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Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems $3.75
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Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
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Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2016 14:32:23

The Big Bang series has for many years given us a solid historical overview of weapons development, distilling its information from many public sources. The US Army Future Combat System supplement is one of my favorites of the line, since it attempts to sort out what the future of the US Army (circa 2003 when it was written) would look like from procurement, demonstrations, prototypes and other materials. It also demonstrates the two areas where I feel the Big Bang line could improve the most, so it's what I selected from the line to write an in-depth review of.

Your typical Big Bang entry is a detailed history of the need for the weapon, the process by which the weapon was developed, a comparison to past and contemporary weapons, and then some stats in various systems so that people can pick out the weapons they want and the system they want to put it in.

To the extent that this approach is justified, Big Bang does a good job with it. My criticisms of this approach are more based on my concern that the Big List Of Guns we see in many modern RPGs is rarely justified in the mechanics either by realism, tactical or strategic game decisionmaking, or narrative. (Is someone really going to tell me which of two extremely similar cartridges are going to deliver 2d4 damage and which are going to deliver 2d6 damage in a way that is going to make me interested in choosing between them?) Whatever beef I have with the Big List Of Guns concept as implemented in RPGs, Big Bang didn't invent it and at the very least it attempts to situate the guns in the needs of a particular fighting force (the US Army) in a particular time frame (what the US Army thought it would be doing in the next 5-10 years.)

This particular supplement focuses on the US Army Future Combat Systems developments. I actually like it better as it is - a snapshot of what we thought in 2003 that Future Combat Systems development would look like. In 2003 we barely launched the Iraq War, and didn't know what the immediate needs of the Army would be in that time frame. The entries reflect this, with descriptions of interim projects ordered to fit into interstitial periods between when older weapons were to broken-down to use and when newer weapons could make it through development. I sort of hope the supplement isn't updated as time goes on and what the Army's working on changes. I want to see this as a historical document.

The content of the supplement is well-covered in other reviews: a list of guns, cartridges and other types of weapons, how they were intended to be developed, and how they function in several systems. I won't go too much farther into it than that. The supplement is extremely well laid out for printing (no background images; all images are already greyscaled, used sparingly, and tables are clean and clear). Bookmarks can get you straight to the weapon you want (though frankly for laymen remembering which weapon belongs to which name can be difficult.)

If there was one area that I would urge the creator of the Big Bang series in general to address, it would be in expanding the supplements beyond the "official" story of the weapons detailed. Often times the story of a weapon extends beyond what it was intended for, how good it was, and how much it cost. Soldiers have always manipulated and customized their weapons and their uses. Corruption and incompetence cause weapon development to go off the rails. Weapons develop reputations and those reputations may be the flashpoint for internal conflicts inside organizations and fighting forces. (Ask the Army about the A-10. Now ask the Air Force!) I would love to see Big Bang entries, especially those that are forward-looking talk about potential problems that the weapons described might run into, or potential advantages that were unplanned-for. In reality, the Future Combat Systems program was cancelled in 2009; a review of the program blamed the premature acceleration of a major internal milestone. That could be an interesting problem for those who are testing or stuck with weapons of various kinds - only getting part of a "system" that was meant to work together.

If the Big Bang series is aimed at games where we're playing soldiers (not, say, members of the House Armed Services Committee - wait, why has nobody written this game?!?!) then let's see some thinking about what might work or not work about a weapon in the field. Heck, in a supplement about weapons systems that aren't out yet, you can just extrapolate it yourself!

That's a lot of words explaining a critique that probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. All in all, the Big Bang supplements are well worth their inexpensive price, and are much more interesting than your typical "Big List Of Guns" supplements since they attempt to situate the weapons within a historical moment and organizational context, and are well-organized and easy to use. They cross many system lines and if you're looking for cool stuff for soldiering games (or for my upcoming game about being in the House Armed Services Committee; ORIGINAL IDEA DO NOT STEAL), you should definitely check them out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/19/2004 00:00:00

Covers the XM-29 and its developments as well as anyone could ask, given the changing situation and the level of information that is public knowledge. The indexing and some of the stat blocks are a bit garbled.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Sigurd L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/18/2004 00:00:00

Ooh Mama! Cutting edge combat firearms and support weapons from the most technologically advanced fighting force on this planet. Although not yet deployed in the real world, these weapons will change high-tech conventional warfare in the years to come. But you, the GM, can let rip right now! Richly detailed and well statted, these weapons can be plugged-and-played right into your campaign. This material will be hard to find anywhere else. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Great background, well written, by someone who likes their guns. Good gaming stats, easy to use. The most modern and innovative guns (not actually) available today, so far not described in any other gaming format I've seen so far. <br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Whine whine whine ... no, wait. There is nothing to not like about this supplement. Except that there is not more of it. Go ARP!<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Richard H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2004 00:00:00

I love the contents of these but who the f^@* decided to skip fwd and backward in the timeline like this? Overall thay are highly informative, accurate and upto date. Like I said the down side is going from modern to ww2 to Iraq to yadda yadda should have started w/ "x" timeline and proceeded forward.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Volume 3 does not skip around in timeline. It focuses on the material intended for it - the experimental weapons of the US Army's Future Combat Systems program. Each volume contains one or more themes. Volume 1 tried avoiding material published in other books. SE covered the weapons used in both wars with Iraq. Volume 2 covered concealable, experimental, and WW2 weapons. Volume 3 covered the Army's FCS weapons. Volume 4 covered the some of the earliest of European weapons considered modern firearms. Volume 5 covers grenades. As anyone can see, there is no skipping around, but instead a focus on themes for each volume, which anyone would find acceptable, knowing that there are tens of thousands of different weapons to be covered from that 155 year span of time represented thus far in the series.
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Jimmy D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/02/2004 00:00:00

Once again I have to say I am impressed with the work at realism that the guide has. Most other guides are kind of shall we say outdated and biased. If you are playing in the modern times you really need a gun. Right? Well why settle foe a gun that doesn't match your style? Or worse a bland cheap desc like, "I use a 9mm". Wow I'm underwhelmed. Come on look over the stuff that's out there today and pick a stylish gun that makes you character look and feel like a hero, or villian or whatever. Well to do that you need sourcebooks. This is a good choice.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by Peter P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/24/2004 00:00:00

Good product. I'm very happy to see the change in price due to duplicated material from other Big Gun products. The duplicate material being the initial rules section only, not the guns.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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