I am still a big fan of the Horizon Wars rules published back in 2016. Although that game was for platoon-sized combined arms sci-fi engagements, the low model count and innovative dice mechanics made it feel and play a lot like a skirmish game. A tremendously engaging and well paced skirmish game. So I was very interested to see what had changed for Zero Dark.
The author has managed to achieve something quite remarkable in this ruleset. The core mechanics will be familiar to Horizon Wars veterans, and many of the tactical tropes and load-out options will be pretty standard to a sci-fi tabletop fan. A nifty "AI deck" of playing cards (with the jokers!) is utilised as a way to generate unpredictable AI moves in the game and to generate random events.
What's REALLY good, is that the game is built to be fully Solo, Co-op, or Competitive from the ground up. Not one of these game modes feels like an afterthought. You and a buddy can team up to sneak through some gitty urban battlefield, timing the takedowns of sentries and making daring sprints from cover to cover. Or, you and a buddy can both be slick and competing special forces operators trying to steal the same bit of intel from a group of pesky insurgents. And, if for some reason, you find yourself indoors and alone for a protracted time (review written springtime 2020), then you can build a custom team and go it alone. The transition between these game modes is seamless. That's testemony to robust design.
You'll need some d12s, a deck of cards, tape measure, some counters to track status effects, and around 20 modern/sci-fi themed minis.
You'll quickly pickup the rules, and you'll rapidly see that they generate compelling narratives and cinematic spectacles in your games!
[5 of 5 Stars!]