A Blood Horizon AAR
For the first session of 2022, I’m doing a solo playthrough of Chain Reaction – Blood Horizon, a miniatures tabletop game inspired by the novel and film No Country for Old Men. This is an upcoming scenario that will be published through Two Hour Wargames.
If you’re not familiar with the THW system: Rep (3 through 5) is a measure of a character’s overall experience and morale, and when we try to Pass Rep, that means we want to roll their Rep or lower on 6-sided dice.
In Blood Horizon, you move your Player Counter along a Campaign Map that represents North America. Meanwhile, you’re pursued by multiple enemy groups: Two Hired Goons who comb the map semi-randomly and occasionally catch onto your trail, and a Deadly Assassin who pursues you relentlessly. With a combination of luck and finesse, you can lure them into fighting each other and make your escape — but screw up and you’ll find yourself facing overwhelming odds.
In today’s campaign, Dickey McDonald is a welder who just turned in his blowtorch for a big iron. His life wasn’t too shabby until he found the shootout in the desert. A drug deal gone wrong, a bunch of shot up trucks, and a satchel full of drug money — you’ve seen this movie before. Now he’s on the run and enlisting as much help as possible against countless enemies who can hit him at any time from any direction.
In Blood Horizon, instead of a Lifetime Rep d6 score, you start with a persistent satchel value that starts at 30. You use this money to buy weapons, recruit pre-generated Hired Hands, and pay weekly expenses. You cannot permanently increase your Rep because you are on the run and under constant attack.
Your protagonist is always a Rep 5 Star. You roll for your starting weapon, then roll for an Attribute and pick a second one like other THW titles.
- 1 – 3: Rifle (R-1)
- 4 – 5: Shotgun (S-2)
- 6: Big A$$ Pistol (BAP-2)
For his weapon, I roll an unlucky 3 leaving Dickey with a bolt-action rifle (R-1) which is inefficient for modern combat. However, fortune favors Dickey when I roll for a random Attribute: He gets Resilient, meaning his first Out of Fight result in combat will be reduced to a mere Duck Back. For his second trait, I pick Born Leader for an extra Will to Fight d6 to help ensure his future comrades don’t fly in the heat of battle.
Dickey takes advantage of the opportunity hit the Gun Store before the campaign starts, and stock up on new weapons and hire some backup.
|Knife||1 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Rifle (R-1)||1 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Shotgun (S-2)||2 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Pistol (P-1)||2 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Big A$$ Pistol (BAP-2)||4 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Automatic (A-3)||6 Decreasing Rep d6|
|Dynamite (5, single use)||5 Decreasing Rep d6|
Note: In Blood Horizon, you can dual wield pistols (P-1 and BAP-2) hence their higher price compared to similar firearms (R-1 and S-2).
Dickey sells his starting Rifle for 1 Increasing Rep d6 (half the buy-cost rounded down, minimum 1). Then he buys a Big A$$ Pistol (BAP-2) for 4 Decreasing Rep d6, and drops another 1 for a Knife just in case things get hairy.
Next, he looks at the Hired Hands available to recruit. Blood Horizon provides three pre-generated Hired Hands and a table for generating future recruits.
- Sam Sproule (Citizen) – Rep 3, Rifle (R-1)
- Attribute: Coward.
- Upfront Cost: 1 Decreasing Rep d6
- Carlos Escalera (Outlaw) – Rep 4, Shotgun (S-2)
- Attribute: Tough.
- Upfront Cost: 2 Decreasing Rep d6
- Louis Toadvine (Hired Goon) – Rep 5, Pistol (P-1) + Knife
- Attribute: Rage.
- Upfront Cost: 3 Decreasing Rep d6
Dickey chooses to hire them all for a grand total of 6 Decreasing Rep d6. This brings his satchel total to 20.
Here’s the updated band list, from highest Rep to lowest:
- Dickey McDonald – Rep 5, BAP-2
- Attributes: Resilient, Born Leader.
- Louis Toadvine – Rep 5, P-1 + Knife
- Attribute: Rage.
- Carlos Escalera – Rep 4, S-2
- Attribute: Tough.
- Sam Sproule – Rep 3, R-1
- Attribute: Coward.
After finishing at the Gun Store, Dickey beats North-West to increase distance between himself and the starting region of East Texas, where the satchel was found.
In Utah, he rolls a 5 on the Random Encounter table:
- (1) Chillin’ – Brief respite. A chance to visit the Gun Store and recruit Hired Hands.
- (2) On the Run – Some suspicious strangers on the road into town. If you resolve all PEFs, follow up with Chillin’.
- (3) Hold Up – Some deadbeat robbers jump you on the highway.
- (4) Pursuit – Escape a large posse hot on your tail.
- (5) Defend – Outlaws or Hired Goons attack, but you had time to prepare.
- (6) Ambush – Outlaw Gang – A surprise gang attack, no time to prepare.
That’s a Defend encounter. He must roll again to determine if he’s being attacked by shabby, low-level Outlaws (1 – 2) or professional paramilitary Hired Goons (3 – 6). He rolls a 4, so Dickey and his band will fight some fearsome Goons.
In Defend and Ambush encounters, you always face off against a larger force, rolling 1/2d6 in addition to your Band number. We roll 2 with a band of four, so the enemy band is 4 + 1 = 5.
This time around, Dickey has the advantage. Since it’s a Defend encounter, his side is always in cover. Both sides roll for Activation: We pass 2d6 against 5 Rep, and they only pass 1. We activate first, but the Advantage roll is 6 so they are in cover. Since this is a Defend encounter, we also get the benefit of cover.
Dickey lands deadly shots against the two leading Goons. Meanwhile, Toadvine hits Hired Goon #3 but rolls a meager 1 and only sends him into Duck Back. Then Escalera scores a 5 and a 6: The unlucky man who receives the 6 is now dead, but the other guy has the Resilient attribute so converts his Out of the Fight damage into a mere Duck back.
After the first volley of shots, both sides take the Will to Fight check. Dickey gets to roll 3d6 due to his Born Leader trait and easily keeps his men in the fight. Meanwhile, the Hired Goons roll a 6 and a 6, passing 0d6. The last of the Goons are driven into retreat.
The fight is over. In Blood Horizon, you get points for looting anyone you neutralize in battle even if you didn’t personally deliver the fatal blow. The only requirement is that you have Characters on the Battle Board after the fight.
Dickey collects 3 Increasing Rep d6 for this battle, bringing his satchel back up to 23. Additionally, he drops his Big A$$ Pistol (BAP-2) and picks up an Automatic (A-3) dropped by a fallen enemy. Toadvine and Escalera do the same thing with the other two fallen A-3’s. Sproule drops his Rifle (R-1) and takes the BAP-2 left behind by Dickey.
This ends the week.
The week starts by paying Upkeep. Dickey’s satchel drops to 19 as he pays for himself and his three Band mates.
In the second week, the Assassin counter starts in East Texas and rolls 1/2d6 for movement in the same turn. If the Assassin catches up to the Player, the Player cannot move and must fight the Assassin. Thus, there’s a roughly 33% chance that you’ll have to fight the Assassin on his first move in Week 2.
And that’s the exact fate that befalls Dickey. The Assassin rolls a 6, moving three spaces directly towards Dickey and landing in Utah. Dickey cannot move this week.
Not only is the Assassin band larger than ours, but the Deadly Assassin leader has a whopping 7 Rep and two Attributes. He’s one tough bastard, and he doesn’t have a sense of humor!
I score a 3 on the 1/2d6 roll for How Many. This means the enemy Band has 4 + 2 = 6 characters.
Once again Dickey lucks out. We gain the advantage and the first shots. However, this fight doesn’t pan out like the last one. Dickey rolls low damage and only sends two Assassins into Duck Back. Toadvine rolls well and manages to kill an enemy.
The last two teammates, Escalera and Sproule, miss their shots and draw return fire. The Assassins all have Crack Shot, so they roll 3d6 instead of 2d6 to shoot — a massive advantage. They easily gun down both Escalera and Sproule.
Nobody flees in the ensuing Will to Fight check thanks to Dickey’s leadership. In the round that follows, the two ducked Assassins recover and the remaining three loose a volley on our survivors. Toadvine is knocked Out of the Fight, and Dickey is sent into Duck Back.
Then comes the second Will to Fight check. Alone and outnumbered, Dickey invokes his Free Will to cut his losses and Flee the Battle Board instead of rolling to stay in the fight
Among Dickey’s three buddies, Escalera is Obviously Dead while Toadvine and Sproule are Out of the Fight and recoverable. Dickey weighs his decisions. He only has time to save one teammate, so he grabs Toadvine and drags him away, leaving poor Sproule to a certain grim fate.
Dickey and Toadvine survive the encounter while Escalera and Sproule perish. Our protagonist has survived the week with his highest Rep companion, but gained 1 Decreasing Rep d6 for leaving Sproule to his fate, plus another 1 for fleeing the Battle Board. His satchel is reduced to 17.
Additionally, since they fled the Battle Board in defeat Dickey does not get to loot the dead Assassin for Increasing Rep d6.
The next week starts with another 4 Decreasing Rep d6 for upkeep, leaving Dickey with only 13 in his satchel.
Since Dickey fled the Battle Board against the Assassin last week, he gets to move first on the campaign map. However, the Assassin survived the last fight, so they get to move the same week with a chance of catching up to Dickey again. They score a 4 this time, which translates to two regions moved towards the player. Dickey lucked out.
In Week 3, the first of two potential Goon Squads deploys in The North to track down the package. These guys roll to move between The North (1), Washington (2), California (3), and East Texas (4), but if you’re unlucky (5 – 6) they’ll come right after you.
Dickey ends the week without making contact with an enemy Campaign Counter, so he rolls for a new Random Encounter. He gets lucky and scores a 1 for a simple Chillin’ encounter in town.
Dickey has a few choices here. He can enter town during the Daytime, allowing him to resolve up to 6 PEFs before he must flee local gangs — among these PEFs a Gun Store where he can buy weapons and generate new Hired Hands. Alternatively, he can visit during the Night and resolve up to 15 PEFs if he wants to gain Increasing Rep from favorable interactions or find a decent Citizen to recruit through interaction.
As Dickey explores town, there’s a chance he’ll resolve any PEF as Outlaws (4 – 5) or more Hired Goons (6). Even if he meets a Citizen (1 – 3), there’s a chance (1) they’re actually Police who will try and bring Dickey into the slammer.
If he encounters hostiles, he’ll have to use Stealth to avoid a fight. If it’s just a Citizen, he can Interact like normal. On the other hand, if Dickey gets into a gunfight with these guys in the middle of town, he’ll be forced to flee and end his Chillin’ Encounter.
Dickey decides it’ll be easiest to move through town and accomplish his goals alone. He enters the Chillin’ Encounter alone and leaves his Band member, Toadvine, outside of town and plans to meet him later.
Dickey resolves the first PEF. In a stroke of bad luck, it’s a group of three Outlaws. He decides to try and Stealth past them. The Outlaw Leader only has 4 Rep. Dickey rolls 2d6 against his 5 Rep, and the Outlaw Leader rolls against his own Rep.
|More d6||Success! Avoided detection by Outlaws, Police, or Hired Goons.|
|Same # of d6||If opponent Outlaws or Police: Success! Avoid detection. If opponent Hired Goons: Failure! Go to the Action table.|
|Fewer d6||Failure! Go to the Action table.|
Dickey rolls 2 and 4 while the Outlaw Leader rolls 1 and 2. They both pass 2d6 versus their respective Reps. Looking at the Stealth table, this means Dickey successfully evades the enemy due to their being shabby Outlaws. However, if the enemy group happened to be professional Hired Goons, passing the same isn’t enough — he would be stuck in a firefight by himself.
For the second PEF, Dickey resolves the Gun Store owner. He can buy and sell weapons, or he can generate 1/2d6 new Hired Hands without resolving further PEFs. He forgoes any weapon sales and rolls for new Hired Hands. He rolls a 2, which translates to one available Hired Hand. Now he must roll another 1d6 each for the Hired Hand’s Class, Rep, and Weapon.
|1, 2, or 3||Citizen||3||R-1|
|4 or 5||Outlaw||4||S-2|
Note: Hired Hands are never hostile to the Player regardless of Class.
Fortune craps on Dickey’s head. He rolls further for the Hired Hand’s stats and scores a pitiful 1, 1, and 3. This is a Rep 3 Citizen with a Rifle (R-1) — in other words, the worst Hired Hand possible.
Dickey declines his service. Our protagonist decides to leave town and end his Chillin’ Encounter for the week so he can regroup with Toadvine. However, people are watching him. Any time he resolves more than one PEF in a Chillin’ Encounter, he gets Held Up by Outlaws on the way out of town.
When you get Held Up in Blood Horizon, you face the lowest of the low criminal scum. Dickey rolls for the standard enemy group by taking his current Band size (one) and adjusting by plus 1/2d6 and minus 1/2d6. He rolls a 6 and a 1. The Robber party is 1 + 3 – 1 = 3 robbers.
This is when I decided to pause Dickey’s story for the night and get some rest. Any mistakes in the math for this AAR are due to alcohol and fatigue.
Next time I play, I’ll resolve the fight against the low-level Robbers and continue play with Week 4. Starting this week, the Goon Squad on the Campaign Map will begin combing the map semi-randomly in search of the satchel, and in the following weeks a second Goon Squad will eventually be placed.
Dickey McDonald will find himself quickly cornered unless he can lure the Assassin and the Goon Squads into fighting each other.