CONFLICT OF HEROS
Awakening the Bear
A boardgame by Uwe Eickert, available from Academy Games at www.conflictofheros.com
The time is 1941 and Operation Barbarossa has begun, the German Invasion of Russia. The German Army over runs vast amounts of Russian land and destroys staggering number of Russian troops. In these simulations you can take the part of the German Army on the offensive, or the Russian Army on the defensive. Conflict of Heroes is not your ordinary Squad Level wargame simulation. The game is based upon the Infantry tactics that were used in the early part of World War II. This game uses a system of Action Points and Command Action Points to facilitate Movement and Combat.
The game consists of five 15 by 19 inch geomorphic maps, which can be put together to represent the terrain of the Russian Front. There are 192 counters representing the units involved in these actions, from infantry squads to Armored Fighting Vehicles and stationary hazards such as bunkers, wire and land mines. There is a twelve-page rulebook, and a book containing ten firefights, mostly two-player. These components combine to make an enjoyable and intriguing game which will give hours of pleasure to the most ardent “grognard”.
The rulebook, is divided into six sections, each section introduces the player to more elements of the game. Section One introduces the player to the concepts of Action Points (AP) and Command Action Points (CAP). Each unit, upon activation is provided with seven Action Points. Each unit has a cost for open terrain movement printed on it, for each hex moved AP’s are subtracted. These action points are supplemented by CAP’s, which are a preset number detailed in the Firefight instructions. These CAP’s are common to all units under the player’s control. If you use a CAP or CAPs to supplement the action of a particular unit, there are that many fewer to be used by the rest of your units that turn. For a unit to move, fire and rally after being hit APs or CAPs must be expended, that cost is shown on the face of the counter. While this system may sound complicated the action flows without any undo bookkeeping.
APs, CAPs and Victory Points (VP) are tracked on a card provided the player.
There is also an optional rule which allows for the rolling of the dice to determine the number of Action Points a unit has at its disposal, this rule is mandatory in solo play. After a unit has exhausted its APs for the turn, it is turned over to the back side and is considered “used.” However, this unit through the use of CAPs it may fire upon an enemy unit, or take other actions. Section One also introduces the player to basic movement, terrain restrictions and other concepts needed to play the game. At the end of Section One, the player is directed to play Firefight One, so as to put the information gained thus far into practice before going deeper into the system.
Section Two introduces the use of the Action Cards, Group Movement and Fire and Hidden Units. The Action Cards are of three types: Green ACs give the player additional APs, CAPs or to take a specific action; Yellow Cards initiate Victory Point scoring, or events such as reinforcements coming into the game; Gray Cards represent additional weapons, such as Hand grenades, Molotov Cocktails and Off-Board Artillery that are
not represented on the counters. Group activities include the activation of a number of units at the same time. These units must be in the same hex or immediately adjacent hexes to group activate. This group activation is restricted in that the entire group must draw APs from a single pool. Group activation can provide the firepower to guarantee a hit on an enemy unit without expending CAPs to augment firepower. Group movements are based on the movement cost of the unit with the highest movement cost per hex. Hidden units are designated in the Firefight instructions. These units are not placed on the map, but are kept track of on a separate piece of paper until discovered. When the units are discovered by either taking an action or by the opposing unit stumbling into the same hex, they are placed on the map and play continues as normal. Here again, the player is encouraged to play Firefight Two and incorporate the new concepts introduced.
Section Three adds the concepts of Hills and Elevations and its effect on combat and movement. The concept of Blind spots is explained and Mortar Units, Off-Board Artillery and Smoke are introduced. Smoke also creates blind spots on the battlefield, effectively shielding units from being sighted and attacked by the enemy.
Section Four incorporates the use of Armor and Soft-skinned vehicles for Attack, defense and the Movement of troop units. Anti-Tank and Infantry Artillery units are added to the mixture of combat capable units. Armor units have two firepower ratings: the first rating (red) indicates the firepower against targets, such as infantry and trucks utilizing high-explosive rounds; the second firepower rating (blue) shows the use of armor-piercing shells against AFVs and other hard targets.
Section Five adds Fortifications to the mix, which includes Hasty defense, Barbed Wire, Land Mines, Trenches and Bunkers. A Hasty Defense is the digging in of an Infantry unit, whether preset by the scenario or through the use of an Action card. This condition will add a +1 to its defensive Die Roll Modifier. Trenches and Bunkers are constructed prior to the beginning of the game by placing a counter on the map representing the fortification. Barbed Wire is primarily an obstacle to the movement of foot and wheeled units. A foot unit must declare its intent to enter a wire hex and roll a die to determine its additional movement penalty for entering the hex. After entering the hex it must stop all movement that turn. Wheeled units entering a wire hex must stop movement and place an immobilized marker on the unit. Land Mines attack a unit when moving onto the mined hex; any units placed in the mined hex by the Firefight instructions are immune to the mines. To destroy Land Mines they must be attacked as normal by Pioneer or Engineer units. The attack factor plus any CAP’s added must equal the defense factor of the Land Mine to cause its destruction. Pioneer units are unaffected when entering into non-hidden mined hexes.
Section six has rules for three and four player games; Solitaire Play; and the Equalization of gameplay for a disparity between players. The last page of the rulebook has a breakdown of the counters and Action Cards.
The Firefight book consists of ten Firefights, the first five of which are used to introduce the concepts explained in the rules. Firefights Six and Nine are designed to be played by up to four players; all others are specifically designed for two players. At this time, Academy has issued Map number six, a Marshland map with two additional Firefights for two players.
The flow of the game is assisted and eased by the gradual introduction of the different elements of World War II warfare. Tactics are important, especially in the latter scenarios of the game. Game experience is rather easy to accumulate and the overall game play is smooth and flowing but difficult to master. Just as in real life tactics, headlong attacks (frontal attacks) are wasteful of your resources and cause undo casualties to your units. This is not a game for “bull in the china shop” strategy; tactics must be thought out and executed with finesse.
Most of the firefights that are included with the game are only 5 turns in length. Now you may feel that 5 turns doesn’t seem like a great amount of time to decide the outcome of a battle, but I can tell you that each of the firefights are resolved within that time frame because of the game mechanics. The Sequence of the Action Phase is such that it keeps the game flowing under all circumstances that I have encountered to date. The Action Phase consists of the following events:
- Unit Activation
- Opportunity Action
- Command Action
- Play an Action Card
After each of the actions by the active player, the reacting player may take an opportunity action, command action or play an action card but he cannot activate units as of yet. Once players have performed this sequence, alternating actions, for every unit in their firefight, they proceed to the next turn.
The decisions that you make during the course of the turn builds a tension and create a stress that makes you continuously examine your decisions on an ongoing basis during the turn. You are constantly keeping track of your Command Action Points and deciding when and where to use them wisely. You track the use of each units Action Points so you know how far to move and then fire, you decide when and where to allocate CAPs to assist in completing a units action. You watch your enemy and his defensive positions as you don’t want to use up your units prematurely and then have no options for counter attacking. You begin to think just like a field officer in taking control of a tactical situation and guiding your unit to seize its objective on the battlefield.
One of the most challenging firefights included with the game is based on a real battle that occurred during World War II. It has a lone KV2 Russian tank and some supporting infantry holding off a German Company. This battle is recreated in this game and is a challenge. I won’t say which side it is a challenge for as that could be giving away some of the tactics, but it is a firefight that will test your offensive and defensive strategy.
On their website, www.conflictofheros,com, Academy has provided a set of rules, which can be printed out on 8.5 by 11 inch paper. There are also some additional firefights, reduced size maps to be used for placing hidden units and plotting off-board artillery actions, as well as information about the follow-up game. Congratulations to Academy for further expanding the enjoyment of Conflict of Heroes, by having an online version of the game created allowing it to be downloaded from their website at no charge. This online version is based on the ZunTzu application which allows up to four people to play together while trying to master the subtleties of the game from the comfort of their own living room.
I found this game not only fun to play but very challenging because no Firefight plays out the same way twice! Although the forces and the objectives of the Firefight remain the same, the chance elements (Action Cards, CAP’s, AP’s and Die rolls) are never exactly the same. The command decisions taken by either player are not likely to be exactly the same in any given situation either. The nuances of play and the decisions you must make to fulfill the necessary victory conditions are what make this game exciting. After spending many, many hours enjoying this game I feel it should definitely be a leading contender for the honor of the Charlie Roberts Award of 2009.