I hadn't heard of this game until now, when my friend Pablo (you know, the bloke I play board games with -man, you almost need a label of you own in this blog) brought it over the other day.
It's a boardgame that covers the campaign on Italy, so you can play with British, Americans, Germans or Italians, through a series of historical scenarios that cover Operations Husky, Avalanche and Shingle.
For our introductory game we chose an easy scenario, to grasp the core rules. Americans vs. Germans, 4 minis each side (you can get an idea of the level of detail we're talking about!). The goal here was to scout the board, reckoning all three buildings on it:
|I was skeptical about the card, but the stuff is good|
Hexagons are the new black. Not only you'll move counting hexes; if you look close, you'll see some darker markings. Those enclose the 'mega-hexes', which are relevant for weapons range. In the pic below you can notice a blue token on the left side of the board. That is the wind gauge. Yes. The direction of the wind is relevant here.
|I'll be playing the Germans (left); my pal the Americans (right)|
The characters sheet takes acount of what weapon does each one bear, the ammo left, grenades left and any modifier to the stats you may achieve during the game:
|You can actually run out of ammo. These things never happen in Warhammer...|
About the game system... well, this was quite new for me. Instead of using modifiers or charts (you know, the typical '-1 if long range, -2 if behind cover...') you use different dice. The colour reference indicates the 'harm potential' of the dice (more or less in the way that Descent or Imperial Assault use them). Let me explain with an example. The Mauser Kar 98K in the pic above serves. If you shoot it within a range of 4 megahexes, you'll roll a yellow die. If you shoot up to 12 megahexes, a blue die. BUT if there are any modifiers (target behind cover, for example), you'll use the die which is below (so if you were to shoot using the yellow die, you'll use the green one instead; if you were to use the blue one, you'll be using the red one instead). Modifiers are acumulative, so though you are supposed to use a blue die to shoot, you may end up using the grey one, for example. Have a look at the reference sheet:
|Sounds complicated, but it really isn't, don't be afraid. Here you have all you need to know to play|
Don't worry, we'll see some examples.
About the minis... I don't really know if these were something widespread or only local, but when I was a child, back in the early '80s, I used to buy (well, my parents had to) these toy plastic soldiers that came in paper envelopes. Bendy plastic, about 10-15mm... Have you ever seen them, do you even know what I'm talking about?
Well, the minis in this game reminded me of those. Kind of exactly the same minis.
|We were using four soldiers each, but you need to differenciate if they are standing, kneeling or face down|
OK, enough chitchat, let's go see some action.
|The Americans were dazzled by that strange huge beer tank (German beer, BTW)|
Each turn you roll initative (modified roll if you have an Officer/NCO, if you have more troops than your opponent, that stuff). The turn sequence is divided into three phases. Action/Movement/Resolving pending stuff. During your action you can do almost anything; shooting, jumping a fence, going to ground, kneeling, whatever. In the pic below you see one German trooper using his action to unlock a door, so they can get and search it.
|The token says 4 to unlock, I got a happy 6. Weee!|
You may have noticed small tokens beside each mini. that is to ID them, so you can know which one you are activating and the weapons/actions related to that specific soldier.
|The Americans move forward|
|So do the Germans|
|...which was totally ineffective|
The Germans move towards the closest building...
|...while an American soldier has occupied the other one|
An American throws a grenade to the Germans. Max range is three megahexes. He rolls the grey and blue dice. Grey will say if it hits (if you get the thumb up symbol) -or scatters; and blue will say how much it deviates from the target.
|It scatters 1 hex following the direction of the wind. Ha, you forgot about the wind!|
The angry German, unharmed, throws a grenade himself!
|It hits! Right in the place!|
Now you have to roll the blue die for each soldier affected, to determine the wounds. First one:
|Six wounds! Immediate death!|
Let's see how about the second one:
|You serious? Another six? Another kill!|
Things had got wild quite suddenly! The Americans had to think their moves carefully. The trooper inside the house went up to the upper floor to get a better firing position. The other one moved towards the central building, but the rest of the Germans moved forward too...
|Hmmm, how to put it in elegant words... FUBAR|
|The American shot from the window to the German behind the wall. Didn't hit, but got him pinned|
|But in the meantime, the German MG34 killed the other poor guy|
|Another door unlocked, so he's going into to reckon the house|
|The American throws a grenade and causes some injuries to the German soldier|
Things look quite lost. A German soldier is behind the wall, another one is inside the building, going upstaris to shoot from the window, and a third one is running towards the house while being covered by his mates:
|Lots of things happening at the same time!|
The American soldier takes a problem at a time. First thing, the running man. He shoots and...
|Bam! Quite in extremis! But that was a hell of a shot. Instant death!|
From this point on I have to say we made a mistake. My pal thought that, when shooting to a mini inside a building (in this case me shooting him), you have to roll the grey and red dice, and only if you got the skull sign on the red die you aimed correctly. But the rules aren't like that. You roll both, and when you get the 'thumb up' sign on the grey die you have aimed correctly. What getting the skull on the red die really means is that the enemy has spotted you first and shoots you before! So it's an extra shot for your enemy, nothing else.
|Dammit, it was on the quick reference sheet and we didn't notice|
So during the next turns the only thing I did was shooting and wasting my ammo. I got some thumbs (and discarded them!), but never got the skull, so we thought that the house was the most effective fortress ever.
In the meantime...
|...the besieged American shot and killed the man behind the wall...|
|...and threw a deadly grenade to the MG man who was behind the opposite corner|
So it suddenly became all equal again! One vs one. But both soldiers were entrenched in the buildings across the street. There was a point in which the gunshot between the last two survivors became stupid. I decided to take my chances, left my position and run towards the building, decided to storm it. But then the American did the same. They both met at the door...
|Oh, this is ankward|
|American victory! Until the last man, in the best Hollywood tradition!|
Well, I think it is quite safe to say that, had we not made that mistake about aiming, the victory would have been German. Anyway, it all was extremely epic, and that's all one can ask from a game like this. I thought the learning curve would be worse, but it really wasn't. Once you get the basic ideas, it all goes quite swift. The turn sequence makes a lot of sense and the micromanagement of your Squad is not complicated at all. The only important thing is keeping track of what soldier you have activated and the colour code for the dice, so you know what to roll on each occasion. I have to say that this system is fun; at least different from the usual stuff. A different way to mess with statistics, I liked it.
For an introductory game this was more than nice, but you can run larger games with more people involved; there are even rules for tanks. I'd like to see what's the game like at Platoon level, seems interesting.This is of course quite far from a Bolt Action concept or so (which was essentially my only previous experience with WWII). The game is very tactical, detailed and well thought, with high doses of realism. We still have to exploit its possibilities, which look way much more varied than this introductory skirmish. The game is an interesting find, if you have the chance, give it a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed.