Bloody 110

This, from 1989, is the first of Dean Essig’s Tactical Combat Series (TCS). Units are platoons of infantry, mortar and machine gun sections, individual tanks and guns. Hexes are 125 yards and turns – during the day – are 20 minutes. The action covered is the role played by elements of the US 28th Infantry Division in holding up the German Bulge Offensive heading towards Bastogne.

I was getting sick and tired of looking at all the TCS games on my shelves that weren’t getting played because I repeatedly found the latest iteration of the system too much of a slog. (I like it when I read it, but not when I’m playing it.) I decided to start trying out some house rules/variants to see if I could cobble together stuff that worked for me.

I started with a quick run through the tank and infantry learning scenarios, and have now moved on to the 1st day battle scenario.

I have used and rejected several ideas, and while at times it is frustrating, it’s also a fun challenge. And when I think something is getting there…

Oh, and I also enjoyed – as a change from today’s multi-colored environment – going back to the old-style counter graphics. Quaint!

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Canadian Crucible

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Canadian Crucible is Larry Brien’s game in the Gamers’ Tactical Combat Series (TCS) about the Canadian defense of its D-Day objectives against the attacks led by units of the 12th SS Panzer Division. The scales are 125 yards per hex, turns of 20 minutes (longer at night) and mostly platoon sized units. The package has 1 map, 560 1/2″ counters, series rules, game rules, and a set of tables and charts.

Physically, the components are excellent save for two annoyances. On the plus side, the counters are gorgeous, the rules include a decent amount of notes and historical material, and the map looks good at first blush. On the down side, the map has a couple of areas that I do not like. The contour lines are clear enough, but each level is the same background color. I prefer where the levels are color coded, as I find that is a big help in visualizing Line of sight. (Line of sight is a major part of the rules you need to grasp to play the game passably well.) And, for some strange reason, the artist used two different symbols for the same terrain type – orchards. Given that you are supposed to use the actual terrain graphic for LOS, that’s a real puzzle. House rule time. And finally, some stupid bastard forgot to include minefield counters…

How does it play? Slowly. This is a rich rules system, complete with a fully working written orders command module that is crucial for the longer scenarios and the campaign games. But the actual movement and combat is no walk in the park. You have to deal with modes (fire and movement) different types of firers, different types of targets, different sequences of opportunity fire, different types of artillery barrage, morale, airpower, random events, and much, much, more. So, it’s hard going, but it can be worthwhile. I suspect it is slower solitaire because of the increased decision making you have to do for both sides, while trying to remain impartial. (Incidentally, sticking to the command rules is a help to the solitaire player.)

I have the first scenario on the table now, and have played it through to a conclusion three times. But I am persevering with it to try and sharpen my skills. Although I have played many of the earlier TCS games, I am not so familiar with the current rules set. Playing it is the only way to get the rules right, as there is so much detail lurking in the system.

The first scenario features dug in defenders trying to repel a larger force of attackers, through grit, determination, and a barrel load (ahem) of artillery. The Allied artillery is awesome to behold. The German artillery is largely missing here, unless changed by random event.

I am enjoying this because I like the system, the scale, and the feeling of chaos and authenticity the game delivers. A high level attack can fail, and a low odds attack can succeed. Elite troops can wither on the vine. These are unusual events, but they can happen. You do get surprises.

All of that having been said, I wonder whether I will ever have the stamina to attempt one of the campaign games.

Definitely a game for the hardcore gamer. I guess that’s me…

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