Brant Guillory, 27 July 2022
Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s latest game in their World at War ’85 series – Blood & Fury – is currently live on Gamefound, and blew through its funding goal in about 15 minutes. Early bird pledges are gone and all the stretch goals are unlocked; you can still get the game for just over $100 (plus shipping). It’s not quite the steal that Storming the Gap was, but prices have gone up across the industry lately.
We managed to corral Keith Tracton, one of the overlords of the W@W85 product line, to answer a few questions with us about the new project.
1. OK, so Blood & Fury is the first follow-up to the rebooted World at War 85 series, which is still one of the best values in wargaming in the past 10 years. How did you guys decide to go with the Brits, and how did you pick & choose which East Bloc units to face them?
Since Volume 1, Storming the Gap and its expansions covered the Fulda Gap and parts farther south (Storm and Steel with the Czechs), the next largest NATO force commitment would have been the Northern Army Group (NorthAG). That naturally led to the decision to go with the largest NorthAG forces to fill out the counter mix: the British and the West Germans. We simply did not have space for the Belgians and the Dutch in NorthAG just yet. We will cover them, and a bit more of southern West Germany with the Canadians in a later Volume which is entitled We Shall Hold.
Originally we were going to have the Soviets and the East Germans, but then Jeff Schulte pointed out that from a game perspective, we were shorting them both: not enough East Germans, with redundant support weapons in many cases with the Soviets; and not enough Soviets to field more than a regiment. So we decided since we had the East Germans already in Storming the Gap, that we should instead give those counters over to the Soviets to be able to field a really formidable multi-regiment force in the game. It also gave us enough counter slots to explore some new support weapons for the Soviets, different than Storming the Gap, notably more gun-launched ATGMs for the Soviet tanks. And also we had enough slots that we could maintain an Air Assault element for them as well.
And how many more shades of orange-red-mauve-magenta-purple can you guys find to use for the Warsaw Pact countries?
Hah! Right now of course we have red for the Soviets, but the Czechs are a mild purple and the East Germans area deep blue, so we have some more options for shades of Red for the PACT forces down the line.
click images to enlarge
2. Lock ‘n Load Publishing does a great job of updating their rulebooks and providing the PDFs to the audience, which is fantastic as a player. But most of those updates are clarifications or typo corrections on existing rules. As y’all started on Blood & Fury, what are some of the new rules and processes that this game introduces to build on the Storming The Gap rules? Aside from a bunch of new units and hardware, what are you introducing to players in the new box?
On the production side we have made choices to make the books easier to proof. No proofing is perfect unless you have a editorial department that does only that every day, of course, which is outside of the scale of the gaming industry. But we are re-engineering our processes to minimize them more than in the first. For example we are going to use setup areas visually defined on the scenario map rather than listing hex coordinates in the setup instructions. Proofing setup areas on scenario maps is easier than proofing a half-dozen text coordinate designations, for example. It should help to minimize the typos of coordinates where possible.
Also, and most basic: we have a lot more eyes scheduled to be on the proofs this time around.
We are challenged to have to be conscious to maintain a complete game experience in the box as this might be the only game in the series that a player buys. These are standalone games. Yet also provide an experience unique to the fighting units and geographical situation we have chosen as the game’s topic.
That bunch of new units and hardware is the largest thing, it is half the battle (pun intended): e.g. the British have different capabilities so players have to fight using them differently than other nations forces. Their main battle tanks all sport powerful 120mm cannon all around, Chieftains and Challengers both, so their combined arms platoon tactics are different from, say, the United States forces. And the Soviet response to that has to differ as well.
We do have new things of course: mostly terrains that are exclusive to the expansion, Operation Red Gauntlet, with its 8 map historical configuration of the city of Minden and its environs, and the nearby Weser River crossings. Dense City where armor cannot fully deploy and infantry can retreat and from assault more easily and so survive and fight more; Light Industrial, obscuring terrain that offers defensive bonuses, and representing everything from massive trainyards to cloverleafs off major roads to port facilities; and major river hexsides which have inaccessible banks (or sides if they actually represent a canal).
Now, new Pontoon bridging units come into their own, adding bridging and ferrying functions when combined with engineers, as crossing the Weser in multiple locations is a Soviet priority. It is a densely urban area, yet with some wide open sections and perimeter hills, It is VERY different experience than fighting in the Fulda Gap.
We did add a couple of subtle changes to the combat rules: all Defensive bonuses save on a 5 or 6, whether a unit’s armor value is 6 or not. Some Infantry Fighting Vehicles primarily armed with ATGMs also have cannon, and we have added the values for those cannon so they can opt to use the cannon for AP instead of the ATGMs. We clarified restrictions on using the HE values of Indirect Fire units when instead they are firing directly.
3. The new game has a solo mode built-in “out of the box”. How does this differ from the solo assistant that shipped with Storming the Gap and how has the solo mode evolved over the past few years?
The two are related, but we added some refinements to the Blood and Fury Solo Assistant that allow for standardization and customization by game down the line of the series. The new version makes some decisions slightly easier to make (Opportunity fire choice; loading and unloading for the solo opponent). And it is in the box already. There are also a smattering of cards exclusive to the forces and geographic areas in Blood and Fury.
I have been informed that because of the pandemic, solitaire gaming has become much more prevalent, to the point where the most requested feature of our game is the new Solo Setups we will be providing, so there is a little more guidance on setting up the solo opponent instead of leaving it completely to the player. It’s a Brave New World at War 85.
4. Talk to us about the campaign scenarios! What’s the overarching story they’re trying to tell, and how does it unfold for the player during the extended game?
The Drive on Leine is the Campaign game that will be included. We have refined it so that it is a much smaller, tighter player experience than the previous campaign game, The Drive on Geissen. It is a two-player campaign with simultaneous movement, though of course it can lend itself to solitaire play. In its way it is a scenario generator with specific map configurations laid out. As the Soviets drive toward Leine, air recon will assist both sides in determining the best route to take free of as many enemy formations as possible. At the end of each day, players will generate replacements, with the player controlling the day’s battlefields more able to recover equipment than the one who is forced to yield locations. It’s a unique experience and can generate some really tense scenarios! And of course the scenarios themselves can be played solitaire!
5. What’s the biggest battle you guys have physically set up on a table with the World at War 85 series game (not TTS or something similar where you can just copy/paste extra units!) and how did it go? How many tables did you have to push together to play it and how long did it take? What did you learn from that game?
We had a special experience once and played Scenario 2 from Defense of Frankfurt on a giant 3D-printed miniatures-terrain version of the Defense of Frankfurt map. Shout out to Mark Faircloth and his team for an amazing Contact Atlanta 2019 experience!!
The overall map:
And then my U.S. M-109 battery about to be jumped by an entire Soviet Air Assault battalion. Ouch!!
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