Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Conflict of Heroes

I recently got excited and bought Conflict of Heroes Awakening the Bear - a game about the Eastern Front in WW2. I was hoping it was a heavier version of Memoir '44, which I love. Instead it's a lighter version of ASL, which is not so bad but not as good as I'd hoped.

I've only played ASL SK1, only Scenario 1 at that, but I'll try to compare them. The things that are missing from ASL include: leaders, the CRT, rules about carrying machine guns, counter exhaustion, and all of the fire phases. Leaders are abstracted away as Command Action Points - action points you can use to do whatever you want. The CRT is replaced by a random chit draw, and the chits remind me very much of the results from the CRT in ASL, but they say on them what the effect is rather than me having to remember. The fire phases are replaced by a very clever action-reaction system which I guess I'll have to describe.

The game takes place over a number of rounds - 5 in the first scenario. Each round consists of a number of player turns. On a player's turn he may activate up to 1 unit and receives 7 action points (APs) to use with that unit. APs can be used to move, fire, rally, whatever. Throughout his turn the player takes a number of actions which can be: expend APs (on the activated unit), expend CAPs (on any unit, even those which have run out of APs), play a card, or take an opportunity action. An opportunity action is where you take an unactivated unit and do one (any) action with it, and it loses its chance for activation later in the round. So to use an unactivated unit you have two options - use CAPs, which run out, or use an opportunity action which prevents activation later.

Anyway, after each of the player's actions, the opponent has a chance to take an action in response. As the opponent has no activated unit, he can't use APs, he can only use CAPs, cards, or opportunity actions. These moves are non-optimal use of resources, but sometimes necessary. For example, if it's your turn and you try to run your guys across a field in front of my machine gun, I will use CAPs to shoot at you. Or, if you turn your tank on my machine gun emplacement, I will use an opportunity action to move them into the forest out of your line of sight. If you can force me to use my CAPs and opportunity actions on defence, there'll be fewer action points I can use on offence.

When you choose to do no more actions on your turn, the turn marker passes to me and I can now do as many actions as I like, but again I can only activate one unit (to get APs) on my turn. Other units can be used, but they need to be powered by CAPs or OAs. We alternate taking turns until both of us in succession choose to use no action points on a turn - either because we're exhausted, or it's tactically wise. Then the next round starts, and all units get refreshed (so they can become activated again), we get our CAPs back, and we dice for initiative. Once you understand how it works it's pretty sweet.

The physical components of the game are very very nice. The map boards are like those from ASL except they're heavy enough to double as tank armour. The chits are chunky and attractive. The cards... OK, I don't like the artwork on the cards so much, but physically they're fine. The rule book is kinda big - don't try to read it on a crowded bus - but it gets its message across (caveat: I'm only up to the part where it says "now play scenario 2"). The box is a bit flimsy, and mine was damaged before it got to me. If only they'd taken lessons from the guys who made the C&C Ancients box.

In play (I've only played the first scenario) the game feels similar to ASL. Gun emplacements control a large space, so you need to avoid them. This provokes tactics like sneaking towards the objective under cover of forest so you can get to a position with a good view. Roads are not as powerful in CoH - roads are exactly equivalent to open fields as far as I can tell, so the ASL strategy of controlling the road is not as effective. I'll have to play more to get a better feel, but I'm sure with CoH I'll get to tanks much sooner than I ever will with ASL SK, because that will probably be never.

Overall, I'm quite impressed. I could still go for something a little simpler, but I do appreciate the strength of the simulation compared to the complexity of the rules. Memoir is a great game but it is practical for infantry to run across in front of a tank without being scared, and that's maybe not so realistic. Conflict of Heroes gives much of the ASL feel, with only a fraction of the complexity.

4 comments:

Iain said...

Good stuff. Let me know how you get on with further plays. I have played Squad Leader and really enjoyed it, but it was just a little too clunky for me. If this is just a bit more streamlined, I'll probably get it.

Have you played Combat Commander, Tide of Iron or Lock n Load?

Friendless said...

No Iain, I haven't played any of those. I've decided to trade away ASL SK1 because I can't imagine why I would play that in preference to CoH.

Gorilla Daddy said...

Hi, I'd like to play with you. I just read through page 8, and am ready to try the first firefight. My name is Palmer, and I live in Peru. We can play online, on a virtual gameboard, and talk via Skype simultaneously! We can use Zuntzu (www.zuntzu.com)

Friendless said...

Gorilla Daddy, I don't much like live play across the web - I don't tend to sit still for long periods when I'm at home. However I'm happy to play PBEM games. I don't know of a site that does CoH PBEM.