#Wargame Wednesday – First light in Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (@LnLPub, 2010)

One of my new wargame “acquisitions” was a player’s copy of Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010) that I acquired via a trade. I say ‘players copy’ because the box is very beat up but the contents are (super) fine. Most importantly, it was a good trade because it brought an older game to my table that I had overlooked before. Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (hereafter CC:DEL) is a simple, quick-playing ‘Cold War Gone Hot” wargame that is easy to learn, easy to teach, and eminently playable. However, don’t expect a deep analysis of the battlefield – this is a coarse recreation of the situation in a game that focuses on playability over ‘realism.’

War Is Complex – But Your Wargame Doesn’t Have to Be

Four factors make CC:DEL stand out to me and really helps me enjoy the game. They are 1) Physical size, 2) Activation Numbers, 3) Combat, and 4) Asset Chits.

What immediately strikes me about CC:DEL is the small size of the game. The 22’x17″ mapsheet not only has the hexes of play, but also has needed tracks and other useful player information around the edge. There are ‘only’ 136 counters in the game that covers all the combat units, markers, and various Asset Chits used. The 16-page CC:DEL rule book is broken into 7.5 pages of rules, 5.5 pages of scenarios, and three other misc pages (covers & Notes). Taken together this makes CC:DEL a game that can easily fit on a small gaming table and get played even when time is short.

The Activation Number mechanic in CC:DEL ensures that each turn is a bit unpredictable and forces players to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, as well as plan a head a bit. Each turn consists of four couplets (pairs of impulses). The exception is Night turns where only a single couplet is played. At the start of each couplet, NATO and the Soviets each roll 1d6 to determine their Activation Number (AN). The AN not only determines who goes first, but also how many Movement Points the player will have as well as which units can activate. In order for a unit to activate, the AN must be equal to or GREATER than the unit’s Initiative Number. Immediately you can see the problem; a high AN results in some units not activating – but if they do they move further since AN+1=Movement Points. If a 6 is rolled players immediately consult the Botched Orders Table to see what few units will activate, or not. The AN mechanic ensures that players can never be sure about who is going first or even how far they might move.

I find the combat mechanics of CC:DEL incredibly simple yet able to produce ‘realistic’-feeling results. When attacking, the attacker rolls 2d6 and adds/subtracts a few mods (usually +/-1 for terrain or a special combat power) and then adds the Strength of the attacking units to get a hit number. The hit number is compared directly to the Protection Factor (PF) of the target; if the attack is greater than the PF then a Hit is scored. If the attack exceeds the PF by four or more points then TWO hits are scored. If, somehow, the attack exceeds the PF by eight points or more, then THREE hits are scored (this will outright destroy many units). Combat is so simple, and modifiers so few, that players should quickly be able to memorize the mods and accelerate play.

The final gameplay mechanic in CC:DEL that I really enjoy is the Asset Chits. Asset Chits control everything from combat support to reinforcements. This is how the designers show the effect of concentrated airpower (Airstrike) or artillery support (Artillery). It also controls the arrival of reinforcements. At set up and at various times during play (as called for in the scenario rules) Asset Chits are drawn and allocated. Again, the somewhat unpredictable nature of war comes to the forefront; the Soviet player KNOWS he will get the 2nd Guards Airborne at some time during the battle, but will it be Day One or Four? NATO knows some West German Territorials will arrive, but again, Day One or later? Asset Chits are an easy way to represent many combat support elements in a simple to use system that reflects embraces the friction and fog of war.

Edged Out by Production Quality

If CC:DEL suffers it is in the area of production quality. Overall the quality of the components is generally good, but it is not without issue. The rule book needed one more editing pass to catch several obvious errors. A second Player Aid card would have been welcomed. The color selection on the map is a bit too same-ish for this glasses-wearing Grognard.

The major issue I have with CC:DEL is the alignment of the counters. Simply put, the data is too close to the edge or, in the case of the Soviet counters, they are misaligned. I could probably live with these counters if they didn’t suffer from ‘tuft-edges’ – which makes me just want to counter clip them! I may try my 2mm-radius clipper but even then I worry about clipping some data off the NATO counters, and I am pretty sure I will only be able to clip three edges of the Soviet counters. is it worth it?

Data too close to the edges make clipping corners dangerous?

Much Less Than 60 Miles

The other wargame in my collection that is the closest comparison to CC:DEL is Less Than 60 Miles (Thin Red Line Games, 2019). Both games cover roughly similar areas (although CC:DEL is placed near Eisenbach while LT60M covers the Fulda Gap) and at a similar level of unit breakdown (battalions for individual units). That is really where the comparisons end. CC:DEL is by far the simpler game in terms of mechanics, is far smaller on the table and will take far less time to play. That does not make it any worse or better than Less Than 60 Miles; they both cover conflict in the 1980s in Europe just at a different level of detail and with a different approach to playability. What CC:DEL ‘lacks’ in terms of details it makes up for in streamlined speed of play. If you want the in-depth look at how the Air-Land Battle Doctrine of the 1980s may have played out on the battlefields of Europe then you want to play Less Than 60 Miles. If you want a ‘taste’ of how the NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict could of seemed in a game that takes 2-hours or less than CC:DEL is much better suited.

A New Dawn

Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light came out 10 years ago. Apparently the game was republished in 2015 under the slightly different title Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light – Red Hammer. A part of me is curious to see what that game changes or improves from the original CC:DEL. But I am not in a real rush to find out; my players copy of CC:DEL will land on the table a few more times as I explore this small, quick-playing (and very playable) implementation of the Cold War Gone Hot on the plains of Germany.

Sep/Oct #Wargame #Boardgame Acquisitions featuring @gmtgames @hollandspiele @worth2004 @MultiManPub @LnLPub @Academy_Games @FFGames @UnstbleUnicrns @MoonrakersGame

In early September I wrote about how many games might be arriving into the RockyMountainNavy gaming collection given the reawakening of the publishing industry as they struggle to recover from COVID-19.

Boy, did I underestimate myself.

Turns out that between September 1 and October 15 I took delivery of 16 (!) items into my gaming collection. This includes:

  • 8 wargames (+3 expansions)
  • 3 boardgames (+1 expansion)
  • 1 accessory

I also diversified my acquisition chain. In addition to Kickstarter and publisher pre-order systems, I also used a local flea market, online digital, BGG trading, publisher direct sales, and (gasp) my FLGS!

Wargames

Washington’s Crossing (Revolution Games, 2012) – A not-so-complex look at the Trenton Campaign of 1776. My more detailed thoughts are here.

Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games, 2020)(Expansion) So many Age of Sail games take a super-tactical view of ships that playing them can become unwieldy. Flying Colors takes a more ‘fleet commander” point of view; here you can be Nelson at Trafalgar, not Captain Hardy. The 3rd Edition Update Kit brings my older v1.5 up to date with the latest counters and rules, allowing me to set sail for new games in the future.

White Eagle Defiant: Poland 1939 (Hollandspiele, 2020) – The follow-on to the gateway wargame Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Don’t let the low complexity of the rules fool you; the game is full of impactful decisions. I have more thoughts here.

French and Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Games, 2020) – Another entry in my collection of Worthington block wargames. Simple rules but deep decisions. It’s been a long-time since I labeled a wargame a “waro” but this one crosses over between the wargame and boardgame crowds.

Harpoon V: Modern Tactical Naval Combat 1955-2020 (Admiralty Trilogy Group, 2020) – More a simulation model than a game. I’ve played and owned Harpoon titles since the early 1980’s. Can’t help myself; I love it.

Iron Curtain: Central Europe, 1945-1989 (Multi-Man Publishing, 2020) – Another entry in the Standard Combat Series from MMP. I like the multiple eras of play and the ‘Road to War’ rules that deliver replayability in a (relatively) small package.

Konigsberg: The Soviet Attack in East Prussia, 1945 (Revolution Games, 2018)Acquired via trade. I like chit-pull games as they are good for solo play. I am also interested in this title because of the time period; I have played Operation Barbarossa to death and am interested in a late war perspective when the Soviets were on the offensive and it was the Germans rocked back on their heels.

Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010)Acquired via trade. Got through a trade more on a whim than with any real thought. First look is a very simple ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ wargame. Realistically it has only seven pages of rules!

Nations at War: White Star Rising (Lock ‘n Load Publishing, 2010) – I don’t really need another World War II tactical game system; I’m very happy with my Conflict of Heroes series from Academy Games. Acquired through trade with no real big expectations. First impression is this platoon-level game is reminiscent of PanzerBlitz (Avalon Hill, 1970) but with chit-pull activation and command rules (both of which I really like). Maybe some interesting potential here, will have to see…. (Acquired at same time were two expansions: Nations at War: White Star Rising – Operation Cobra and Nations at War: White Star Rising – Airborne)

Boardgames

One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; worker placement games is not really my thing. However, I really do like One Small Step. Not only does the theme engage me but the team play version of worker placement makes it a good game night title for the RMN household.

Star Wars: Rebellion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2016) Acquired via flea market. I jumped at an opportunity to get this game via a local flea market at an excellent price. Thematically excellent but I still have doubts concerning gameplay. It does create a very good narrative though….

Here to Slay: Warrior and Druid Expansion (Unstable Games, 2020) (Expansion) Here to Slay is the #1 played game in the RMN home. The RMN Boys (and their friends) love it. The game is far from perfect; like many others I don’t feel it is anything like an RPG as it proclaims and it’s too easy to win with “six classes in your party” versus slaying three monsters. Maybe this new expansion will change that with a bit more focus on the warrior class. Maybe….

Moonrakers (IV Games, 2020)Fresh arrival. Bought because I keep looking for a decent Traveller RPG-type of boardgame or something that captures the same vibe as Firefly: The Game (Gale Force Nine, 2013). My other attempts to find these types of games, Scorpius Freighter (AEG, 2018) and Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019) were less-than-successful. This title just screams OPA in The Expanse. Playing it will have to wait as there is a backlog of games in front of it in the to-play queue (obvious from the above).

Accessories

Sirius Dice: Spades (Sirius Dice) – I picked these up sorta on a whim. They look and feel good. If I ever get back to playing RPGs they may come in handy.