Heroes of the Motherland - published by Lock 'n Load.
This new game is partly a re-print and partly new content. It brings back into production the Lock 'n Load Russian WWII tactical expansion previously known as 'Not One Step Back' - but substantially adds to it to make it a stand alone product.
This post looks at the game from the perspective of using the new Battle Generator System, which can be bought separately as a game support product.
Please press the 'read more' button for the rest of this post.
As a reprint, the new game is quite a step forward (pun not intended). Now the gamer does not need to own previous modules / game-sets to play the 'Not One Step Back' scenarios, as HotM includes the entire order of battle needed to play the 12 scenarios plus all the maps, including bonus additional maps that have the old overlays actually printed onto the new map to modify them properly, this is giving the player a total of 14 maps (the old expansion had 3).
There is also a new campaign module (which has five linked scenarios based around Manstein's attempt to open a corridor through to the trapped forces at Stalingrad) and I should properly disclose at this stage that I am the author of that module, though please be assured that I will not allow that to influence any of the content that follows in this post.
Indeed, I am going to focus on another part of the system altogether and something new for Lock 'n Load ....... the Battle Generator that supports this game (not included in the game). The post is going to follow the scenario generation process, so that the reader gets a good idea of how it all works.
For those wanting to know more about the actual Lock 'n Load Tactical system, there are other posts on this blog that substantially show the workings of the system and links to two of those posts are given in the resource section at the foot of this article.
The Battle Generator comes with its own nicely presented rules booklet in colour and on nice paper. It includes a set of charts that show each counter in the game, it's purchase point value and the maximum number of each particular counter that can be purchased in a scenario. These charts are also nicely replicated on a couple of A3 card inserts (one for each force), so players can independently and simultaneously make their pre-game purchases.
With the introduction out of the way, let's create a battle. I am going through this solo, preparing a game for my next face-to-face game with Mike, so I will be buying his forces on his behalf, so that we can get straight into gaming when he arrives - the point being that it will demonstrate that the generator works well for solo gamers. The booklet takes us through the process stage by stage as follows;
Define the type of battle - There are two types of battle, a meeting engagement in which both players start close to their respective map edges and fight for control of 'target hexes' (think VP hexes) and the other, an attacker / defender situation, in which one side can set up over most of the map(s), controlling all of the target hexes and the other player sets up close to their own map edge and must attack to capture all of the target hexes. I roll a D6, which results in a meeting engagement style battle. A further die roll gives the Soviet player the initiative.
Define sides - A die roll of 3 makes me the Soviet player, so Mike will take the German force.
Define Roles - This is only used in an attacker / defender type of battle, to identify which player will be the attacker. It is ignored for our meeting engagement as both our forces will start the game on their respective map edges, rather than one force already defending territory. (Errata note - later in this process, when determining reinforcements, it will be necessary for an attacker to also be established in a meeting engagement type battle, but as this is only an administrative requirement for rolling on the reinforcement chart, the attacker will simply be the player who has gained the initiative at the start of play, which as already shown above is the Soviet player in this instance)
Determine map edge deployment area - 2D6 are rolled and I score 8. For meeting engagements, this translates into my Soviet forces deploying on the east edge of the map, within two hexes of that edge. By default, Mike will get the west edge and again will set-up within two hexes of the edge. Below shows the north edge indicated by the pen, the 3 target hexes ave victory markers on them and the respective forces set aside on the east and west sides of the map.
Size of the battle - There is a choice of having a small, medium or large battle and this will determine a number of subsequent parameters. Mainly it will determine how many points are available to buy troops, how many maps are used and how long a game will last. For our initial trial of the generator, the small game has its advantages. This provides for 200 troop purchase points, 1 map and in a meeting engagement there are 2 additional target hexes as well as the default 1 target hex (for a total of 3 target hexes). This will mean that in the game, a player will need to control two out of the three hexes to win.
Turn limit - A D6 result is added to the number on a matrix (Depending on the size of the battle) and for our small battle, I generate 6 turns.
Choose the map - A 9 is rolled on 2D6 (the rulebook wrongly says roll 1D6) and this gives us map 47, which is classed as being in the category of countryside in nature. In a medium game 2 maps are rolled for and in a large game 4 maps are generated.
|The German setup|
Define orientation - Rolling on a matrix with 2D6, hex row 1 on my map 47 is established as being North.
|The Soviet setup|
Define map placement - this phase is ignored for 1 map games, but in multi-map games, it dictates how the 2nd, 3rd and 4th maps should be placed against earlier map placement - for example the instruction for placing the second map might say 'east of last map placed'. This particular phase can really change the dynamics of battlefields keeping the system fresh.
Define target hexes - if you remember, we have three such hexes for our scenario. All the maps are individually shown in the rule book, with each having either 2, 3 or 4 specific hexes highlighted on them as being potential target hexes. The first hex (marked as number 1) is a mandatory hex and is always used as a target hex. The remaining target hexes form a pool for random selection. Map 47 just so happens to have 4 target hexes marked upon it. My default (mandatory) 1st hex is hex H3 (the bend in the road). Rolling for the other two hexes that we need (out of the remaining pool of three hexes), die roll 1 gives me hex H8, a wooden building just to the side of the wheatfield. Die roll 2 gives me the same result, so I re-roll and get K1, a Forrest hex up in the woods area of the map. In an attacker / defender type game, the defender starts play by controlling all of the target hexes.
There are then a few pages that deal with attacker / defender games, which modify initial troop points by possibly hiving off some points for reinforcements, fixing deployment and allocating artillery. We move on past that to the next section, which essentially does the same, but with different factors, for our meeting engagement. In a small battle, both sides get all of their troop points as an initial allocation, but in medium and large battles, the players roll on a table to see how many points will be held back for reinforcements.
|The Soviet left flank|
It is here that I had to contact Lock and Load because on medium and large games there is a reinforcement chart as per the above paragraph, that is stated in terms on attacker / defender. However since meeting engagements do not have attackers or defenders, it raised an errata problem. L'nL said that for the purposes of rolling for reinforcements (only), in meeting engagements, the attacker is defined as the player who has been given the initiative for the opening turn. Anyway, in our small game, reinforcements are not used.
For artillery, I roll for the Soviets and get an availability figure of 3 (best roll). This means that I could choose to buy (from my troop points) up to 3 artillery missions, though I do not actually need to buy any at all. Mike's side also gets an availability value of 3.
It is now time to buy our units, this is a simultaneous process and because we are not getting reinforcements, we do not need to establish on which turn they will arrive. If Mike were here, we would each have our own list of available troops and be able to choose in secret. However, as stated, I am running this part of the process solo and I will simply try and choose Mike a good force that I would be happy with myself.
For the Soviets I buy ............. Lt. Smirnoff (10 purchase points), Sgt. Gorbatov (12), infantry 1-4-4-5 x 9 (99), DP 28 LMG x 2 (10), 105mm artillery mission x 1 (21), 14.5 PTRS x 2 (2), T-34 x 1 (46) for a total of 200 points. I have made the force infantry heavy with limited leadership compared to the Germans and included artillery.
On behalf of Mike I buy ................ Lt. Plassmann (purchase 12 points). Lt. Koch (12), Sgt. Baumann (11), infantry 1-6-4-5 x 6 (72 ), 7.92mm HMG (11), MG34 x 2 (14), Sniper (6), StuGIIIg x 2 (52), Panzerfaust-30 x 3 (9) for a total of 199 points. I have made this force a well led, punchy combined arms team.
Mines, bunkers, wire etc are available to buy, but the situation does not warrant these items.
I roll to see who sets up first ...... And it is my good self. As stated at the start of the process for a meeting engagement, both sides set up within two hexes of our respective map edges.
Finally, the month and weather are diced for. We get June and clear weather (No effects). Other weather types will have an effect on the game by way of introducing line of sight and movement penalties. Storms cause the whole generator process to start again - I'm not sure that I see the point of that, though if I were using the generator to create a campaign, I would use that result to cancel the next battle, but move the game campaign time on.
Looking at the two purchase lists, it feels like the Germans have the better force for their 200 points worth, so it will be interesting to see how this translates into a game. Before doing the face-to-face game, I will run through it solitaire and see how it looks.
In summary we have a 1 map game running for 6 turns, with both forces starting from within the first two hex rows of their respective sides of the map and the Soviets set-up first and they also have the initiative.
|The Soviet right flank|
Any of the maps in the box could have been selected, but our 'luck' has given us a fairly open map, especially from the German perspective which is going to leave the forces largely exposed without a lot of scope for manoeuvre.
The three objective hexes have been marked on the map below. The Soviets set up in two groups, one to advance through the woods and the other the wheatfield. The Germans set-up on a broad front, with their flanks strong (light machine guns) to take the target hexes, but with support in the centre than can easily move to support either flank.
In addition to the standard maps that come with each of the re-prints of this system, Lock 'n Load are also producing a set of extra large maps that they refer to as X-Maps. These increase the hex size Probably by something in the region of a third. Not essential, but many will welcome the more generous gaming space. This replay will be using the standard maps.
|Standard map and X map|
The highlights of my solitaire game are;
Turn 1 - Lt. Smirnoff activates and takes the units around him through the Forrest / scrub towards the target hex at the top of the map. Sgt. Gorbatov leads his men through the wheatfield, but it slows them down. The T34 tries to get a shot off at a StuG, but the two hexes of degrading terrain cause them to miss. The Germans get adjacent to the two nearest target hexes (open road and house).
Turn 2 - Smirnoff attempts to spot for artillery and fails, his spotting round is well off target. Lt. Plassmann gets into the house with a squad and an MG34. Gorbachev, with a squad and an LMG assault the house and win the melee. That is quite a set-back for the German side. At the bend in the road, the German player 'low crawls' out to capture the hex, with a view to crawling back to cover in the next turn.
Turn 3 - Lt. Koch counter-attacks at the house, but they lose the melee and are removed from play. This is a serious turn of events for the German player. A StuG destroys the T-34, with a turret hit. Again the Russian artillery spotting round is too inaccurate to use.
Turn 4 - The German heavy machine gun and one of the Stugs start to put suppressive fire into the building, but without effect and as two more squads approach the building to assault it, they are both fired upon and go 'shaken'. Once again, the Soviets fail to get their on call artillery on target, I am regretting not buying other assets for them instead. The German sniper takes up position amongst the trees along the road, to target the Soviets occupying the house.
Turn 5 - At last, Smirnoff gets his artillery on target, He wounds Baumann, shakes a squad, inflicting casualties and shakes a StuG.
Turn 6 - German attempts to capture the house fail. In the north Smirnoff pushes a squad out from woodland towards the open bend in the road and amazingly it survives the combined attention of the StuG and a squad / LMG immediately below the bend (the previous Soviet squad to try this didn't make it). They capture the section of road (the bend) and the Germans are not in any position anywhere to reverse the Soviet gains.
The game ends with the Soviets in possession of all three target hexes. Overall the generator module produced a nice game with plenty of interest and best of all, it surprised me as I thought a German win was going to be the most likely outcome, though the German side can rightly say that at critical moments, the dice did not favour them, but then the Soviet artillery and T34 tank may well make the same claim.
Anyway, it gave a good L'nL game with plenty of tactical nuances. The generator is solitaire friendly and the scope between creating small, medium and large battles will give the player whatever game suits the time available to play and will also be a useful tool for anyone wanting to create campaign games. Players can even force some design outcomes, so for example if you are running a campaign game and need a built up area generated, then simply tweak the system to just allow those maps to appear.
It certainly ensures that the HotM game stays fresh with a ton of replayability.
EDIT - when I first posted this, I thought that the generator was freely available as a download - I have since been corrected. On the heroes of the Pacific has a free downloadable generator, sorry for any confusion.
Article on how the system works. LINK
Article on the new Heroes of the Pacific module. LINK