Friday, June 08, 2007

Tide of Iron!

I played Tide of Iron tonight. Where do I begin...

We started at 7pm, opened the box, laid out all the components, punched and punched and punched, setup the first scenario, played it, put it away. And it was barely 3am.

Punching and organizing the bits took about an hour. Putting the game away took about 20 minutes. See those cases in the image? I need some of those. That would easily save 45 minutes per session.

Setup was about an hour, but only because I had to describe some of the rules to make the decisions meaningful.Then another 30 minutes to go over command, cards, turn sequence, movement and combat. The first game turn was about 90 minutes. Turns got progressively faster--maybe as fast as 20-30 minutes.

In the first scenario, the Americans are holding a line on one end of a 9-board map (3x3). The Germans must occupy 3 hexes of this line at the end of any game turn to win. The Americans must prevent this. The Germans get the use the Command and Morale decks, but the Americans get Reinforcements and Support. It really looks bad for the Germans, but my opponent was up for the challenge.

I lost a double machine gun squad early on. I really thought I would be overwhelmed, but my stream of reinforcements--albeit regular infantry--was enough to fill the gaps the Germans were blasting in my front lines. My favorite move was to use combined fire (4 squads) against the mighty Panzer (in open ground) which resulted in heavy damage. It could no longer move, but it could fire at half firepower for the rest of the game.

As is done in ASL, we decided to create a verbal notation for attacks. A normal attack with 4 black dice and 2 red we called a "4-2". A long range suppressive attack with 5 black dice and 1 red we called an "L-5-1-S". The above combined fire attack on the tank was a...oops! As I am typing this, I realized we played that wrong. Infantry has a range of 1 against vehicles. We did, however, remember that all the supporting units fired at half firepower. This kind of thing will likely happen often in your first game. There are quite a lot of rules to wrap your head around. Not really exceptions. Each unit type just has its own characteristics in various situations.

Contrary to all expectations, I didn't have to run to the computer to check BGG for a rules question once. The rulebook isn't perfect, but we managed to figure out stuff that wasn't 100% clear.

Components

The boards are so warped! Just kidding. They are solid and flat. Did I mention they are flat? The map graphics are kind of low-res and blurry, but at least they are very functional and not harsh in the least. All the cardboard bits are thick and colorful--very nicely chosen icons and colors to contrast the boards and plastic. The men were a little smaller than I expected, but after handling them, I don't know how you could make them bigger without making everything else bigger. I didn't have much trouble fitting infantry into the bases, but it does take a while. All in all I'm pretty happy with the production.

Mechanics

This is a solid game. You are playing not only a positional game, but also a game of management of command (which lets you buy initiative and cards that give you cool benefits), unit composition, using special abilities, careful timing, misdirection, and risk. For example, mortars can only fire at enemy units that can be seen by one of your non-fatigued units. If you wait too long to use them, you may have no "forward observers" left. Units in Op Fire mode (waiting to shoot at moving enemy units) become fatigued if they get pinned or disrupted, and a savvy opponent will know when to take advantage of this.

The normal/suppressive fire concepts really work well. In fact, suppressive fire can be deadlier than normal fire. If you are will to use up 3 units (and 3 actions), you can take an enemy unit from normal to pinned to disrupted to routed (eliminated) with only 1 resulting hit each attack. Leaders play a huge role, especially in their ability to remove disruption markers, and to allow pinned units to fire. Leaders and elite units increase effective cover against suppressive attacks. Squads with medic specialization increase effective cover against normal attacks, and can heal (replace) lost men.

I really felt like I had complete control over my fate, and many ways to accomplish my goals. In fact, the more I understood how the mechanics worked together, the harder it was to decide what to do. I really enjoyed this first game. The only thing that might give me pause to "whip it out and play a quickie" is the setup time. It really is a beast. When we play it, it will likely be the only game we play that session. I expect our next play of this same scenario to take about 3 hours.

I'm probably ordering Descent with my next game order. I now need more space for my games! Maybe I can get by without a bed?...


Tide of Iron image by WhereAreTheBlackDice

7 Comments:

At 10:08 AM, Blogger SodakLady said...

Thanks for the mini-review, Jim. I'm expecting mine to arrive this afternoon and I can hardly wait to try it out! Why don't you drop by this afternoon? :D

 
At 1:47 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Be right over. :)

 
At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Universal Head said...

I'm looking forward to my first game of TOI next week. BTW, I made a rules summary and reference sheet you can find at BGG and headlesshollow.com.

You never struck me as a Descent kind of guy, Exted! Be warned, talking about long games, Descent really makes for loooong sessions.

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I have your sheets already. Such a great professional job!

I've been on the fence with Descent for a long time, not because of the play time, but because I really dislike FFG's ability to make a decent rulebook. My question about the OL using the Dodge card hasn't even been resolved yet.

he ToI rulebook shows they are improving in this regard, so I'll cut them some slack.

 
At 9:40 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

This game is awesome! It's hard finding people to play with though. I played the scenario you're talking about. I was playing last night as the Germans and found it absolutely impossible to win. The Germans should get the reinforcement deck as well as or in stead of the Americans. Any time I killed a squad it was instantly replaced with two. My Grenediers were so sad...

Thanks for the review! I noticed something with the rules you were quoting though:

"The normal/suppressive fire concepts really work well. In fact, suppressive fire can be deadlier than normal fire. If you are will to use up 3 units (and 3 actions), you can take an enemy unit from normal to pinned to disrupted to routed (eliminated) with only 1 resulting hit each attack."

In my understanding of the rules I think once a squad is pinned you have to roll two hits to make it disrupt. I don't think the rule book indicates that the rolls are cumulative when taking a separate action, but I may be wrong. So I think it would go more like: 1 hit to pin, 2 hits to pin, 3 hits to disrupt and 4 hits to route when a squad is normal. Once pinned it should be 2 hits to disrupt, 3 hits to route. Once disrupted I think it says that it only takes one hit to route. So on your second attack you would need to roll at least 2 hits otherwise they just stay pinned.

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger warvet said...

Hey guys,
well after reading your concensus of the game I have to agree actually so much that it seems like me and my partner actually experienced te same game inthe sme scenario.And when I read about the PZkfwIV getting HDmg and no mvt thats what happened too me lol and your right we did it wrong , I should have still had my tank cause it was never closer than 3 away from his guys at anytime. I did get hit by his Mortar though
and caused LDmg. Heres what I did too win the game if your interested. He was smart he immediately reinforced his line and then took the high ground on the american Left flank to use as a FO/OP position.Then I moved up my rifle squads on that flank straight ahead using woods as cover and drove tank straight up the boards R side on the american L flank side. Now I kept that pressure causing him to reinforce that side of his line, meanwhile I took an elite squad and ran it straight from the far right corner of the board to the german L flank to capture the Bridgehead and road. Then moved all my infantry up bhind the tank making him think i was blitzing hismainn defences causing him to weaken his right flank at the road. Which was protected by several MG units and Riflemen on its L flank. I waited till i had totally convinced hgim of my plan I broke off my main attack into 4 pieces 1 group holding all tree lines in front of US lines and the large portion of my forces I swung around towards the Road on the US R flank. Immediately took the card add 2 to movement action 1 drove the PkfwzIV right to the road and down their throat by executing a move fire 1/2 attack action 2. Then attacked action 3 with a firece mortar attack on the road bridgehead position. He did what i expected shored up his defences but by this time 70% of my forces were pounding him all the way down his lines including an asault i di on his far L flank which really taxed his resources as it was backed up by seperate MG attacks from woods.He took out my tank with fire to hDmg so couldnt move 1/2 fire but now I realize he was out of range. this was on road few hex from bridgehead. I then pushed in a pincer atacking his r and L flank simultaneously while using my engineers to take out the wire.
I also made sure I use my second engineers to build a german entrench so i had cover while i pounded the US defences. overall it was tricky but germany prevailed. Losses were acceptable but his were higher. i really hated his reinforcements lol.
I just bought the game TOI Desert fox Normany, 4 plastic Counter boxes and the scenario book most of which was never opened for $80 for all. I think pretty good Deal. now I hve 2 TIO 1 Desert fox 1 Normandy 1 Map box and 1 scenario book. :)
Overall i recommend this game highly but like you heard its a bitch to setup! We started at 1904 hrs friday and finished 0347 Sat lol so thats why I laughing at Jims story. Happy gaming

Tim

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger Hudson said...

Descent is awesome, just played it last weekend:

http://thewarrealm.com/?p=1758

 

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