Clash of Steel – Familiar but Different

Martin here with some thoughts on Battlefronts new “epic” tank on tank game set in the alternative universe, were World War 2 ended in mid 1944 before the Red Army entered Berlin. This alternative history setting beginning in 1948 allows Battlefront, through Gale Force 9, to bring their superb World of Tanks alternative history models for the late 1940’s and early 1950’s into a game with their real-world models from the mid 1940’s onward without impacting on the core Flames of War game for Late War.  

Let’s start with the basics; it’s alternative history, so it’s the traditional western allies UK and USA plus their new anti-communist ally Germany facing the might of the Soviet Union in a pre-cold war conflict. GF9 have a great section on their web site all about the game and models which it seems pointless to repeat here ( GF 9 web link ) what I am going to do is concentrate on how game play differs from what we are all used to with Battlefronts other games.

So, let us start at the beginning with list building.
In CoS you build a Force comprising of a Headquarters (HQ), several Core Platoons (2-6) and a few Support Platoons. Just like all their other games a key difference being that the number of Support platoons is restricted to just 2 this is probably more down to the fact this game has no artillery or infantry in it than anything else but its an interesting change. The HQ platoon will typically be one of your post 1944 tank types be that a real or concept tank. With Core platoons you simply pick any 2 to 6 from those available allowing you to tailor the size of the game these are a mix of real and concept vehicles that come in platoons of 2 to 5 vehicles in most cases (Soviets can have up to 10 tanks) and your support is mainly made up of 1944-45 era vehicles or “Black Box” Core platoons as in the existing games. This option suggests we will see more Force lists in the future as the game develops.  This structure allows players the option of taking a few “super tanks” or filling their roster with many, many lesser vehicles. So far so familiar. A key point here is points don’t translate from CoS to FoW or TYWW3 for the same vehicles which personally I find a bit annoying and do wonder at why BF/GF9 thought they needed to do that.

Lastly, we have Commander Abilities. These are bonuses you can buy for your Force Commanders tank and these are a mix of special abilities that are apply to either just the Force Commander or in some cases to nearby Platoons. There work like Command Cards in FoW or the Crew upgrade cards in World of Tanks (WoT) but are limited to 2 per Commander. These can only be applied to the Force Commander Tank even if they affect Platoons you need to be near them (i.e. in Command Distance) to use them in those cases. A subtle change here is that if your Force Commander is forced to change Tank these abilities are lost with their Tank.

Setting up a game

This has a familiarity about it for players of the existing games, but it is different. Gone are the fixed scenarios and mission matrices we are familiar with to a more random solution. You pick a random mission rule card from a deck of 6 Mission Rules cards (2 long edge deployment, 2 corner deployments and 2 short edge deployments) and use that to determine the way players deploy and the placement of objectives. You then draw from the 9 Mission Set Up cards which add in mission rules such as game length and reserves, giving a game of 5 to 9 turns in duration with an assortment of reserves options in all there are 54 possible game set ups you can play. All games use the Meeting Engagement mechanic so whoever goes first always counts as having moved. Also in all games the objectives are placed initially in no mans land which provides some reason to take light vehicles such as the German Puma scout tank which comes with the Spearhead rule.

Next the actual objective effects are drawn randomly from another card deck and placed face down at on the objective markers. You only reveal what they do once they are activated, which happens as the game turns progress i.e in Turn 1 reveal Objective 1, in Turn 2 Objective 2 is revealed, etc.. These have random effects from making an objective active or inactive at a certain turn in the game or adding bonuses to die rolls for tanks when near the objective.

An example of an Objective Card

Game Play

This will be completely familiar to existing players it uses all the regular mechanics of movement and direct fire shooting but as this is a tank vs tank game there is no bombardments or assault step (viewed by many as the most complex part of FoW). A key difference here between CoS and the other games is they have added in a new step the Ending Step, this is necessary to enable the scoring system used in CoS where players both score Victory Points VP’s) in each player turn for objectives they hold and for platoons that they destroy that turn. The other games only score victory points at the end of the game due to their game ending mechanics. This eliminates the rather unsatisfactory mutual loss outcome in CoS games but does introduce a true drawn game result if both players manage to score the same number of Victory Points (not likely but possible).

Another subtle but necessary change with the Ending Step is that the original Starting Step has been simplified to just Ambush placement and Reserves arrival (uses regular FoW/TY mechanics), with remounting and last and tests being moved to the Ending Step, this was obviously done to allow both players to score points for Objectives each turn for all their vehicles not destroyed and offers a glimpse to where the other existing games may go in the future. A Force break will also end the game at this point. Creating the interesting scenario with a player who is behind on the VP counter accidentally loosing the game by breaking their opponents force and ending the game. This is possible where one player captures lots of objective points whilst their opponent concentrates on killing platoons, Objectives are worth more VP’s per turn than killing platoons so there are potentially odd situations where not killing things is actually a better option.

So now we know how CoS basically works what else is different or new? Well the only other change I can spot is that measuring for range has been subtly altered rather than mess about trying to measure from weapon mountings you simply measure the shortest distance between any part of the shooting and target models which in some cases can alter the the potential range of a weapon by several inches, for instance a tank with a forward mounted turret firing at a target behind it gains the length of the engine deck in range terms which can turn a 24” range weapon into a 26” range weapon yes it’s a simplification to make the game easier to pick up for new players but may feel a bit odd to existing players giving it a try.

Well there you have it  our summary of what different and what’s not there’s a lot to like in CoS. It it’s different but very familiar at the same time. Filling a gap between the FoW/TYWW3 games and WoT and enables players to progress in either direction. Being a simpler game than Fow/TYWW3 should make it easier for younger players to pick up and it won’t upset the more historically minded members of the FoW community adding theoretical and non-combat vehicles in to the FoW historical setting.