It’s a strange thing to read through the rules for a game that you are almost certain you will never actually play. In one way it helps one be objective but I appreciate that it might blind me to some of the practical implications of what I’m reading. What seems perfectly clear when I was reading it on the bus might seem a lot more ambiguous when the dice are rolling and you need to know exactly how much you need to roll for that crucial armour test.
Overall, there are about 80 pages of rules, including about 20 on scenarios and army selection. The text is broken up with artwork so never becomes too dense and there are helpful summary flowcharts and diagrams (using some of the few pictures of painted models in the book).
My overriding impression of the rules is that the game writers must have been trying really hard to make everything as clear as possible. I’ve read rules written by a few different companies now and it’s rare to come across such clear and seemingly unambiguous instructions on how to play. Having only read through the rule section once I feel like I understood pretty much all the mechanics described.
There are even paragraphs setting out things like rerolling dice that go of the table, how to calculate multiple modifiers (multiply, then add), pre-measuring, etc. The designers seem to want to minimise disagreements/arguments/cage fights as much as possible.
On the other hand, the rules are laid out in one of the most eccentric orders I have other come across. Granted my expectations are shaped by games which have generally had a very different game/turn sequence but even so, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of logic to the order the rule sections are printed in.
Warzone Resurrection uses a D20 based system wherein all stats are given out of 20 and all actions (rolling to hit, armour tests, break tests) are decided by rolling under the appropriate stat. This contrasts to some systems which use a variety of different dice mechanics for different things. Having the stats being out of 20 also means there can be a bit more granularity with stats more fully showing a range of ability.
Every model has two actions per turn which can be spent on a variety of basic (1point) and advanced (2point) actions. Models are activated individually and although bound by squad coherency can act relatively independently. Alternatively models in a squad can spend points to contribute to combined actions which produce a single more powerful attack for use against larger, more dangerous foes. It’s quite an intuitive system and seems quite flexible.
There are some interesting rules which seem like an attempt to inject a bit more fluff/narrative into the game itself such as different types of weapons being more/less effective against certain kinds of armour and the rules which allow bonuses to template weapons used against targets in cover. There is also a diverse selection of special rules, not dissimilar to the compendium of universal special rules in the 40k rulebook. These all do pretty much what you would expect, though quite a few seem to have fairly similar effects.
My biggest doubts are over the vehicle rules, which seem a bit over complicated. Alarm bells rang for me when I saw that individual locations take damage separately, and it’s not entirely clear how you (if indeed you can) actually destroy a vehicle rather than just wreck its systems.
The biggest ‘narrative’ rule though is probably the resource card system. In the game each player receives a number of resource cards determined by their army composition and choice of warlord (meaning you can choose a leader who is less personally potent in combat but allows extra resource cards). Resources are renewed each turn but can be lost permanently as you take casualties. In the basic version of these rules the cards can be spent – “turn to burn” is the terminology used – to gain bonuses or re-rolls. In the more advanced version, cards are spent to play certain ‘gear’, ‘tactic’, and ‘strategy’ cards. Each player selects cards to play from a hand drawn from their respective deck of bonus cards. Each player preselects the contents of their deck before the game (within guidelines set out in the book) though the deck is shuffled and cut before play begins and your hand of cards is drawn randomly from the deck.
The resource mechanics seem to be one of the most innovative parts of this rule set. I am sure gamers will quickly find whether they prefer the basic or advanced version. The advanced version can potentially add a lot of depth, challenge, diversity and surprise to a game, but I imagine some gamers might prefer to avoid the extra preparation it requires. Though I imagine that selecting a deck that synergies with your chosen force and will not be rendered useless by an unlucky draw order will be a challenge some gamers will embrace.
Army selection is based on an organization chart similar to 40k, though the chart grows with the size of game. There are also options to swap out some slots – for example exchanging a heavy vehicle slot for two light vehicle/monster slots or vice versa. There is also a bevy of options to create a custom lord or warlord as an alternative to the existing special characters. The options allow you to alter their stats, modify their weapon and give them any of a vast array of special rules, all for the appropriate points costs.
Overall, with only very few exceptions I would say that this is a very solid rule set. And in some ways it’s a shame that the fluff and the models (especially the models) aren’t quite up to the same level. Obviously the fluff, rules and other factors that appeal to any #warmonger is a very subjective thing so I would certainly suggest that people give this game a look to see if it might be right for them, but that would be qualified by admitting that it doesn’t do it for me. There are not as many sci-fi battle games out there as you might think, though a recent crop of games like WZR, MERCs, Deadzone, etc has gone some way to redress this. Sadly I don’t think that WZR is the best of the crop.