Cyberpunk Skirmish Game Overview

I've always loved cyberpunk for some reason. The combination of dystopian sci-fi and chromed street ronins just struck a chord in me somehow. This started with Shadowrun of course. I was never able to play the RPG (didn't know of anyone who played the game) so all I could do was read the novels back then.

Fast forward to today. I was actually able to play a single session of Shadowrun way back in 2019... then several months later the big-C hit the world and in the aftermath the one experienced GM/DM my group had got married and moved to another city and when we reconvened 2 years later... no RPGs for us. I did try Cyberpunk Red online when one of my friends got Foundry to play RPGs back in 2021... however, it was less than satisfying.

But also thanks to the worldwide lockdowns, there are now several cyberpunk skirmish games available on the market. Thankfully they don't overlap and they can cater to different segments or even different audiences, depending on what you're looking for.

What I'm going to do here is give a brief overview/review of the three games I actually own, and have played 2 of them extensively enough to give a fairly informed opinion. The third? Well... it's based very closely on a set of game rules that I have played before, so I have a fairly good idea how it'll play out.

Without further ado... let's go!


This game used to be called Hardwired: Cyberpunk Espionage and Mayhem but for some reason a company that owned the rights to either an RPG or PC game called Hardwired something decided to assert their copyright and demanded the game designer change the name. Which he duly did.

The game itself is pretty simple but offers so much in a small package that's very satisfying to play.

You get 5 archetypes to play with as you build your crew of Agents. You get the archetypical roles of the Ronin (ranged combat specialist); Razor (melee combat specialist); Splicer (hacker); Sawbones (you know), and the Shiver (psionic).

You choose four of them and take note of their roles, because that will determine whether or not you gain any bonuses if you choose to trigger a Combat Augmentation Program. All Agents have access to them as they are a standard package. The Augmentations range from combat bonuses to hacking bonuses to running drones and robots. However, depending on your Role, you might get an extra die to roll so the chances of you succeeding have just doubled. If you're a hacker, you can try to run any of the CAPs... but you really shine at augmentations that make use of your hacking Role, like the Cyber War CAPs for hacking and drone piloting. Other Agents with different Roles only roll a single die if they try to activate the same Cyber War CAPs.

Because it's a solo/co-op game, the Agents all activate first then the H-Sec. It's not normally my favourite as it's actually I-GO/U-GO but it works in the context of a solo game since you're always activating minis no matter which side's activation it is.

While you're encouraged to play story-based campaigns, there's not much to do during the Downtime between missions. You can do a limited form of levelling up in the sense of getting more gear to improve your capabilities... but your core dice types don't change nor do you improve your HP. however, these seem to be design decisions to fit in with the extremely simple, elegant game play.


I love the action economy. You get 1 free move and 3 different dice types (d10, d8 and d6) and you perform your 3 actions using them needing a single success on 4+. If the action your are taking matches your given archetype, you roll with advantage (i.e. 2 dice) while still looking for that single success. If you get wounded, you lose the d10 die first so you can now only perform 2 actions (plus your free move) using the dice you have remaining. Take another hit and you lose your d8 die. And so on. It's so clean and simple as it compresses both actions available and wounds and effectiveness into this simple mechanic. I wish more games would use this core mechanic. 


Limited upgrade paths out of the box. Not really suitable to play a campaign without doing some heavy lifting on your own (i.e. not much is included in the core rulebook to play a campaign with). At best the core rules can provide you a setting (New Kowloon) with just enough info about the rival corporations to hang  a short 3 mission campaign on. Thankfully the missions given have (just) enough variety and the game structure allows you to create your own.


Yes. The game is built for solo/co-op play only. The AI is a kind of "swarm type" AI where the H-Sec (Hostile Security) will spawn randomly in different spawn zones and attack the nearest Agent in LOS. This sound pretty simple until you realise you don't win by killing H-Sec but instead win by carrying out your mission objectives. You start with lowly rent-a-mallcops that only have a single action on a d6 die type. The longer the game goes on, the more the difficulty escalates as you spawn the next level enemy: more serious private security, trained cops etc. with 2 actions using d8s. The last level is the toughest: SWAT type forces with armour, heavier weapons represented by a whopping THREE actions and d10 dice. 


If you want a quick, fun cyberpunk skirmish game where you can grab some minis and finish a game in 90 minutes, that also gives you satisfying decisions to make on the tabletop.


If you want super detailed hacking phases or even an entire game set in cyberspace... sorry, you're out of luck. If you like crunchy games with detailed rules and lists of gear and weapons where the equipment details and weapon ranges, damage rolls etc. matter... there are other games for you. 

You can watch my Exploit Zero video here to get a feel of how the game plays. 


Regulars to this blog will know my struggles with this game (my fault, not the game's). But once I got my head straight, man the game is fun to play. But fast it isn't.

The game allows you to customise your 'Punk to a degree not possible in Exploit Zero where you just choose 4 archetypes and off you go. CH:A allows you to choose your Meta-type (race), Background as well as Roles. Together, these 3 choices you make will determine what Edges (Skills/Feats) your 'Punk will have.

Elf have an innate talent for sorcery. They get +1 Mastery (extra dice to roll when doing spells) and some other meta type bonuses out of the gate. Then you choose your one starting Edge, giving you your customised 'Punk.

Orks (sic) can't take the normal healing action because they are Bloody-minded so they have to make an Assault (melee) action to actually heal their wounds. And so on. (For some reason the traditional Troll in-built ability to Heal isn't one of the things a troll 'Punk gets as part of the package but must be selected as the one Edge they start with. Odd.)

There are no weapons to speak of. The game assumes you have a basic package of starting gear to start with, and that includes guns, melee weapons etc. You can improve armour, weapons etc. later on as you obtain more money from missions and downtime actions and it's assumed you can make ranged or melee attacks as the situation calls for.

I love/hate the initiative roll where you roll 2d6 and take the highest score as the number of actions you have for your 'Punks turn. Since you can only give a 'Punk 1 order per activation, that doesn't sound too bad (most actions have 2 components to them: a move and then the action so it's mot as limiting as it sounds). It really gets to you in the middle of the game where things are heating up and you NEED to activate all your 'Punks to accomplish the mission or get out of a tight spot... and you don't get enough actions to do so. I LOVE/HATE it! 

The emphasis of this game is the campaign, where your 'Punks work together to take down the CEO of a megacorp. Why? Who knows? Make up your own reasons why you want to stick it to the Man.

There's also a good section on Downtime actions to support the campaign. It's not as comprehensive as say 5 Parsecs, but it's robust and gets the job done. You can party to gain Rep, your mage can go on Astral missions to gain a boost for the next mission, or you can go on White Hat/Black Hat side jobs to earns some spare cash and Reputation (the real currency of the game if you want to level up). City wide events hinder or help you during this phase. One very very neat thing you can do here is Clone your model if you have the money. If they get fragged and don't make it after the mission, you can activate your clone back to the last level where you paid to clone your character. It's like a save file for your model! You do need enough credits to do this though as it isn't cheap.

Then it's back to the mission, where you can either go very traditionally cyberpunk and hack a computer to upload a virus or download data, or sabotage something of the megacorps, or escort/kidnap/secure a VIP, or go on a rumble with a local gang to take over protect your turf, or go and rescue a team mate that's been captured on the previous mission or go on astral missions (for mages) or digital missions (for hackers). 

The highlight of the game are the Stealth rules... something I gather many gamers are looking for, but not all games provide. CH:A does provide... in spades! Most missions, your 'Punks will start hidden with 6 Stealth Points. Enemies will Patrol in an attempt to Scan you to locate you and if successful will deduct your Stealth and once your Stealth reaches zero, you're Exposed and the enemies will make a bee-line for you! But that's not all! Each point of Stealth lost via Scanning gives the Enemy Response Points that they can then use to call Reinforcements and activate Protocols, so that's added stress and pressure on the 'Punks.

You can tell I like the game because I actually managed to complete the mini-campaign which is very unusual for me as I normally stop half-way and continue in the never-never. (See all my unfinished campaigns for CROM, Horizon Wars: Zero Dark, Twisted Steampunk etc.)


Definitely the Stealth mode. And the stealth rules are flexible enough to be ported over to other games as well. The ability to customise and tailor your 'Punks the way you want is also a nice thing to have.


Due to most of the missions having a victory condition of "the game ends when the 'Punks are either all off the table or all fragged", the games can run a tad long. I'm OK with game of up to 90 minutes... but CH:A games can sometimes drag for 2 to 2.5 hours. That said, if the mission's absorbing enough and interesting things are happening on the table you don't notice the time passing. 'Rumble' is the shortest mission with a hard limit of 5 (potentially 6) turns only. But the other missions are not.


Definitely yes as this game (like Exploit Zero) was written purely for solo/co-op play. Again, the AI is simple but robust with a decision tree that will be second nature the more you play. The variability of enemy spawns also adds to the tension as you don't know what will spawn. Will it be a tough squad of hardened troopers? Or a solo ninja killer? Or a giant stomping 'mech?


Play if you want a quick, fun cyberpunk skirmish game where you can grab some minis, stat them up to create your bespoke crew and unleash them on The Man. The campaign mode is icing on the cake.


If you want super detailed hacking phases or even an entire game set in cyberspace... there is kind of a mode but TBH it doesn't differ much from a normal game so don't set your heart on it. If you like crunchy games with detailed rules and lists of gear and weapons where the equipment details and weapon ranges, damage rolls etc. matter... there are other games for you.


To be honest, the third game in this overview was going to be Reality's Edge. BUT... I haven't yet played a game nor finished reading the book because while the core gameplay rules are pretty straightforward, it's the other stuff you need to learn that makes it a slog for me, so I'll save it for another day. I gotta justify buying the game after all, even though it was via one of the many sales Osprey seems to have 2-3 times a year.

So in its slot comes a descendant of an RPG. Forbidden Psalm: Kill Sample Process (hereafter FP: KSP) traces its lineage from Mork Borg the RPG -> Forbidden Psalm the minis-agnostic fantasy skirmish game -> FP: KSP the minis-agnostic cyberpunk skirmish game. 

I'm pretty confident about giving an overview of this game because while I just picked up the rules from Kickstarter and haven't played it yet, its Forbidden Psalm DNA is so strong you can work out just how it's going to play and Forbidden Psalm is a game I've actually played.

The hallmarks of the descendants of Mork Borg (to me) is random chaos. FP: KSP carries on that tradition although in a slightly less bonkers way compared to fantasy Forbidden Psalm. You'll see what I mean when I tell you that if a mage in Forbidden Pslam ever fails in casting a spell, they will take on negative karma until the time comes when they've failed one spell too many and it's time to pay the piper and they roll on a d20 table. The kindest backlash that can happen to the mage is "The Scroll bursts into flame and is lost forever". Worst? "He appears, devours the caster and any other model in 3 inches. Anyone devoured dies."

While FP: KSP is mechanically similar to Forbidden Psalm with the requisite cyberpunk elements in place of the fantasy ones, the mechanics are the same. So when a hacker (mage) fails one hack too many, they'll roll on a System Crash table. Bad things happen... but it's more in keeping with modern sci-fi/cyberpunk bad things and not the gonzo craziness of fantasy Forbidden Psalm (which is actually part of its charm).

You can still stat up your crew of 'Punks... they each get a Role. Then you get 4 hard numbers that you can assign to your Attributes; a Feat and a Flaw and you're good to go. You can take on more Feats if you also take on a Flaw to balance it. 

Any self-respecting cyberpunk game also allows you to mod your 'Punks with cyberware and FP: KSP is no different. And again, if you fumble a combat roll while you have installed cyberware, you will have to roll on a Malfunction table to see what happens. 

That game has enough weapon types that you can feel the difference and enough gear for you to buy and upgrade your 'Punks with.

Other than that, the game play is the most conventional of these 3 games featured here, with players rolling for initiative then alternate activations until all have activated. This is in PvP mode. However the game also features Hostiles (3rd party neutral enemies) that will attack anyone in sight. This makes it possible to play a game designed for PvP in solo/co=op mode as the players will now have to fight the Hostiles instead of each other + the Hostiles. There's a nice flow-chart to determine the actions a Hostile will take when it activates so PvP, solo and co-op gamers are covered.

Missions are pretty standard and you can do the normal sabotage something, pick up/deliver a MacGuffin, escort a VIP, go bounty hunting. The usual stuff with enough battlefield conditions and glitches randomised each battle to make each game varied and different.


Due to its RPG roots, FP: KSP can tie in very well with its parent RPG ruleset, in this case an RPG game called Cy_Borg (see what they did there? Genius, huh?). This helps you if you want to have a stronger storyline for your campaign and even use a Cy_Borg module to play out the story... and use FP: KSP to play out the combat part of it. You gain more levels of Wanted the longer you play and when your crew reaches a specified amount, you have to make one of your crew the sacrificial goat and throw them to the dogs (so to speak) and you recruit a new 'Punk to replace the one you just got rid of. Extra points for only needing a 2x2 table to play on.


For me, if you want to play a campaign out of the box... there's not much to go on. Sure there's a campaign framework that's sparser than CH: A but more than Exploit Zero's (but the background fluff is so sparse it's barely there). There's definitely a very nice variety of missions to play... more than both the earlier games combined (if you treat the final showdowns in CH: A as one scenario by itself). But there's... not a lot to hang your campaign on. CH: A gives you a goal: take down the CEO of a megacorp. Exploit Zero tells you you are an elite crew of Agents working for and doing the bidding of a megacorp and you want to have your megacorp come out on top of other rivals and all this is set in the cyberpunk future city of New Kowloon. In FP: KSP, you are a crew of random cyberpunks in a dystopian sci-fi city of the future where everything can come crashing down on you at every moment. And so you have to...? (Fill in the blanks yourself.)


Yes as this game comes with an AI decision tree should you ever want to play solo. However unlike CH: A each scenario dictates what and when enemies will be spawned. The only variable is where (like Exploit Zero).


Play if you want a quick, fun cyberpunk skirmish game where you can grab some minis, stat them up to create your bespoke crew and play some quick cyberpunk games (max 6 turns) on a small 2x2 table.


If you want super detailed hacking phases or even an entire game set in cyberspace... sorry. Just like Exploit Zero, hacking isn't a game unto itself but just one action that your 'Punks can carry out. If you like crunchy games with detailed rules and lists of gear and weapons where the equipment details and weapon ranges, damage rolls etc. matter... there's Reality's Edge.

+ + +

Hope you enjoyed that quick overview and let me know if you folks are interested in similar overviews for different genres.



  1. Thanks for the overview! I picked up Exploit Zero on your recommendation. I’d looked at CH:A, but your info on game length has steered me neatly away. I just don’t have time for that now.

    Shame how absolutely none of them address cyberspace in an interesting way. Perhaps Reality’s Edge will save the day there. (Goodness gracious is Osprey ever prolific.)

    1. Osprey is a publishing house, releasing books written by many different authors. Reality's Edge is written by Joseph McGuire. Stargrave by Joe McCullough, etc.

  2. The Tabletop Skirmisher27 March 2023 at 02:09

    Thanks! We are enjoying some great games nowadays and I'm grateful we have so many to choose from. Yeah, if you want cyberspace, looks like Reality's Edge is the way to go. I actually bought it during one of Osprey's many sales but I was never able to get it to the table because my goodness there's a lot of stuff to digest and sadly time is at a premium for me.

    1. Thanks for these comparisons! I'm really interested in all of these cyberpunk systems. Not sure which one to plump for (timewise), but CH:A looks like it might be the closest for me.


Post a Comment