I’ve played for more than 20 years.
I love caves and complexity. I can stomach more Bocage for its intricacies but Eastern Front has become very samey.
A long time ago I received the boards and playtest notes for KE's KW module, which, I believe eventually morphed into FW. This was around the time I discovered the Korean War.
Wow, a war where the last war’s victors had a hard time. Despite the fact they had all the toys; better air support, napalm on tap, jets, well trained TACPs, those late war tanks that didn’t quite make it to the front in ww2.
Different terrain, different nationalities, fighting against Soviet style troops. Just like a DYO. Pershings versus T34s. The strategic flip flop between Pusan and Inchon. The sudden appearance, disappearance and reappearance of the Chinese. So similar yet so different to what I was used to.
I remember being super excited at the KE's PT notes. They included everything I found exciting.
Fast forward 20 years FW is released, not much written about it. Seems a bit flat. Looks like none of my buddies are interested in Korea.
However, following the announcement of Fight for Seoul, I purchased the last FW in France. Whilst FW by itself wasn’t too interesting it does provide the framework for a KW CG which I can tell you is
So onto the Review
The box is slightly larger and heavier than KGS. A different style, rather than the locking flap of KGS it’s a normal lift off the top style box. It doesn’t look very sturdy but I’m not planning on driving over it.
As well as the normal blurb, there is a line on the back of the box that states “Ownership of the ASL Rulebook and all the game system is required to play this module”. This is good advice. Whilst I couldn’t say exactly which bits are needed I’ve got a very full collection and it’s the first time I’ve had to look for more foxholes, more bank counters, more FFE counters. Make no mistake this is a man’s ASL module, you’re not going to jump into this from Starter Kits.
Inside, you have three plastic wrapped rulebooks, 4 heavy paper maps and a lot of scenarios and play aids and a single counter sheet.
The package is enticing, glossy and weighty, when you pick it up you feel like you have your money’s worth. Like a good wife.
There are 4 maps, same size as the VOTG maps so I think the ‘normal’ size MMP maps. One word about the maps. The hexes are normal size, not the larger hexes of VotG for example. So, on the VotG map you have hexrows A-OO hex number 1-50 for a total of 1550 hexes and half hexes. Smith’s Ridge is A-TT 1-58, for a total of 2668 Hexes. That’s 72% more hexes than VotG. Same size, more map. Magic. It’s larger than the KGP Maps. Is this officially the biggest ASL map?
What does this mean? Well more space means more room to manoeuvre; in Smith’s Ridge your companies will be traversing 15 hexes of paddy fields, under fire to reach the MLR. It means mandatory fire direction. If you’ve ever played CH’s Omaha packs you’ll understand how deadly a 1-4 ROF 3 is.
Your L and LL guns suddenly become very important, as does shooting ATT. Some of your weapons will be outside of effective range. The 60mm company mortars cannot hit the whole map.
To give you an idea of scale, in VotG a German HMG, given LOS, can shoot clean from one side of the map to another. On Smith’s Ridge your .50 cal’s can shoot about 2/3rds of the way across.
One potential negative with regular size hexes is counter density. In 2 CG scenarios of Smith’s Ridge I haven’t encountered this. Whilst playing Besting Basilone, one of the Seoul Scenarios, we did encounter significant counter density. However, one finds this in many other products. It would be a nice idea if LFT could put a few blown up maps available for download for the scenarios that may need it.
(Please note my comments on the maps, whilst generally applicable to both maps, are mainly based on the Smith’s Ridge map because I’ve played a lot on it.)
In terms of quality, the maps should make everyone happy. Heavy, matte paper. Great detail on the map, you can make out roof tiles and thatch, the crest lines are well marked. The map uses official terrain symbology.
There are two new terrain visuals on the map. One is Korean Graveyards which took me a while to realise is not woods and the second is Village Terrain. This basically utilises B.1. Some building depictions cross over hexsides thus blocking bypass and LOS. When you see pictures of the terrain at the time it really represents the tight urban/village terrain. The map feels much more organic and a lot less predictable than a standard everything-fits-in-one-hex MMP style map. I haven’t yet found a hexside where one needs to measure the thickness of a counter to determine if BP is allowed. Clear and well done.
And there is a village called Yom Dong. Which is cool.
One very minor point with the Seoul map, an oddity even. The map text, as normal, aligns north, however the hex grid aligns south. It makes no difference to play, in fact, I kind of like it.
When one plays a board game normally one player has the ‘advantage’ of sitting with
the text whilst the other plays with the text against
him. This way one player has the map text and the other player has the hex grid. For some reason this generated a page of Mea Culpas on GS. It really is not an issue. However it is clearly Yom Dong Repetti’s fault.
So, to summarise the maps, big, very big, interesting, clear and well done.
The three rule booklets have a lovely smooth quality paper cover and glossy (but not too glossy) interior pages.
The first booklet is the CG rules. These cover the rules which are shared between the two CGs. So the refit phase etc. is all covered in one booklet. It’s much easier to reference this than the MMP binder pages.
The other two booklets are for each of the CGs. They look relatively meaty but one of the first entries in each book basically says don't panic there are a lot of rules shared between the two CGs but repeated in each booklet. Well printed with large font for you silverbacks out there. I have noticed only one error where an illustration of sample terrain is incorrect.
(One thing to say about my take on the rules, scenarios and CGs in general – just because I say there are no errors doesn’t mean there aren’t. VotG has 46 pages of Q and A on Gamesquad, and that’s a much simpler module).
There are a number of new terrain types which for the most part are based on familiar concepts – high walls acting like factory interior walls for example.
One of my favourite rules sections is the enshrining into law of footnote W 16. 768’s now break down into three 248s. Think about this for a while, as it’s a fundamental shift from A1.122 which was one of the first rules you ever read. Your squad can now break down into three! One 248 mans the mmg on Opp Fire, one 248 scouts and the third follows up with a candygram for Mongo.
To give you an example, in Smiths Ridge you have a Marine company that needs to cross 15 hexes of paddy field against OBA mortars and MGs. Your 9 768s can deploy (freely) into 27 248s. That’s a lot of targets.
There are other interesting, low rules overhead additions. Assault Engineers can make bridge assessments, Rockets from FBs are easy to use, and there are rules for flak and SEAD.
There are extensive and interesting footnotes.
One nice touch is that the CG booklets do not contain the CG setups, initial ssrs or RG charts, they are on separate sheets. This is great because you mustn’t continually flip pages between the four or five charts you need to set up, as is normal with MMP ring binder CGs. Each CG booklet also lists the scenarios in ascending order of complexity, which is a nice touch.
The counter sheet. I’m happy that there is only one. Whilst new counters used to be lovely I think we’ve got enough now. I can't be bothered clipping and more importantly storing
So you have about 30 768s and half squads. Can't get around it, they are needed for the CG. Your average player doesn’t have enough.
There are plenty of FB counters showing different bomb loads. I believe that a FB with rockets, VT bombs, cannons and napalm doesn’t have to make excuses as to why he is in my new game. So welcome boys, make yourselves at home.
There are a few other necessary counters, I didn’t check, but its stuff like in culvert, under bridge etc. Boring stuff that you actually need. There are some VBM counters which are cool.
However, the true highlights of the counter sheet, indeed the module and possibly my gaming life are the WTF and the hourglass counters. Both 5/8ths so your opponent can clearly see them. To have a counter marked WTF in a Module called FfS is just poetic. The hourglass is to indicate to your opponent that he is playing too slow. These two counters are going into my dice case to make sure I have them everywhere.
So, in terms of the counters themselves. They are slightly grey core, again, not important to me. They don't literally fall off the sprue if you look at them like the KGS counters did, but they don’t have the 4 points of attachment like early MMP counters. They drop out easy, easy to clip, no problems.
However, the infantry counters aren’t as good as BG counters. Mind you, no one’s counters are as good as BGs counters. FfS counters are perfect - if you’ve never had BG counters. They are full colour, crisp and clear, however the figures and numerals only take up 2/3rds of the counters I would prefer larger text and figures on the counters.
One minor issue with the counters concerns red dots or rather the lack of red dots. Again it’s a non-issue.
I think it would have been a good and representative idea to have at least one USMC SMC counter of maybe a 7-0 eating a crayon.
On to the game itself. Contained in the box are two distinct and separate CGs and 21 scenarios.
The scenarios are all based on the historical maps. I think this is great, why make me play scenarios on geoboards when the map goes to waste.
The scenario cards (and CG cards) are all full colour with LFTs own counter art. They are really attractive. There is a good mix of small and large, simple and complex. I’m not going to do a Desperation Morale Style review of which contain OBA, night, armour etc. None of the rules are difficult. But, to be absolutely clear, and I’ll expand on this later, if you’ve bought this module you got to be ready to play with the big boys. You’re pretty far from Kansas and vanilla now.
I’ve played one scenario, Besting Basilone, I’ll post an AAR later on GS. I’ve also soloed through the first two dates of the Smith’s Ridge CG to get a feel for the rules. To be clear I don’t know the scenarios or the intricacies of the CG, but then, at the moment no one but the play testers does.
As usual, there will be some great scenarios, some mediocre and maybe even a dog. However, the process of finding out which is which is going to be great.
So highlights from my games so far.
Losing a TACP and a mg stack to a pair of mortars engaging at 68 hex range
Losing a FAC and a FB to heavy AA
Becoming a master of rice paddies and realising why bank movement is dangerous
Bringing down 4, yes count ‘em, WP FFEs in a single phase
Realising what a difference steep hills make
Deploying a company of 9 768s into 27 248s and charging across 700 metres of rice paddies at 7 companies of entrenched Norks with artillery support.
Using my bank counters for the second time.
Fighting at extreme range
Using TACPs, heavy and light AA.
Enjoying the on map strategic maneuvering. Smith’s Ridge is 4.2km2 of real estate, a normal board is .5km2 These battles develop slowly.
Realising that this is beautifully produced, cutting edge ASL, using a new chapter with brand new rules and watching the parts fit together.
Why Should I Buy this?
The whole point of a review is to provide information, normally used to decide whether to buy or avoid. Or to attack the reviewer. So should you buy it?
Well there are a number of reasons why I think you should
It’s cost effective, you receive two CGs on two separate maps and 21 scenarios.
You support a company that has upped the quality of ASL products over the last few years. This should have a knock on effect across the industry, even SP is using counter art now.
You support a designer who has shown us that ASL can be more than it is.
Indirectly you support MMP as ASL is a prerequisite, it should help to shift FW.
It will one day be out of print
It’s nearly Christmas, what other competition do you have? Deluxe Boards Reprint, a reprint of OtO (which is actually very good), a reprint of CdG (admittedly with a new CG which does look very good).
These are general reasons.
I feel that this product oozes quality and detail. It’s professionally produced, it’s beautiful, it seems to avoid problems that have historically plagued other products.
I mentioned upstream that this module means you get to play with the big boys. I really believe that if you can play chapters A through D then the rest is easy. As complicated as this module may look
it really isn’t. It doesn’t add many new rules, but it does combine lots of rules that you may not play often. It will make you a better player, more familiar with some of the dusty corners, better able to get the most out of your counters in more vanilla scenarios.
As the USMC you have the opportunity to fight a new holistic kind of war, your air support is an integral part of your way of fighting, your armour is intimately tied to your infantry, your squads work in new ways.
As the KPA you need to undo this puzzle, taking lessons from the Japanese and applying them to your Russian hardware and methods. You will not be human waving your way to victory. How will you defend from the massive air support? How will you break up the tank infantry teams?
If you’re still on the fence, read Ike Fenton’s story. It will tell you the story behind that face, a story the equal of any Arnhem, Bulge, Stalingrad or Iwo Jima picture.
Good luck, reader, in your decision to purchase or not. I for one am happier with this module than any other I have ever seen.