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Saturday, December 06, 2008

The tanks are coming!

Oh the internet is a terrible thing, a curse and a burden upon the unwary; such as an aging gamer rediscovering the geek that was a teenage tankie, and now equipped with Paypal thus succumbing to all manner of temptations both old and new. Take, for example, the package which arrived at my door this morning, hot from Second Chance Games. It was my new copy of 2008's hottest WW2 tacsim, Academy Games' Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! - Russia 1941-1942 by Uwe Eickert.

I must confess I've been putting off buying this for months. Well, more precisely, I'd been picking up the buzz from an FLGS and from across the net, and after nearly 2 solid years of Combat Commander I was hankering for a bit of a change of pace. Tanks would be an obvious choice. So it wasn't that I wasn't interested in Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! - Russia 1941-1942. Far from it. It's just that, well, I had other irons in the fire. Badger, however, wasn't biting, so I thought I'd better run another game up the flagpole before imploding into a mixed metaphor so dense it'd endanger life, the universe and everything.

Seriously though, I'd been hearing a lot about this game, and was certainly going to buy it when it eventually reappeared on my local shelves. But it was taking a long time coming, and Badger's and my 3rd annual wargaming xmas was moving ever closer, so last week, armed only with a freshly topped-up Paypal account, I went surfing in search of some satisfaction. My business done, I read the entire CSW Conflict of Heroes thread from start to finish, and topped it off with the rules to boot.

Reading some 1900 messages at 10 messages/page took some time, but it was worth the effort. I found it really interesting to see how the design changed as the game approached final production, and I particularly enjoyed the ongoing window into the designer's thought processes (I've always liked reading and rereading designer's notes). And my appetite for the game was certainly whetted. All the more so when I read the rules. All-in-all, I think I can say I knew so much about how CoH works and why that I could've got a game running in not much more time than it'd've taken to sort out the necessary pieces, some 15 minutes I'd say. It might've clunked a bit now and again as rules'd've had to be checked, but it could've been done. And I'd venture that experienced gamers could get running in perhaps 30 minutes or so from a cold start.

The key to this ease of access is CoH's Action Point and Command Action Point system. The core concepts of this'll be familiar to any fans of GW's classic Space Hulk, which regular readers might remember is a game which has generated quite some enthusiasm on my part (#1, #2, and #3). So each unit- squads, and individual vehicles or ordnance- has its own AP allocation, while there is a pool of CAP available for each side. These are spent for the units to conduct fire, movement and other actions in a fluid interactive phase structure which looks to me like a very original implementation of the 'resource management' model of command and control which cardplay handles so well.

I'm really pleased with Conflict of Heroes so far. It scratches a definite itch, gives me another fast playing WW2 tacsim which I'm sure'll see the table regularly, and fills a niche which isn't going to render any of my other favourite games of this kind obsolete. Oh, and the board and counters really are as astonishing as people say! Thick and chunky full-colour 1" counters (think the size of a 2p piece!) with a luxurious satiny texture just pop effortlessly out of their counter sheets. The maps too are bold and heavy duty. These key components strike me as being well designed to appeal to an audience wider than the usual grognards, as CoH's brisk sales seem to demonstrate.

You've not heard the last of this game, naturally enough. Tony's coming round later so we can take CoH out for a first run. Heh. The satisfaction of new ownership and the anticipation of 'battle'. ;)
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