A number of weeks have transpired since my last entry. In that time, a few games have hit my table. Most notably, has been several scenarios of Chad Jensen's WWII tactical game, Fighting Formations.
This game focuses on the experience of the Gross Deutschland division on the Eastern Front.
Over a number of weeks, local gaming buddy Jono and I played the tutorial, Scenario 1 and Scenario 4. Here's a screenshot taken during Scenario 4, in which a German force comprising Pioneers and StugIIIs attempts to seize key objectives along a fortified Soviet defensive line:
As you can see from the above picture, the Soviets have a pretty formidable line, comprising pillboxes, entrenchments, mines and wire. Some remain unrevealed, represented by sighting markers. If the Germans enter their actual or adjacent hex, or score a hit on the hex, then these markers are revealed...possibly more of the above defences or a false sighting. The red rimmed hexagons show the location of key objective hexes.
The situation in the above picture is that German armour platoons are testing the Soviet defensive emplacements. They had been careful to reveal sighting markers from at least a 2-hex distance in case they were mines (which, on being revealed, can be placed in an adjacent hex - simulating a unit blundering into a minefield). Meanwhile, a Soviet fighter bomber has dealt some damage to pioneers working their way up the slope before the defensive line.
You can see a round Soviet command marker in the pillbox hex. As this is currently showing its '1' setting, it can activate units within its command radius (2 for the Sovs) for the cost of 1 initiative point per unit.
I'm not going to write a review of this game, but to make some general remarks about it....and why Jono and I decided, after playing 3 games, to put it aside.
Being fans of Combat Commander, we were well primed to enjoy this game - and indeed, were attracted by the opportunity to play a system including tanks and other types of vehicles. We were also attracted by the matrix system in the game, allowing cubes to be selected for various points of initiative cost, to issue different types of orders. One of my bug bears with Combat Commander is the degree to which you depend on the cards in your hand for even issuing simple orders such as Fire and Move. This can be very frustrating. So, the matrix system was a winner.
The sighting marker system is also great in Fighting Formations. Some can reveal hidden units (kept off-board) and their use give recce units far more importance. We really liked the use of chit pulls for dealing out damage as well (such as the orange and red chits in the above image). Thumbs up too for the system of command activation and the use of return fire and rate of fire rules. The use of asset cards is great too.
All of that was good and we liked the look of the game. Sadly though, what soured the game for us was a feeling that the system got in the way of game play. The biggest gripe was the degree of time required to handle all of the mechanics associated with multi-unit combat. It's very time consuming and you have to constantly be referencing the modes of fire and various drms affecting the choice of dice to be used for offensive and defensive fire. We had hoped for a more fluid gaming experience, but even into our 3rd game - and being more familiar with the rule-set and mechanics - the grind of working our way through various routines robbed us somewhat of actually enjoying the experience.
Even these larger than normal hexes can become very messy too, with lots of counters crammed or piled on to them. Some of the counters, esp vehicles, should have been smaller.
As a result, game play is usually quite slow and - in the heat of combat - can become tedious.
So, our hunt for a fun yet reasonable tactical simulation of WWII combined arms combat continues. The Band of Brothers series from Worthington Game is probably going to be our next try out.