Firefight Slog Postmortem

This is sort of a response to this post:*, which is a game I’m currently in. For a little bit of context, the GM, Sean, wanted to do a few sessions of a sort of prelude game - essentially, we played out he end of an Invasion Phase set on the planet Taramai from the Sheva’s War comic. We’re moving on to World and character burning proper for our next session on Monday.

What I really wanted to do here was examine the Firefight. What went wrong, and why did it take so long? I have my thoughts, and I’m certainly planning on posting something on Sean’s blog about it, but I wanted to post here first, to get some outside ideas on how future Firefights could go more smoothly.

Oh, and the TL;DR version of the situation, in case you don’t feel like checking out the link is: We had a firefight in which the humans invaded a Vaylen concentration camp, and the whole thing took, like, 3 hours.

1: I feel like a lot of the trouble came from a lack of rules mastery. BE is a game designed for people who really know how to play it, and it seems like some of the subsystems require a lot of brute force practice to get right.

2: Our side scripted a little like a Mouse Guard conflict, where the GM scripts first and then gives the players some time to confer and decide what to script as a group. I think this was detrimental. I feel like whosever scene it is needs to be in charge of the conflict, and input from the rest of the group should come in the form of Help and specialist actions and shot opportunities earned from the maneuver tests.

3: Moving. Our side holed up in one position at the beginning of the Firefight and, basically, tried to take the other side from long range. I think that even if the firefight takes a long time, moving really makes the scene more dynamic. Holing up makes the whole thing last longer, because you wind up postponing one side or the other taking down your dispo. Failed advances and flanks put units out in no man’s land, making them easier targets. Also, there was an advance that was done wrong, where the Vaylen side advanced from a position on the far side of the map straight across to where the humans were holed up, ignoring positions between the two.

4: The objective our side declared was, in retrospect, not specific enough. We were trying to take over a concentration camp, which I think is a valid intent for the Firefight, but we should have couched it in terms of taking the command center, which was a specific place on the map. This sort of leads to the problems we had resulting from #3 - we spent extra time trying in vain to reduce the enemy’s dispo directly with suppressive fire actions and, in the end, a couple of close combats, instead of having a good battlefield objective that we could look at and say, “We need to get here.”

5: Our side wound up concentrating on getting personal with the enemy officer, and I think, if I read the rules correctly, we would have been better off taking down the nameless mooks on the Vaylen side. It’s waaay harder to get rid of a named character than it is to just take out a generic soldier. There would have been plenty of disposition lost on both sides if we’d done that instead of gunning for the villain directly.

6: Ammo Checks would have forced both sides to take riskier actions. The GM skipped that rule for the sake of expedience in a long and dragged out scene, but in hindsight I wonder if taking the extra time for a couple of rolls wouldn’t have forced us to take some riskier actions.*

7: The last thing we had trouble with was circling up a demolitions specialist to degrade a position. I’m pretty sure that the actual roll for the demolition was done wrong (we weren’t occupying the position we wanted to bomb), but as for actually bringing him into the unit, we spent a success for a specialist action to circle up the character, then used another in a subsequent maneuver to actually have him take out a feature on the map - in this case, collapsing some mine shafts where the Vaylen forces not involved in the Firefight were holed up. In hindsight, I think that we should have thrown in a fairly high Ob circles test either at the very beginning of the firefight, or right after we spent the success for the specialist action, but before we rolled the demolitions test.

I can’t really think of anything else at the moment, but if anyone has any input or advice, it would certainly be appreciated.

  1. You don’t need that much brute force practice to get firefight, but you do need to be at least passingly familiar with Fight, Range and Cover, and Dual of Wits in order to have it click. There’s also a few gotchas in there that will probably come up farther down.

  2. Script it like a Fight or a Dual of Wits, so don’t rotate the person in the spotlight. The main person should script and roll, the supporting players should help and (if appropriate) be handed successes to perform specialist actions. Remember that while each side scripts and acts as a single unit there isn’t anything saying that they narratively can’t break up. This means that a second PC can help the first with Tactics by narrating how he takes a small fireteam and sets up a crossfire.

  3. This is one of the gotchas. There’s an important question that comes up in Firefight - do I kill them or do I win. Direct Fire is pretty good for killing guys, it is however terrible for winning engagements. Flank, and to a somewhat lesser degree Advance and Suppressive Fire are the tools for winning the dispo fight. Holding a strong position at the start is powerful, but maneuverability on the battlefield is key. Remember also that if you have an objective of “protect the fortification” and you win, it doesn’t matter if the enemy took and held the fortifications for part of the firefight due to your statement of intent.

  4. Set your objective like you would set a statement of purpose in a Dual of Wits. It should direct what you do or where you go, but always remember that if you succeed at redicing their dispo to zero, you get your intent. Conversely, setting ab objective like “secure the command center” means nothing if you manage to take it as part of an Advance but lose the Firefight. In short, let it direct and guide you, but don’t confuse “successfully achieving my overall goal via maneuvers” to be the same as “winning the dispo battle.” That said, flanking the opponent and advancing on the target will get you both closer to your goal within the battlespace and also get you closer to winning the disposition fight (flank especially).

  5. Yeah, it’s hard to assassinate someone in firefight. The only decent way I can think of pulling off an assassination is through the liberal use of PAc’s and Fusors. It’s far better to set the capture of the enemy CO as part of your objective and then go gunning for their men. Also re-read Soldiers Under My Command (starting on page 506), especially if you’re trying to whittle down their men.

  6. Ammo checks are key. Ammo checks reign in the badassitude of Suppressive Fire and help break up the actions. It also means you end up staggering your fire as some of your squadmates/sections fail their ammo checks at different times. For example, if the Fusor section fails but your two Assault Laser sections pass and you have direct fire scripted next, your fusor section can’t fire but the other two can (which has the effect of rotating your fire and not just banging away with your largest weapons all the damn time). It’s a lot better to keep ammo checks in and to not use the “spend a fate to force an ammo check” rule. You still worry about it, but it’s less of an issue.

  7. Does it make sense for your squad to have a demolitions expert in it? If so, you spend the specialist action and your demolitions expert tests his explosives skill against the ob. If you don’t have a demo expert, or he’s been taken out of the fight due to enemy action, you can’t take advantage of him. This was something that I had a hard time with when I first ran a firefight - if the CO has the affiliation and relationship (as per “I Need a Gang or Crew” rules on page 118) needed to have a tactical team you have at your disposal a full tactical team without the need for a mid-firefight circles roll to get the guy.

Besides having a long firefight, how did things go?

Yeah, pulling the ammo checks out almost certainly made things go slower, not faster.


  1. Check out the TIME optional rule on page 479. That can help speed things up.

  2. Flank, Flank, Flank. When someone takes a position, flank them. When someone tries to Flank you, Suppress them. It’s a beautiful ballet. But if you used CC, you should have had things end even faster. CC deducts dispo from both sides.

  3. Ammo checks aren’t too onerous, and what they do is give you information about your opponent’s next action. If he fails that test, there won’t be a SF/DF action, so…

  4. Did you pass the test with the +3 Ob for making the Circles test in a conflict?

  1. You did this exactly right. If you’d set it as “take over the command center,” and then put the command center on the map, and then your players had successfully advanced to the command center while losing all of their dispo… What next? They have, in the fiction, advanced to the command center and taken hold of it, and yet the rules tell us that they have not achieved their objective, meaning they have somehow not taken the center. (Yes, you can gloss it by saying that they got flanked and driven out, sure. But it’s better to frame the action so that awkwardness doesn’t arise.)

Don’t make the objective a position on the map. It should either be off-map (like if the objective is “break through to Moscow” and the map is the territory west of the city) or it should comprise multiple positions, or in some cases it should be a thing that you have to do at a position, which can’t be done during the fight (like “search the archives for X,” where the archives are a position but the search will take a day or two). In this case, the second option is probably correct: make the camp part or all of the map. Holding the command center is quite advantageous in terms of taking over the camp, so that’s a high-value position. But it’s not game-over. The gatehouse might also be important, or the ridge to the east of the camp, or whatever.

Hey, thanks everyone! I appreciate the responses. Lots of good stuff to think about. I’m probably not going to respond to everything right now, because we’re starting the World Burning session in a little less than half an hour.

Overall, pretty well. Like I said, we’re doing the World Burning session tonight, so it’s at least fun enough for everyone else to start a full campaign, and that makes me happy. I’ve never managed to get through a full campaign of BE, so this is sort of my white whale of RPG’s. I’m excited though.

Totally agree. I think that’s one of the things that really slowed everything down. Firefight isn’t Fight, so you have to come at it differently.

Now that we’ve gone through it, I’ll totally keep this in mind. Everyone but me in this game is sort of a newbie. Well, technically, most of us have played before, but it was at least three years ago, in a brief and aborted campaign that I ran. I think that we’ll be able to bring this rule to bear during this campaign, now that we’ve screwed one up :slight_smile:

Normally, yeah. One of the things that made this difficult was very poor dice rolls. Granted, it’s been some weeks since then, but with the CC’s, we either tied or lost every time. I think we wound up losing a total of 1 dispo from the enemy scripting a CC. Incidentally, we did Flank once the enemy had advanced into our position, but we wound up getting hosed by it. That was actually the maneuver that ended the conflict, since we had to leave our position in order to execute the Flank. We lost to a DF, if I recall correctly.

Sure did! I guess my only issue with this part was when this roll is made. We knew we needed it, but everyone had spent their builders earlier in the maneuver, so the question was, do you roll at the top of the conflict, or immediately when you choose to do the specialist action?

Yeah, I was totally wrong above. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think my main frustration came from our side being so stationary. But, yeah, making the objective achieving a position is a bad idea.

It’s legal to make the roll during the conflict, you’re risking an enemy in your ranks DURING the fight.

When you’re stationary in a FF, you shoot shoot shoot. Sounds like your tactics were working, but only barely so.

It’s +1 Ob at the top of the conflict and +3 in the middle as per the circles table. As I mentioned earlier, you only need to roll for the NPC if it doesn’t make sense for them to already be there. For example, the Black Lynxes from the Character Burner examples probably have at least one demolitions expert (as befits their Anvil special forces nature) in the combat squad so no circles roll would is needed to use a demolitions specialist action. On the flip side, someone leading a rag tag bunch of militiamen would probably need to circle up a demo expert due to it being outside the scope of their expected training and loadout.