Rackham recently released AT-43 Tactics: Tactical RPG. Tactics’ physical appearance is typical of the other AT-43 books and is a 64-page, 8 1/2″x11″, soft cover, full-color book. It also includes a page of perforated heavy cardstock counters. Instead of including cards, as some other AT-43 expansions have done, Rackham this time simply included a page with the card art that you will need to photocopy and cut out. Considering none of the cards are actually used as cards in this game but as map overlays (doors and objectives) this works out just fine.
Technically AT-43 Tactics is not an AT-43 expansion. It is actually a stand-alone game and ownership and knowledge of the AT-43 miniatures game is not needed. Obviously the audience is AT-43 gamers and knowledge of both the AT-43 miniatures game as well as the universe will add to the enjoyment of Tactics. Tactics of course also uses the same AT-43 miniatures. Seeing ‘RPG’ in the title many gamers would think this might be an RPG (role-playing game) version of AT-43…and they would be wrong. Technically it probably is a RPG but it is actually more like a skirmish game with as much in common with Kill Team from Warhammer 40,000 as a regular role-playing game.
AT-43 Tactics: Tactical RPG puts players into a series of missions to advance into the bowels of the factory world during Operation Damocles. What makes this unlike a normal RPG is that there is almost no story provided. Ultimately the game hinges around a series of six missions but there is only a few paragraphs of story line provided in the entire book to give context and purpose to those missions. Newcomers to AT-43 may very well be confused by this lack of context. Veteran players of the AT-43 miniatures game will already know well the story of Operation Damocles and will understand what is going on.
What makes Tactics different from the AT-43 Operation Damocles expansion is that the missions are not intended for normal AT-43 play. Instead Tactics is designed for four to seven players with all the players playing one (or more) character(s) each against the GL (Game Leader aka Game Master), but the game can easily be played with two or three players as well. The basic idea is that the player(s) take a team of troops against the GL. The basic rules of play are identical to AT-43 but in addition new rules are also provided for skirmish level play. So character stats comprise not only what is on a normal AT-43 unit card (armor, movement, weapons, etc) but also now include endurance (health), abilities, ammo, experience, as well as optional equipment. In fact, roughly half of the pages of the book are dedicated to the character sheets for the four races (U.N.A., Red Blok, Karman, and Therian). Again, gamers are expected to copy these pages for use or write the relevant information on paper for play (Note: Rackham now has the character sheets available as PDF downloads). In another twist a team can be composed of one race or any combination of races — the premise being a group of elites have banded together for a common purpose. While the book is not particularly clear on the point, the enemy, run by the GL, is the Therians.
The RPG element comes from the fact that the intent of the game is for each player to control one character and that character will advance in abilities with each mission. Each team must have a leader and it is recommended they also include a medic and an engineer. Add the GL to the total and that is why there is the minimum of four players. But obviously players can handle more than one character and even the whole team can be run by one player for a two player game. As mentioned, the base rules are the same as AT-43 but with some minor twists. For example there is no unit integrity and with only one unit in play on the team-side play alternates among characters not units. One nice role-playing touch is that the player who is the leader decides the order in which his teammates move. If you are unfamiliar with AT-43 you might want to download the full AT-43 rules. The Tactics rules are complete but are perhaps overly concise.
The six missions are similar to typical AT-43 missions with map layout and objectives marked. But the GL runs the opposition (dictated by the mission) and is in charge of placing items on the map. Each mission plays a bit like a modern video game with various bits of optional equipment (aka power-ups) like medkits, combat drugs, ammo, etc scattered around the map for players to pick up. Various plot elements may also be discovered. All of the missions require the Reversable Gaming Tiles, a bunker, up to seven containers, and of course the relevant miniatures for play. The bunker is only used in one mission so it could easily be proxied.
AT-43 Tactics: Tactical RPG perhaps suffers from being somewhat mis-titled but it is still a very interesting game. RPG players who are looking for a strong, involved story certainly need to look elsewhere or rely on a talented GL familiar with the AT-43 universe. But for those looking for a nice skirmish game, or AT-43 players looking for something a bit different to do with their minitaures, will be quite pleased with the product. Overall the rules work well and provide that low-level, small unit feel but are similar enough to AT-43 that current players will pick the game up quickly. Although AT-43 Tactics: Tactical RPG suffers a bit in execution, mostly due to brevity, it makes up for it by providing a unique, fun experience. It also provides a strong framework for creative players to build and expand on. Rackham should be commended for trying something different and giving players of AT-43 some more value for their investment in the AT-43 line.