Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A bit of Old School Tactical

I don't know about other people but I had a relatively wargame-free New Year break this year. Our annual local game didn't eventuate, but my boardgame mate Pat did come down one Sunday to introduce me to his new WWII game, Old School Tactical.

He taught me the main points of the rules in about five minutes and then we got into it. I was commanding a bunch of Germans trying to escape the Falaise pocket towards Argentan. We had something like eight squads and two leaders with a couple of LMGs and another couple of Panzerfausts to share amongst them. On turn three or four a Tiger would arrive in support, and my objective was to get three squads off the opposite board edge.

Pat was coming in perpendicularly to cut off our retreat / breakout. He had three or four squads in halftracks and a small army of Shermans and M10s to interpose between the Germans and their hopes of (temporary) escape. It would be an interesting fight.

(Apologies: my photos have been ruined by glare from the window, but in person the board was very impressive.)

First squads enter.

More follow up.

Field of play: lots of open ground to cross, and some good fire positions for both sides.

I won't go into too much detail, but our Tiger and a particularly reckless Panzerfaust team did a scarcely believable amount of damage to the Allied armour.  Terrified Sherman crews preferred to take shots on offer at infantry rather than the Tiger because the chances of doing any damage were so slim. There were close-assaults a-plenty, and lots of momentum swings. Things turned our way after a brilliantly executed ambush of the Tiger leading to shots from point blank range from both the flank and front failed to do any damage to the great beast. Once those two ambushers were smoking wrecks, the poor old Allies didn't have a lot left. Still, it would have been touch and go whether the Germans could get to their exit area before time ran out, so we called it a draw.

All those wrecks were caused by that (unscathed) Tiger and a single suicidal Panzerfaust team!

I thought the game itself was good fun. The board was a delight to play on, and there was enough there to convince me that it would be a system worth investing time into. I suppose you'd call it 'cinematic' WWII, with lots of swings of fortune and plenty of moments of high drama as you decide whether to take on the odds or not, and then, decision made, see what happens.

One quibble I did have was that the activation mechanism relies upon command points to do anything (even opportunity fire), and uses a low base rate + high variable system (I was on 4-14 CPs per turn; the US on 3-18). I would prefer a higher base rate and lower variables so that a good planner could avoid the situation where a low roll leaves one helpless. Perhaps a good planner can already, but I couldn't see how, except by hoping the enemy rolled badly with attacks. I generally want a positional advantage (good cover, clear firing lanes, etc.) to count, but at times a low CP roll meant that it effectively wouldn't: if one side had no CPs left the other could advance across open ground into a 50/50 close combat situation without fear of being shot up before getting there.

It's probably however just a beginner's reaction, and I'd certainly like more opportunities to enhance my understanding of the system!

****

Not only did Pat introduce me to Old School Tactical, but he also very kindly went to the considerable trouble of making up a board and set of figures for a jousting game for our kids. Our boy is already enjoying the game, and he wants to play it with his mum next. I'm not sure how lucky he'll be on that score, but we'll see!

The two protagonists square off...


Thanks, Pat!




10 comments:

  1. Excellent write up Aaron! In retrospect, my play as the Americans was definitely sub-optimal. They should have headed straight to the eastern board edge and simply lined up to block your retreat, rather than playing hide-and-go-seek among the hedgerows with your panzerfausts.

    I don't really have a problem with the CP system, probably because I've been playing the game almost exclusively solitaire and strings of bad luck just add to the narrative. But I could see getting a bit miffed if I was playing competitively, and well, only to lose to low impulse rolls. Might want to play around with some house rules, as you suggested, for face-to-face play.

    And as always, many thanks for your hospitality! I hope we can get together again in the not-too-distant future.

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    1. Hi Pat - my play was sub-optimal too: not enough emphasis on actually getting off the board! Was good fun, and if we got caught up playing the game rather than the scenario goals, I guess that's a good thing!

      Cheers, and hope we get another game in again soon.

      Aaron

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  2. You gotta love a game with big counters for us old dudes. Look like fun.

    You sooo have to watch the movie "Knights Tale" (Heath Ledger stars) in the background while playing that knight game. Though there might be one inappropriate moment in the movie when the lady goes to his tent but it's more suggestive than anything, otherwise great action scenes your boy would really get into.

    Cheers
    Kevin

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    Replies
    1. Haha, yes on all counts!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  3. I think the counters in this system have the cleanest, sharpest graphics of all the tactical games that I have owned. I agree that the activation dice have the potential for wild swings, it might not happen too often, but when it does, the impact will be felt and 'discussed'.

    The rules were upgraded in OST II to v5.5 and dealt with the issue that armour was too tough. Anyone with OST I (even the re-print, can download the latest rules from the company).

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    1. Thanks, Norm - I think Pat was using the latest version of the rules. I didn't even have to look at them during the game. Between Pat and the QRS everything was laid out on a plate!

      And I agree, I like the counter art too. The whole experience inspired me to start playing Band of Brothers again, actually!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  4. Yup, we were playing with the 5.5 rules from OST II, which cleared up a few things. Still a few ambiguities and omissions, but all the key stuff is clearly laid out, and the designer is very active at BGG to sort out the minor things.

    The maps and counters are some of the best I've seen in any wargame.

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  5. Another interesting post Aaron. I’ve not seen this board game before so a particularly interesting account.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Keith. Focused on a slightly lower level than Spearhead!

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