Saturday, 2 December 2006

Review: Chain Reaction 2.0

Chain Reaction 2 is a set of modern skirmish rules by Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames. Whilst the rules operate at a 1:1 figure:man ratio they are constructed around a reaction test mechanism which controls figure actions in certain circumstances. This means that the game can be operated with the player playing a single figure but works much better when the player is in command of one or more groups of figures.


The rules are laid out in sections in a two column format with both contents and index but with not interior illustrations. Each section has a summary “The Least You Need to Know” box highlighting key points from that element of the rules.

The rules are available as either hard copy or Adobe .pdf download. Whilst the latter is convenient the cover art work is very dark and thus very ink hungry!


A brief introduction is provided and followed by an outline of equipment required including an explanation of the dice mechanism and figure basing. The dice mechanism requires explanation as almost exclusively the rules use the concept of “passing dice” where individual dice are compared separately to a target number and where the result is lower than (or in some cases equal to) the target the dice is deemed to have “passed”.

Stars, Grunts and Rep

Figures in Chain Reaction are divided into two categories, “Stars” and “Grunts”. The former are the key figures acting as Leaders of groups of “Grunts”. Stars are allowed special characteristics to provide them with greater longevity and the player with greater control. For example, they can be “Larger than Life” (avoid being killed by figures with a lower Rep), able to “Cheat Death” (removed from play to reappear in a subsequent game) and have “Free Will” (choose Reaction Test results).

Reputation (Rep) is a key element within the game which reflects the skills, training and abilities of the individual. It ranges from 1 to 6 and is a critical factor in the majority of the game mechanisms. All figures are allocated a Rep.

Weapons, equipment and points values are provided in the next sections. One key weapons concept is that of being “outgunned”. Each weapon type is given an outgun rating and anyone with a weapon with a lower rating is considered outgunned by someone firing with a higher rated weapon. This is then incorporated into the Reaction Test mechanism and forces the outgunned figure to duck back when they might otherwise be able to react.

Turn Sequence

Initiative is determined by throwing a d6 for each side. The higher roll will go first but is only allowed to move figures, or groups lead by a figure with a Rep equal to or higher than the roll. This provides an interesting dynamic as a high roll will give the initiative but restrict the figures able to take advantage of it. This reinforces the need for effective positioning and use of “Stars” when leading groups.

The player with initiative then moves his figures which may initiate Reaction Tests, the results of which must then be resolved, before moving his next figures. Once the first player has completed his actions initiative transfers to the other player.


Figures move standard distances but may attempt to “Fast Move” by testing against their Rep. The quality of the result allows them to move further or only move the standard distance but in both cases they will count as fast moving with the consequential impact on firing or being targeted.

Ranged Combat

Firing weapons is a simple matter of selecting a target, establishing line of sight and rolling to hit. All weapons have a target rating which determines their arc of fire and the number of bursts which can be fired. A d6 is rolled for each burst, the firer’s Rep added and then compared to the To Hit table. The To Hit table includes for target and firer status and the result will be a hit or a miss. Any time a figure is hit an “Obviously Dead” test is taken by rolling a d6 versus the impact of the weapon. Assuming the figure isn’t obviously dead each hit is then rolled against the Rep of the target on the Damage Table to determine whether the target is Knocked Down or Out of the Fight. The former means no actions until next activated the latter means out of the action until medical attention arrives. When this happens the “How Bad is it Doc?” table comes in to play to determine whether the figure can rejoin the fight or is out of the game.

Tables are also provided to address mounted target situations. The rules also encompass pursuing by fire and grenades.

A section is also provided covering mortars, air and off board fire support.


During hand to hand combat each figure rolls 2d6 (with modifiers for impact, multiple enemies etc.) and compares these to their Rep. The number of passes is then compared to determine the results. An “Obviously Dead” test is taken and then each hit is rolled on the damage table as with ranged combat.

Vehicles and Buildings

Rules are provided for generic armoured and non-armoured vehicles and buildings to enable these to be included in the skirmish. The armour rules include various levels of armour and armour piercing weaponry along with rules for infantry attacking vehicles.

Reaction Checks

The heart of the game is the concept of reaction tests. During any player’s turn the actions of their figures may trigger a reaction test either for them or an opponent which will dictate further actions. This may trigger the chain reaction of the title, for example a fire fight. Reaction tests are taken when figures come “in sight”, when they “receive fire”, “want to charge” into melee or are “being charged”, are “overrun” by armour or are “surprised”. Reaction tests are generally rolling 2d6 and comparing each of these to the figure’s Rep with the more “passes” the better.

An example could be that a player moves a figure into sight of another’s. The opponent takes an “in sight” test which results in them opening fire. Assuming the target isn’t hit they will take a “received fire” test and may return fire (unless they are outgunned in which case they will take cover), the other figure will take a “received fire” test and so on until the reactions end. The original player may then resume their turn.

Campaign / Army Lists

A section is provided to support a variety of genres including army lists, special and scenario rules covering open battles, encounters, ambush, raids, escape, pursuit and RPG like skills and task test rules. The genres covered include military operations, dark future gang warfare, “B” movies and alien encounters.


Because these rules contain a number of novel concepts there can be a bit of a learning curve for new players. Whilst there are examples in the rules these could be more extensive but the support for questions on the Yahoo group is good.

It can take a little while to determine what happens in each situation, remembering to take the appropriate reaction tests etc. However, after a few plays these become second nature and the true nature of the system shines through. Simply said it is one of the best modern skirmish systems I have encountered. Fire and movement tactics, the correct placement of troops and support weapons and the good use of leaders are all rewarded appropriately and “feels” right. The rules work well for two or multi player scenarios and I would highly recommend them.

The rules are available from Two Hour Wargames in both hard copy and Adobe .pdf download for $15 and $14 respectively.

A number of period specific variants of the system are also available including Nuts! (WW2), FNG (Vietnam), 5150 (SciFi), All Things Zombie and Black Powder Battles. Whilst each of these provides additional material in the form of campaign rules, army lists, special rules and scenarios the rules system is basically the same (with some minor but annoying differences) hence I have always thought the Two Hour Wargames pricing policy did not encourage people to buy all the sets.

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