Learning Curve: Afterlife Volumes Review

Hi all, this week I’m giving the sci-fi battle game from Anvil Industry a little more thorough a play and a somewhat more informed decision on it’s longevity and all around goodness…
20160930_202029So the game openly declares itself as a narrative game which having played several times now I think is definitely correct.  The mechanics are such that even large differences in stats are overwhelmed by amount of figures in places and as long as you can fire enough shots you’re generally pretty devastating when in a firefight.  The larger figures suffer from a “dies to variance” problem (not the only game where this is an issue) especially if their opponents get the drop on them.  Sure with practice and a little skill you could manoeuvre your forces into a position to reduce return fire in any firefight but probably at the expense of man power from the original unit.

20160930_202037The games are fast paced (once you’ve got the rules down and assuming you’ve had the foresight to print your unit’s stats out -Ant I’m looking at you) and exceedingly bloody but definitely benefit from objective based play as it forces the issue.  Particularly in shorter games where sometimes a bold move can swing the game but often at heroic loss of life.  As a result the game is huge amounts of fun summed up by a cagey first turn and then a series of short but brutal firefights culminating in awfully close games!

20160930_204023We played a pair of games on Friday night which both came down to the last activation of the battle and were both great fun.  We’re half way through our little campaign and I’ll bring you a full report on the series at a later date but I think it’s safe to say that lessons have been learnt all around.

There are a few rules that are a little odd.  Firstly there is the activation sequence which requires a force with larger numbers of units to roll for excess ones.  I think that’s meant to be a way to curb the swarm effect but in practice it probably doesn’t do an awful lot since units can often be just as devastating when being fired at as firing.  The one thing it does is force units which must move to move earlier in the sequence but I think the threat level isn’t high enough.  If the required roll was 7+ it would certainly make you think twice before risking your ‘probably should act’ units not moving at all…

20160930_220638The other thing is that there is very little negative about returning fire in a firefight, particularly for figures in large units armed with small arms.  A full unit of Republic commandos kicks out 16 low damage shots even when fired upon and thanks to a slightly above average reaction speed might even get them off first…This makes for a really cinematic effect in game but can feel a little unfair if you lose the reaction roll and get flattened on your activation.  I think that the aggressor should have the edge in these situations and so propose that the rule be amended so that the target of the initial attack be subject to a negative modifier on their reaction score to fire first regardless of having been targeted previously.

I also think a state of voluntary suppression instead of fire-fighting would add to units survivability slightly if it added +1 to their cover save and give you another option if the odds don’t look great.  That would make you a little safer in open ground and perhaps mean the game whilst slightly slower could maximise the use of those suppression markers.  These shouldn’t be automatically removed either in my opinion; instead the units should test to remove them before activating in subsequent turns and if they fail they can only move and only into an area of better cover.

Those are just my ‘house -rules’ and I still think that the game is well worth trying out since it’s free to download.  It’s only version 1 at the moment and I think that it really has some legs going forwards, particularly since Anvil are working on characters and already have some vehicles!  The models are really nice to paint and make good sub-ins for various sci-fi systems human warriors.  Over all this game comes in at around average to good and I think with campaign rules there is a lot of life in it!

Until next time happy gaming -Mark

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