Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fireball Forward! - Brecourt Manor

After a long period of inactivity, and to christen the newly revamped gaming area with an actual game, Leo came over last night to push some figs around and teach me Fireball Forward!. It was just the two of us, but having seen some games of FbF at conventions recently and liking the look of it, I was anxious to try it out. Leo has played it a number of times and has recommended it highly. So the purpose of the evening was to just work through the rules for my benefit.

"Day of Days" - Brecourt Manor
FbF has its roots in the old Avalon Hill Squad Leader board game from days of yore. Being one of the earliest games I remember playing (and loving), this gave points for sentimentality going in. The rules are written in the same "programmed instruction" manner as SL. Read the basic rules and play scenario #1 (Brecourt Manor). Add a few more pages of rules on terrain and snipers and play scenario #2 (Pouppeville). Add rules on tanks and play scenario #3 (Tank Attack at La Fiere). And so on...

Last night's exercise was to play Brecourt Manor so that I could get the basics down. The scenario (for which I had built a custom terrain board of trenches and gun emplacements...just because...) is the historical event that was the main battle scene in episode 2 of Band of Brothers ("Day of Days"). Elements of Easy company paratroopers attack a fortified German artillery battery that was shelling the American troops on Utah Beach on D-Day. The picture shows the German set up with the guns in their emplacements, firing on the beaches to the north (right of photo). The paratroops enter from the west (top of photo) and need to silence the guns as quickly as possible.

I won't go into detail on the two games of this we played, but as the Americans I failed both times to capture the guns quickly enough to prevent the Germans from accumulating enough victory points to claim a win. But the important thing is that I feel like I have a decent grasp of the basic rules and have begun to see some of the nuances of this particular rules system.

In general, I have a very favorable impression of the rules and am anxious to play again, getting further into the rules as we go (at the top of the photo you can see the edge of the scenario 2 battlefield which is set up and waiting). The basic game mechanics are similar to Squad Leader in the sense that a unit which fails one morale check breaks. A broken unit that fails a morale check dies. Events can cause multiple morale checks, therefore killing a unit if more than one morale failure is rolled. The card driven random activation keeps things interesting from a sequencing perspective, and will make the scenarios play differently based on the luck of the draw. The basic mechanics are simple enough, but there are plenty of decisions to be made as units and individual elements activate, keeping the suspense level high. The one aspect of the game that we were not able to take advantage of is that the game is ideally suited to having a referee. There are spotting and hidden unit considerations that are impossible to do optimally with two players and no ref. That being said, some basic common sense and good sportsmanship get around those limitations fairly easily. For our next game, we will be using hidden unit markers and dummies to attempt to add some of the fog of war back into the game in the absence of a referee. I'm sure it will work fine.

It's nice to be playing WW2 again...

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