Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear

Long time no blog.  No real excuse for it, just haven't been in much of a boardgaming mood recently.  But!  I have pulled out a "blast from the recent past" from my collection for you.  Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear is the first game published by Academy Games.  It is a tactical combat game focusing on the Eastern Front of World War II, so Germany vs. the Soviet Union, in the early part of Operation Barbarossa.  There is a second game, Storm of Steel, that focuses on battles from the later part of the war.  Awakening the Bear was popular enough that a second edition of the game has been published.  I, however, own the first edition and my comments reflect that edition.  No, I don't know what is different between the versions.

Each counter in the game represents either a squad of men, a weapons team, or a single vehicle.  Squads can be armed with rifles or SMGs, weapons teams can have machine guns, mortars, or AT guns, and vehicles can be jeeps, half-tracks, or tanks.  Each turn the players each roll two dice to determine initiative, higher number goes first.  That person with initiative then selects one of their units to activate.  You either assign seven Action Points (AP) to that unit, or you can optionally roll two dice each time a unit is activated to determine how many action points they have.  If you play the game solitaire, this optional rule is highly recommended to add additional "fog of war" to the game.  You then spend that units action points to move, fire at enemies, and rally.  Every action has a cost, and different units pay different numbers of APs to do different things.  Weapons teams might cost more AP to move, but less to fire, for example, so getting them into a proper fire position that they can use to command a lot of the board is important.  Infantry generally move good (as do tanks, though not in woods), so you use them to grab objective hexes on the board.  The activated unit spends its APs until either it runs out or the player decides to end its activation.  The unit is then flipped, and the opponent chooses a unit to activate.

One thing that mixes things up is that each turn each player gets a set number of Command Action Points (CAP).  These can be used by any unit during the game, and you can even spend CAPs on the other player's turn to interrupt their action by having one of your units take an action.  CAPs can also be spent to improve one of your die rolls, useful for trying to hit a difficult target, or rallying a unit that you need to get out of a bad situation.

Combat is simple.  Each unit has a firepower rating.  You roll two dice and add the unit's firepower, and compare it to the target's armor rating.  If you meet or beat that number, the unit is hit.  You then draw one of 20 counters out of a cup or other opaque container and apply the results.  While you can get a "unit eliminated" result, you probably just panic the unit, or make it freeze in place, or otherwise hamper it.  The unit can still be activated and take actions, including rallying to remove the damage marker on its player's turn.  If a unit takes two hits, it is eliminated.  Infantry and vehicles have separate damage counter pools to draw from.

Lastly, there are cards that each player gets, depending on the specific scenario rules.  Cards can be played to affect the game in various ways.  They can improve a combat result, or change the battlefield, or otherwise improve things for you or hinder things for your opponent.

The game comes with 10 scenarios of increasing complexity and size.  I think that the rules work well and the game is generally enjoyable, but it just doesn't grab me.  If I want to play a World War II game at this scale I lean towards GMT's Combat Commander series.  Yes, Combat Commander doesn't have any vehicles, but I still find that game more enjoyable for reasons that I don't fully understand.  So, while Conflict of Heroes is a perfectly fine game, it just doesn't hit the table, and I expect to sell or trade it away at some point in the future.