Reviews written by Schweig!
Although this game is maybe the most elaborate and innovative war game in recent years, it has issues.
The game is frustrating because sometimes (or when you're unlucky; all the time) your squads can neither shoot nor fire. Some people argue that this is realistic, - I don't have any combat experience to dis-/prove this point, but from my understanding an elite unit accompanied by a competent leader should be able to move when there's no enemy unit in sight. The same goes for a MG in a prepared defensive position which should be able to fire at advancing units when manned by an attentive crew and when the gun is neither jammed, unloaded nor otherwise restricted in its functionality.
Defensive positions are almost impenetrable. As opposed to other games, satchel charges, panzerfaust rockets and even artillery strikes leave houses or pillboxes unscratched. This is obviously taken from CC:E's influence game Up Front, however in Up Front it is possible to flank every position. Furthermore preparing units for close combat against defenders in these fortifications is a pain in the arse, because you need a good set of "Advance", "Fire" and "Movement" cards, which is very hard to build. And don't get me started on melee combat.
Furthermore you only lose units through bad luck. You can have a unit fired at by an enemy flame-thrower and this is no problem when you have a "Recover"-card at hand.
The system is also very gamey. Firing at units without any chance of success, just to use up cards and "advance in time", is a plausible tactic, as is blatantly ignoring one's objective to move units past the enemy.
The many possible random events spice up the game, but some are just illogical in some situations.
The game is a really neat design, but it fails to simulate combat in WWII, when compared to Squad Leader for example. Compared to this old shoe, it's also only slightly more fun. Another war might really fit better, I thought about WWI trench warfare, but this in not relevant to this comment.
This rating is very subjective and displays the disappointment I had missing this game's supposed greatness.
I might want to try Combat Commander: Pacific though, if it contains some rule changes or a different composition of the card decks.
The game neatly encourages story telling. The following may sound strange, but because the game forces you to spin stories about the craziest events, the conversations appear less forced (when compared to serious story telling games for example). The game really relies on its players, so play it with boring/austere people and it will suck. It isn't much of a surprise that this game is loved by Italians or French and is hated by my fellow Germans (fortunately not including my friends).
This is a simple, innovative and fun game. Definitely the best game of last year's Essen (barring Napoleon's Triumph maybe) and at least in my eyes this should have won the "Spiel des Jahres" award since it fits all its criteria. Must have been the SdJ jury's bias towards German games, or maybe their bias towards boredom as was displayed in the 2007 nominations. Who knows ...
I don't want to drop many words on the game play, since everyone should experience this for themselves. I hope North America will have this game easily available soon. Have fun!
Nevertheless judging from game play alone, I shouldn't even title this as an euro. It's definitely Ameritrash, if not Czechtrash (of course meant in the absolutely best way).
First off I think all four games published by AH in their Area Impulse series are great. Many people try to rank these games, usually with "Turning Point: Stalingrad" (TP:S from here on) or "Thunder at Cassino" (TaC) coming in last. However, each game is quite unique in itself, so comparing them directly is really buttocks.
The core of the Area Impulse games consists of players alternating in taking an impulse, i.e. fire or movement with any units starting in one area. After these units have taken their action, they are flipped over to the 'spent' side, which usually has a lower defense value making 'spent' units easier targets. That's simple, but players should still carefully plot their moves to avoid units getting smashed in an immediate counterattack.
The advantages of the Area Impulse system are, that combat is simple, because you only take two numbers, add a couple of modifiers (no more than five) and roll four dice (two per player). Furthermore the alternation of player actions reduce downtime and create a very dynamic and realistic play and battle progress. An added bonus is that the map having no hexes and being quite vivid, which might attract casual wargamers.
After "Storm over Arnhem" (SoA) and TaC which featured combat on a bigger tactical scale, it is unique for TP:S and later "Breakout: Normandy" (B:N) to depict a whole battle on an operational scale. Personally I think the Area Impulse system work best on a tactical scale, but nevertheless TP:S works well, too. The second unique aspect of TP:S is that units remain 'spent' for more turn, depending on their combat performance. Results vary from overrun (0 turns delay) to disastrously repulsed attack (4 turns delay). The randomly determined length of day and night was also revolutionized here.
TP:S also has a slightly above standard amount of chrome rules, for example German and Soviet artillery are resolved completely differently and Soviet reinforcements have to cross the Volga first which is more difficult if the Germans occupy observation points across the city or at the shore.
My two points of critique are that firstly the Soviet have to play really good to NOT lose the game after the first week, because if the Germans do as well as they did historically they'll win too soon. The Germans are more powerful than the Soviets on the first week of the campaign, but taking just the Southern part of Stalingrad and tearing a few holes in the Soviet Northern defense line shouldn't win them the game. Secondly the game plays for a long time and is very hard to be finished in one sitting, which in my opinion wasn't what the Area Impulse system was intended for. (The inventor of the system only created the first two games: SoA and TaC.)
Another word on the expansion counter sheet. Even including the extra counters shouldn't take the game to NOT be resolved after three weeks, which is the same period of time the base game covers. Wasting more than $10 on a sheet of cardboard is therefore ridiculous.
Rating: 4 (Good), Recommended
I didn't watch the movie because I thought it was fascist propaganda. But that doesn't matter since I'm rating the game here. This is a simple wargame which is definitely luck heavy. However, it is also very thematic and this makes the game shine. Personally I would prefer historical artwork instead of bare breasted Spartans fighting in thongs, but the game is so much more fun when speaking and visualizing the movie quotes while playing a card. If every eurogame out there was replaced by a games base on an action movie, I think the board gaming world would be a better place.