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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strike Legion: TSE1 & 2 with a new partner

A month back or so, I finally managed to put Strike Legion through its first paces. I enjoy perusing rulesets of all kinds, but must admit that I typically cannot put my final thoughts down on paper until I actually give it a run for its money.

Today I was able to play it again with my friend Aron, and we got through the first two scenarios in the main rulebook. This time, I managed to snap a few pics of the action, and I'll have some of our thoughts at the end. Apologies for the bluriness. I hate this above all else, but using my phone just isnt cutting it these days, I guess :(

TSE1, or Tactical Simulator Exercises, is called Parity, and pits two equal forces against each other. The Computer player, shown in the foreground above, is the aggressor, and has 4 turns to capture the Urban area near the Trainee's deployment zone.  Note that all Eldar and Space Marine models represent the same tracked vehicle, each side with 3 platoons of 4 vehicles.

This shows me, the Trainee, lurking behind cover as the game starts, ready for whatever the Computer has to throw at me. My opponent doesnt know this, but Ive played this scenario before. Last time I went mostly offensive and got my butt kicked, so this game my strategy was to put most of my EW into Defense and stay out of LOS where possible. The Computer is coming to me, and I was setting up to receive the charge.

Turn 1 saw some maneuvering but little else. This is my left flank, with 2 platoons of the enemy queuing up behind the hill.

My right flank after Turn 1 shows the enemy with one platoon with two of my own protecting its advance.

Turn 2 saw a little action, and first blood was drawn by my forces. This was actually long ranged Gauss fire from my right flank, firing at Extreme range. Smoke marks the spot...

Things started heating up somewhere between Turns 2 and 3. This is the scrum beginning in earnest, as the Computer player begins pushing for the goal.

The stage is set for Turn 3 and the big show down...

At this point let me say that firing at tanks has a pretty satisfying crunch to it. The math involved doesnt slow things down too much, even if it is more involved than a lot of other games, but man, things can Brew Up quite nicely, and you can really get a feel for how the flow of the game went by looking at the carcasses that are left in the wake.

In the end, the Computer player threw most of his intact forces at the Urban Area, and the Trainee forces had to make a brutal stand or suffer defeat. Alas, the onslaught was too much, and once again the Trainee loses to the Computer.

Here is the end of Turn 4:

For the record, the orangish markers are Damaged, and the black smoke marker is an Immobilized. I really do like seeing tank wrecks everywhere...

TSE2 is called Breakthrough, and here, 5 platoons of Computer controlled Scimitar medium tanks (the same units used in TSE1) must rush and pass by 3 platoons of tougher Xatis medium hovertanks. Aron and I swapped roles and I took the Computer units and he prepared his defenses.

Here is TSE2 Deployment:

Here, my Computer forces had 5 turns to race across the battlefield, engaging the enemy and getting what units past him that I could. The Exit zone was the lower left of the pics, above.

Turn 1 saw me using a lot of my EW in a defensive manner, knowing that I was facing units with higher EW than myself, and their AT Gauss cannon was larger than mine. Still, I took heavy losses, and at least one platoon was already nearly wiped out:

Turn 2 went about as well as T1. I sent one platoon down the center, performing a beautiful drive by on his right-most unit, but even so, more tanks of mine were smoking, and not enough of his were:

Turn 3 was the last turn needed, and since the scenario was written for 5 turns, this shows my lack of planning. Hoping for a quick score, I had committed most of my forces forward with high EW scores, but we learned an important lesson in Strike Legion today: 2 points of EW is HUGE! His EW score of 8, compared to my 6, was massive.  You can see, in the pic below, all 3 of my tanks that managed to exit. What you dont see is the pile in my corner showing that between the dead and the Brewed Up, Aron had smoked 17 of my 20 tanks. Yea, I'd call that an effective last stand.

Final score of TSE2 was 51-15. 2 for 2, Aron, congrats!

I had a lot of fun. I always do, when I have a great opponent to play against, but I am starting to feel a little more comfortable with this game. It still is a tad clunky, and we havent even TOUCHED any of the fiddly parts yet, but we're about ready to try our own hand at force composition.

Our thoughts? A lot of these come from the first timer's reactions, but we've tested a fair number of games together, so I agree with a lot of them. These are for the author, in hopes that if and when he redoes these rules, we hope he takes these to heart.

We really wish the author would write his numbers as a numeric value, instead of as text. It is so much easier to scan for a "3" in a paragraph than a "three".

Modifiers would be so much better if they were listed in bullet point, chart or table. Written into the text as they are, they tend to be harder to find (and its one thing to read the numbers while relaxing in the evening, and quite another thing trying to digest rules on the fly while in a firefight. They just need to be set apart and/or stand out better than they do.

We both agree that a 2 column format would condense the paragraphs nicely, saving space and making the rules easier to read as a result.

An Index and/or Glossary is really needed. At the very least an Index, as this game has a TON of special cases and finding all the references is tricky (for example, Air units are discussed on pages 14-15, and AA guns are first mentioned on p.23 while describing the types of Missiles available (ATM vs AAM), but it isnt until p. 32 when it is mentioned that AT weapons cannot attack flying Air units (common sense, I know, but wargames need to spell these things out clearly). But this entry is under Weapon Classifications, which isnt where I'd think to look for rules on Air units coming under fire from non-AA weapons.

The follow up to this is the game uses a LOT of abbreviations. Too many, we think. For example, Artillery is referred to as ART once it has been introduced...and Orbital Artillery is ORT...but read this from p.32 under "Overrun Attacks (OVR)": "CDS may not be used during an OVR." You know, it says what it needs to say...but with a book full of abbreviations, it gets a bit much. And what is STOVL, and why use it instead of VTOL? :)

We also found that rolling the Attack dice along with the weapon damage dice all at once really worked smoothly, so for our games, each attack typically involved 3d6 and a d4, with one d6 a different color than the other 2. If the 3rd d6, the Gauss weapon, was higher than the target's armor, we'd mark a hit and move on, finishing the attack rolls before going back and actually resolving the damage rolls. This led to a problem, however. Rolling a 1 on a d10 results in Immobilized, which only counts if you hit the HULL. If you hit the Turret and then roll a 1, no damage results...but did you hit the Turret or the Hull with that shot? Oh man, we had already picked up the dice!

The answer is, of course, to add 1 or 2 d10's to the dice rolled for every attack, just in case...but more importantly, we feel that the Turret and Hull damage locations need to be differentiated a bit. Oi...this might make more work, but this 10% difference bit just doesnt work for us. Something needs to change, we think, but not quite sure what.


So that's our take on the game...again. We still both feel that the game handles Company-sized engagements well, but larger games than what we played today might bog down. This is a shame, since the game has rules for so many units you can find in a Regimental game like Epic: Armageddon, and who knows - we really just need to try it to find out. Im a bit nervous at adding so many new things at once (ART, Unconventional Attacks, Infantry, Air, weapons other than Gauss and Lasers that check versus other defenses....).

The game has HUGE promise, and really needs a rewrite to put in the countless FAQ-style answers that are on both Tactical Command and the Yahoo Group. I am also desperate for the chap writing the Unit Builder over on TacCom to finish it...and really hope the author puts some work into cleaning this system up because it REALLY deserves it. I can see myself preaching this game to the masses with just a bit of work on the author's part. Regardless, check it out. Its a good game.

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