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Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Band of Brothers, first impressions! rss

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To say that I have been looking forward to my first game of BoB is a huge understatement. For years I have lived in search of a WWII squad level tactical game that is light and quick to play, elegant in it's rules, and realistic in it's tactics.

Almost all WWII squad tactical games claim the above, it's just that they and I differ on our interpretations of "quick", "elegant" and "realistic"!

BoB extensive designer notes had me salivating in anticipation of a definition of "realistic" that is closer to mine than any other game. Reviews on the Geek entice me with reports of "quick" in under 60 minutes for a simple scenario, and with the rules only a few pages long (and no CRTs) "elegant" seemed right around the corner.

Tonight I finally got it on the table and gave it a whirl with my regular opponent (who is equally well familiar with the subject as we regularly play FF:GD, CoH, and CC).

Components look pretty good. Dislike cardstock maps, but at least they are small tiles so I don't need to haul out the plexi. I actually dislike the counter design quite a bit. I found it very hard to remember which number meant what. Yes there are very small low contrast icons *under* the relevant numbers, no I didn't realize how useless they would be when looking at the preview artwork up on the Geek. I also dislike that movement values are not on the counters - there's already 7 numbers on the counter, would it really have killed it to add one more? In contrast CoH manages to cram 8 numbers onto each counter and I never forget which is which.

Quick? - Check!
Learning scenario was played in under an hour even as we basically walked our way through the rules to be sure for every situation. Good.

Realistic? - Tentative Check.
The suppression system seems to be all that it advertises itself to be. You will fix the enemy with fire. You will fear moving in the open. Final Opportunity Fire is actually quite awesome in prevent gamey rushes against spent units. It was almost as satisfying to me as the suppression system.

Elegant - First impressions say ... not so much.
It's not the production difficulties, like having a terrain chart that doesn't show the terrain and such requires lots of reading, or that the rule book seems to be often vaguely worded. It's not even the difficulty in wrapping your head around very foreign concepts, like suppression being dependent only on the firing unit's stats, or trying to roll low. No, it's things like the piles of modifiers you get (like different fire modifiers for for different ranges) and different situations (like unique modifiers for Op Fire different from regular fire modifiers), and things like constantly rolling for very low likely hood morale or proficiency checks. The command point system feels like a band-aid for several quirks of the system (like the low unit density combined with single die rolls making it quite likely that you get creamed by a couple of bad rolls, or like having enemy units stop two away so they don't trigger FInal Op Fire). Don't even get me started on roads costing 2/3 of movement points!

In short I fear it's fiddly.

Now this could just be learning pains given the newness of the system. I'll have to play through at least four more scenarios before I can really solidify my impressions. However as someone who was primed and desperate to love BoB I will say I was a bit taken aback. Be aware and I wonder if another of the pre-order bunch has found it fiddly or that the fiddly sense diminishes over time?
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Mark Buetow
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By the time we played our third game, the mods were second nature. Personally, I initially thought the rules were a bit dense in their presentation but they're actually quite tight and have answered all questions with precision.

As for running to within two of a Used unit to avoid Op Fire: that would be gamey if it happened much. Either your opponent will have a CP to Final Op Fire at greater range or two space from the enemy will NOT be a good place to be. In the first scenario, for example, most spots two away from an enemy unit are open ground on the wrong side of a hedgerow. It would be dumb to stop moving there. No, you try to get cover.

My impression is not that it's diddly but it takes a few plays to nail down the numbers. Then it plays ate quickly.

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Jim Krohn
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Thanks for the review, Matt!

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No, it's things like the piles of modifiers you get (like different fire modifiers for for different ranges) and different situations (like unique modifiers for Op Fire different from regular fire modifiers),


I was pretty ruthless with the modifiers - meaning that I did not include any of them if I didn't think they were needed. For instance, I feel that the different penalty for moving in the open at 3 different ranges is absolutely critical. I realize that BoB is the only system that does that (that I know of), but moving in the open was very dangerous withing normal range of the enemy, but comparatively safe when, say, 400 yards away. At that range, if your target is lying flat on the ground or running, it is probably a wash. It is different than other games, but I felt like that modifier had to be there.

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The command point system feels like a band-aid for several quirks of the system


It is really more of a simple, catch all representation of leadership. I went in that direction for ease of play and shortness of rules. I also like the decision of when to spend the point. It can be a tough decision.

Quote:
or like having enemy units stop two away so they don't trigger FInal Op Fire).


Even ASL has a provision for an extra fire opportunity when approaching one hex away from someone. The difference is that that game does not have a mechanic for at times getting that same extra fire opportunity at farther away.

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Don't even get me started on roads costing 2/3 of movement points!


You are not the first to mention that. Honestly, this has taken me a little by surprise. Here's, my thinking - It was easier for infantry to travel down roads than in the open, but 1/2 movement point each hex was way too much of a benefit. To me it seemed natural to go 2/3. It didn't require any special rule to get that benefit, just a number. Maybe it is my engineering background that thought that was a simple way to go.

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Now this could just be learning pains given the newness of the system. I'll have to play through at least four more scenarios before I can really solidify my impressions...or that the fiddly sense diminishes over time?


You've mentioned modifiers a bunch. You should have those pretty much down within a couple of plays. Hopefully, the game will flow much smoother for you when you get to that point. I'm glad that Quick and Realistic got a positive from you, but elegant was one of my design goals so...fingers crossed.
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Sean McCormick
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adorablerocket wrote:


Elegant - First impressions say ... not so much.
It's not the production difficulties, like having a terrain chart that doesn't show the terrain and such requires lots of reading, or that the rule book seems to be often vaguely worded. It's not even the difficulty in wrapping your head around very foreign concepts, like suppression being dependent only on the firing unit's stats, or trying to roll low. No, it's things like the piles of modifiers you get (like different fire modifiers for for different ranges) and different situations (like unique modifiers for Op Fire different from regular fire modifiers), and things like constantly rolling for very low likely hood morale or proficiency checks. The command point system feels like a band-aid for several quirks of the system (like the low unit density combined with single die rolls making it quite likely that you get creamed by a couple of bad rolls, or like having enemy units stop two away so they don't trigger FInal Op Fire). Don't even get me started on roads costing 2/3 of movement points!

In short I fear it's fiddly.

Now this could just be learning pains given the newness of the system. I'll have to play through at least four more scenarios before I can really solidify my impressions. However as someone who was primed and desperate to love BoB I will say I was a bit taken aback. Be aware and I wonder if another of the pre-order bunch has found it fiddly or that the fiddly sense diminishes over time?


It's the learning pains. I had the same experience for my first several games, as things felt awkward and clunky, and I didn't like looking at the modifiers chart and figuring out what needed a modifier when. But within a few games, the system falls into place almost completely, to the point where you really don't need to look at anything, including the modifiers.
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Keith Anderson
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I'm considering getting this game as it looks good. My hesitation mostly has to do with already having good tactical games that don't hit the table often enough.

I can see where the reviewer would have trouble with the counter values as they are not consistently placed throughout the counter types.

I like the concept of the morale system. In practice though, do you end up making a whole lot of morale rolls? The potential to roll to start to move, continue to move, continue to move again, and then fire makes me wonder.

edit spelling unless they choose to overcome their moral instead of morale
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Sean McCormick
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It's not as big an issue as you might think. A unit that hasn't suffered suppression will always pass its morale check to fire or to move. So you are talking about rolling either for units that have taken fire or for times when you need to take a proficiency check, like when you Op Fire.
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GamePlayer wrote:
In practice though, do you end up making a whole lot of moral rolls? The potential to roll to start to move, continue to move, continue to move again, and then fire makes me wonder.


I was surprised at how many we made, and how often failed Morale or Proficiency meant we were just dropping 'used' counters on our units for our actions. I realize we should probably have been using command points more to deal with that, but it was still frustrating and contributed to the sense of fiddlyness.

That said, if it is as others suggest and the modifiers, reverse rolling, and remembering when to check Moral and when to check Proficiency do become second nature, then the low unit density at least will reduce the overall amount of rolling and I don't think that in-of itself the rolling would be a deal breaker for me.

Jim I appreciate your taking the time to respond. I think I understand the rationale for most of the rules, I'm just not yet convinced that they have been executed in a way that both performs the desired effect simply and elegantly. As a simple example, of course roads should give a movement bonus, but I would have preferred a simple +1 or +2MP if all movement is along a road, rather than running the math. Please have mercy on us game players who are not engineers!

However I do look forward to trying more BoB and this weekend looks like the right time to do it!

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adorablerocket wrote:
I also dislike that movement values are not on the counters

While this seems like a picky little thing, I have to admit that it has always bothered me--even when I first got enthused about Squad Leader back in 1980. I stuck with that game and its expansions and successor for some fifteen years, and I always hated that there were no movement factors on the infantry counters. Sure, they're easy to memorize; but the pertinent info ought to be printed on the counters. That's why I play board wargames instead of miniatures.

Lock 'n Load was a breath of fresh air to me in that respect. All the info is on the counters (even including fire tables on the back of guns and AFVs).

I've had my eye on BoB, but I decided to wait for reviews. The last thing I need is yet another squad-level WW2 game. One at a time is plenty for me. I abandoned ASL years ago, as it was just too complicated to play casually once in a while; it demanded dedication and regular play, and I got fed up with that. I had CC:E for a while but never got around to playing it; I didn't need a competitor distracting me from LnL.

I know LnL is probably the most guilty of all when it comes to the problem BoB's suppression system aims to solve. Shake up a stack of enemy units with firepower in LnL, and a lone hero can traipse in merrily and knock out the whole stack, machine guns and all. But I'm finding that smart defensive play--however gamey it might seem to some--can prevent such things from happening too often. And when, in rare instances, they do happen, it's pretty cool and very satisfying for the attacker. So, I'm not sure I want to see the problem solved.

It would be nice to have a game that's just as simple and satisfying but smooths the transition from "good order" to "broken" in a realistic way. But then, I gotta have movement factors on the counters.



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dustin boggs
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pat: which LnL title do you recommend as a first. I see that most of them have few ratings so its hard to get a sense on which is 'best' I prefer realistic battles ww2-vietnam with ww2 as my preference. I was looking at heros of the blitz sounded interesting.
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Christopher O
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I'm still really looking forward to this system arriving at my local web-retailer in Canada. I would've pre-ordered it, but the shipping to Canada completely negated the savings.

I'd rather hestitate over figuring out which modifiers to use than occasionally be brought out of the moment because something completely "gamey" is happening, as occurs in most other tactical WWII games.

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Kozure wrote:
I'm still really looking forward to this system arriving at my local web-retailer in Canada. I would've pre-ordered it, but the shipping to Canada completely negated the savings.

I'd rather hestitate over figuring out which modifiers to use than occasionally be brought out of the moment because something completely "gamey" is happening, as occurs in most other tactical WWII games.



We'll have to do a face to face game of BoB when we have it up north here, at the next TABSCON or wargamers meet up. I look forward to it!
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Sure, they're easy to memorize; but the pertinent info ought to be printed on the counters. That's why I play board wargames instead of miniatures.


Actually this is also super nit-picky, but it bugs me that there are no unit identifiers on the squad counters... weird huh? I actually love playing miniatures and it doesn't bother me there to identify units by the figures, but for some reason on wargame it's just an extra bit of effort to go through in setup. Not that I would consider this an actual negative on the game itself, just an observation on my weird emotional reactions to things.

Speaking of which, since Jim is on this thread I wonder if he would comment on why some of the decoy counters are printed on the reverse of the armor instead of on the blank counters that were included?
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I am not bothered by modifiers, and certainly not by roads costing 2/3 MP (although ASL's way of handling it does sound a bit more user friendly - hard to believe, I know).

What scares me a bit are the reports of rolling lots of dice to even be allowed to do stuff - it does sound fiddly. Great for realism, no doubt, but does it detract from playability? Time will tell, I suppose (I fully intend to get a copy and see for myself).
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adorablerocket wrote:


Speaking of which, since Jim is on this thread I wonder if he would comment on why some of the decoy counters are printed on the reverse of the armor instead of on the blank counters that were included?


The publisher commented on this elsewhere. There were going to be counters for another game on those to save printing costs but the game was delayed and so they chose to get BoB out anyway and not wait for the other game. Tough choice for cost, but good for us who have been waiting for BoB for so long.
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ramkitty wrote:
hijack
pat: which LnL title do you recommend as a first. I see that most of them have few ratings so its hard to get a sense on which is 'best' I prefer realistic battles ww2-vietnam with ww2 as my preference. I was looking at heros of the blitz sounded interesting.

Replied by Geekmail.
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thanks, thought it was santa blush
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adorablerocket wrote:
As a simple example, of course roads should give a movement bonus, but I would have preferred a simple +1 or +2MP if all movement is along a road, rather than running the math.


Doesn't it just mean you get +1 that can only be used on the road for every 2 hexes you move on a road? Move two hexes, take your free one. Move two more hexes, take another free one.

For infantry[1] I think it works out as:
If you only move one hex on a road no bonus.
If you move entirely along a road you get +2.[2]
Otherwise you get +1.

I haven't played the game but isn't that how it works out?

[1]: vehicles aren't covered by this
[2]: true for WT; squads have one extra movement but it still seems like a decent rule of thumb
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Mark Buetow
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Or the easiest solution: people could just learn how to add fractions. whistle
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David desJardins
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You could multiply all of the movement costs and allowances by 60, and then you only have to add integers....
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Jim Krohn
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Quote:
I also dislike that movement values are not on the counters


But then people complain that there are too many numbers on the counters. With each of the units also getting a proficiency and casualty rating, someone has already made a crack about each unit having their social security number on it. 5 MP for all squads, 4 MP for all weapons teams. You will have it engrained in your memory before the first scenario is over.

Quote:
Speaking of which, since Jim is on this thread I wonder if he would comment on why some of the decoy counters are printed on the reverse of the armor instead of on the blank counters that were included?


What Mark said. They were meant for another game, but the art wasn't done in time and would have held up BoB. I would have filled them!

Quote:
What scares me a bit are the reports of rolling lots of dice to even be allowed to do stuff - it does sound fiddly. Great for realism, no doubt, but does it detract from playability? Time will tell, I suppose (I fully intend to get a copy and see for myself).


Like Mark said, units not under fire do not have to roll because their morale is 10.

Remember how few rules are in the game and how short the playing times are. This is realism at a very low cost.

Quote:
Doesn't it just mean you get +1 that can only be used on the road for every 2 hexes you move on a road? Move two hexes, take your free one. Move two more hexes, take another free one.


Yes, this is exactly right. I swear I will add a sentence or two like this to the revision!


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I've played a couple of scenarios and the modifiers really do become second nature very quickly. The player aid card could have separated out the modifiers better (the movement-based modifiers, for example, could have had their own heading), but by the end of the second scenario I found that I rarely had to look them up.

Interestingly, I was VERY disappointed after playing the first scenario, but really enjoyed the second and third. I'm not completely sold on the system yet, but don't judge it by playing the first scenario...that scenario should be used for learning the system then taken out back and shot.
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Norman Smith
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"Doesn't it just mean you get +1 that can only be used on the road for every 2 hexes you move on a road? Move two hexes, take your free one. Move two more hexes, take another free one"

I don't think it helps to call the third hex a FREE move - it isn't, it has cost 2/3 just like the first two hexes. Also this type of 'managing' the rule does not help with combined on / off road movement and so you end up with two types of rational.

Since this is a series game, it might be better from the outset to either stick with 2/3 (and drive people nuts) or do an optional rule on something more traditional such as 1MP plus 1 additional road hex if all movement is conducted down the road etc.

[edited to try and get the 1st para done as a quote ... how do you do that?]
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Chris Roper
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normsmith wrote:
[edited to try and get the 1st para done as a quote ... how do you do that?]


{q="optional referance"} Your text here {/q} Replace the { with [ and the } with ] and you are good to go The above would display as:

optional referance wrote:
Your text here

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Chris wrote wrote:
{q="optional referance"} Your text here {/q} Replace the { with [ and the } with ] and you are good to go


many thanks
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normsmith wrote:
Also this type of 'managing' the rule does not help with combined on / off road movement and so you end up with two types of rational.


Why doesn't it help?
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