Thursday, 31 August 2017

Boardgames #4

...or a Tale of 2 WW2 tactical boardgames (I's hardly Dickens)

The summer boardgaming extravaganza continues with a pair of contrasting WW2 skirmish level boardgames.

My son and I decided to have a game of Heroes of Normandie.  I'm a big fan of the system... there are earlier blog posts about it hereherehere and here (obviously I'm a bigger fan than I'd realised!).  At the end of 2015 I even signed up for a Kickstarter which produced lots of new squads and terrain tiles as well as storage for the counters and, more importantly, a revised rulebook which collated all the info from the various expansions.  Callum kindly put together the Pegasus Bridge shaped Dice Tower for me. I've always been slightly baffled by the need for dice towers but it was free....

The Very large box the Kickstarter came in

Storage for the counters
My Dice Tower...

HoN presents itself as a rather cartoonish WW2 movie inspired boardgame but underneath the bonnet is a very, very good tactical level game.   Normally when I've played this (usually against regular opponent Anthony at Guildford) we've played pre-designed scenarios from the main box or from the mini-Campaigns such as D Day.  The rules do, however, allow you to build your own forces within some constraints and so we tried both options.

Initially we played out the "Slaughterhouse 5" scenario which pits Germans against US troops holed up in a house and their comrades who have come to relieve them.  My son played as the Germans and really struggled to make headway.  As in previous games we found buildings to be real deathtraps: any units that head inside tend to be faced with a flurry of grenades.  Despite a furious struggle around the target house the Germans couldn't seize control before the end of the game.

Callum then suggested we try building our own scenario which we tried a few nights later.  The point balancing is more complex than it first appeared but we worked our way through and played out a straight encounter.  This was a very bloody affair...the tone was set in the first turn when my Greyhound which had advanced too far ahead to be safe, was swiftly despatched by a Panzerfaust wielding squad and most of my squads came under MG42 fire.  Some shoddy dice-rolling on my part and a good grasp of fire doctrine by Callum meant I was increasingly pinned down by MG fire and units began to fall rapidly.  Even the presence of 'The Rock' (a MG wielding hero with an unfeasibly large chin) made little impact and the game was rapidly over.

A few nights later I had one of my regular game nights with my friend Andrew.  He was keen to try out the starter kit of Advanced Squad Leader which her had acquired.  I last played ASL sometime back in the early 80s at uni and remembered it being very, very complex, so I was curious to see if it had changed or if my memories of the game still held true.

The game still feels very much like a 1970s/80s boardgame....little card chits, legalese rules in small print, very complicated turn sequences and lots and lots of baffling acronyms...

This is the degree-level turn sequence chart...

How did it play??  Well, the scenario pitted  US paratroopers against Germans at Vierville in Normandy with reinforcements arriving on both sides as the game progressed.  At first, I have to admit I found the turn sequencing baffling with units firing at different parts of the turn and at different strengths but the complicated turn sequence table did actually make sense and I quickly found that there was a pretty intuitive flow to the game.  It does have a chess-like structure which means you need to consider carefully who moves when and where...get it wrong (as I did!) and you'll pay the price.

Despite some early success in Turn 1 of 5 (low dice rolls are good and I rolled 2, double 1's in succession!!) Andrew was able to recover from his earlier damage and consolidate his troops in the village centre, occupying most of the objectives.  I think we got  to turn 4 of 5 but it was clear by this point that there was no way I was going to winkle him out of the buildings and we called it a night.

I enjoyed ASL more than I definitely has a very old-school vibe to did we ever manage to wade through the encyclopedia-style SPI rules in the old days??  But it was a fun game and certainly challenging.  Would it work as well once we added in more complicated weapons and terrain??  I hate to think how complicated it must get in the full game, and especially with vehicles,  but it was a fun evening and definitely one to revisit.


No comments:

Post a Comment