My Russians, ostensibly painted for Bolt Action but useable for any WW2 game, made their debut on my game table Friday night. As you might guess from that introduction, I did not play Bolt Action. Nope, in typical ADD fashion I chose a different game to play. Oh the horror! Oh the deplorable lack of focus! Whatever.
I played Disposable Heroes: Point Blank. It's a squad level game based on the Disposable Heroes rules set from Iron Ivan Games. I read a lot of hype about this game, and the battle reports I reviewed were glowing. So I got a copy of the rulebook, looked it over, and organized a game.
We played a generic encounter, just two squads encountering each other in a small hamlet somewhere on the Eastern Front. I played Germans, and my opponent played the Russians. We took basic troops and a basic squad of NCO, LMG team, and 7 riflemen. Determining the list and points was a breeze, and we were playing in minutes.
The game mechanics are pretty slick, and you don't have to check a lot of different charts or memorize bizarre rules. A very interesting mechanic is the activation pool. You have a limited number of activations, and any soldier can be activated any number of times up to that max. Though you have 9-10 men, you only get your leader's "guts +1" in activations. So in our case there were always one or two guys who couldn't be activated each turn. Once activated, you get three actions, which could be three moves, three shots, wetting your pants, etc.
To make a long story short, we started activating men and moving around. The Germans were moving and firing, trying to stay together. The Russians were fanning out and relying on a few riflemen to keep the Germans at bay.
Very soon we realized models don't die easily.The game is a lot like Bolt Action, where there's a heavy focus on pinning. So most shots add suppression markers rather than kill. The trouble is, it is too easy to get rid of a suppression marker. This is really problematic when you have a bolt action rifle firing one shot. If the shot doesn't kill (1 in 10 chance) then basically nothing is going to happen. You can remove one suppression marker for every 3" you fall back, up to 9". So that single shot of suppression is nullified if I drop back 3". Big whoop.
So soon we began to realize that nothing gets suppressed for long either. We were literally pouring shots onto single models and nothing happened. The mechanics made all bad things go away, and no one could roll a one to kill anything. Imagine that?
Point Blank... I get it now. You can only kill things if you run up and bash them to death. Or there are blanks in the guns. Either way, the game turns out to be all about assaulting into close combat and shooting is just there to force soldiers to hunker down. I did some poking around online and have basically verified that to be the intent of the rules. So while that's cool, it's not what I was hoping for.
So we played two hours and basically moved our soliders back and forth. Getting suppressed, falling back, moving back up, getting suppressed, falling back, moving back up. I rolled a d10 to see if I died of boredom. We called it and just figured we had screwed up some key rule. However, we actually were fairly correct in most of what we did.
I think this game does a great job of modelling an assault into close combat. But unfortunately, in my opinion that's all you're ever going to be able to do. Every game would have to play that way, otherwise you're just wasting your time. There are modifications to make it more deadly, but then it either is not enough or the mods make things too deadly. So I think I'm going to pass on this one.
I would give a very guarded recommendation for this game. I was expecting some cool squad on squad action, moving into cover and sniping away at targets. But even soldiers sitting behind a fence about 3" away from a MG won't get hurt under theses rules. You've got to fix bayonets and charge, every time. Every game. Sounds repetitive. And we all know I can't stand repetition.
I did take some pictures of the game in progress, and the table looked nice and I enjoyed seeing both of my armies on the table. We basically shot at each other over the fence for two hours, and you can see that in the pictures. We tried some maneuvering, but coherency rules ruin that fun.