Friday, 28 December 2012

Battle Group Kursk review

I am going to do a review of Battle Group Kursk, without being biased about it,and not having any preconceived ideas! That's going to be altogether a bit short. So, here's a review that does have some bias and preconceived ideas. It will also have, I hope, an honest appraisal.

Firstly, I actually have a copy, which is an advance on some reviews I have seen. The book is a substantial hardback, gloss cover, and high gloss paper. The binding is pretty good, better than KGN, which I felt would fall apart with serious game use. To much exposure to GW publications. The layout is clear with lots of examples throughout the text to help with getting to grips with game concepts and mechanisms. Warwicks influence coming through regarding accessibility and practicality. There is a bit of overload regarding the quantity of units and options for the 4 platoon types listed - more later, but, this I feel is a personal thing. I know a lot of people want the ability to creat a personalised battle listing, and the clear and detailed options allow this. This is after all a core games set with army listings to game the Eastern Front, as well as the listed scenarios. I came across a few typo's, but not any howlers. The book also contains detailed background and simple analysis of Kursk, not a doctoral thesis but historical, and a good introduction for gaming the Eastern Front.

The book has 4 types of platoons listed, and allows the gamer flexibility to 'fit' these to their requirements if imagination is used, the core of the rules providing a framework to operate within. There is a German Panzer and an Infantry listing, with their counterpart Russian listing of a Mechanized Corps and an Infantry listing. There are options to take regarding defences as a defender in certain scenarios, as well as setting up games outside the setting of the Kursk scenarios. Those familiar with KGN will be familiar with the setup regarding these scenarios, such as meeting engagements, defending the line etc. The use of supporting units and weapons for the platoons is much clearer than KGN, with limitations on their use in the construction of your battlegroups such as restricted units per level of force structure. The options available to your platoons also allow for a much more sophisticated  battlegroup than in KGN, with 'new' rules regarding air recce, scouting, tank aces, the use of officers, unreliable vehicles, recovery and repair vehicles, political officers for the Russians, massed infantry and tank attacks..... A lot of the rules themselves are 'similar' to KGN, but when looked at as a whole, they are an improvement and development of concepts in KGN. They also give a distinct flavour of the nature of fighting on the Eastern Front, something that when I talked to Warwick at Bovingdon, he was at pains to make sure was a feature of this set of rules.

Is it value for money? Yes, at £30 for what you get, it is. I was lucky to come across a mint set for £19.50, how, I don't know why, but that's ebay for you. With the only thing to compare it with being KGN, it's a clear winner. There are other rulesets out there that are cheaper, there are other rulesets out there allowing 'larger' games,such as Rapid Fire. To be honest, it's comparing chalk and cheese, as BGK sets out to do a different game than those others, and it does this in a sophisticated and practical way that is accessible. It also allows you to get into the game at a relatively lowcost level, with 30 or so figures, a gun or two, and a tank/vehicle. This, I think, is more important than the cost of the rules themselves, as it allows you to control the cost of getting into gaming WW2 and to scale up as and when you can do so.  

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmass and a Happy Gaming New Year

Its Christmass Eve, and less than 6 hours to go. No, I will not be getting up at 3am and running downstairs to open my copy of Battle Group Kursk. I decided on a certain amount of uncharacteristic self discipline that meant I would wait till then and a respectable time on Christmass day. Meanwhile the paint bench in the shed has been busy, as well as Her Majesty's Postal service.

The most recent addition has been 3 M26 Pershings for Battle Group Fall of the Reich. Coupled with this has been a hardback copy of 'No Triumphal Procession'. The book is absolutely top rate material and very informative, and to be honest I didn't realise the kind of fight that went on. I had an impression of a couple of 'mobs' of Hitler Youth running around letting off Panzerfausts. In no way was this the case, but a murderous and obstinate grind against an inevitable outcome . The M26's were from Frontline, and although I have never dealt with them before, I have been looking at the website and what they do. I was thinking of picking up 1 or 2 Easymodel Pershings, but price wise, Frontline won out. The moulds were clean, and the service very good, but they will need plenty of additional kit put on such as hawsers, aerials, stowage and tarps.

I also managed to build an Esci kit of a M12 155mm HMC, which although quite a complicated build looks quite nice. Painted up it will provide support for my GI's knocking out Pillboxes and Bunkers. Rescued from the paint bench was a M16 quad 50cal which was bent a bit - cue the superglue, and 2 250 german halftracks, which were badly put together, and had to be rebuilt, converting one of them to a Recce command halftrack. Two SHQ Marders were also built up, and wired for aerials and frames. The build for these was quite difficult, and whilst I am a firm supporter of SHQ, I think a plastic kit is where I'd go next. Very difficult but detailed.

I went for the Pershings, and the book, to kind of get a head start on Fall of the Reich. Although the book concerns the push by British troops into the North German Plain, crossing the rivers and fighting on towards the Baltic, it was a recommendation/mention on a topic in the Guild that drew my attention to it. It will provide the basis for lots of actions and scenario's for British or American troops. Those German Marines just did not give up. It has an intensity that I think exceeds the fight in the bocage between US and Fallschirmjagers leading to St Lo.  

Lastly, I managed to get a game in, but FoG ancients. Nick set Milanese Condotiere against Ordonance French. I played the French, and won, with the Swiss crashing into some English Longbow, routing them into Landsneckts, and my mounted Longbows - on foot, clearing away Nicks support troops. FoG is all that I have found that I dislike about gaming, where mechanics and gaming is more important than the recreation of a battle, hypothetical or not. Micromanagement of forces scaled up unrealistically.

Shifts permitting, which they haven't so far, January will provide a number of games so something to look forward to and report/blog back on.

Merry Christmass and a Happy New Year.