Sunday, 13 December 2015

Iron Cross WW2 rules first playthrough

As promised here's my thoughts on the rules after my first solo play through. I set up a 4'x4' table as shown below, the hedges I used as bocage. (Sorry about the poor quality of the pictures I couldn't find the lead to charge my camera.)

A crossroads somewhere in Normandy

I grabbed what 15mm figures I could find and made two 500pt forces. The Americans (shown below) had 3 Sherman 76mm, 2 M10 tank destroyers, an M20 scout car, a mortar, an MMG and 6 infantry units 3 of which had bazookas.

The U.S. forces

The Germans (below) had 2 Panthers, a Pz IV, a Stug IV, 2 Pak 40s, a nebelwerfer used as a mortar and 4 infantry squads.

The German force

I'm not going to do a full AAR as that wasn't the point of the exercise. My aim was to try out the rules and see what happened.

I didn't use any of the supplied scenarios but set up was straightforward. The game uses activation tokens as its main resource, activating a unit to move or react to an enemy move costs you one token. You start the game with one token for each unit plus one extra from your command unit. In this game the US had 15 tokens while the Germans had 12 tokens. I was a bit worried that this activating and reactivating wouldn't work too well solo but I was wrong. The US won the initiative and after I'd activated a few units I was starting to look at how many tokens I had left and how many the Germans still had and decided to pass the initiative over to the Germans while I had enough tokens left to react if needed. Also this allowed the US to see what the Germans were going to do and maybe adjust their plan accordingly when they got the initiative back. This planning your tactics and deciding when to react and when to pass the initiative over is the main part of the game and is great fun even solo.

In the Meeples & Miniatures podcast the authors commented that taking a force just comprised of a few Tigers or Panthers although it seems powerful is a bad idea. I wasn't so sure about this and nearly took five Panthers (100pts each) as the German force. However after a few activations I understood what they meant. Obviously as you activate and reactivate models you have fewer & fewer tokens left. The US with 15 tokens could do a lot of things but if I'd taken all Panthers I'd only have had 6 tokens to start with and would soon run out meaning the US could activate without fear as the Germans would be unable to react allowing the tank destroyers or Shermans to push forward and go for shots on the flank/rear unopposed. But that's not the only reason. If you have enemy infantry within 12" you're penalised when firing (maybe because your commander is buttoned up reducing visibility), unless you have your own infantry within 12" as well. So you need infantry support for your tanks which I thought was a nice touch.

I'd didn't find the lack of artillery a problem as I had mortars for indirect fire. Also one of the scenarios allows a preliminary bombardment which inflicts morale markers to weaken the enemy before your attack. I didn't miss air support either, obviously the airfields were shrouded in fog or the planes were tasked elsewhere. I didn't use smoke as I never really felt the need for it as I had plenty of cover on the table.

(What follows is mainly what I felt was wrong with the rules. This doesn't mean I don't like the rules or that they're bad. Quite the opposite I think they're excellent but with some problems that should have come up in play testing and been fixed. It looks like when they were streamlining the rules they went a little too far in places. None of the problems I encountered were game breaking or even difficult to fix. But may cause problems for inexperienced gamers.)

I did start to hit problems as the game progressed. The first was with line of sight. There is no mention of how you deal with LoS anywhere in the rules. Now in most cases this isn't a problem as you can reasonably say that units behind buildings or bocage are obviously out of sight. But then we get to woods, do they allow clear LoS as you can see through them on the table or do they block LoS completely. If you have a unit in a wood can it shoot out and be shot at in return? None of these things are that difficult for a pair of friends who are experienced gamers to agree on before the game. But these rules with their simplified approach while still having good tactical depth would be an excellent starter set for new players and I think they would struggle to know what to do. This isn't a big fix, a few lines could quickly clear this up and I'm surprised it hasn't been included.

My next problem follows on from this and relates to buildings. There are no rules for buildings in the game. A few activations in I wanted a few units of infantry to enter the church but I couldn't find how you do this. After a bit of thought I decided that taking an action to enter a building (units have two actions they can use each activation) would be reasonable. After the game as I was checking a few things in the rulebook I noticed that buildings were mentioned in the movement section as being counted as rough going, that is the same as a hedge or area of rubble.
Looking at how rough ground affects movement I saw that it has no effect on infantry. Fair enough the game is a bit abstracted in certain areas and I can live with that. Except looking at how rough ground affects vehicles the rule doesn't work. For example scout cars can pass through rough ground if they roll a 2 or better on a D6. I'm sorry there's no way a little scout car can enter one side of a terraced house and easily pass out the other side. An intact house is very different from a hedge or area of rubble. Again this is a reasonably easy fix and one wonders why it wasn't picked up in playtesting.

But that's not the only problem with buildings and here we go back to the lack of LoS rules. Lets say my US infantry enter the rear of the church and I have a Pz IV in the field on the other side of the church. Can the Pz IV react to the infantry moving into the church and shoot them, does it see them? Yet again this is an easy fix and I can't see how this didn't come up in playtesting.

The last problem I have with the rules is how certain things are explained. I'll give you a couple of examples.

One of the rules for mortars says that you get a +1 bonus to hit as long as some part of the target hasn't moved more than 4" from where it was first targeted. This seems straightforward, it's 8+ to hit the first time and as long as part of the target is within 4" of it's original position the next time that turn you shoot at it it's a 7+ and then a 6+ etc. Except the rule goes on to explain this by saying "This means that a player cannot activate the target unit, shuffle sideways 5" and then claim its not in the target area." Now I'm not very good at maths but I think that 5" is more than 4" so it is outside the target area. This could be a typo but it might not be, it might mean something else that I'm missing.

Another example is with Reactivation. The rule says the reacting player has to say what his reaction is and pay the token cost 'before any dice have been rolled'. So what happens if the first player then fails his activation, does the reacting player still lose his token for reacting even though he has nothing now to react to. I decided that if the player fails his roll the activation didn't happen so there is nothing to react too. This maybe what was intended I have no idea.

There's other areas where things aren't as clear as they could be but these rules aren't alone in that respect.

The only other thing I would say is that these are not 'fast play' rules. Both of you will spend ages each turn deciding on what to activate and whether to react or not. Especially with games where you may have 30 or 40 tokens each like at 1000pts. You could get round this by setting a time limit for each turn and using a chess clock app on your mobile.

Overall I like the rules despite the problems I mentioned. I spent most of my time during the game working out which units to activate and whether it was worth spending a token to react to a move or not. Should I risk it and try push forward multiple times with a unit and hope I made the activation rolls and not waste limited tokens or not. In other words I was thinking about tactics not rules which is the overriding strong point for these rules. I'll be using them again now I've got my 'house rules' sorted for the things I mentioned and I expect to have lots of fun doing so.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for your excellent review of these rules I was thinking about buying. For me the absent LOS rules are a show-stopper. There is nothing I hate more than the absence of basic concealment rules. As you say, we're talking a few lines of text! Very disappointing.

    Likewise the building rules.

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  2. I, too, would like to thank you for the walk through, appreciate it Ferb.

    V/R,
    Jack

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  3. Thanks for your insight into these rules. It would be interesting to hear how the "feel" of these rules compares to Flames of War, as it would be really useful to have some alternate uses for my 15mm WW2 FoW kit. Also, any views on whether they could be modified for more modern conflicts. I'll wish for the winning lottery numbers for next week while I'm at it, LOL.

    Cheers, Andy

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    1. I'll see what I can do Andy.
      First off it's not even close to being a tournament game like FoW. It's a game to be played with friends who can sort things out when a rules query arises like with LoS.
      Next I don't think the emphasis on finding a 'killer' list is there because the game is more about resource management and actual tactics than understanding the quirks of the rule system to make the most of your force.
      But for me the biggest difference is that even after only one game I was thinking about how best to use my units and when to activate which unit, when to push things with multiple activations and when to react to my opponent (all in the same turn) than trying to remember a bunch of rules and work out what I could and couldn't do. (no need for complex flowcharts with thses rules).

      Hope this answers your questions.(Sorry if this is a bit of a ramble but I'm writing this at 2 am and half asleep)

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    2. As for a modern version of the rules. The basic bones of the rules would work but with things like anti tank missiles and helicopters etc I think you would struggle.

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    3. Thanks Ferb, very useful and a special thanks for the 2am posting. I'll have a look at the forum and maybe try and catch a look through the rulebook at the next shows coming up in the New Year. Some of the mechanisms sound similar to Battlegroup, which I'm quite enjoying and makes for a good alternative to FoW. Everyone is pretty busy with Team Yankee at the moment, so later in the New Year would be good timing to talk about alternative WW2 rules.

      Thanks again and have a great Christmas.

      Cheers, Andy

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  4. Hello, thanks, I have been looking for a set of rules like this for some tie.
    Due to your comments I have bought the rules.
    Have you thought of putting your concerns on their forum ?

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    1. I have posted on their forum but had no reply yet.

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  5. I asked on the Great Escape Forum about LOS rules and in particular Woods. Stuart replied "You know when, in a game, a player says "I'm going to move into the woods but stay far enough back so you can't see me", or, "I'm going to move to the edge of the wall so that I can fire at your guys"? That's the approach we take."

    "If two enemy are within a section of wood then they can see each other. Obviously apply a scenario rule if you have a gigantic wood!"

    I suggest you join the forum and ask the questions and Stuart will reply.

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    1. Thanks for the update, I saw that post myself. I'm already a member there and posted my comments a couple of weeks ago before there was a dedicated Iron Cross board. The problems I mention are easy to solve and I've house ruled everything I need. To me the only issue is that each turn takes a long time even if you limit 'reacting' time.

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  6. The reaction fire question you had. You only react once a player has activated and stated his intention. You do not have to say anything if he has not reactivated yet.

    When you react you then state what you are doing and roll but not before the other players activation or reactivation. In other words if a player doesn't do anything to react to you do not need to declare anything.

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  7. Re the shuffling 5" to the side thing, maybe be what it's trying to say is, if a unit shuffles 5" to the left, the rightmost bit will still be within 4" of there the leftmost bit started (since the entire unit is presumably wider than 1").

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    1. Could be, but it still could have been explained better.

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  8. Thanks for both the review and the AAR - it helped me decide whether to buy ......... My copy came today :-)

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    1. Glad you found it useful :-)

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