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Subject: Review of the third edition of Ranger rss

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Franco
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Well, at least I think it’s the third edition. There seems to be some confusion over this. The rules and the tactical events booklets both claim to be version 1, but the catalog number is 3001, which is the latest version of the game. Jumping a little ahead of myself here, Ranger is one of the good ones – it’s a solid, fun game and different enough from everything else that it’s worth having in your collection. This is a wargame without hexes and counters. If you ordered it sometime between 2009 and now, you’ll have been using a photocopied draft of the core game booklet – but as of last week we have a fresh newly printed book, and the game can now be considered complete.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



In the box you’ll find three booklets: rules, ranger tactics, and tactical events. The rules are a quick read, all outlined in bullet points, and while I need the occasional reminder because I only come back to the game a couple of times a year, once you read them you likely will need to refer to them only rarely. And that’s because the heart of the game is the tactical events booklet. It leads you through every step, from planning to execution to postop evaluation. It’s all done with flavour and plenty of detail, as though you were actually just informed of a mission and you are reviewing intel for the first time. The fresh version of the events booklet adds some variability to what used to be once a little too much repetition. Finally, the ranger tactics book is a good read for someone like me, who really knows nothing of such things.



You also get two laminated maps (labelled Yankee North and South), a dry-erase marker, two d6, a transparent acetate to figure out distance travelled and directions, three sheets that outline overarching scenarios (with political flavour), and three player-aids, which cover a glossary, weapons and equipment, and combat tables. Over 40 cards are included, each outlining mission times, locations, and objectives, so there's plenty of variability on repeated play. The one thing I don’t like all that much is the ranger organization, weapon, and equipment log – it’s laminated, which is nice, but I find it a little finicky. On the other hand, I do like the timing section, which has you marking off 15-minute segments on a 24-hour clock. It’s all good quality materials and all very functional. For example, the covers of the booklets are also laminated, and on the back of the rules is a generic display of the objective so you can plot out your actions at the objective in more detail with the dry-erase marker (I don’t).



GAME PLAY
Setup is half the game. You pick a scenario, then a random mission, and then begin to plan everything. While you will be reading the events booklet at every step, part of the fun of the game involves the route you draw directly on the map with the dry-erase marker, both infiltration and exfiltration. The lead-up to the actual mission ends with a walk out to your Chinook or plane or boat, however you are entering enemy territory, and to me that one paragraph really does mark an abrupt change in the tempo of the game. It imparts some anxiety and the feeling that everything is about to go down ...

The paragraphs you read will partly be determined by the route or alternate route you follow across the map to your objective and the terrain you move through. The base movement paragraphs get fairly repetitive, which can drag a little, but I suppose the repetition is as-intended, making your first contact all the more dramatic.



Some missions are for extended patrols, lasting several days. I tend to prefer the shorter missions, and given my slight dislike of the team and equipment log, I prefer missions that require just a single squad as opposed to the entire platoon.

There’s a single base paragraph, which you return to nearly every time you move. From there you have choices, leading to different numbered paragraphs, and occasionally randomly chosen paragraphs. There are plenty of possibilities built into the game, including calling evac, issuing off-plan (frago) orders, allowing enemy contacts to (hopefully) pass while you lay low, setting up security and scouting teams at the objective relay point, and organizing your squad or platoon into a variety of formations (which can affect how quickly you move and how prepared you will be at enemy contact). Some paragraphs instruct you to move so many meters along your planned route, and some instruct you to mark off expended time. How quickly you move depends on how quick your rangers can walk, which in turn depends on terrain, time of day, the health status of your rangers, and how much equipment you had them carry. If you encounter enemy, the paragraph booklet will give you distance, direction, and strength. From there you simply consult your combat tables to calculate how many attacks you are allowed, given the number and types of weapons you have (and their range and remaining ammo). Enemy attacks on your rangers are brutal and effective.

DENOUEMENT

Not sure there’s anything else quite like Ranger. It’s a solid game, and while you can game the system a bit, everything is presented in a realistic fashion so that you are encouraged to make realistic decisions, like taking a security halt before crossing a clearing or a road, or stopping to “listen” every so often. Sometimes I get impatient with the game, partly because of the repetitive paragraphs and partly because I often make paragraph mistakes (leading me to read the wrong things, but that may just be me). All in all, though, this is a game I suspect should be on every wargamer’s shelf.
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Keiron
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Thanks for the review - great to see the new components.

Ordered a copy last week and am eagerly awaiting its arrival in the post.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
United States
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Great review, Franco!

Aren't there a couple expansions for this game? Are they available?
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Franco
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Thanks! There are two expansions currently available, with a third promised to come soon. The existing expansions add maps and many more mission cards. Some of the missions involve extended patrols ... longer, farther, multiple objectives. I haven't really used them yet - there's quite a bit of variability in the base game as it is (42 missions, if I remember correctly).
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Al Mk2
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Great review of one of my all time favorite games .
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The Mighty Greedo
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Good review.

I've been thinking of getting this game, but there's still one aspect that I'm not clear on and it's preventing me from pulling the trigger and ordering the game.

I can't seem to figure out why a player wouldn't just draw a straight line from the starting point directly to the destination. Other than there being a wall or a huge mountain in the way, of course. Could you (or anyone reading this) explain some of the reasons why a player wouldn't just draw a straight line to the target?

Thanks

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Franco
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You can, though it's not recommended as a ranger tactic. This is an example of the kind of thing that could indeed be gamed (reduce the path length) but isn't in the spirit of the game. So, you are encouraged to plan a realistic infiltration.
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Martin Gallo
United States
O'Fallon
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You can even ignore the combat results against your team if you like. I like to read ahead to the end of the mission and award medals to my team!
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Charlie Field

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LMAO!
I'm starting to get back into gaming ( it's been20 yrs ).
I loved Ambush. Just received RAF. This is a game that looks good. How does this game compare? Good for campiagns? Any input is appreciated.
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Charlie Field

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Any downfalls of this game? Other than paragraph checking?
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Martin Gallo
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cdfield wrote:
Any downfalls of this game? Other than paragraph checking?
Dudes die quickly.
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