AFTERLIFE: The Shards of Liberty



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Review: Afterlife gameplay review

May 30, 2018 by donimator Cult of Games Member


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Afterlife is a futuristic skirmish wargame created by Anvil Industries. It was developed through two Kickstarters in 2013 & 2014 to create the model range, a rule set and establish the backstory and game world. In Afterlife, two primary factions battle across a high-tech landscape. The Unity Council, the former global governing body, has collapsed and is trying to reclaim a hold on power. The Pan Continental Republic opposes them as a conglomeration of numerous corporations and other interests eager to get out from under the Unity Council's yoke. This alliance has allowed their forces access to cutting edge technology as they challenge the established military forces of the centuries-old government.

Afterlife has some unique features that set it apart from similar games. Games are played on a 4' x 4' or larger, terrain-dense table. Player's forces are organized into units with an array of weapons. Alternate activations keep both players engaged and all units get to act in a round. These concepts will be familiar to most tabletop gamers.

A mechanical difference is that the game is d10 based, with the d10 roll typically adding to a base stat and compared to a static opposed number. This opens up a wider range in which to fit models of varying skill or weapon strength and allows flexibility on how an action impacts a model based on their armour, concealment, or size.

A model or unit's stats include Move, Evasion, Reaction, Ballistics, Toughness, Nerve and Wounds. From a simple ranged combat example, an attacker rolls a d10 for each shot fired and adds the roll to the unit's Ballistics value. These totals are then compared to the target's Evasion, a static value. Typical troops have a Ballistics value of 4, and an Evasion of 10. On average, in this example, 50% of shots will hit. Weapons have a max range (some larger weapons a minimum range), but there are no modifiers to the Ballistics roll. Of the shots that hit, a d10 is rolled and added to the weapon's Damage value. This is compared to the target's Toughness to determine the number of wounds. Through various combinations of Evasion and Toughness a target's skill at avoiding damage or variances in equipment allow a lot of diversity in creating unique units.

Wounds are allocated by the target's owner with some set rules. The figure must be in line of sight. Multi-wound models with at least one wound already allocated must receive a wound. Models not in cover must receive a wound before those in cover. Finally those models in cover that received a wound will get a cover save based on the type of cover.

Another interesting feature is Reactions. As attacks are declared, the target unit can attempt a Reaction test. Both sides roll a d10 and add the unit's Reactions value. If one side beats the other by 3 or more, they can act first and models are removed before they can fire back. Otherwise they are simultaneous. You can always fire back, so moving around units that have already activated does not ensure safety. A control on this is that if the same unit is subjected to consecutive attacks, their Reaction Test gets a worsening penalty. A unit under sustained fire will begin to lose models before reacting. The suppression rule may also limit a unit’s ability to react.

Units must maintain a cohesiveness of 3", but not all models in a unit have to move. If a model moves 2" or less (re-positioning), it is counted as stationary. This comes into play with some heavier weapon types that don't allow a move and shoot or do so with a lower rate of fire. This allows some flexibility in moving a squad for better effect without compromising the combat effectiveness because all models were forced to do the same action.

Fog of War comes into play with the Hidden status. All units come into play Hidden until they are detected or the condition is lost by the unit's actions. A Hidden unit can move further on its turn and is not affected by some area weapons. They cannot be attacked until revealed. A detection test pits a unit's Reactions value + 1d10 against a target's Evasion. This is another way a unit's special equipment or concealment abilities can be factored into their stat line.

Suppression is a condition that is triggered by hits when attacked and is tested against a unit's Nerve. A nerve test can be further modified if the unit received wounds or has been forced into consecutive suppression tests. Failing a test gives the unit a suppression marker and it is not allowed to take Reactions. If a unit receives a second suppression marker, it also gets marked as activated, if not already, and cannot take any actions or reactions the rest of the turn. All suppression markers are removed at the end of the turn. Doubly suppressed infantry units with less than half their starting strength are removed as routed or destroyed.

A final special rule interacts with dense urban terrain and resolves actions of storming a room or enclosed space. The Breach and Clear resolution provides a modified turn and reaction order that allows multiple units to interact to try and shift defenders from a location. Reaction order is determined for each unit and attacks resolved. If one side is not totally removed, remaining wounds are totaled with the defender getting a bonus. Highest modified total wins the action. If the defender loses, they must be able to retreat through an access or are destroyed. This process was shown on a Weekender a few years ago when the developer was on for an interview (using Antenocitti's Workshop pre-Kickstarter Habitat terrain samples).

A second supplement introduces named characters and heroes. They have a fate point resource which can be used to avoid damage or to enact special orders or combined orders. They add another interesting layer to the game and it plays equally well with or without them. In all, this is a very strategic tabletop wargame whose extra layers do not add much to the play time or create confusion. The alternating actions and reaction mechanic keeps the threat level high and units left stranded will be in difficulty.

Anvil Industries have moved on to other projects, but there is always the hope they will come back and develop Afterlife further. The second Kickstarter created some small attack vehicles and APCs that are lacking rules, but hint at greater things that could be added to the game. It is very playable and enjoyable, as it stands. The models are well-sculpted and of high quality. If you are interested in a mid-model count wargame with two different, but well-balanced factions, Afterlife is well worth a look.

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