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Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940» Forums » Reviews

Subject: An Easy Game to Like rss

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Steven Larsen
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King of Prussia
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Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940, from Revolution Games. Designed by Michael Rinella.

An easy game to like. Footprint is small, playing time reasonable and the game itself has always come off fast and exciting for me. Sometimes a simple game can mean just another small hex and counter game with the same system of move-combat we all know (and love). In this case, we get area movement and some other not so commonly seen mechanics.

The components are fine for me. Arras is a folio game and comes in a plastic bag. I store mine in a telescoping box I bought cheap at a craft store. A single GMT count tray--provide your own-- is more than enough to hold the small number of counters. The map is paper, but nice quality and being small, folds flat without the fold interfering with the counters. The area movement factor helps too with this as you don't have to place your units in a hex right on the fold of the map.

The rules are cheaply printed out, but I have no problem reading them. There is player aid of sorts printed on the back of the "cover" sheet for the game. Not the best place for the information it contains and I didn't even realize it was there for a while. There is no player aid that lists the combat procedure and special rules needed for this game and that is a bit of a problem, though someone was good enough to make one up and posted it in the files section here at BGG.

Like other games in this series, Arras is an area movement game. I am fond of these games as it really helps to put the player in the mind of the commander. For one thing, real commanders don't use hexes. For another, the level of detail with which many games allow you to maneuver your units along the hex grid is beyond what a real life commander would do. With area movement, you order units to a specific area and your subordinates do the detail work. That's why you have officers serving under you. I love hexes and areas both so I am easy to please. Both have their good points.

Turns are divided into impulses, the number of which varies by die roll. You never know how many impulses you will get and this adds to the tension. Plus, the further you go with consecutive activations, the less your chance of continuing. You need to prioritize to get the most important thing done first but also to be flexible if things go against you. This is war not math. Predictability is unpredictable.

Each impulse you may choose either Movement, Combat or Bombardment for your troops in a particular area. You keep going as long as the die roll is with you. So you can Bombard to soften up a position and follow up in the next impulse by rolling some troops in to hit the stunned enemy. Or your plans could hit a snag and you never get to launch that brilliant follow up.

There are some mechanics that I really didn't like at first. There is the Reroll, which as you can guess, allows you to reroll a combat. Then there is the Advantage which allows you to reroll or to reset the Impulse track in your favor. I initially found these to be gamey devices for players who can't accept bad luck; people who should be playing chess not war-games. I discovered they can be used to great tactical advantage and in a way that gives the game more dynamic realism as well as fun.

I have played 6 games so far. Four solo and two FtF versus a beginner war gamer. The game solos well, though you have to use the "split-mind" method, not rely on an AI. There is no hidden information but you have to choose when to reroll or how to use the advantage fairly and evenly. Face to face is a bit more fun. Once the rules are learned, the games should never take more than some where around 2 hours. That's my experience. And set up is quick.

One complaint. This has all the features of a beginner friendly war-game but the rules are not what I would call beginner friendly. They are not poorly written. They are not complex either. But they could be ordered and layed out in a friendlier way. At times, reading about the Advantage shift and rerolls made my head spin. Maybe it was just expectation of something simpler and if I had been in the mood for deciphering rules, I would have had no problem. I have learned more complex games for sure but I expected difficulty in those cases. This is nothing an experienced war gamer can't figure out with a little effort, but a total beginner? Best they have you to help them out.

The game itself is great fun and plays out with historical believability. The British have always gotten a big jump, threatening to score an instant victory in the first few turns. The Germans, in a panic, usually manage to plug the gaps or launch powerful counter attacks. The French come in late, along with the German Panzers and this adds another level of excitement and game variation. All 4 solo games ended in German victories and the two FtF games I played saw an even split. I would say on reflection that the Germans have an edge but the British/French player has plenty of chance to win.

Artillery is all important. It can make or break you so be ready.

I would have liked some more historical notes. There weren't any really. What was the strategic situation? Why is the British player trying to reach Zone A or B? What would happen in real life if they did? Was the counter attack really able to succeed or just a wild shot taken in desperation? Why are the French just sitting there for a few turns? Time to break out the Osprey books if you are not a student of the 1940 campaign.

One more thing. Relayability is good but I don't know about endless. After 6 plays I still look forward to playing again soon. But I would like to see several of these games published together as a quad game, like SPI used to do.

All together, a game for an entertaining afternoon or evening that won't leave you burnt out.
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Marc P
France
From France, living in Glasgow UK
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Very good review, thank you for taking the time to write it. I had not been a big fan of zones wargames so far but after reading this I might give it another try, becoming a fan of this publisher
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David Schoepke
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Very nice review. Fortunately, there are a number of games in the hobby that employ this area system. My experience has been that they all share similar mechanics yet are "tweaked" to simulate unique circumstances in a particular battle. Hence it's relatively easy to transition to other titles, such as Breakout:Cambrai, Breakout:Normandy, and Turning Point: Stalingrad.
I purchased this game at last year's Consimworld and haven't gotten to it yet. Your review gives me incentive to have a go at it. And I agree that Revolution Games produce great products.
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