Thursday, October 5, 2023

Haywire Rules - A Discussion

 Hey everyone. I know it has been a long time since my last blog post. Honestly it is because I have been pretty consistent in getting face-to-face games lately, plus some computer games, plus wrapping up my work (as I am retired now).


In this post I want to discuss the solo mechanics in the rule Haywire, which are free and in beta. This is not a review of the rules themselves as I have not fully read the rules, nor played them, but I have learned enough about them from this video play through to discuss some of the solo/cooperative game mechanics. (By the way, the video is hilarious as the author is trying to explain the basics of the game, but you can tell he gets a bit invested in the scenario and his luck is both fantastically good and bad.) This discussion is largely based on the video, but in some cases I followed up by finding a specific rule in the PDF.

How is the Scenario Determined?

Haywire divides the board up into 12" (30cm) squares. For each of those squares you will have one threat token representing possible enemy forces (PEF), with a minimum of ten tokens. So a 3' square board would have ten threat tokens, a 4' square board would have 16, and so on. The author, in the video, used red plastic silhouettes of soldiers for the threat tokens, which was very effective in quickly identifying where the threats were located, when it came time to interact with them.

What the rules do not specify is what the board looks like, i.e. the terrain. I have noticed this in a number of scenarios lately where the scenario authors are specifying deployment zones, objective locations, and such, but only a basic description of the terrain and layout. Is this good? Is it because players skip over scenarios that use terrain setups they don't have?

Haywire is the same in that it does not specify the terrain at all. You are free to setup the table however you wish. It simply states that the board should have "enough terrain and scatter to block LOS" (line of sight).

How is the Mission Determined?

One thing that most rules lack are good missions, included with the rules. Haywire comes with 23 (to start with, as this is still beta).

There are a number of card decks that you use in Haywire and one of them is the Operations deck. (The rules include separate images of the cards so you can print them out.) Fortunately, they also include a separate PDF listing out the 23 missions so you don't need to print out the deck. The author has stated that this is one area that will continue to expand as he thinks up more mission types.

Let's start by discussing a couple of example missions.

Every "operation" (mission) contains an objective and setup instructions. As you can see with this mission the opposing forces include a surface-to-air missile launcher and the team is sent to destroy it. The setup instructions tell you to place three objective tokens in the open, some additional parameters to the mission (no support), and how to destroy the objective.

This mission, which was the one played in the video, calls for finding and eliminating the enemy leader.

How are the Opposing Forces Selected?

There are three "factions" defined in Haywire: (Western) Task Force, (Russian) Spetsnaz, and Insurgent. Interestingly, the first two are player factions, so no US versus Russia missions are defined in these rules.

Haywire bills itself as using classes, which are essentially profiles that you use for figures. The player factions have classes for Demolition, Automatic Rifleman, Marksman, Medic, Assault, and Team Leader. We will look at their profiles later. The Insurgent faction has the profiles Fighter, Gunner, Sniper, Rocketeer, True Believer (complete with bomb vest), Advisor, Executioner, and Cell Leader.

The next step is to create the Threat deck. Included in the game are two 1 Enemy, four 2 Enemies, four 3 Enemies, one 3 Enemies, 1 Leader, four Nothing, and four Civilian cards. You remove the one 3 Enemies, 1 Leader card and shuffle the rest. You then draw one card for every threat token, less one (for the card you have set aside). Those cards, plus the 3 Enemies, 1 Leader card, become the threat deck.

Whenever a threat token is then spotted by a player's figure, a card is drawn from the deck to determine what figures replace the threat token. If the card is one of the "enemy" cards, for each enemy figure you roll one D20 and look on the following table to determine what profile to use for that figure.

How are the Opposing Forces' Movement Determined?

There are five types of movement: threat tokens before the alarm is raised; threat tokens after the alarm is raised; enemy figures before the alarm is raised; enemy figures after the alarm is raised; and civilians.

Threat Token Before the Alarm is Raised

After the players take their movement the threat tokens are moved. If the alarm has not been raised a scatter die (the die on the left in the image below) and a D6 are rolled for each token. The token is moved D6 inches in the direction indicated by the scatter die.

Although random movement may seem rather nonsensical – guards don't walk in a different direction every turn, at differing speeds – it is better to view it as the player's perception of where they think the threat, which is out of line of sight, is really located. At least that is how I justify the mechanic.

If the threat token wanders into the line of sight of the player's figures, the threat deck is immediately consulted to see what the actually threat is, rolling on the Insurgent table to determine exactly which figure(s) to put on the board. Remember, it may consist of one or more enemies, a civilian, or nothing. If they are enemy, they first test to see if they detect the player's figure(s) by rolling a D20. If they do they may immediately act. (Note that player figures on overwatch may act first.)

Threat Token After the Alarm is Raised

Once an unsuppressed weapon is fired or one of the player's figures are spotted (not just in line of sight) the alarm is raised on the whole board. Once that happens each threat token moves 6" directly towards the sound of gunfire. As above, when the threat token comes within line of sight of a player's figure a card from the threat deck is drawn and any figures are rolled for and placed on the board.

Enemy Figures Before the Alarm is Raised

It is possible for a figure to be placed, but it not have been alerted to the player's figure's presence (it missed its spotting roll) and for the alarm to not have been raised. In those rare circumstances the procedure is actually undefined.

As you can see in the image above, each Insurgent card has a short program to determine how it acts. The first question is: "Is there an enemy in LOS?" Because the figure failed the spotting roll the answer is "No". It then tells you what you should do in relation to the "last seen enemy or where the last gunshot was heard". But neither of those apply.

Thus, the question pops up as to what the figure does the following turns. Should we use the rule on page 11 that says "Once a model is alerted, he stops moving randomly on the board" to mean that, because he is not alerted, he continues moving randomly (D6 inches in random direction)? My first inclination, before I found that reference, was that they would continue on in the direction they were facing until they hit the boundary of the area they were patrolling/guarding/defending and then at that point roll for a new direction. I would think that once a figure is revealed its movement might be more normalized.

Granted, this situation only arises when you are not spotted, but I could see where, if an enemy is walking away from you, and they failed to spot you, you might let them continue on. But if their movement is random every turn, you really can't take the chance and are almost forced to attack them. (In the video gameplay referenced above the author would always have multiple people on overwatch and they would pop anyone as soon as they were alerted.)

Enemy Figures After the Alarm is Raised

As shown in the image above, each figure "class" has its own program on how to act when the alarm has been raised. The first basic question is whether the enemy in in line of sight or not. If they are then it is generally whether the figure is in cover or not. (One exception is the True Believer card, which always moves towards the closest enemy, detonating his "S-Vest" when within range.) The second basic question is whether the figure is in cover or not.

Although simple, simple is good. There is enough of a foundation there if you want to add more factors to the program.


There are a number of other elements that I could go on about, but you should check it out on your own. It is free after all. Then there is the unintentionally hilarious video by the author. Boy his luck is just plain bad at times!