Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel!

Hey Geekshelfers!  I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about the latest boardgame I've played.  It's called Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel.  For the uninitiated, this is a squad-based tactical war boardgame, from the award winning creator of "Awakening The Bear", the first of the Conflict of Heroes series created by Uwe Eickert.
The first scenario is a tutorial you can play solo and it's nail-bitingly AWESOME.  You take control of 3 German Panzer Grenadiers who have to capture a soviet-controlled building.  The odds are stacked against you but with a little luck and some good tactical decisions, you can inch your way to victory!
Beginning of the scenario: 3 German grenadiers vs. a TON of Soviets!
The game is deep but the rule book is clear and very easy to grasp. Basically, on a players turn, they can activate a unit and pay Action Points to have it either move, fire or stall.  You generally only have 7 Action Points to spend for your unit so deciding on what to do is crucial.

Take a look at the German grenadiers below, for example.  The number on the top left (3) is it's cost to fire and the number on the top right (1) is it's cost to move.  So, with 7 action points, it could either fire twice and move once OR move 7 times if you so wished.  When those 7 action points are depleted, the unit is flipped over and marked as "spent".

"Spent" units can no longer be activated with normal Action Points but this is where Command Action Points (CAPs) come in.  Depending on which scenario is played, each player will get a specified amount of Command Action points that allow you to activate spent units, modify dice rolls or rally your troops.  CAPs are limited and do not replenish until the next round so spend them wisely!

Back to the game.  As you can see below, it didn't take long for the Germans to engage in a firefight with the Soviets!
The 3rd German grenadiers take fire and are now cowering!
I LOVE how combat is resolved in this game.  Again, looking at the example below, you can see that the 1st German Grenadier has flanked the Soviet MMG.  To resolve combat, you look at the bottom left  hand corner of the attacking unit (5).  This is the unit's firepower against anything unarmored. You take this value and you'll add the roll of two dice.  Say I rolled a 9 on those two dice.  (5)+(9) would give me a firepower value of 14.

I then compare that with the defending unit's defense value on it's bottom right hand corner.  In this case (12).  If the value of the attack is equal to or more than the defending value, the unit scores a hit!  Of course, flanking and being in a building also gives bonuses to attack and defense...

Each time a unit is hit, the player who owns that unit must draw from a "hit" marker pool which imposes random penalties on the unit.  Instead of looking up the results on charts, the hit counters make it very easy to see just what has happened to the unit.  This mechanic is simple yet brilliant.   The only way to get rid of these penalties is to rally on your next turn which costs a crappy 5 (out of 7) Action Points.  Right. OUCH.
German Grenadier flanks the Soviet MMG
Finally, we can see that the Germans begin to close in on the stone buildings! A furious firefight erupts...
...and the Soviet rifle unit is eliminated!  The scenario calls for BOTH Soviet-controlled hexes to be taken by the end of the 5th round so the Germans are one step closer to victory by this point!
The 3rd Grenadier unit makes haste and lends a helping hand. It's gonna be a close one!
the end is near for the Soviets.
The Soviet SMG is taken out and after taking some lethal firepower, the 2nd Rifle unit is panicked!  As you can see, they MUST roll an 8 or higher to rally and get rid of that hit marker.
...With no Action Points remaining on the last round of the scenario, the Soviets are out of luck and the Germans win with only 1 casualty!  The objective is complete and victory is acheived!
the state of things at the end of the game!
You can see that the Soviets only had 2 Victory points against the Germans who ended up with 6.  In a two player game, each person would be using one of these sheets to keep track of their victory points, as well as Command and Action Points.
All in all, I LOVE the design of this game.  The chits and the boards are all thick and have a GORGEOUS linen finish to them.  The rules are broken up incrementally so you can learn a bit of the system and implement it in a scenario before moving on.  This makes it WAY less intimidating than having to learn something like Advanced Squad Leader (which I've always wanted to try but was really put off by it's extra heavy rulebook).

Also, the combat becomes very tactical and pulse-pounding as each side tries to achieve their victory conditions before the end of the game.  There's very little downtime since the enemy can ALWAYS react to a given action.  The challenge really comes down to knowing WHEN to activate a unit and spending your precious Command Points are crucial to staying in the fight!

A downside to the game is the price (about $65 on Amazon) but the components, and all the scenarios are well worth it.  Oh, i almost forgot to mention that the game also comes with cards which also adds to the infinite replayability of the game. This will definitely see alot of table time with me and I'm really looking forward to getting my gaming buddies into it as well!

Happy gaming, folks!

For more information on Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel!, visit Academy Games.

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