Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This Is Not A Test...I repeat, This Is Not A Test

This Is Not a Test

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure to spend some time with Joe McGuire, the developer and producer of This Is Not a Test (World's End Publishing). We met up at Games and Stuff (a FLGS) so he could teach me a thing or two about his game to prepare for the NOVA Open where I will be running demos myself. I may even play a longer game or two if we can work it out. When you get the chance, check out the This Is Not A Test facebook page or the This Is Not A Test Official page to see more and hear about the game.


This Is Not A Test Rule Book

Let's talk a little bit about the game itself....imagine Washington, is full of waste, tribes of man compete for precious resources and the common folk struggle to survive. Well, you know enough about current DC, well the future isn't looking much better. Joe and I live a little bit outside of the beltway and our wives work down in the heart of the district. This Is Not a Test is a post-apocalyptic setting based in the mid-Atlantic region, centered primarily within the Washington, DC-Baltimore metropolitan area.

Following the nuclear holocaust, a lot has changed about this area I have known for the last 20 plus years. Washington, DC is a hot zone and not safe to be inhabited. The nuclear fallout is too severe to host human life. That doesn't mean nothing has survived there, but nothing that could be considered human. Rumors abound of the mutants who survive and hunt the Capital Deadzone. Combine these unintelligent, blood thirsty, scavengers (the mutants, not Congress) with the autonomous cybernetic units that patrol the streets and you get a inhospitable waste that tempts many for the countless artifacts and relics necessary to survive and thrive.

There is a better and more complete background available on the This Is Not a Test site, including descriptions of the known/explored areas including the Burning Lands, The Eastern Pale, Penns, Wild Highlands, and the Tri-State Wasteland.

Game Play

Let's talk about some of the game play features and the feel of the game. I'll have a follow-on post/battle report of the actual game I played against Joe, but will provide some review of the mechanics and the feel of the game. We played a standard skirmish version of the game, but the mechanics in the rule book also allow for longer term campaigns. Hopefully we will work on that and a longer running set in the blog.


Each figure has a set of seven stats. Move (MOV) determines how far you can move (inches per AP). Melees (MEL) is used to determine success in hand-to-hand combat. Ranged (RNG) is used for any distance-based attack. Strength (STR) is used to determine the amount of damage from a melee attach or to determine success for stat challenge. Defense (DEF) is the base for how tough the figure is and any defensive ability checks. Wounds (WDS) is a measure of how much damage a figure can take before being removed from action. Typical figures will have one wound. Mettle (MET) is the final stat and one that is used for a number of items, including reliability, intelligence, courage and nimbleness.

Each character can also get a number of additional skills. These skills create modifiers to actions which become very helpful. One of specific interest for the leaders of the factions is that any model within 6" of the leader get a +1 to activation. There are also a set of Mutations, which come into play from the nuclear fall-out, but we didn't play with any of these for our game.


The game is designed to really be played with quick set-up and to be completed in about 1 hour. Each side selects a faction and a set of players based on the faction selected to agreed upon amounts. We used rather well balanced sets of characters (5 each) from two of the factions. We played on a 3'x3' surface.

As with everything you deploy your models, we went with a standard within 6" of the edge since that was the average movement distance. The board as you can see was rather well covered with various terrain. This replicated pretty well a small town/highway area where some shops (a diner, ice cream parlor, and another shop) are around and playable along with plenty of wrecked cars and signs. Options for cover and flow aplenty.


Activation. As with all games, this is a turn-based skirmish game. Activation is decided by an initiative roll, d10/higher wins. Once initiative is decided, the winner selects which model will activate and must make an activation challenge roll (d10). Success means the figure has 2 AP; essentially can do 2 activities or one complex action. Failure on the roll means the figure can perform any 1 AP action. As you can see on the attached, that is still plenty. Succeeding the activation challenge also means that you continue to activate figures. You continue to activate figures until you are unsuccessful on a challenge or until you run our of figures. When activation switches to the other player, the same rules apply until all figures are activated.

Attack. If during your turn, you decide to make firing one of your actions you make an attack roll (d10). This is like many other skirmish games with modifiers for buildings, coverage, distance, etc. Once you hit, you mark the character but the hits are not settled until the end of the current activation phase. "Why?", you may ask...well this is to simulate that the actions are happening at or very near to the same time and as such the figures would not understand that until that period of time has ended. Very much, you could have multiple people fire on a single model, which makes the actions/game play a bit more realistic. 

So at the end of the activation phase, any models which were hit (grazed) must have the wounds resolved. The shooter will roll a damage roll (d10) and the target will roll a defense roll (d10). This is a challenge and has modifiers on both sides and whoever has the higher roll wins. If the target loses, they suffer damage which for low-level models will usually kill them, but for higher level characters they may take two or three before taking a dirt nap. If the target wins, they then face a Will challenge. The Will challenge occurs after the wound is resolved and applies to any figure that is alive after the wounds are resolved and were a hit was successful, regardless of damage. If the figure fails the Will check, the figure must them take an involuntary move to cover (up to 6"). If no cover is available, the character must "hit the deck" and go prone in place. A grazed character that successfully makes the Will check may make a voluntary move (up to 6") if grazed. This is again to simulate the reality of if you are shot, you take cover then figure out what to do next.

Movement. With movement, the mechanics are pretty easy. You get a set movement rate and each move at up to that distance is 1 AP. You can make a single move and then another action, but that will negatively affect firing or you can make a double move. Moving over or up objects reduces movement rate as does movement through difficult terrain. To climb to the top of a one-story building is 2 AP provided you are base-to-base with it. You can start a climb, but then will be faced with a climb check at the beginning of the next activation to see if you fall. This makes almost everything is accessible for movement in/over/around/through including buildings, which was rather nice. We spent most of our battle in/through/around the ice cream parlor. 

Once all of the figures are activated and have acted and the hits have been resolved you move onto the next turn. Our 5 on 5 game, was about 10 turns and lasted about 1.5 hours, which included time to teach me the game and for me to take a bunch of pictures. 

My take

This is a fun game for sure and one that is quick to set-up, quick to play, and provides potential for additional development and growth with a longer campaign. I have some ideas for creatures and other things that may through some wild cards into the game play, which I'd also like to explore and propose to Joe as I learn more. There are lots of game play areas I'd still like to explore, including mutants, robots, and creatures in a game; so keep your dial tuned...more emergency alerts to come. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.