Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lock 'n Load Heroes of Stalingrad - Gameplay Notes (2 of 3) - We Could Be Heroes, Just For One Turn

The southern flank in shambles, two full squads shaken. I tried to regain the tactical initiative at the opposite side of the battle. Not an easy task, my men told me, as enemy guns shoot over our heads.

Lt. Plassmann and his men just came out from cover (the hex highlighted purple) and bumped into an hex of prepared positions. The Russians were dug in and hidden from view (fog of war). The game rules specify that enemy units in an adjacent hex to a friendly one are automatically spotted.

Spotting is one of the game rule sets that drives the game play in an interesting way.  Off course to spot anything, a unit needs first a line of sight. The game features so-called "line of sight degradation" which is a great way to model sight throw hexes that do not completely block the LOS. But beyond the line of sight, some extra rules apply. To spot an enemy unit, a friendly unit in good order (i.e. not shaken) has to be in an adjacent hex. Or the friendly unit has to have a good line of sight on the enemy unit being in an open terrain hex. Enemy units become spotted when they move (unless that movement is a low crawl through a non-open hex) and/or fire. When nothing of the above happens, a friendly leader unit can just spend movement points trying to spot an enemy unit.

Sounds pretty standard, but here comes the twist: only enemy units that have been spotted can be fired upon. Let's see what that means in the next screenshot.

A Russian squad (plus minus change) just in front of Lt. Plassmann's platoon is clearly visible (counter is bright and colorful). However, the HMG at hex K3, which has fired upon us and was visible/"spotted" in the previous turn now features a dimmed out counter. This means that the HMG is not at a "spotted" status anymore.

Which in turn, means that (unless some German unit spends movement points trying to spot it) the Russian HMG can't be fired upon as of now. The implications of this spotting rule reach a bit further, game play wise: there is no area fire, or suppressive fire on hexes where no enemy units have been spotted. In this scenario, it is easy to imagine that the entire Pavlov's house is reeking with Russian troops. Yet we can't fire on suspected enemy positions.

Off course, the Russians are showing a keen interest in our south flank. One lone Russian squad tries to make it towards the shaken German squads shown in the bottom part of the screenshot. They are fired upon from the German PzIII. A Russian hero emerges from the battered remains of the squad and he charges forward, relentless.
Heroes have their own counters and special abilities. After a squad takes a hit, there is chance that it will spawn a hero among its ranks. Heroes' special abilities are chosen randomly from a virtual stack of cards.

At the start of each turn, the rally phase is used to bring order to the ranks. In this screenshot, Lt. Koch has successfully rallied one of his squads. 
The Russian computer opponent continues to push towards the crippled German squads on the south. Their avenue of approach is questionable (shouldn't have they advanced through the cover of that building?) ...
... But their luck and timing are impeccable. They survive fire from the PzIII tank, the German half squad trying to save my boys and they proceed to engage in close combat with the disordered/shaken squads in the open. It was an ungainly display of German leadership and morale.
The above screenshot illustrates how much of an easy prey are shaken units for melee/close combat. One Russian squad wiped out a platoon of shaken German units.

Lt. Baumann, his men gone, covers the mess with indirect fire from a mortar located a few hexes nortwest from his position.

On the north flank, Lt. Plassmann's platoon attacks the dug-in Russians. The screenshot shows the screen from melee combat, with artwork that is stock and not necessarily representing what is going on in the ground.
Forward! Its turn 4 now and Lt. Plassmann continues to push against the Russian's right flank. He and his men are using a low crawl movement. The white line and chevron indicate movement direction, plus an indicator for the movement points remaining. Note how many Russian units are inside Pavlov's house. These Russian units are not spotted though, and fire can't be delivered onto their position.
The Russian HMG opens up and the Germans fall into a shaken state. The HMG can now be targeted with all we have around, as it has become spotted.
One third of the scenario has kept us trying but with no firm foothold on the enemy's inner defenses. Though nothing will drive us away, we could use a hero. Just for one turn.



Anonymous said...

Very good job. You have a remarkable knack for writing and making it interesting.

mo reb

JC said...

That's very kind of you, sir.
Thanks for reading!


Tinki Yuki said...

Long time reader first time poster!

I've been waiting for this game since it was first highlighted on the Matrix website. I'm absolutely delighted to see it is out and I will be purchasing it on Thursday morning (pay day), in no small way influenced by your articles.

Anonymous said...

Nice title ;-)

Rgds, Koen

Erich said...

I love this game. I've watched with considerable jealousy as boardgames have become really popular again, and this was near the top of my list for a PC conversion. The only way it could be better is if it were also on iPad. This game cries out for a tablet version.

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