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Subject: Shiny happy counters. rss

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Wulf Corbett
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Does anyone actually read reviews anymore? Doesn’t everyone just watch videos? Oh, well, I can’t do videos, so this’ll have to do... Anyway, as you’ll know if you decided to read this, this is a skirmish-level wargame, with each counter representing a single soldier, Soviet & German, fighting on the Eastern Front of WWII (or the Great patriotic War, if you prefer...)

This is going to be as much a component commentary as a play review, as I have a few problems with the components. However, I’ve played enough to be happy to comment on the gameplay too.

But let’s start with components. The box - very good. I’m not one to judge by a cover anyway, but this one is nice. Not award-winning, I’d say, but nice. And, better news, good and solid too! Inside are plenty of good solid components too... The basic game comes with two maps - or one double sided map, if you prefer, made of 4 jigsaw-puzzle interlocking pieces of very thick solid card. It’s small - only 44x29cm (17.25"x11.5"), and that includes a border all round with the terrain key on both ends. The playable area is only 32x27cm (12.5"x10.75"), or 12x12 of the 2.5cm (1") hexes. That’s a small map, but movement rates are low, and there’s plenty of cover, so that’s not an immediate problem. The map art is rich and very... arty. Not quite photorealistic, but lots of detail & variety. Initially you need to check the terrain key to convince yourself how few terrain types there are, and what hex is what terrain. Easily learned though.

There’s one other odd thing about the maps. The stated scale is 1 hex = 100 yards, an odd scale for a single-man-counter skirmish game. But the map just doesn’t look it - the width of roads, and size of buildings, makes it look much more like about 30-50 yards per hex, in line with many other tactical level games. I prefer that look, but the weapon ranges bring you back to the official scale - 1 hex range for SMGs, for instance.

OK, on to the counters. Again, printed on the same thick, sturdy card, and a nice big 2cm (3/4"). And laser cut too! And therein lies my first real problem with the game components. The counters are good and thick, they’re richly coloured & glossy. But the laser cutting leaves 4 connections per counter, in the middle of each side (they have rounded corners, of course). You can punch then through with a finger or thumb, but the thickness of the card means each connection leaves a noticeable stub on the counter, and being in the middle of each side it’s a nuisance to clean off. The thin slit cut by the laser means you can barely get a knife blade in to cut them without marking the surface, so punching is pretty much the best way. My base game counters were stubborn to shift, but either I got used to it by the time I punched the supplement , Repple Depple, or else they were better cut with thinner connections.

Of course, the problem of the black ash residue on the edges of all the counters is well documented. Don’t ignore the warnings - you will end up with black finger tips if you don’t clean them before you play. A very slightly damp cloth or tissue does the trick best, I think. The map & counter surfaces are glossy enough they won’t mark, but be careful with the rules & player aids!

OK, so what about the counter art? All unit counters are backed with a national symbol - counters are moved face down until within line of sight of the enemy. The factors needed in play, weapon type, range & skill, unit movement rate, unique unit ID, and whether it’s a leader or not, are very clear indeed, and make each unit - remember this is a single-man-counter game - into an individual. The main illustration on each counter is a ¾ length portrait of a soldier suitably uniformed & armed. They look a little odd to me, like waxworks or mannequins. More likely, they also look like CGI art from Poser or a similar graphics program. I’ve always had a dislike of waxworks (I think it started at an early age with Doctor Who’s Autons... wow ), but there are small enough not to worry me! shake Now, another problem. The soldiers are ¾ length portraits. Vehicles, however, are top views. That’s a typical difference of style in wargames, and I don’t like it - one or the other, please.

Worse yet are the actual vehicle illustrations. Actually, they are really very good, and very detailed. Trouble is, they seem to have been drawn much bigger, then shrunk down. The result is, the lines are too thin, and the whole image becomes blurred & indistinct unless you peer closely - not helped by the various camouflage patterns they’re illustrated in. And, worse yet, they seem to have been shrunk to scale - both with each other, and, near enough, to the map (as viewed, not the official scale). That’s OK for a nice big KV-1 (although even that is illustrated smaller than the individual soldiers), but when you get to Kubelwagons and Horse & Cart counters the illustration looks lost in the middle of the counter!

Still, there’s a very nice variety of vehicles, armoured & unarmoured, and plenty of variety of soldiers & weapon types too, rifles, SMGs, HMGs, AT rifles, flamethrowers, .... Good counters with some annoying features. Importantly, though, as I started off saying, the game- relevant info is clear & visible.

OK, so, the rules - the physical component I’m discussing here, I’ll get to the gameplay soon. Nice & clearly printed, full colour, only 12 pages long (8 for the basic game). Lovely.

Except... In a few places, the counter illustrations don’t line up with the relevant paragraphs of text - they’re embedded in the paragraph before/above the one that refers to them! There are a couple of counter illustrations too low-res and blurry to read (interestingly, though, they’re of counters that don’t appear in the game so far).

And the player aids. 2 basic game aid cards, one advanced game card. Well set out, and clear, with all relevant tables & lists.

Except...
On the advanced game card, in the middle of the illustration depicting facing rules, there’s text saying "TO BE ADDED LATER" - presumably it was added later, but the text wasn’t removed. And on the same card, the vehicle counter key is a bit mixed up - the red lines & boxes picking out the factors are misplaced.

There’s also a folder with special rules for stuff like mines, fortifications, etc. They’re on separate sheets, held in a card folder on a spring clip. Why? There’s a perfectly good box there to store them in, if you can’t include them in the rulebook, and unless you want to fold the sheets over, you’ll have to take them out of the spring clip to use them anyway. Seems a bit pointless.

Oh, and a little envelope marked First Aid, containing a sticking plaster. Nice.

OK, so, we have some lovely quality components with some annoying niggles. How does the game play? Can you guess yet?

The basic game is a simple Igo-Ugo system, but each side may designate 2 (only 2? Yes, only 2) units on Overwatch (OW), which can fire during the enemy turn at enemy units which fire or move. Most, but not all, weapon types can provide OW. Each unit (or stack of units, stacking being unlimited, as you’d expect in a game of single-man-counters on 100 yard hexes) can move and/or fire. Movement is commonly 2 hexes per turn, or one if you want to fire as well. Leaders in a stack allow the stack to move 2 and still fire, very very handy! Fire is by opposing die roll, 1d6+weapon modifier+individual skill-target terrain (also -2 if firing unit moving or pinned) for the firer, 1d6+individual skill for the defender. Rifle range is 6 hexes, HMG 8 - but SMG range is only 1! If the attacker total is higher, the target is Pinned - or, if twice the defender, he’s eliminated Shooting at high-skill targets in cover (woods gives a -2 terrain penalty to fire) can be a hard task. It’s not Rocket Science (that’s High Frontier...), there are a small number of factors you’ll consider every time, more or less, and soon memorise. Weapon factors are on a table on the player aids - you’ll learn the common ones quick enough.

Furthermore, most common weapons, like rifles, can only affect the top enemy unit in a stack, so putting that skill 3 rifleman on top protects everyone. Even Group effect weapons like MGs have to attack the stack top down - if a unit isn’t eliminated, none of the units below it can be fired on! Flame and Explosive attacks attack every unit individually though.

If you want to clear out those pesky defenders, you have to go in for Close Combat - entering the enemy hex (although exactly how ‘Close’ the combat is in a 100 yd hex is debatable), and then most weapons have a much higher attack value. Like moving & firing, units without a Leader can only advance into Close Combat one hex - with a Leader, 2. Close Combat always results in one side being cleared out - either retreating or eliminated, but peculiarly the top unit in a stack must do all the fighting until he’s Pinned (in which case he retreats) or Eliminated. The others just watch & applaud, I guess... Remember that SMGs and other Close Combat favourable weapons only have a range of 1 anyway... The Flamethrower has a range 1, but is +8 factor at that range, and +10 in Close Combat, and furthermore attacks each counter in a stack individually!

OK, so, you move, receive a little OW return fire, hopefully Pin some opponents here & there, clear the rest out in Close Combat, and reach the target hexes, eliminate the target unit, occupy the target building, whatever the scenario requires. The scenarios are decent - there are quite a few units in even the simple ones, often a couple of dozen or more to each player, so despite the small maps, you can get a few decent size stacks moving around, and a lot of action. There’s room for manoeuvre, but you don’t take all day to get into contact. I have some issues with the rules - mostly Overwatch - but it all works. You have to get in close to clear out defenders, unless you have some highly skilled soldiers, and you need Leaders to effectively rush stacks into Close Combat. The 2-OW limit is clearly a game-balance issue, and can be annoying, but I can accept it for balance & simplicity.

And that’s the basics of the basic game. There are lots of extra bits I haven’t mentioned, like Binoculars, Sniper Scopes, etc., but the game plays out quite well and quickly, if with a LOT of die rolling from the opposed rolls on every shot fired. I also haven’t mentioned vehicles - they need a load of extra counter symbols, and some extra rules, but they are greatly simplified. This is more than Tank on Tank level detail, but certainly not ASL. Each vehicle does have a feel for the type, but a tank is, essentially, a tank when all you have is a rifle...

OK, one last comment on the rules. The advanced sighting rules & table. That table is HUGE! surprise Really, it sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to all the other simple rules in this game. Essentially, you take the height of your hex (every hex has a height number marked on it), and the target hex, and then the range between, and then locate them on the table, and then compare the heights of any potential obstacles between (remembering woods, buildings, etc. Increase effective height), and if the obstacles aren’t higher, you can see it. shake It took me a long time to get my head around how to read the table, maybe it was just me, but I didn’t find it at all intuitive. Not helped by the illustrations in the rulebook being on the wrong paragraphs... shake Furthermore, it allows for a maximum range of 60 hexes, and a height difference of 13 levels! Remember the size of the map? There’s a bigger one in the supplement, Repple Depple, but even that doesn’t give half the range, or a third the variation in levels! Is an Alpine map covering the whole tabletop planned? The simple game line of sight rules seem perfectly adequate to me... Interestingly, the maps so far have a border all the way around, so they can’t be easily expanded.

A brief mention now of the first supplement, Repple Depple, which I already mentioned a few times... It contains many more scenarios, lots more counters, including a huge variety of tanks & other vehicles (with tiny, blurry, illustrations), more soldier units, and more maps - two on a double-sided board like the basic game, and two double the size on an 8-piece puzzle board. All the comments on components apply to this lot too (counters, as noted, seemed easier to punch).

Right, then, you slogged it all the way through that lot (or skipped to the end...) instead of watching a nice video, so hopefully you’ll have got the idea. My own conclusion is that this is a very ambitious little company that tried real hard to produce a high-quality good looking fast-play game, and, more or less, succeeded. Some design decisions - vehicle illustrations - and some proofreading issues - rules layout - let it down a little, but overall, I like it a lot. I’ll be looking out for more. It’s not ASL, it’s a fast-play, simple man-to-man skirmish wargame, with enough detail to make it a wargame, not a war-themed game.
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Michael Debije
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
Does anyone actually read reviews anymore? Doesn’t everyone just watch videos?


I never watch the videos, and only read the reviews, so your contribution is most appreciated by at least one person.
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Wulf Corbett
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mi_de wrote:
I never watch the videos, and only read the reviews, so your contribution is most appreciated by at least one person.
Strangely enough, I'll watch a 20-minute video on a game I have no interest in, but I'll skip through a written review of a game I really want to know more about, if the review is too long...

Sound and movement, it's all I need... cool
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Brett Schaller
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Excellent review. Sums up my feelings on the game nicely, too.

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Mike D
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Very nice review Wulf! Great to see this getting some press. I'd add that it works quite well as an introductory wargame and I had some memorable games with my son. I think the opposed die rolling was a key element in keeping both players engaged throughout. And then there's a lightweight RPG feel to it that makes you want to carry the survivors on to the next battle.

Glad to see I'm not the only one boggled by the Advanced Sighting Chart. I didn't really find the need for it given the little maps but I think I'd have preferred something simple along the lines of Panzerblitz. Actually it's easy enough to bolt things like that on, and experiment with other new rulings as you might find a need for them.

I was a little disappointed that the publisher hasn't taken it any further but I guess it's possible there's still more to come. I understand there were a lot more scenarios published for the 1st edition and a North Africa set may still be in the works, but I know LBG has moved on to the next new thing and that's cool. Apart from a few niggles with proofreading and rules interpretations I'm really quite happy with this one.

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Kevin Duke
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I think Jeff has this game still in his heart.

The main artist working on the system left the company and there are some personal issues involved that are too complex to get into here, but that brought things to an abrupt halt.

And yes, Sergeants Miniatures Game has occupied everyone at LBG right now. It's a very small shop and they just can't be working on multiple games at the same time.

I do know there is a plan to revive the hex-and-counter game but that is way down the road.
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Barton Campbell
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mi_de wrote:
Wulf Corbett wrote:
Does anyone actually read reviews anymore? Doesn’t everyone just watch videos?


I never watch the videos, and only read the reviews, so your contribution is most appreciated by at least one person.


Honestly, there are not that many videos that are wargame reviews. At any rate, I've read every review once, twice or three times and I have watched every video. I only wish there were more of both.
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Jan Colpaert
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Does anyone know where to find the "personnel roster"-pdf?
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