MY CORONATINE TIME IS QUICKLY CLOSING DOWN. Starting next week, my job will be going back to about 50% time in-office. So what better reason to get some wargames played? This weekend, I put Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk 1943 3rd Edition (Academy Games, 2019) and Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honor, Poland 1939 Expansion (Academy Games, 2010) on the gaming table.
For Storms of Steel the scenario was “Mission 9 – July 10, 1943: Black Knights of the Steppe.” This is part of the Battle of Prokhorovka and features elements of the German Panzer Division LAH confronting armored elements of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Corps. Germans forces include one Tiger Ie heavy tank with Veteran Cards “Iron Will” (Ignore 1x Hit marker for 1x Command Action Point-CAP) and “Combat Hardened” (reroll 1d6 for 1x CAP). The Soviets set up 2x KV1 tanks hidden at the start of the scenario. The Soviets have Veteran Cards “Motivated Leader” (reduce Rally number by 2 for 1x CAP) and “Concealed” (remain hidden when attacking for 1x CAP as long as a 1 is not rolled).
This Storms of Steel scenario was played using the Third Edition rules. For those unfamiliar with the legacy of Conflict of Heroes series, the Third Edition created some controversy with the introduction of the Spent Die. In previous editions, units were allocated Action Points (AP) which – once used – resulted in a unit flipping from Fresh to Spent. A turn usually ends when both player’s units are Spent or both take consecutive Pass Actions. In Third Edition, rather than tracking each units AP, players execute an Action and then roll a special Spent Die. If the number rolled is greater than the AP cost, the unit remains Fresh; otherwise it becomes Spent.
A major criticism of the Spent Die is that it is too much luck and can lead to some incredibly unrealistic situations. In my game it looked like this was happening when two German SdKfz 251 halftracks loaded with Panzer Grenadiers raced across the board seemingly at will. Indeed, it really looked bad as even the Tiger I was able to move up quickly bypassing the hidden Soviet KV1s without the opportunity for the Soviets to shoot.
But then the battle took a very different turn.
Those Panzer Grenadier units that raced forward raced right into the jaws of four Soviet T-34 tanks arriving as reinforcements. Now unable to exit the board (1x VP per unit) they instead tried to seize the two Control Markers in the village (each worth 1x VP). Of course, they had raced so far ahead of their tanks they needed to fall back and await support. But as the Germans tanks moved up, they were caught in a deadly crossfire from hidden KV1s and Churchill Mk III’s. Even so, the veteran Tiger I was able to remain undamaged using it’s “Iron Will.” As it moved forward to confront the four T-34’s and support the Grenadiers, the last KV1 broke cover and positioned for a rear shot. To hit required a roll of 10 or greater on 2d6 – the roll was 10. The Hit Marker drawn was DESTROYED. No problem for the Tiger, right? After all, it has that “Iron Will.” But to use that Veteran Card requires 1x CAP and this was the end of the turn and the Germans had no CAP left. No CAP, no “Iron Will.” One dead Tiger and no chance for a German victory in the scenario.
Price of Honor is actually the oldest Conflict of Heroes title in my collection. Technically an expansion to Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear 1st Edition (Academy Games, 2008) it is compatible with the Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear 2nd Edition (2012). Here I decided to try the game using the Third Edition rules. The scenario chosen was “Firefight 2: Cavalry Charge! Polish Cavalry Attack at Krojanty – Sept 1, 1939.” Here elements of the Polish 18th Uhlans Regiment ambush a column of the German 76th Motorized Infantry Regiment. The Poles must inflict maximum damage and try to seize and hold critical junctions before the German armored car detachment arrives which will easily overwhelm the cavalry.
The special rule in this Price of Honor scenario is Horse (Cavalry) Units. Not only do horses receive a movement bonus in certain terrain, but they also possess advantages in Close Combat (CC) when mounted. Much like history, the Uhlans emerged from the forest and charged the dismounted German Rifle units. In the first two turns the Germans were routed. The Uhlans then struck out for the other two crossroads. The first one was guarded by a German Light Machine Gun (LMG) in a building that proved unbeatable and would hold until the end. Both sides raced towards the final crossroads with the German foot soldiers just barely arriving before the mounted Polish cavalry. The Uhlans dismounted and attacked through the woods, eventually ejecting the Germans. By now the German SdKfz 231 armored car detachment arrived and was moving towards the last Control Marker. A Soviet Anti-Tank Rifle (AT Rifle) worked its way to the flank of the German armored cars and took a shot, pinning it down. Through the use of Battle Cards and CAP, the AT Rifle was able to quickly take another shot and scored another hit, brewing up the armored cars. Polish victory!
After playing both these games I am much more comfortable with the Third Edition rules and really like them. I believe the criticism of the Spent Die is unwarranted. If you want a more “realistic” ruleset then maybe those Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits should be your thing. But if you are like me and enjoy a good “believable” battle with incredible narrative moments, then Conflict of Heroes is perfectly suitable – and satisfying!