Decided to give this a go and ordered the rules and a British brigade from Firestorm which arrived on Saturday.
The figures look very nice. They are 12mm in scale, well detailed with stances and poses offering easy brush access. The detail stands out making them one of the easiest paint jobs I’ve seen under 28mm. There are 4 infantry battalions (16 models in 4 companies in each), a regiment of cavalry (3 squadrons) and battery of artillery (2 guns) plus a command set which is a particularly nice touch, featuring a variety of officers posed around a table covered in maps. The Infantry come in 3 poses - advancing, standing firing and kneeling firing - and you can place them however you want on the included bases. Each battalion also features a commander and has a machine gun section in support. The British cavalry has 9 figures on 3 bases, again with machine gun support. All this reflects historical formations at the time of the BEF.
The rules look really interesting. You receive a number of Command Tokens for each formation in your army plus your general and then allocate these as you want amongst your units, except that each and every unit must be allocated at least one token. Players dice off at the start of each turn to decidE who is the Active and Reactive player. The Active player may activate a unit - by spending a Command Token (CT) - to carry out standard activities such as moving, shooting, assaulting or taking morale tests (rallying) and may carry out as many activations as they have command tokens to spend. The spent CT is then allocated to that unit. There is no test for the first activation but to activate that unit again the unit spends a CT and must roll higher on a D6 than the total number of CT’s or Morale Markers (MM) on the unit. For example, General Melchett wishes to activate the 1st Battalion Royal Peasant Rifles a second time. The battalion has no MM’s but has 1 CT from its first activation. A roll of 2+ on a D6 will allow the unit to activate again. Should the general wish to activate them a third time he will need to role 3+. Simples!
Assuming the unit receives a morale marker during that third activation and the general wants to activate it again, he will require a roll of 5+ on the D6 (3CT’s from previous activations plus 1 MM). You can see from this example how a player needs to think carefully about how involved particular units may be in the coming turn and allocate CT’s accordingly. The minimum allocation of 1 CT per unit ensures that all his units get at least one activation but after that it’s down to the unpredictability of the dice. A player may load the circumstances in his favour but he can never be sure of any activation after the first. Should an activation fail then the CT is still placed on the unit, making it more difficult to activate next time! Ouch!
The rules cleverly avoid the game being an IGOUGO system but using the Reaction concept, which keeps both players involved throughout the various activations. When the Active player declares he is activating a unit (announcing what that unit intends doing) his opponent may declare a reaction. The Reactive player then spends one of his own CT’s to try to activate the unit concerned. To succeed he must roll 3+ (Plus 1 for each CT or MM on the reacting unit) on a D6. For example, a reacting unit that already had a CT (from an earlier activation) and a MM (having been fired on) would require a roll of 5+ to successfully react. If the attempt fails then the player allocates the CT to the unit, again making it even harder to activate in the future. When Active a player can always use the first activation of a unit to Rally it, hopefully inspiring them before MM actually cause men to melt away.
There are basically 3 ways for the Active player to lose that position:
1. He may voluntarily end his activation phase at any time AFTER he has made at least 1 activation (whether or not his opponent has reacted) ;
2. He runs out of Command Tokens;
3. The Reacting player rolls a 6 when rolling to react with a unit. Should that happen the Active player finishes that particular action before switching to become the Reactive player.
When the Active player loses his position, his opponent takes over as the Active player and the game continues as before. When both players have run out of CT’s the turn ends and a fresh turn begins with both players receiving a new set of CT’s and rolling off to decide who is the Active player. The winner of the roll off decides.
Combat (shooting and assaulting) is quite straightforward with each formation type having a number of combat dice which are affected by a few factors for such basic tactical features as range, Cover, movement or the condition of your unit. Higher quality troops gain a bonus whilst poor quality receive a penalty. They’ve kept it very straightforward so I think the game could handle significant numbers of units.
After only one read through (so I may have got someth8ng wrong or missed something!
) I really like the look of these rules. The individual concepts are quite straightforward but when combined they introduce a whole Zeppelin load of decision making for players. It looks like a game packed with action and, dare I say reaction! Do you use your Command Tokens to try and gain an early tactical advantage or play a waiting game, seeing what the enemy plan is whilst retaining enough CT’s to launch an effective counter attack? Is it worth risking a CT to try and withdraw that battalion that’s about to be overrun or should they be sacrificed to gain an advantage elsewhere? Do you spend lots of CT’s on a single unit to try and take an important position early on or do you advance more carefully on a broad front, perhaps allowing the enemy to gain the high ground that may cost you heavily to capture? Decisions! Decisions!
All in all I’d describe the rules as having loads of decision making, being complex without being complicated. After a couple of games you won’t need to refer to the playsheet for tactical factors. In fact, once familiar with the basics you’d rarely need to refer to the rulebook at all which is a bonus for me!