Sunday, April 21, 2013

Russians Hit the Table!

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.

So that wraps up Attention Deficit Theater for this weekend. I'll be involved in more sacrilegious gaming activities in the near future. I've got a Savage Worlds WW2 co-op game I'm playing with my son (on and off, at least). After that, I'll probably be on to some board games and then maybe back to Infinity.  Right now I've got some 15mm WW2 stuff on the painting table. I sure hope you can keep up with me.


Drunken Samurai said...

No I can't keep up with you! Interesting review. Always nice to know I made the right decision by not buying a game!

Tim Kulinski said...

Hmm, honest review, so have you given up on Bolt Action already?

Jerry said...

@DS: So I can't interest you in a discounted rule book? Yeah, you're definitely better off not buying this on.

@Tim: I haven't given up on Bolt Action. I like that game. I wanted to try something different. Bolt Action scales up in size, but I don't think it scales down very well, at least not to a squad level. I was hoping Point Blank could fill that gap for me., but no dice this time.

James said...

Interesting review, and the exact opposite of what my gaming group found. We were not at all happy with BA's generic beer and pretzels style, and found DHPB to be a step up.

The suppression mechanic works -- yes, you can remove it fairly easily (provided you hadn't been pinned by multiple units), by doing nothing of falling back, which works to your opponent's advantage. Perhaps another look is in order -- standing in front of a machine killed two in my squad, and scattered the rest via suppression. Cheers!

Jerry said...

Hi James, I had to go back and re-read what I wrote as it has been a long while since I played this. I did try this game again and I will say that you absolutely need to have a real scenario and objective. We were playing a standard "kill 'em all" situation and that's dull under these rules. Objectives that have to be taken and/or held would make a huge difference.

In my second game, I found it really advantageous to just keep activating my MG42 over and over. It puts out crazy shots and dominates like nothing else. So unlike the first time I played, I thought the second time the MG was too powerful. Ha! I guess there's no pleasing me!

I never sold these rules after all. The more I look at them, the more I think I should give them another spin. Thus far, not much else works for squad level modern combat. Now you have me thinking of trying this again. Maybe it'll be what I need to get out of my recent gaming funk.

Thanks for the comments!

James said...


Glad to be of service! ;-)

I do hope they work out, and help get you out of your gaming funk. No rule set is perfect, but we've found this one to be enjoyable; take a look at the optional rules towards the back of the book. There are some house rules posted on the Yahoo site, which we will be looking at concerning activations and running fire teams that are not always dependent on the squad's leader (Sgt.).

MGs are immensely powerful -- you don't want to get caught in front of one (trust me). I agree that scenarios and objectives help to keep the play and action more realistic. They focus the play and "keep" players from reactivating units too many times, ala powergaming.

All the best,