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Westbound and Down: The Warsaw Pact drives into Southern Germany. High Flying Dice Games’ Land of Confusion 3: The Battle of Hof Gap. Board Game Review. | Armchair General Magazine

By Ray Garbee

Land of Confusion 3: The Battle of Hof Gap. Writer: High Flying Dice Games.  Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh. Worth $14.95-$19.95

Handed inspection: Fast-playing recreation, good introduction to hex and counter gaming while nonetheless offering difficult recreation play to the grognard.

Failed primary: Colours on counters could be arduous to read without direct mild, wants examples of play

For those who take a look at warfare games, 1985 appears to be the yr voted principally more likely to have started World Warfare III. An growing number of video games set during this time-frame are seeing print. Some are a nostalgic look back at classic games of the warfare that never was. Virtually all are variations of the same theme – the Soviets are westbound and down with the pedal to the metallic. The objective – The Rhine river. Some video games deal with the strategic degree operation from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea. Other drill right down to give attention to the motion throughout the regional battlefields throughout the Inter-German Border.

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Paul Rohrbaugh has taken the latter strategy beneath the banner of the ‘Land of Confusion’ collection of games. This collection focuses on the primary battlefields in West Germany. Early games coated the battle in central Germany – the Fulda Hole area and in the north, the battle of Luneburg Heath the place the assaults on Hannover and Hamburg could possibly be expected. The third installment – Battle of Hof Hole covers the Warsaw Pact assault into Bavaria with the objective of capturing the important thing city of Nuremberg. Advancing out of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, the forces of two Warsaw Pact armies have an extended strategy to go and a short time to get there. However first they’ve acquired to cope with the elements of two NATO army corps that stand in their approach.

The recreation locations the players in the position of army commanders. The NATO participant has parts of two corps – the US seventh Corps and the Federal Republic of Germany’s 2nd Corp. The Warsaw Pact participant has eighth Guards Army and the first Czechoslovakian Army. This interprets to the tabletop in a fairly typical ‘two down’ model through which the gamers command armies and know the situation of their brigades/regiments (represented by the game counters).

The recreation arrived from High Flying Dice Games in a plastic bag inside a cardboard postal mailer; normal packaging that matches that of my other HFDG products. Contained in the bag have been two 11” x 17”  map sheets, 200 double-sided enjoying counters for each side and a slim booklet containing the principles of play.

The map sheets mix to type a map board that depicts southeastern West Germany as well as the western edges of East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The board depicts the main terrain options of tough floor, wooded areas, numerous rivers and the autobahn street network. A hex grid has been superimposed over this depiction of the ground to help standardize motion and measure weapons ranges for artillery.

The counters for the game break down into NATO, Warsaw Pact and assorted informational markers utilizing during play. The counters are laid out in a fairly typical format displaying the unit id, a car graphic of a tank, APC or troop symbol, the national flag of the unit and three numbers defining attack, defense and movement. Most counters characterize a regimental/brigade sized unit of a division, although there are a handful of battalion sized models representing the squadrons of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment as well as the varied airborne forces of both sides. The counters carry the id of their mum or dad formation in addition to their very own identifiers.

The recreation system takes an fascinating strategy to how it represents rotary wing aviation in that it’s treated as principally another type of airstrike. It’s really clean in that it represents the power of helicopters to roam far and broad across the battlefield without getting bogged down in a bunch of special motion guidelines for the flying tanks. To strengthen this design determination, several of the airstrike counters depict helicopter silhouettes to remind you that airstrikes usually are not simply the quick movers from the Air Drive.

The rules are available at a slim 10 pages, and that’s earlier than we low cost the random events table, title page and recreation variants for using both the 4th Canadian Brigade or the 137th Desant Regiment. The guidelines are straightforward to digest and laid out in a logical style.

Set up could be very versatile. Virtually too flexible. As famous, most models symbolize brigades or regiments.  Because the NATO player you face the historic determination of where and what to defend. Defending in all places and being robust nowhere is a real danger. The challenge is you have got a number of missions to realize and finite forces. You might want to shield the northeast quadrant of the map from WarPac models dashing for the guts of Germany while overlaying the approaches from Czechoslovakia and models out of East Germany pushing via Hof Gap or taking the great distance from southern East Germany.

The Warsaw Pact player has it slightly easier as they arrange second and have the profit of seeing the NATO deployment. Terrain considerably drives your deployment as you’ll be able to only cram so many models into the pure approaches the geography supplies.

Once arrange is full, the sport kicks off with the Warsaw Pact player launching their preliminary offensive. The WarPac player has rather a lot of flexibility here as they will choose from a quantity of actions to both move models or launch artillery and airstrikes towards NATO models. Each motion both moves a counter, lets a counter attack or initiates an artillery or airstrike from the obtainable pool of such belongings. Following this preliminary assault, the sport rolls into its normal recreation flip cycle.

So what’s a recreation turn seem like? Properly a turn represents approximately eight hours. Every day consists of three turns: a morning, an afternoon and an evening flip. A recreation turn consists of a short admin part where both gamers determine the out there artillery and air belongings for the game, followed by a quantity of rounds the place gamers take actions.

You’ll want a deck of enjoying playing cards which you’ll cull down into two, 19 card decks for the players. Uses a short deck of enjoying playing cards 2-10 plus a joker. Or you should purchase a dedicated deck for the game from High Flying Dice Video games. However a superb deck of enjoying playing cards will work high-quality.

Throughout each round, each player flips over the top card of their deck. For every card draw round the gamers flip the highest card in the deck. Evaluating the 2 cards, the high card wins the initiative. It’s a mechanic right from the basic card recreation of ‘war’. Depending on if the profitable card was odd or even, the profitable player will then conduct a number of actions.

Actions are used to carry out a spread of activities. An motion could also be used to conduct an activity with a single unit comparable to transfer, assault, rally or entrench. Actions may also be used to call artillery hearth or airstrikes on enemy models. Associated to the artillery strikes are the power of NATO to put artillery emplaced minefields with the WARPAC participant might use either artillery or airstrikes to ship a chemical weapons assault. At the upper end of the size, either player might resort to tactical nuclear weapons.

The recreation flip continues with the players taking actions as dictated by the cardboard draw. That is truly a nice mechanic that captures the friction of struggle with a minimum of fuss. The uncertainty of understanding who will next take an motion really drives house the truth that while it’s a must to plan and execute, no plan will survive contact with the enemy. You’ll need to be nimble and targeted to remain on mission whereas reacting to your opponent.

In every player’s deck is a Joker. When the primary Joker comes up in a flip, you’ll examine for a random occasion. When the opposite Joker appears, the game turn ends. There’s a particular rule that may permit the sport to proceed to the top if the player that needs to maintain enjoying provides his opponent a victory level.

Whenever you hit the restrict both in the second Joker or the final playing cards, you progress to the subsequent recreation turn, determine your air and artillery help, shuffle your decks of cards and begin again.  You do this until either you achieve an automated victory (breaking your opponents morale) otherwise you’ve played the last turn. In case you reached the last flip, it’s a must to do some math and rely victory points to determine the winner.

Models assault individually. For every assault, you’ll take the models attack issue, roll a d6, add/subtract some modifiers and examine it to the defenders modified defense issue. Relying on the outcome, your outcomes will range from you have been repulsed and pressured to regroup by means of the popular ‘no effect’ to inflicting successful on the defender. The outcome of that hit will depend upon the standing of the defending unit, its present power, the terrain it occupies and the proximity of other attacking models. To be best, you need to flank the defender into an encirclement, then pin a defender with artillery, hit them with airstrikes to weaken the unit and lastly truly assault the defender. Fail to do all of these and you possibly can still win assaults, however you’ll usually simply drive the defender to fall again and break contact.

You’ll be able to enhance these techniques by resorting to both minefields or fuel or the occasional tactical nuke. I mean, you’ll be able to actually blow a gap in your opponents’ line with a couple of nukes, but there is a good probability you’ll trigger World Warfare III in the course of, and that is one thing you don’t need to do. You possibly can give it some thought…but don’t do it! As you possibly can imagine, World Warfare III occurring ends the game and you both lose.

Battle of Hof Gap is a straight forward recreation. It was refreshing to have a recreation that doesn’t want a posh rulebook or rather a lot of further charts and tables. The mechanics of the sport seize the texture of the period. The combat brigades break down on acquainted strains. Tank models principally excel at attacking, while infantry excels at defending. The Armored Cavalry is a hybrid as the squadrons are better at defending while nonetheless packing a punch.

The artillery and airstrike system give good outcomes with out getting bogged down in shifting and positioning divisional, corps and military artillery models or having a separate system for managing all sides’s respective air forces.  The minefield guidelines are intelligent. A number of well-placed minefields can decelerate the Soviet advance for a couple of actions and purchase NATO extra time.

Fuel attacks look like they are the straightforward option to put the NATO forces on the again foot. Nicely balanced with the potential VP lose. Though they play quite a bit just like the minefield rules, fuel attack additionally carries the danger of civilian casualties and a victory point award to the NATO player for the propaganda value of the assault.

But chemical weapons aren’t the only weapon of mass destruction in the recreation. Let’s speak about tactical nuclear weapons. The rules for the nuclear weapons are clear and quick. You possibly can really put the harm in your opponent with a well-placed nuke. However the choice to make use of nuclear weapons is a troublesome one. In case you assume you’re profitable together with your typical forces, there’s a level of restraint as you don’t need to use a nuke and then lose. But when assume your and dropping and unlikely to win, there’s not a lot incentive to chorus from nuking your opponent to the point the place you do trigger World Conflict III. This does an awesome job of capturing the danger posed by tactical nukes in addition to the objections that drove the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty to be adopted in the 1980’s. It additionally can be used to drive the traditionally defined policy by NATO. By equating chemical weapons with nuclear weapons, the game’s rules finally serve as a examine on the use of NBC by the Soviets and tactical nuclear weapons by NATO.

Brief of breaking out the NBC weapons, the straightforward solution to beat up on models seems to be the 1-2 punch of artillery followed by air strikes. Pin the enemy, hammer them with airstrikes and THEN ship the bottom troops in to the assault. In the event you depart an enemy a retreat path, it’s going to be an extended recreation because it’s robust to get rid of models from the game if they will retreat.

At recreation begin I assumed ‘man that’s rather a lot of frontage’, for each side. But enjoying the sport, you see how NATO can wage a preventing withdrawal designed to scale back the Soviets sufficient that they will’t seize Nuremberg.  On the similar time, you get the texture of how the Soviets have to create gaps within the line and exploit the isolated the NATO models. I discovered it gave a reasonably good really feel for the period.

At first, I used to be missing the aviation battalion/brigades for each side, however I’m truly digging the best way they’re rolled into the air rules. It makes them flexible enough to ‘move’ where you want them to strike without special motion guidelines.

Robust recreation for the Soviet player.  They actually need to push exhausting to get close to attacking Nuremburg. You’ll be doing rather a lot of pressured marches just to get models into motion. The Czechs have an extended method to go and a short while to get there. For the WarPac models in East Germany, getting models off the west edge was straightforward – deceptively so as whereas that reinforces Soviet morale, it does not provide help to truly seize Nuremberg. Send too many models off the west edge of the map and you’ll discover the NATO models that had been partaking them are capable of shift right down to cover Nuremberg.

Battle for Hof Gap was enjoyable to play. It definitely provides the flavour of the basic mid-1980’s Nato vs. Warsaw Pact recreation. The unit id values assist give the models character and add to a way of narrative. As an alternative of simply faceless models you’ll commit brigades of the first Armored Division, the 11th Panzer or the 18th Guards Tank Division to combat.

For all the enjoyable I had with the game, I did discover a number of issues that induced issues. The first is environmental. In dim lighting the counters have been onerous to learn – the purple numbers tended to mix with the background colours. I used to be stunned by this, but in my initial play of the game I used to be in a dimly lit lodge room. At first, I assumed it was simply the counters, however when the enjoying area was uncovered to direct daylight the counters have been fairly legible. In the event you play in a well-lighted area you’ll keep away from this drawback.

The map sheets, while doing an excellent job of presenting the terrain will not be printed edge to edge. What this means is that you simply’ll should trim one edge of one map sheet in order that it properly aligns with the opposite map sheet. I used a utility knife blade to trim the excess off the east map sheet.

Something I missed in the recreation is examples of play for the mechanics. Now the principles are fairly straight-forward and there’s solely 8 pages of actual guidelines, but I found I had questions on how one can apply the principles based mostly totally on how my mind was deciphering the written text. Adding examples of play would take away some of this ambiguity and be sure that the which means of the principles is communicated for a broad audience. I used to be capable of clear up all my questions by means of submitting questions to Paul and acquired prompt replies. But a pair of additional pages may need rendered the necessity for the questions moot. This is doubtless not a problem for veterans of the 2 prior video games in the collection as the mechanics are just about the identical.

Whereas the unit id’s are great and do add character, there doesn’t appear be a lot value to be gained by preserving the brigades of a division collectively. It stands in distinction to the strategy taken by Ty Bomba in his recreation ‘Putin Strikes’ the place divisions are seen to have larger combat effectiveness and resilience than brigades which are operating on their own.  It might be nice to see some value in maintaining the brigades of your division collectively. In Battle for Hof Gap, you don’t have to fret about divisional boundaries or rear echelon headquarters and help models. Perhaps that speaks to the excessive diploma of interoperability NATO enjoyed presently, nevertheless it impacts the Warsaw Pact as nicely.

Battle for Hof Hole is a lovely candidate for a solitaire recreation. Whereas there are not any devoted AI ‘bots to automate the play of either side, the card draw mechanism provides a good randomized way to determine which side takes a turn. For a player willing to wear both hats, you can play both sides with relative ease.  The card draw mechanic means that you can’t predict what could have on the subsequent card draw. The lack of hidden info (aside from the card decks) makes this a simple recreation to play for the solitaire gamer.

Battle for Hof Hole has a quantity of issues going for it. The straight forward guidelines make this an ideal intro recreation for the new player, or a lighter change of tempo for the veteran gamer. The low counter density makes for a fast-moving recreation. The free type arrange provides a sandbox feel for the setup of forces on each side and helps ensure no two games are the identical, preserving the replay worth of the game. The dynamic, random nature of the cardboard draw mechanism means gamers will never know who strikes next nor when the sport flip will probably end.

Past that, Battle for Hof Hole presents an Fascinating operational puzzle with a very fluid recreation. In the early phases of the sport the Warsaw Pact forces punch by way of the thinly unfold NATO troops in a battle of maneuver. Later within the recreation, this culminates in a frontal assault on a big strongly defended urban area. There’s a lot of strain on the Pact to advance on Nuremberg shortly whereas also rolling back the NATO models. All this can maintain both players engaged across the course of the game.

In case you are on the lookout for a superb intro recreation on the World Struggle III that wasn’t, take a look at the Land of Confusion collection.

Armchair General Score: % 92

Solitaire suitability (1–5 scale, with 1 being nearly unplayable as a solitaire recreation and 5 being utterly suitable for solitaire play):  3

Ray Garbee has been a gamer for the previous four many years, Ray’s pursuits embrace the Anglo-Sikh Wars by way of the conflicts of the 20th Century and past however his ardour remains ACW naval gaming. Presently, Ray works as a Product Supervisor in the IT subject while persevering with to design tabletop games. His past works embrace Iron Thunder, Anaconda, Anaconda: Capital Navies and articles in a number of defunct interest magazines. When not busy gaming, Ray enjoys engaged on his model railroad, climbing and sport capturing at the local range.