action
- Suffers one or more damage from an Anti-Tank keyword weapon
- It has the Fly keyword and suffers damage from a weapon with the Anti-Aircraft keyword
Units only ever suffer one Pin token. When they are Pinned, they can Hit The Dirt (they count as being In Cover) for free. Pinned units suffer -1 to hit in Assault and -1 to their Nerve tests.
If your unit begins its activation Pinned, it must first do a short action to remove the Pin marker. You can also remove these at the end of the turn using Command Points if you still have them. Remember that Pinned units cannot receive Faction Orders. Command units who are pinned cannot give Command Orders.
I really think Pinning is an extremely interesting mechanic. I like how it forces your enemy to forfeit actions or command points, and limits what they can do with a pinned unit. It opens up a lot of strategy and action order that you have to think about. You can set up an assault by pinning the enemy and giving your own troops a better chance – it’s always great to see real world tactics working in a wargame!
Nerve is the morale mechanic for Firefight. Every unit has a Nerve value – Enforcers have a value of 3. There are some Keywords, Orders, or Psychic attacks that cause a Nerve test. Otherwise usually you’ll roll Nerve tests for Broken units – units under 50% of their starting model number. Once they are Broken you roll a Nerve test for them in every End Phase.
There are several modifiers to this roll:
- -1 if the unit is Pinned
- -2 if the unit is the last model remaining from a Troop or Specialist unit
- +1 if the unit is in a Building
The goal is to roll equal to or above your Nerve value on a D8. If there is a unit with Inspiring nearby (usually a Command unit) they grant you a re-roll. If you fail your Nerve test that unit is destroyed. This represents them moving to the rear or going to ground and ceasing to be an operational unit.
I like that it’s just an all-or-nothing test, like in Bolt Action. If you fail you just remove the models, there is no record-keeping or fleeing or anything like that. It makes it really easy. You can also try to help your unit out by moving into a Building or you can make it harder for enemy units to pass their test by Pinning them.
Psychic Abilities and Reserves
Psychic abilities are very much a unit-profile driven rule. Each unit with a Psychic ability will have it on their unit page, and they’ll have an action cost associated (short or long). Each unit can use multiple Psychic Abilities in a turn but may not repeat them.
Units may be put in Reserve depending on Mission or special rules. As you would expect, a unit in Reserve doesn’t contribute to Command Pool, and can’t influence the battle in any way until they hit the tabletop. Starting in Round 2 reserve units can come on from the player’s table edge or from one of the flank table edges, up to the center line. Everything must be in play by Round 3.
As in most futuristic sci-fi games Firefight has rules for Vehicles that you’ll use to stomp and roll through your enemy. Most vehicles will have a movement related keyword – Walker, Fly, Wheeled, Tracked, or Anti-Grav. This helps differentiate how they move and what terrain will do to them. As with other games, LOS is drawn from the Vehicle’s hull or body if it doesn’t have a base.
Vehicles can Assault units only outside of buildings. If they lose they will receive a Pin Marker as usual, but won’t be marked as Activated unless they initiated the Assault (non-vehicle units losing an Assault gain an Activated marker). This is an interesting mechanic – it means Vehicles are a little tougher in Assault, and you can’t tie them up, basically, unless you can surround them.
If you can surround them, meaning the Vehicle loses the Assault and cannot move Directly Away, the vehicle is destroyed if you have a Range Assault weapon with the Anti-Tank keyword. If you don’t have that then the vehicle is marked as Pinned and Activated. You’re essentially tying it up, in that case.
Flying Vehicles are a bit different, as with most sci-fi wargames. Each turn the Flyer must Advance or Sprint, and must be placed at least 6″ from their starting point or they are destroyed. My understanding of this is that if you can somehow space out around a flying vehicle and make it so they can’t place their model anywhere, you could destroy it. I think this would only really come into play in the corners of the tabletop.
Flying vehicles can only assault or be assaulted by units with the Anti-Grav or Fly keyword. Basically you have a separate area above the battlefield where units are flying around, hitting each other in close combat. I like that it’s separate like that – Flying Vehicles can still shoot at ground targets, but can’t fly down and hit them with weapons in close combat then fly off with impunity. They also can’t claim Objectives, which is great to see in the rules so that we don’t get people abusing Objective play with fast moving flyers.
As we’ve seen in other wargames, Vehicles with the Fly keyword are -1 to hit unless you have the Anti-Aircraft keyword. I generally loathe minus to hit rules but this helps differentiate AA units from others and also genuinely represents how it’s harder to hit aircraft in combat.
Transport Vehicles have a Capacity (n) and can transport one model of Height 2 or less for each N, and one model of Height 3 or more for each 2N. Obviously, Transports can’t carry other Vehicles or Bulky units. I like that Transports can also carry more than one unit if it has the capacity – this is realistic and means you don’t have to buy extra models just to carry more units if you have enough to get the job done.
Interestingly, Command units inside a vehicle can still give Command Orders – they are shouting to the dudes outside or using a radio to communicate with them. Otherwise, units inside a Vehicle are given Halt orders and cannot Shoot or Blaze Away. Psychic abilities can still target units inside a vehicle.
I like the granularity here. I like that an Enforcer Captain riding in a Transport is still giving orders to his guys outside and his enemies can still target his mind for Psychic attacks. It makes sense and is very cinematic.
Embarking or disembarking is easy – you either Advance or Sprint to or from the vehicle. You can actually Assault out of them as well, but your Charge will be Hindered – meaning you don’t get +1 to hit. If a Transport is destroyed with a unit in it then the unit is marked as Activated and Pinned. This is easy and quick and even though you don’t lose models, it is still a huge negative for that unit.
There are 59 Keywords listed in the main rulebook, which sounds like a lot, but Firefight is a slim ruleset that is powered by Keywords, as we’ve seen in many more modern rulesets. Some of my favorites are listed here:
Aerial Deployment: The unit can be deployed at the start of the game as normal, and has the Scout Keyword until the first Round begins. Alternatively the unit may always enter as Reserves even if they are not normally allowed by the mission. If entering from Reserve the unit does not follow the normal rules but may instead be deployed in any Open Terrain or building roof zone that is more than 6” from any enemy units as a short action.
Heavy Armour: This unit is so heavily armoured that successful damage against it must be re-rolled with only those dice that score an unmodified 5+ on the re-roll each causing a point of damage. Weapons with the Anti-Tank Keyword will ignore Heavy Armour.
Shield (n): A unit with this Keyword ignores (n) hits it receives as part of a Shoot or Blaze Away action or in an Assault. Shields take effect after re-rolls and Blast effects. For each hit ignored, reduce the shield (n) value by 1 (until it is exhausted). The player owning the shielded unit may choose which hits are ignored but cannot choose not to use shields.
Unflinching: A Pinned unit with this Keyword may choose to perform a Charge as its only action this Activation. It will not remove its Pin Marker and so will still suffer the -1 to hit in Assault.
Having a great ruleset would mean almost nothing if there weren’t scenarios to go along with it. Mantic has written eight competitive play Battle Missions and eight Narrative Missions in the rulebook. We’re not going through each mission, but I wanted to review some of the standard mechanics and provide an example mission.
Before the game starts the players decide on a game size – 1,000 to 1,250 points should be played on a 4×4 table. For 1,500 points or more, use a 6×4 table. The rulebook recommends one piece of larger area terrain and one obstacle for each 12″ square area on the table.
Before the game starts, you do a Recon roll. You roll a number of Command Dice as provided by the Command units in your force. The winner can choose to have the Initiative – they will choose their board edge and Deployment Zone, then deploy their entire force. They would then take the first Turn in Round one.
The player deploying first may Withhold a number of units equal to the difference in the Recon Roll – so if I rolled a six and you rolled a four, I could Withhold two units. They aren’t deployed with the main force. After I’ve deployed everything else, the opposing player deploys, then I deploy Withheld units. This is a really interesting mechanic – if you bring a Command Dice heavy force, you can likely go first (with alternating activations, it won’t be a huge alpha strike, but it could help) and still deploy a number of units after you’ve seen the opponent’s deployment. After Round One, the player who finished activating first will go first in the next Round.
Missions will have Objectives which could be intel, food, ammo, etc. The boxed set includes tokens that can be used. Units must touch an Objective and have their unit Leader within 3″ of the Objective to claim it. If multiple units meet this criteria then you go to Unit Strength – this is on each unit’s profile and basically represents their tactical presence on a battlefield. Vehicles, beasts, and units with the Fly keyword cannot claim objectives, naturally.
Take and Hold is an example of an Objective based mission included in the Rulebook. It’s fairly easy to setup and play, and includes quite a few Objectives to score.
Overall, Firefight is a solid ruleset that I think will be easy to pick up for beginners and still provide depth and challenge for a seasoned wargamer. I like that it is a slim ruleset overall with Keywords to enhance the gameplay. I especially enjoy the alternating activation as it means you can’t just get blown off the board by hyper-powered weapons before you get to do anything.
Nerve and Pinning add a strategic layer to the game that make it sort of a chess match – I can either shoot at full effect over here, or use Blaze Away to pin that unit and make it less effective later on.
I love that the game has a resource mechanic in Command Points and they’re not automatically the same every turn – the fog of war sometimes inhibits communication or sometimes commanders get distracted.
These are just a few of my highlights of the ruleset. I can’t really find anything that I loathe or don’t like. I feel like the Building rules, which I didn’t cover because I didn’t get to test them yet, may confuse players at first but will be useful in the long run. Line of Sight may take a few turns to get used to if you’ve played other games before, as it’s different, but I don’t think it is bad, per se, and I like the abstracted nature of it.
Thanks for reading our review of Firefight 2.0 – we look forward to more releases from Mantic in the near future! And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.