After having 7 plays "under the belt", I feel it´s time to make a small review of this excellent game.
Let me start by saying that after reading the rules a couple of times I didn’t had many questions, since they are clear, concise and well organized, and only left me with a small number of doubts, which , in turn, were cleared with a little browsing of the rules forum here at BGG.
Notwithstanding, in no way do I consider myself an expert in CodCrom and do feel free to point out any rules misinterpretations I may be doing, that will only contribute to a better game play and enjoyment.
I should note also that this review is intended more for those who actually own and have played the game ate least a couple of times, it´s not newbie-friendly.
Now, to the game:
Nothing to say here except BRAVO! The counters are very nicely done, sturdy and easy to manipulate, contrary to some other games they are of good size and don´t try to slip from your fingers, something very annoying that tends to happen to me.
The board(s) is a joy to contemplate, the countryside top view is very nice and clear, although I would have preferred to have the entry point numbers for the german units in white instead of red, it would be easier to see as is the case of the terrain modifier values, but that´s not exactly a problem. Very good board!
The cards are pretty and functional, but I would have preferred them in sturdier material (like some fantasy flight boardgames), or at least in classic card format, since I cannot find deck protectors with the correct dimensions for these cards and they get a lot of shuffling, especially the character event cards.
On the whole I would say that this game perpetuates the excellence with which 5th column games have so far acquainted us.
This game is simply a joy and mixes 3 genres in one, a bit of boardgame, a bit of wargame and a bit of roleplay game, and mixes them up quite elegantly.
In my experience there is nothing that quite compares to this and it really enhances your gaming experience, throw in the risk management built into the game system and IMHO you have a winner, it has been a while since any game has made me so glad to have played it even when I lose.
From the 7 games played until now 2 where british tactical defeats and 5 where tactical victories, but only one of them merited a citation (212 VPs) and yet I sincerely do not know which I enjoyed the most, perhaps the defeats, go figure!
Not even once did I manage to kill or capture Chaplin, I tend to let the constable do what he does best, shoot some (a lot of) germans, especially when he gets a character event card that makes him even deadlier (I was able to deploy it in 2 of the plays), no spoilers here, I don´t even read the character events that didn´t entered my plays yet, just to keep the surprise, so I won´t get into much specific details about the character events.
Speaking of which, they are central to the game and are the one thing that in the beginning left me with some doubts but I think I finally managed to handle them correctly.
I draw and activate a new event card and see if it has impossible conditions to fulfil, and also if some previous event cards (already activated) have become impossible to deploy due to later in game events (mainly character deaths), I then discard all cards impossible to deploy and, if such is the case, I draw a new event card. This procedure eventually leaves me with at least one activated character event card (deployable or not).
If, after this procedure, I have one or more character event cards that have the conditions (voluntary or mandatory) to be played right now, then I´m forced to play one even if it´s detrimental to my strategy.
This is the part of play that I like the most, sometimes you simply have to play a bad event and soak up the consequences or sometimes, in order to avoid playing a bad event, you have to previously change your character placement (for example getting characters A and B in the same place at the same time, sometimes from quite opposite board directions), and, as such, necessarily modifying your current strategy and even running the risk of enfeeblement of your defensive lines.
On the other hand this may be preferable to a mandatory character placement ordered by a bad event, which, by being mandatory, is far easier to deploy and risks leaving you weaker for a longer period of time, especially since many of these bad events tend to incapacitate 1 or 2 characters.
As I said earlier, I do not read the character events that haven´t been drawn yet in my plays just to keep the suspense, but when I begin to see a line of red character events activated, but not yet deployed, I start to pray for a good card draw, otherwise things tend to get really bad, really fast.
As for the strategy cards and tactical event cards, I tend to rely heavily in a risky gamble that makes me draw much more british strategy cards than british tactical event cards (in 15 turns I tend to draw 10-12 british strategy cards). Notwithstanding some opinions by gamers, this strategy has been paying off, since my sea lion rolls have been, on average, quite good, managing to keep all german forces (fallschirmjagers excluded of course, damn that firepower!), off board until quite late in the game (they usually begin to "crowd up" only after turn 11-12, which, with a defence in depth, is usually insufficient to get them to the church.
Raged combat combined with a solid defence in depth can put the brakes even on the most audacious german advance, one should never forget the advance limitations they have to abide by and make them work for the defender. The villagers units, when properly equipped, can be devastating, on one of the plays the South Essex Hunt, equipped with a Thompson, a Bren and a Lee Enfield, managed to mow down several german attacks from fallschirmjagers and infantry.
Close combat is brutal and I consider it only as a last resort to try and stop the germans from occupying certain terrain objectives, since the odds will always benefit them, especially if present in great numbers. However, some events can give a "boost" to the close combat abilities of certain characters/villagers but they don´t simply turn them into Viking berserkers and even in those situations I prefer to use CC solutions sparingly.
I didn´t yet experienced any anti-tank combat, due to the fact that british tanks failed to appear the only time the tactical event came up, and, as you may have guessed, due to my play strategy, the event came pretty late in the game and, as such, was even harder to deploy (simple, elegant and brilliant mechanism), and also because the anti tank equipment available has a huge tendency to jam and stay that way and the gammon bombs have already been spent on unsuspecting german soldiers, but I digress...
On the whole I am glad I pre-ordered this game, will definitely keep playing it and, in the future, it will surely be revisited, along with Where There is Discord.
I look forward to the next instalment from 5th column but I´m not sure a variation of this theme, now taking place during the cold war, as proposed somewhere else in these forums, is the game one should expect, please Dan do what you do best, surprise us!
Some final tips:
-If good ranged weapons start to come up in the church do equip conveniently the villagers, with a bit of luck they can be a nasty surprise for those germans;
-Only opt for close combat if there is no other option available and if the germans are few, otherwise your heroic fighters will be minced meat very fast;
-If you come by a roadblock or an improved position counter, do place them on a Primary Defence Location and/or the main road or bridge locations (since these will, in all likelihood, also be the PDLs for the East and West);
-Never forget to use the character´s abilities, even if they aren´t combat specific they can be very helpful behind the front;
-Defend in depth, defend in depth, defend in depth!
-Don´t underestimate the control markers effects, later in the game they can outflank your forces in a vicious manner!
-Don´t ever forget that the german infantry has the ability to infiltrate and will normally succeed if allowed the opportunity;
-Never forget to apply the terrain modifiers to your attacks and also to the germans (damn!).
See here on here http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1194249/card-size-sleeves for card sleeve discussion.
Many thanks Doug.