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Subject: Review from the Old Board Gamers' Blog rss

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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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I just read this review from the Old Board Gamers' Blog and got permission to share it. This copy is posted without pictures so I would suggest going to the site to get it in all of its glory...

http://www.oldboardgamers.com/2012/reviews/suppressing-fire

Suppressing Fire!!!
January 4th, 2012 Dan

Band of Brothers the new game from designer Jim Krohn and publisher Worthington games bills itself as a fast playing game of squad level combat in WWII. It’s a scenario based game covering the action of the 101st airborne throughout world war 2. Thanks to Stephen Ambrose and later the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers the subject matter is something a lot of gamers are very familiar with.

For purposes of full disclosure the subject matter is the main reason I bought the game. Once upon a time my uncle was the president of a publishing company and he gave me a copy of the Ambrose book well before it was a glimmer in HBO’s eye and it became one of my favorite topics. I have collect every book on the 101st I can find so when I heard about Jim’s game I had interest right away. To be perfectly honest I was not expecting anything that was going to blow me away. I’m a Combat Commander junkie, there is not a CC product I don’t own so why on earth would I need another squad level game on WW2?

Thankfully I was smart enough to purchase Band of Brothers directly from the publisher because it is a game that should not be missed by anyone who is interested in the genre. It has become my go to game because of how fast it plays and how easily the rules work once you get through a few little issues.

The Bits

The game comes in a rather slim box which features some really amazing cover art. There are a few games in my collection that have artwork that I eventually get printed and framed and BOB’s cover is on that list. Inside the box you’ll find 5 double sided maps. These maps are standard letter size but they are printed on heavy stock. Since they are double sided however you’re obviously never going to have more than 5 map boards present at once. In fact there is only one included scenario that uses all 5, most use between 1-4 boards. From a scale standpoint the smaller maps create more intense and immediate action.

In terms of counters you’re going to get about 3 sheets worth. You have 7/8″ counters for squad and tanks. The game uses the more traditional 5/8″ counters for things like op fire, used markers and suppression. Also included is a double sided player aid and a 16 page rule book. That’s correct a squad level world war 2 game which includes armor and the rules are covered in 16 pages. A few d10′s round out the bits. Overall I don’t have a complaint about the components, they are of good quality and what you would expect from this type of game. I do wish there were more map boards both to create larger scenarios and also to offer more variety. I also wish the scenarios had been printed on single sheets instead of in booklet form as they are used for the turn track.

Game Play

The first thing I am going to say about Band of Brothers is you must leave your previous knowledge of rule sets at the door when checking into BOB. It does so many things in different ways that you’ll be making a lot of mistakes by assuming you know how the game works. For instance I played about 15 games before I realized, quite embarrassingly, that I was handling Op Fire incorrectly. I assumed that because there were Op Fire markers a unit needed to be marked to Op Fire but this was not the case. While I had read the rules, I had easily missed this partially due to my assumed knowledge and partially because of the rules themselves.

Let me explain that last statement. The rules for BOB are very easy and very elegant so much in fact that after a few games you’ll likely not even need the player aid for modifiers. However a lot of little items like the Op Fire example while covered in the rules, aren’t in my opinion called out enough. It’s a case where if you read the rules and don’t interpret anything into them based on assumed knowledge you’ll be fine, but the general audience for this game is coming in with a lot of assumed knowledge.

Having said that the rule book and scenario book are laid out in such a way that you’ll be playing in no time. The rules are broken into two parts, the first covering infantry and taking only five and a half pages. After reading these you’ll be able to play the first few scenarios. If you press on in the scenario book artillery is added so you read another page of rules. It continues likes this adding armor and fox holes etc.

I’m not exaggerating when I say you could open the box with your buddy and in one good 3 hour play session you could go through 3-4 scenarios and have the rules mastered.


So why is Band of Brother so unique in its game play? The simple answer is suppression. To win scenarios you need to employ good tactics that involve suppressing enemy units and then moving in with other squads and eliminating those units in melee combat. While it is not impossible to eliminate a unit by simply firing it is much harder and takes a lot longer. This type of game play is true to the tactics of the subject matter. If you read any of the books on Easy company or the 101st they constantly drill home how they suppressed enemy units and then advanced.

A turn in Band of Brothers is broken down into four phases. The Operations phase is where most of the action takes place. Each scenario sets the Operation range for a side, so the Germans might have a 1-3 range in a scenario and the US a 2-5. This range is replicating that sides effectiveness for the given scenario. During the Op Phase that side must either Move, Fire or mark Op Fire a number of units within their Op Range. In our example the Germans must activate 1 unit and the US 2, although both sides could activate up to their max 3 and 5 respectively. Players alternate until all of their units have acted and then we move on to the next phase which is Rout.

In order to move or fire during the Op Phase a unit must pass a morale check. Each unit has 3 morale levels based on how suppressed they are. Most units not suppressed at all have a morale of 10. A partially (yellow) suppressed unit might have a morale of 6 and a fully suppressed (red) a morale of 2. As you can see if a unit gets suppressed it is going to be harder for you to use that unit. Imagine trying to take out a fixed MG weapons team, you take 2 squads and put fire on it and fully suppress it and then advance with a 3rd squad. The WT gets the chance to conduct Op fire when you advance but since it is fully suppressed the chances of it acting are very slim.

I’m not going into full detail on all the rules. There are of course rules for movement, line of sight, cover, proficiency checks, final op fire but the meat of the game is suppress, advance, eliminate and it works very well. The games rules and a example of play are available for you to check out online.

Final Thoughts

Band of Brothers is one of those games that might fly under the radar which would be a real shame. I have no idea how sales of the game are doing, I do know the forum is pretty active. Part of me wonders if BOB had been released by GMT would it be a runaway hit like Space Empires? Perhaps GMT games is not the right publisher since they are so entrenched with Combat Commander but I can say without reservation that BOB is a better game than Space Empires.

It accurately represents the subject matter. The rules allow you to focus on the game instead of charts. This allows for a much better feeling of being on the battlefield making important decisions. It is fantastically easy to teach and it plays fast. The only thing that is missing from this game that CCE offers is the randomness of battlefield chaos. It’s probably unfair to even compare the two games but Combat Commander feels like I am playing a world war 2 movie and Band of Brothers feels like I am playing a tactical teaching tool on squad level combat during world war 2. Both games scratch a different itch but one of them does it a lot faster than the other.

What’s to Like

Plays Fast, really fast. Easy to teach and set up. Does an excellent job through the rules of modeling suppression and the tactics used at the time.

What’s not to Like

Small and limited map boards, no randomness elements on the battlefield. Scenarios should of been printed on single sheets not in a book.

Over All: A+

I’ve really beat myself up as to whether Band of Brother deserves and editors seal of approval. The shipped product is missing an extended example of play and as stated the rules could use some stronger wording on some points. However all of these items have been remedied by the designer and are easily available online. Even with those minor quibbles, Band of Brothers is a game that should not be missed by anyone interested in tactical world war 2 games.
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Dan Spezzano
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red black wrote:
wrote:
Perhaps GMT games is not the right publisher since they are so entrenched with Combat Commander but I can say without reservation that BOB is a better game than Space Empires.


Interesting review but emphatic statements like this one pique my curiousity and the absence of an explanation is kind of annoying. What makes BoB a better game in comparison to SE:4X?



Since I wrote the review I'll be happy to answer that and I might even go update the review as you bring up a good point. I thought the items I touched on during the review are what make it far better IMO. Just to be clear I really like SE.

BOB is about playing the game, it's about tactics and reacting minus the tedious micro-management of Space Empires. Again as much as I like SE there is a lot of micro management and a lot of clutter in the rules, again IMO. There is a lot of time spent calculating among other things In SE and a lot of idle downtime in 4 player games.

In comparison there is no downtime in BOB, you're in the action from the first move and you're surveying the battlefield. I also think the rules for suppression and final op fire among others make the game much more interesting then most tactical squad games.

In short to me BOB feels innovative and very efficient while SE4X just feels old school. In retrospect I should of wrote in my opinion but since that is what a review is I thought it implied.
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dspezzano wrote:
red black wrote:
wrote:
Perhaps GMT games is not the right publisher since they are so entrenched with Combat Commander but I can say without reservation that BOB is a better game than Space Empires.


Interesting review but emphatic statements like this one pique my curiousity and the absence of an explanation is kind of annoying. What makes BoB a better game in comparison to SE:4X?



Since I wrote the review I'll be happy to answer that and I might even go update the review as you bring up a good point. I thought the items I touched on during the review are what make it far better IMO. Just to be clear I really like SE.

BOB is about playing the game, it's about tactics and reacting minus the tedious micro-management of Space Empires. Again as much as I like SE there is a lot of micro management and a lot of clutter in the rules, again IMO. There is a lot of time spent calculating among other things In SE and a lot of idle downtime in 4 player games.

In comparison there is no downtime in BOB, you're in the action from the first move and you're surveying the battlefield. I also think the rules for suppression and final op fire among others make the game much more interesting then most tactical squad games.

In short to me BOB feels innovative and very efficient while SE4X just feels old school. In retrospect I should of wrote in my opinion but since that is what a review is I thought it implied.


I hate to be that guy, but it's "should have" or "should've", not "should of". Normally I wouldn't mention it but you did it in your review as well and it makes the review seem less professional. You also said "collect" instead of "collected" in your second paragraph in the review.

Otherwise it's a great review and I enjoyed reading it.
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Dan Spezzano
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alfonzo54 wrote:

I hate to be that guy,


No worries. I've fixed the errors I hope and thank you for pointing them out.
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dspezzano wrote:
alfonzo54 wrote:

I hate to be that guy,


No worries. I've fixed the errors I hope and thank you for pointing them out.

Glad to be of service.
 
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Jeff Smith
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Nice review. The only point I would disagree with is the comment about the lack of a random factor. The dice provide this, along with the well thought out morale, proficiency, and other modifiers. I have had many games where a heroic squad that was fully suppressed managed to pass morale, continue moving forward, and take out an enemy position. I've also had games where machine guns couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and good order squads just didn't want to assault fire. So while it is a different kind of randomness than other games, in some ways the morale and proficiency rules provide more randomness, or better said, more uncertainty than some other games.

Edit: Just to clarify, the "games" I was speaking of with heroic squads and such were BoB games. The "other games" are...umm...other games.

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David Janik-Jones
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Great review, Dan, thanks for writing that up. Just wish J&J or Germangames (my two FLGS) would get the game in stock, the waiting is doing nothing good to my blood pressure.
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M King
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jbbnbsmith wrote:
Nice review. The only point I would disagree with is the comment about the lack of a random factor. The dice provide this, along with the well thought out morale, proficiency, and other modifiers. I have had many games where a heroic squad that was fully suppressed managed to pass morale, continue moving forward, and take out an enemy position. I've also had games where machine guns couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and good order squads just didn't want to assault fire. So while it is a different kind of randomness than other games, in some ways the morale and proficiency rules provide more randomness, or better said, more uncertainty than some other games.

Edit: Just to clarify, the "games" I was speaking of with heroic squads and such were BoB games. The "other games" are...umm...other games.



I'm glad to read this. I don't have the game yet, but I've ordered it and it's on its way, based partly on the review above (and partly on Marco's video review, and partly on reading the rules, and partly on the designer's outstanding support on this site). But as I read the rules, I felt like there would be a decent amount of what is sometimes called "battlefield friction"--that tendency of things to go wrong, and to undermine the best laid plans, due to the need for morale rolls. I think I will like this source of friction much better than the CC:E system. To quote the review, that game does have "chaos" but it is sometimes so random as to be silly. I feel like BOB's chaos will be connected to the tactical choices you and your opponent are making, not to the supreme randomness of a card draw. No offense to the bagillion CC:E fans out there, it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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Jeff Smith
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oneoldgamer wrote:
jbbnbsmith wrote:
Nice review. The only point I would disagree with is the comment about the lack of a random factor. The dice provide this, along with the well thought out morale, proficiency, and other modifiers. I have had many games where a heroic squad that was fully suppressed managed to pass morale, continue moving forward, and take out an enemy position. I've also had games where machine guns couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and good order squads just didn't want to assault fire. So while it is a different kind of randomness than other games, in some ways the morale and proficiency rules provide more randomness, or better said, more uncertainty than some other games.

Edit: Just to clarify, the "games" I was speaking of with heroic squads and such were BoB games. The "other games" are...umm...other games.



I'm glad to read this. I don't have the game yet, but I've ordered it and it's on its way, based partly on the review above (and partly on Marco's video review, and partly on reading the rules, and partly on the designer's outstanding support on this site). But as I read the rules, I felt like there would be a decent amount of what is sometimes called "battlefield friction"--that tendency of things to go wrong, and to undermine the best laid plans, due to the need for morale rolls. I think I will like this source of friction much better than the CC:E system. To quote the review, that game does have "chaos" but it is sometimes so random as to be silly. I feel like BOB's chaos will be connected to the tactical choices you and your opponent are making, not to the supreme randomness of a card draw. No offense to the bagillion CC:E fans out there, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

You've described BoB well. There is that "friction" but it is directly related to what is happening on the board; it is based on probabilities determined by the quality of your units and their current situations. So you know what should happen, but there is always the chance, however slim, that something else will happen. Enough chaos to feel real, but not enough to feel ridiculous.
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Dennis Shaper
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