I recently picked up the rulebook for This is Not a Test and also gotten in a few games in so far, so thought it an opportune time to share some initial thoughts on the game.
This game is thematically cool, with a Fallout-esque, post-apocalypse setting forming the backdrop to battles. There’s an interesting selection of factions, which each provides it’s own distinct flavor and style of play, as well as being able to uniquely kit out each model to a degree as well (different to Frostgrave where your wizard is customised but the rest of your warband is generic). The game is also at pains to point out it’s a beer and skittles experience, rather than tight and competitive ruleset, which suits me fine but may not be for everyone. It’s also a miniatures neutral game, so you can grab whatever you have floating around to start with – fantasy models? There’s a tribal faction which is more primitive. Wild West models? Peacekeepers or Caravaners would fit. Monsters? Build a mutant warband. Sci fi? Power armour and laser rifles are a thing… I could go on!
The core rules themselves are very easy to pick up. Mechanically it’s a D10 system, with tests being D10 roll plus a stat attempting to equal or beat a target number (generally 10). Close combat and wounding rolls are opposed tests, so both you and your opponent will roll and add a relevant stat, with the highest score winning (ties go to the defender). The prevalence of opposed tests makes the game feel highly interactive, as well as giving combat a tilt towards luck which alleviates some of the despair that can crop up when you feel like you’ve bought a knife to a laser minigun fight. Having said that the core rules are relatively simple, there is a layer of complexity introduced by the plethora of skills, mutations and equipment on offer in the game. This selection initially feels a little overwhelming, as the bulk of the rulebook is comprised of various rules offering options and restrictions for your warband. I took the approach of deciding on my warband theme – the Serenity crew from Firefly – and then looked for thematically appropriate skills and WYSIWYG weapons to build them out (although you’ll note I used a different warband in my first game…).
The activation system is very interesting, with each model in your warband having to test at the start of their activation, with a failure seeing you reduced to one action (versus two for a success) as well as play passing to your opponent after said activation. This can see a chain of activations occur for one player before the other gets a chance to respond, or play switch quickly between players if the dice decree it. I’ve seen plenty of turns where the game felt somewhat IGOUGO as one player activated all or almost all their models before play passed over.
Resolution of wounds occurring after all your models have activated is an interesting mechanic and adds something of a ‘push your luck’ mechanic. You’re forced to decide whether to continue to stack up potentially wasted hits on a model to ensure killing it or gamble on a single opposed roll being sufficient to see it out of action.
The Campaign Aspect
It’s also worth noting that the rulebook contains a flavourful progression system for warbands, with everything you’d normally expect (i.e. injuries, experience, shopping, looting). Most of this is basically how you’d expect it to be, however one cool aspect of this is the post-game revenue system.
Firstly, each player selects up to three members of their warband to go scavenging in the wastes. To determine how much loot they acquire, the player flips a card (from a standard deck of playing cards), with any numbers being the amount of Barter Script (“BS”, the notional currency of the game) earned, and a face card providing a random encounter. These encounters are very interesting and often provide a choice for the player to make (help out/ignore/etc) and a skill test which can result in outsized rewards (e.g. a robot helper for the warband) but also attract harsher downsides (e.g. the robot injures your scavenger). I really enjoyed the ones Nik and I hit after our game, and the other few I’ve read are entertaining and provide an additional layer of flavour. I believe that the cards that have been flipped are discarded from the deck as well, so as you play through a campaign you’ll get a greater chance of hitting a random encounter as the deck thins.
- Simple core mechanics, made interesting with plenty of opposed dice rolls to keep it relatively interactive
- Miniatures agnostic, so you can grab basically anything and get them to the table
- Warband progression system with a really fun and flavourful take on the post-game revenue generation part
- Activation system is somewhat random and can see the game become almost IGOUGO at times, partly offset by opposed roll mechanics
- Skill, mutation and armoury rules are very overwhelming at first and add a layer of complexity
I’ve had an immense amount of fun playing my first couple of games of TNT. I love the theme and the miniatures agnostic take, especially as this has allowed me to repurpose some WWX miniatures that had been languishing in my cupboard. The simple rules and beer and skittles play ethos works for me, with the game being more about generating epic anecdotes than crushing your opponent. The progression is good, and it has more detail and crunch than Frostgrave, which may pan out to be detrimental as each model develops different stats and skills to keep track of, but I’ll hold judgement.
The next step is to get a local league started so I can get more games in!