War In The Megacity Review by David Lent
War in the Megacity from Conflict Magazine #9 is a simulation of urban warfare in cities with more than 10,000,000 residents. No specific nation is represented and the two sides are the government and insurgent forces. Each side has an infowar index, which represents how much public support they are getting. This game has conventional, special operations and unconventional warfare.
The point-to-point map for WITM is divided into sectors, which have a main area and one or more underground areas. Kinetic combat may be used in the main area, but not the underground area. The sectors also have an infowar value, which is given to the player controlling the sector each turn. In addition, the map contains the sequence of play, which is clearly wrong since it is different than the one in the rulebook. The one in the rulebook says attrition occurs on “B” turns, but the one on the map says it occurs on “A” turns. There also are 3 combat results tables on the map. They are the disrupt, kinetic and confront tables. Kinetic warfare does the most damage to enemy forces, but can only be used in the main areas. Disrupt and confront make attacking or defending counters go up or down levels. They can be used in the main area or in the underground areas as far as I can tell. I feel 3 combat results tables are one too many. It would have made more sense just to simplify and have a conventional and unconventional warfare table. Simplicity is especially useful for magazine games, since they do not receive the same level of play testing as boxed games. Simply put, the more complexity in a game, the more play testing that is required.
WITM’s counters are conventional and unconventional units, airstrikes, mobile truck bombs, crowds, information markers and secret victory conditions. The three numbers on the counters are strength, level and movement rate. WITM’s rulebook says that parenthesized strength units can only conduct disruption and confront conflict. The problem with that is that none of the counters have parenthesis. However, some do have bold strengths, so I assume that is what they are talking about. That’s not the only problem with the counters though. The setup calls for level 3 light conflict groups, but they were never printed. In addition, the setup also tells you to use 6 level 2 main force counters when only 4 were printed. The truck bombs and airstrikes have their combat odds for the kinetic conflict table printed on them
Sequence of Play :
A) The player with the most infowar points declares who will be the first player
B) First Player Turn
a. On “A” turns only: mobilization phase
b. First player movement
c. First player conflict
C) Second Player Turn
a. On “A” turns only: mobilization phase
b. Second player movement
c. Second player conflict
D) Control Phase: each player gets infowar points for sectors they control
E) Attrition Phase: Only on “B” turns
a. Second player attrition
b. First player attrition
F) End of Turn Phase
a. Burnout removal
b. SWET step
c. Advance the turn marker
Victory in WITM occurs either through sudden death or victory points at the end of the game. Sudden death occurs when a player’s infowar index falls to zero. At the end of the game, victory points are determined by the number of infowar points a player has plus the victory points determined by the victory point markers they received in the beginning of the game. These markers give extra victory points when certain conditions are met. It makes it impossible for your enemy to know your exact victory point total until the end of the game. The victory point difference determines the level of victory.
The mobilization phase is where the phasing player spends infowar points on new units, netwar markers and leveling up units. Netwar markers can be thought of as “event” counters. They have specific events that can be played at certain times. I found that the truck bombs and airstrikes are very important to purchase, because they do a lot of damage.
Movement is voluntary and done by sectors. Some units have infiltration movement and may move through sectors with open status units without having to stop. Units without the infiltration capability must stop when entering a sector with open status units. Helicopters may be used to transport in this phase
Each conflict phase starts with the phasing player detonating truck bombs or using airstrikes. The rest of the conflict phase consists of regular conflict and underground conflict. An attack must use all of your units in open status and they may attack open status units usually with the kinetic combat results table. They may also attack underground units with the disrupt or conflict combat results tables. Thus, units can attack up to 2 times per turn. Attacks with the kinetic CRT results in one of the players being awarded the infowar points marked on the sector. However, the awarded player gets to choose to either add those points to their infowar total or take them away from their enemy’s total.
In the control phase, each player adds the infowar points for the sectors they control to their total.
On “B” turns each player has an attrition phase. During attrition, paramilitary and demonstrator units undergo attrition. There are no counters called demonstrator units, so I assumed the crowd units were the demonstrator units. Any of these units located in a sector their controller doesn’t control loses one level.
Sectors can be “Burned out” with a special burn out attack. If it is successful than rioting occurs in that sector. The riot (burn out) cannot be removed until a emergency service or NGZ (no go zone) unit is in the sector at the end of a turn.
SWET (sewer, water, electricity and trash removal) services may be cut off in certain sectors. For each utility sector you control, you may cut off one enemy sector from SWET. This reduces the infowar value of the sector by half. This lasts until an emergency services unit is in the sector during the SWET step or an insurgent no go zone is placed there.
During the games I played, I found that it was best for the government player to buy lots of airstrikes and helicopters and then buy whatever ground units were needed. The insurgents need lots of truck bombs and units that fight well in the underground. The government needs to hold the utility sectors, but the insurgents need to infiltrate into the underground of sectors and force the government to fight there. The government has units that are fantastic in kinetic warfare, but kinetic warfare cannot be used in the underground. Insurgent forces tend to last significantly longer in the underground than in the open.
I pointed out some negative aspects of this game that were probably due to the fact that this game was only tested by the author and developer according to the rulebook. I’m a software engineer and a company I worked at around 10 years ago was having problems with bugs not being caught during software testing. I discovered the problem was that there were occasions where the programmer was testing his own code and the incorrect assumptions he made about the requirements during development were carried over to testing and bugs were not being found. After pointing out this problem, programmers were no longer allowed to test their own code and far more bugs were discovered during testing. The moral of the story is that a game should never be playtested only by its author and developer. A fresh pair of eyes is always needed during testing.
Overall, I found this WITM to be a really interesting design that was quite a bit of fun to play once I was able to decipher the rulebook and figure out what I assumed the author “actually meant” about some of the rules. This game could have been a legendary design with more play testing and development. I’d like to see the game fully play tested and re-released as a boxed game with a different name, because the concept is absolutely fantastic.
View the components in the unboxing video below: