Fantastic Combat Between Worlds
Author: Richard Tucholka
Publisher: Tri Tac Games
Page Count: 52
Available Format: Print (DTRPG) – $7.95
In the early 2000s, the Earth experienced a period of prosperity. Man’s innovations help solve many of the world’s conflicts and issues. Life was good until a large hole appeared on a farm in Missouri. University researchers quickly surmised the hole was a portal to another dimension. A volunteer entered, discovering a seemingly endless maze of high-tech corridors connected to rooms and more corridors. Emanations from the hole began disrupting communications and killing all plants encircling it, increasing a meter per day. Another hole appeared in Iceland, then France. Satellite imagery picked up two more in remote locations. Iceland officials sent a group down their hole with disastrous results. A monstrous alien raiding party surprised and killed French observers at their hole. It wasn’t until the first Grunk was captured that the US Military activated Seal and Special Forces teams to enter and destroy the core of each hole.
Holes: Fantastic Combat Between Worlds is a miniatures game where you’re a Holebuster, an army of combatants sent into holes to destroy their cores. Though touted as a miniatures game with light roleplaying, there are only rules for miniatures. Originally published in 1995, Tri Tac has reissued Holes with very minor changes to their Tri Tac System Mini Tests. The game uses percentile dice for just about everything. The system is extremely light, with the advantage of adding complexity to it. The game is written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with roleplaying and miniatures games.
The game is currently only available in print through DrivethruRPG. Its PDF counterpart is no longer available for sale as it once was on the Tri Tac web store that closed earlier this year. The game book includes combat rules, weapons, a random hole generator, an encounters table, 13 playable species/enemies, a Squad Sheet, a template to create your own foe, 10 pages of hallways, rooms, obstacles, and quick reference cards; all of these require photocopying to play.
To begin playing the game, players create their squad of Holebusters. There are five squad members per Squad Sheet. This is where the rules are ambiguous. Although the product description on DrivethruRPG says players command 12 humans, there is nothing stating that in the rules. The only inkling that the players are a squad of 12 humans comes from the flavor text concerning the first US teams to enter the portal. There is no mention of squad size or race anywhere in the rules. As presented, it appears as squads are made up of 5 individuals from any of the 13 available species. Another aspect left out is how to create your squad. Once again, players need to put on their thinking caps and figure it out. Based on how each species is presented, I’m assuming a player’s squad would have those statistics.
Holes has 13 species/enemies to choose from. Each species/enemy comes with a list of weapons, tactics, description, armor, body points, and seven movement types, Stealth, Walk, Hustle, Run/Fly (where applicable), Dodge, Tumble, and Dive.
- Humans – New kids on the block. Military-trained combatants, quick to react under leadership and calm under stress.
- Grunks – Armored gun-toting greedy aliens with the tactical prowess of a hamster. If you’re not a Grunk you’re an enemy or a competitor.
- Bots – High-tech killing machines with the least threatening armaments, a wrench, a clean brush, or the like. Tough as nails, these non-rusting bots are still a formidable foe when encountered.
- Zonies – Human-like, high-tech female warriors who are collecting the hole’s cores for their own mysterious purposes.
- Babes – Tall, heavily armored steroid warriors with rice pudding for brains.
- Bugs – Insects the size of dogs with natural defenses. There are three types of Bugs, Beetles, Boatflys, and Spiders.
- Rats – Antamphorphic rats almost two feet high dress in snappy gray uniforms or homespun clothes. They follow a hierarchy and employ hit-and-run tactics.
- Teckers – A human-like race of explorers who profit from pilfering from the dead. They are not always hostile and may accompany a squad. But if they want something of yours, they will turn on a squad when the time is right.
- Kagoody – These humanoid creatures use technology that exceeds the human race and collects the hole’s spheres for a mysterious purpose, like the Zonies.
- Brats – Three and a half feet tall creatures with cherub faces. Brats enjoy slowly and painfully disposing of their enemies. They like to hide in the shadows and ambush their prey.
- Klowns – Brightly colored with painted faces, Klowns are fierce fighters, nearly as good as Humans.
- Awfuls – Awfuls are genetically engineered creatures that vary in their appearance. All are hungry to dine on the flesh blocking their way.
- The Dead – Zombified undead human Holebusters back for more. The Dead have maintained their mental facilities but refuse to admit to themselves they are gone. They can join a squad as friendly, but there is a percent chance of them turning into a homicidal murdering machine and attacking the squad.
Combat rules for Holes are super simple, with the option to add complexity to your heart’s desire. Combat begins with an initiative roll followed by a nine-combat turn sequence consisting of surprise, movement, weapons fire, and additional actions. Players have an unmodified 50% chance of hitting their targets. A one always hits with damage, and a 100 is a miss. Another roll is needed for damage. “Hit” targets have a 50% of taking unmodified damage or a wound. A one is always a wound, and a 100 is still a miss. To make the game more challenging, add basic modifiers to the rolls or more from the optional modifier charts. Modifiers are in increments of 5 for quick and easy calculations. There are a few additional rules for combat, the usual ones found in miniatures games, like facings and movement. All movement is done on a 1-inch square playing field, so no rulers are needed.
A character or enemy’s damage is tracked by filling in health bubbles on their sheet. Their BOD stat is their total number of health bubbles. Weapon damage is listed in health bubbles for most weapons, but the really big ones, like explosives, use a mathematical formula with a D6. Armor can defect damage by lowering the damage roll. Each armor type has its own value of protection. When the last three health bubbles are left, there is an optional rule that adds negative modifiers once the first of three health bubbles are filled in that hinder the character’s performance. When all the health bubbles are filled in, the character is dead. There is no mention of healing during or after combat, so players will have to work out the mechanics for themselves if they wish.
With each successful mission completed character gain experience points. For every hole busted, the squad gains 100 points, 50 points for any heroic feats, and another 100 points if the heroic feat should have gotten them killed but didn’t. Experience points are spent on improving “to hit” and armor protection. Retaining 200 or more experience points grants the squad a special veteran or leadership bonus “to hit,” and armor or spending it grants them another health bubble.
Every hole the squad gets sent down is randomly generated using the Hole Generator. The mission always starts with a 10 x 10 room template, a solid door, and a warp. The random generator determines what lies beyond it. The random generators use percentile dice and cover items like types of doors, their status (lock or unlock), and what lies behind them (a corridor or another room). More charts determine their size and any items within. Rooms and corridors sometimes will have environmental effects that will work against a squad. Areas with hostile encounters are also randomly rolled. Another percentile table is used to generate hostile confrontations. Since the path and the encounters are randomly generated, a gamemaster is not needed if desired. A mission is completed when the hole’s core is destroyed, and the squad fights their way back to their starting point.
Holes is a simple, quick, and easy miniatures game to play. The book provides everything you need minus miniature figures, dice, and extra photocopies of the terrain and Squad sheets. The rules are a little vague in some areas, and a little fiddling might be needed to fit your group’s desired level of complexity. Holes is a great game for a last-minute pick-up game or a long extended campaign. The game’s super simple design and random generators allow it to be played with a gamemaster or not. If you’re looking for a fun beer and pretzel-type game with low to no prep needed, I think Holes will be the perfect fit for any group.
We hope you enjoyed this article. Our mission is simple: to provide our readers with well-written articles and reviews that inform, promote, and improve the gaming community as a whole. We’re able to do this through the support of our patrons. If you’d like to become a patron and support our work, click the Patreon banner above to learn more.