Friday, September 19, 2008

Conflict of Heroes - First Thoughts

I got in a quick solitaire play of the first scenario in Conflict of Heroes, and here are my first impressions:

1) Components - I've mentioned this before, but I'll do so again. The box seems a bit flimsy for the weight of all of these components, but at the same time so do games like World of Warcraft, Devil's Cauldron, and Case Blue. Still, a slightly heavier box would have been nice - this is not a game that will go under other games on a stack. 

The boards are pretty heavy, but lay flat nicely. Only five of them in the box, although they are geomorphic so can create a large number of possible maps. Terrain is pretty clear in all cases - the rule is that if the terrain surrounds the LOS dot in the hex, that's the kind of terrain it is. It doesn't always work for roads, which isn't stated, but for anyone who's ever played a game with terrain issues it makes sense. 

Counters are large, thick, and have a linen finish, a la most Phalanx games presentations. Only nit so far - the combat chits are just as big and have unit modifier values on them, so making them smaller so that they would fit in the middle of the unit counter would have been really nice. However, stacking would have been a bit of an issue, although you rarely want to stack - the combat penalties are not good (your enemy gets one shot at each unit in a hex, multiplying his firepower). Counter mix is limited, but no clipping is required - you can get into the game in about 15 minutes if you're familiar with wargame concepts.

Paper is pretty thin and flimsy in all cases - cards, rulebook, player aids. Rulebook came with the pages out of order. You'll want to sleeve the cards for sure, maybe the player aids as well.

2) System - No buckets of dice here. Each player takes turns taking actions, which is rather weakly defined in the rules, and I can see novice players getting confused. Basically, you can activate a single unit to use it's own Activation Points (each gets seven in an impulse), and each action the unit takes costs APs as defined on the counter. You can augment this with Command Points, or take an Opportunity Action with an unused unit, or play an action card. Each time you take an "action" (meaning you use APs to do one thing with the unit activated, or if you use CPs, or an OP, or play a card separate from any of the above), your opponent gets the chance to react using CPs, an OP, or play a card of their own. It's a little difficult to grok until you see it in action, then it's very clear. I just wish they'd taken the time to clarify the terminology, but they certainly aren't alone in this respect. 

Despite the development shortcomings, it's really a fairly elegant system. Moving or firing costs a certain number of AP, but you can use your CP to supplement it, so a unit could potentially has more than 10 or even 15 AP/CP spent on it in a single impulse. Of course, saving your CP is a good idea for several reasons, the main one being that you can use the CP to use a unit that has been used for the turn already. OPs let you do something with an extra unit in an impulse, or react with a unit during the other player's impulse. However, when you do so that unit becomes used for the turn, so it's a matter of timing over operational flexibility (because you'd probably be able to move that unit as well, or even fire multiple times). Since some units have a fire cost of only two AP, those units will take a little more agonizing to fire as an OP. 

I did not get a chance to see the cards in action, they were not in use in this scenario, which was quite small and really only suitable as an intro to the game.

Combat is also straightforward. You spend AP/CP/OP to fire the unit at a target, then add the firing units FirePower (FP) value to the roll of two d6. If you wish, you may spend up to two CP to modify the dieroll in your favor. You compare this result to the defender's Defense Value, which will change if you are hitting them from the side or from the rear, plus any terrain drms. If you meet or beat the defensive value, you get a hit. If you beat it by four, the unit takes two hits and is immediately destroyed. If a hit unit takes another hit, it's destroyed. If an unhit unit takes a hit, it draws a damage chit from a pool (different pools for armor and infantry), which will have a variety of results, from simply acting as a hit to crippling the unit or even killing it on a single hit. Units may rally (even as a reaction, although it costs 5 CP to do so), and the chit is removed if you roll that number or higher, modified if you're in cover. 

It's a pretty straightforward system, and while the dice may or may not go your way, at the same time the types of damage done, especially in larger scenarios that have many units, is more likely to even out statistically because there aren't all that many damage chits - something like 20 or so for the leg units. I just wish it was easier to see what the damage counters were doing - Combat Commander handles this in a more elegant way, plus the hexes are large enough to handle several units easily. Of course, CC doesn't have tanks (which I didn't get to).

There are also rules for facing, LOS, terrain, rally, close combat (which needs few extra rules - if a unit moves into CC, the defending unit can use CP or OP to fire first, and close combat is devastating). Now if my rulebook was in order, I could find all of these rules pretty quickly.

My scenario went by quickly, about 45 minutes to get through enough to try a few things and see what would work and what wouldn't. I haven't looked at the cards, but they take things like improved positions, smoke, artillery, that sort of thing into account. 

Compared to Tide of Iron, this game is definitely a winner. ToI was overly long, overly complicated, terrible rules, dumb rules (smoke was stupid). Compared to Combat Commander, this is a better wargame entry title, but I'm not sure at all if it's a better game. You can play with more than one player, however.

1 comment:

dave said...

I've been curious about this one. However, (1) Phalanx (as you said), (2) sticker shock, and (3) WW2 (meh). But I downloaded the rules earlier this week and it looks like a cool system. However, it remains a play-before-buy, so convince Chuck to buy it, k?