Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nuts! Don't Miss This Review!

I really enjoy WWII games.  Back in High School a friend of mine introduced me to Advanced Squad Leader.  Despite a learning curve that rivaled a post graduate degree in supply chain management, I got hooked.  In the early 90s, Steel Panthers and other games by SSI continued to excite me.  So it is strange that when I started looking to table top war games I didn't hone in on WWII.  I only recently picked up FoW.  But I've been wanting to do something in 28mm.  I have it on good authority that there aren't many satisfying 28mm WWII rules.

Enter Nuts! by Two Hour Wargames.  Doing WWII at a skirmish level is what I wanted, just taking a platoon or so.  (Flames of War is my game for company level action.)  I read the website, liked what was described, thought that this rules set might be the thing for me.  Interestingly enough, the game can be played traditionally in a head-to-head game, or as co-op or solo play.  In fact, the rules are geared toward co-op/solo.  So that sold me the rules.  I got the PDF file as soon as I sent payment, and the printed rule book arrived in a few days.  Here are my impressions and a short battle report.  Don't miss the report!

The rules are unlike anything I've seen before.  The core difference in Nuts! is in the use of the Reaction System.  I was not ready for that when I opened the rulebook.  Turns out, you can get a couple of free rules sets that will give you a working game that is focused on this Reaction System.  Basically it works like this:

  • I activate and move into your LoS
  • You see me and react
  • I will react, and we could end up shooting at each other, running away, freezing in place, etc.
  • Our reactions will cause further reactions, sometimes from figures nearby.
  • Things continue until something happens to end the chain reactions (death, duck into cover, etc)
At first this is really hard to understand.  The list I gave above is an example of what it looks like.  I've played through a few times and found that reactions go in lots of directions, dragging in nearby models and creating a very fluid "turn."  In fact, I'm really hard pressed to find where turns begin and end.

Overall it's a very cinematic feel.  You have a leader who is your "star".  The star can have attributes that help or hinder him in some way.  He's your Hollywood warrior, able to shrug off wounds that hurt lesser men.  But he's not a hackneyed Sgt Rock.  Despite being immune to death from lowly grunts, he still hunkers behind a wall in fear of getting his head blown off.  He is still a real man, worried about his life.  In fact, the high point of this game is that all your modes are real guys, so to speak.

Each model has a reputation rating (Rep), that drive just about everything from how he reacts to how he shoots.  At first, I was confused but after a couple of run-throughs of the game it's a lot clearer.  In fact, the rep is a very realistic portrayal of how a raw recruit might react under fire versus the battle hardened vet on his third campaign.

A battle report of the introductory scenario will help show things a little better.  After that, I'll sum up what I like and dislike about the game so far.

First thing, I don't own any WWII figures.  But have no fear!  Thanks to Hing Fat Toy Company I now have full squads of Americans, Germans, British, and Japanese, all ready for the gaming table!  Too bad they're 54mm figures.  I'll keep using these until I can buy suitable replacements.

JUNE 1944  You're in command of a small group of paratroopers in France.  Your unit has been dispersed all over the drop zone and is currently reforming.  Right now it's just you and three others.  Your major concern is to make it to the rally point.  You are now coming up onto a ruined house.  The squad crosses a road, filtering into the trees beyond.  The ruined house is partially surrounded by a low stone wall.  Woods are beside it.  Two Germans are spotted standing outside, one sitting on the wall and the other leaning in the doorway of the ruins.  Your men fan out, drop into a crouch as they take up positions at the edge of the treeline.  Time to give Gerry hell!

So that's some writing from the book with my own additions.  Enough with the Stephen Ambrose imitations!  Here's turn one:
My turn has activation (like priority in LotR).  This has an added twist in that you can only activate models whose rep equals or exceeds what you rolled for activation.  So rolling low is best, as it allows you to move all models. This reflects hesitancy that a recruit would feel moving into fire.  But since you can group up with a hi rep leader, it's not a problem.
Yes, that's paper cut out terrain.  Don't laugh!  I have no reason to own terrain (other than that niffty GW battle mat) and this actually looked pretty good in person.  So as I was saying, both Dorfman on the wall and Engles in the door see me.  They react by taking quick shots, which elicits return fire from the men being shot at and those within 4" of them.  These shots fly back and forth with little effect due to cover and snap shooting.  But the US Sgt (my star) puts his SMG to good use and kills Dorfman and forces Engles to retire, meaning he runs for safer cover.  The shooting now reveals the location of other German troops.  I roll on the chart provided with the mission and find that the German leader, Arnold, and machine gunner Beck and his loader Conrad are holed up in the ruins.  So this won't be an easy fight to dislodge them!

It's turn two.  Germans win the activation roll, but scored a five. The highest Rep is a 4, so they do nothing.  They are surprised to suddenly come under withering fire and can't react!  Engles is running and Dorfman is screaming for his mother.  (Dorfman was not killed, but taken out of the fight.  That means if a medic can reach him, he might be saved.  It also has implications for campaign play.  If the US catches him, they can kill him or take him prisoner. They'll have to guard him, if the want to do that.  I digress!)
Notice Engles behind that piece of card (which represents trees).  He's hunkered down, meaning I don't see him.  I could remove him and put a marker in his place.  But I face him away to show that status.  Now the US activates, and they had a roll of 2 which is way under the Sgt's rep of 5.  So they start shooting like nuts.  The LMG gunner is actually killed.  Anyone around him of equal or lower rep takes a "man down test" to see if they'll move to safer cover.  Arnold doesn't need to test, and Conrad merely wipes Beck's brains off his face and pulls out his own rifle.  Too bad for that, because Private Baker kills him as well.  Let me tell you this was fantastic shooting by the US.  In my first games, I literally rolled reaction tests for 20 minutes with nothing happening.  (That's something I'm going to fix with a house rule for sure!)  Since no one can see Engles peeing himself in the woods, the turn ends.

Turn three and the German position is crumbling.  The US paratroopers are sensibly remaining in cover, making them hard to hit with the unsteady and panicked return fire from the Germans.  The Germans activate first.  Since these are NPCs, I roll a focus test to see what they will pick for targets.  Arnold may not be the bravest Nazi, but he knows what has to be done.  He has an SMG and good chances to force back some of the US trooper facing him.  He sprays three shots into the trees, forcing Private Able to retire.  But return fire from the US Sgt takes Arnold out of the fight, toppling back into the ruins with a gurgled scream.  The next German group to activate is poor Engles.  He becomes more frightened, decides the trees are not enough protection and makes for the ruins.  Since he is still considered "hunkered down" the US doesn't see him thread his way back to the ruins.

It's now time for the US to activate.  Private Able rallys and the Sgt gives the order to run for the wall.  They're going to storm the ruins and clear it out for sure.  Private Baker readies a grenade (by passing a test) and can throw it when in range.  The US paratroopers line up on the wall, Private Baker hauls back and throws it perfectly.  They now see Engles whimpering inside, balled up like a kid who lost his security blanket.
The ruins aren't enough to ward off a grenade.  A cloud of dust and debris belches from the small house and then all is silent.  Engles is taken out of the fight (maybe he's barely alive, deaf and dazed under the rubble), and so the area is cleared.  Victory for the US!  Now to get to that rally point!

So, Nuts! is a fun game.  What I like is the cinematic feel, the individuality of the models, and the fluidity of the fights.  What I don't like is throwing dice for every damn thing all the damn time.  Maybe it's because I'm playing solo, but there are so many tests to take, I'm always rolling dice.

There's also vehicle rules and rules for artillery guns. On the THW Yahoo group you can download rules for mortar fire (which seems a glaring omission from these rules) and for artillery barrages.  The game is definitely meant to be played with a platoon at most.  If I played this at the platoon level solo, there's no way I could do it in two hours!  All those reaction tests followed by reaction tests!  But for a few squads this is really a great game.  It takes some getting used to the reaction system.  But it's starting to clear up for me.  I'll test out the vehicle rules next, using some of my 15mm FoW stuff for that.

Overall, I think Nuts! is a great game with a lot of potential for story and campaign based gaming.  I'll keep you posted on where I go with it next.

1 comment:

Da Green Skins said...

Sounds like a fun game. Maybe after we play our LotRs game we can give it a run.