Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nothing like a good shoot-em-up

Whoa. Sorry. Had to take some time off after expending all of that energy on philosophizing and digesting holiday goodies. But now it’s December and – what the Hell – it’s time to stutter along some more about wargaming.

One of my last remaining game pre-orders arrived last week. Many months ago I gave up on the practice of pre-ordering, but some of these things take that long (at least) to work their way through production. I think I may have one or two pre-orders out there from over a year ago. Heck, over the summer I cancelled a bunch of pre-order ‘Pledges’ from Decision Games – all of which had been in place for over three years. That’s a crisp production schedule indeed.

Anyway, a World at War: Eisenbach Gap showed up last week. Between the usual holiday goings-on and the long-awaited completion of the Bethlehem Battlefield project (more on that in a day or two) it’s taken me this long to getting around to some kind of assessment.

In a nutshell: Pretty cool.

The game is designed by Mark Walker, so I figured going in it would be a game with a hearty emphasis on playability – which is a hallmark of his squad-level Lock ‘n’ Load system. This game is a platoon-level treatment of a subject that’s entirely hypothetical: The NATO-Soviet World War Three that never happened.

The components are well done, although the counters indeed have a bunch of numbers on them (11 for the biggest and baddest). So they’re a little squinty, but not too difficult to read.

Why are the counters so packed with info? Mainly because the game uses a combat results mechanism that’s drawn primarily from territory more familiar to miniatures gamers. There is no combat results table in this game – all of the info you need to resolve combat is printed right on the counters.

Eisenbach Gap uses a chit-pull activation system, which lends itself to high replay value. There are other little bits of chrome here and there, but for the most part it’s a straight-forward design that’s light on the rules weight.

Many non-wargamers (and more than a few grognards) wonder a bit at the appeal of the subject matter. Certainly it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, as many players generally prefer to stick to history. The weapons, formations and doctrines the game is based upon were never tested (as it were) in a head-to-head environment so there’s a lot of speculation involved.

But for some there’s that gnawing fascination with the great conflagration that never occurred. There’s the ‘what if?’ surrounding the great and desperate battle quite a few of my generation trained for but never had to fight.

I’ve pushed it around a little bit and it seems pretty darned solid. More on it in a few days once I get the hang of things.

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