Billy Riley, 18 December 2019
Combat! is a single soldier (man to man) counter game. Hexes are 20m and the maps provide ample ability to be tactical with many ways to move and many places to hide.
There are 4 maps to fight across and 14 scenarios with 4 being introductory scenarios to help ease you into the game mechanics.
You play the friendly forces fighting the Axis forces. The game uses cards, dice and orders to move the game along but the user has plenty to do. As the player you have to select the Allied card to play, perform any events that show up and assign orders to your teams. You’ll also have to enact any additional order that show up on cards which have ORDER on them and during the game, you can play a card with DISCARD on it and enact the specific instruction on that card.
Note, to see what’s in the box, check out our previous First Look! at the game
You’ll have to assign responsible orders to your teams and manoeuvre them into position in order to damage your enemy.
The Allied forces use cards to determine Initiative and wounds as well as some events and additional orders. The Axis forces cards are used to assign orders to individual soldiers and this plays the Axis system.
The game uses a turn and impulse system. There are 4 impulses in each turn. Each order assigned to the teams (Axis or Allies) has 4 numbers on the bottom – 0s and 1s – and these are used to determine what each soldier does during that impulse.
How do we get to actually playing through a game?
The game is played using turns and 4 impulses within those turns. When cards are played at the beginning of the turn, they have initiative values on them and those initiative values determine the order that teams act in each impulse.
For example, ABLE and CHARLIE Allied teams have initiative values of 3 and 78 and BLUE and RED Axis teams have values of 34 and 16 – the impulse order would be ABLE – RED – BLUE – CHARLIE.
The randomness of these initiative values makes for superb, unpredictable play and hugely affects variability in the same scenario making playing the same scenario different each time. I’ve only played the same scenario twice, but I can see how this system will make each play different.
The additional thing that throws in some randomness is the DUMMY Axis counters. All AXIS counters on my Intro scenario started the game unknown – I don’t know if that’s always the case. It’s possible some soldiers in other scenarios starts as known. Basically you are told which soldiers and how many DUMMY counters are to be put in a cup. You then draw soldiers (face down) and place them on the map. You have no idea how many are actual soldiers and how many are DUMMY counter.
This is pretty cool. I could see myself as Private Crowe thinking he heard some noise in the general direction – hence why the unit is hidden…he just wasn’t sure.
Soldiers have attributes. They have standard ones like
- Leadership (black box with white text)
- Troop Quality (red box with white text)
- Weapon Quality (white circle with red text)
- Grenade Quality (white circle with red text)
I’m going to give a brief outline of the phases and not go into line by line detail…just a playthrough.
Friendly Card Phase
The scenario will inform you of how many cards you start with
These come in 3 flavours
- Order Cards
When you play these, the text on the card is enacted during the game. The card above informs me that none of my troops can do anything on Impulse 1
- Discard Cards
These cards can be played at any point throughout the turn. An example would be to add a couple of morale levels to a soldier. When you play this card during a turn, it’s removed from your hand
- Event Cards
These cards have the word Friendly Event or Enemy Event on them and when these are played you have to stop what you’re doing and roll on the appropriate (Friendly or Enemy) event table
You then assign orders to your troops. Example of orders are
There’s a good mix of orders and they make sense – for example I see the Sprint order as the soldier assessing the situation before starting to run – hence why he can only move 1 hex on the first impulse and 2 hexes on subsequent impulses.
The orders work incredibly well during the game and really make you think hard about what you want to achieve. The fact that you don’t know the enemy’s orders or initiative at this time either means you really have to make your choices based on what YOU want to do and you’re not reacting to what the enemy will do.
It’s important to mention here that you can give an NCO a PLAN order. This order means the NCO can do nothing except spot and Duck Back. At the end of the turn, the order allows you to pick extra cards to add to your hand (you can have a maximum of 5 cards in your hand and have to discard if you have more). The NCO has to perform a Troop Quality Check (TQC) and if successful he gets a number of card equal to his leadership level.
Enemy Card Phase
During this part of the sequence of play, you pick cards for each of the Axis teams and their soldiers. The first card drawn for each team is used as the initiative card for that team and the number at the bottom right is the initiative.
You place the first card for the first team on the appropriate slot and assign the appropriate order the Axis soldier. You would then draw further cards for the other soldiers in that team, issue the order on the card to the soldier and place the card on the discard pile. You then repeat this process for the other Axis teams.
In the above card, the first soldier for the BLUE team who was in cover and with normal morale would be issued a Supp. Fire order. That card is then placed on the impulse track and its initiative values is used as the BLUE team’s initiative.
Again in the above example, the first soldier in the RED team in the open with Cautious morale would be issued a Run & Gun 2/3 order and the card is placed on the initiative track for the RED team. The 2/3 part of this order is the direction the soldier will move. In a Run & Gun order, the soldier must move on impulses 1 and 3 and shoot on 2 and 4. So the soldier who gets Run & Gun 2/3 would move on impulse 1 in direction 2, shoot on impulse 2, move in direction 3 on impulse 3 and shoot on impulse 4.
These orders seem random, but there’s some thought here. For example, in the image above, the German soldier has Cautious morale and he’s moving in direction 2 and 3. In my game and with the compass as it was, he would be moving away from the Allies.
Subsequent soldiers in the RED team pull cards, assign the orders and discard those cards.
This image shows the Allied and Axis order cards laid out and the initiative markers on the following image reflect what is on the cards.
During this phase, each team is activated on its impulse and each soldier within the team is activated and carries out their orders.
This is simply one of the best systems I’ve ever come across. I’ve not had a massive collection of boardgames, but of the ones I’ve had this has been fantastic.
This is simply one of the best systems I’ve ever come across. I’ve not had a massive collection of boardgames, but of the ones I’ve had this has been fantastic. It’s fairly simple to learn (though there are gaps in the rules which I’ll get to later) and the variety of outcomes seems to me to be boundless.
The orders given to the allied soldiers (as mentioned earlier) are proactive rather than reactive because you do not know what orders the Axis soldiers will be given. On the flip side, the orders given to the Axis soldiers are very different each turn. You don’t have to think if you’re performing an order because subconsciously you know how it would affect your Allied troops…the orders are assigned and they are carried out.
Honestly I didn’t feel an Axis order was odd – at least not for long. For each order that I did think was odd…for example, an Aimed Fire order when the Axis soldier was behind cover and couldn’t see any Allied soldiers…I just accepted there was a reason for it. Using the Aimed Fire, behind cover and no Allied troops in LOS as an example, I just thought the soldier had heard gunfire and decided to hunker down and wait and see what develops – and in fact the manual mentions the Aimed Fire being handy for opportunity fire which is why it can be given when no Allied troops are in LOS.
Three Axis soldiers were given HIDE orders. I thought “What? 3 HIDE enemy orders? What’s that about?”. Then I realised – they heard gunfire and they’re hiding. I was thinking the orders were a bit pointless and didn’t add much to my game as the soldiers wouldn’t be moving (Hide orders mean the soldiers can’t perform any actions this turn). But like everything else I came across I could see how the soldier reacting as logical. Perhaps they’re frozen. Perhaps they’re just taking cover to assess the situation.
What this little nugget did – and others throughout the game I played too – was to reinforce not only the scale I was playing at but the intimacy you have with your little cardboard troops. I really did imagine the Axis soldiers hiding behind the rocks.
The impulses take very little time…they really do flow quite fast.
Hits are calculated by working out modifiers like distance, weapon attributes, target hex and target orders. When a hit is made, an Allied card is revealed and the section at the bottom informs you of the outcome which could be a Morale Check, KIA, Light Wound or Bad Wound.
Wounds affect character attributes and when effect of wounds is more than the Troop Quality then the soldier is killed.
In the above image, you can see that BLUE team, CHARLIE team, ABLE team and RED team would perform their orders in that order. This throws up many different outcomes as well and can be critical to who is going to come out best when the metal starts to fly.
There’s MELEE. It’s really quite simple. When soldiers meet in a hex, their orders are replaced by a MELEE order. MELEE only happens on impulses 2 and 4 and so timing can be critical.
There’s also a CHARGE order where soldier moves 1 hex on impulse 1, 2 hexes on impulse 2 and 3 and MELEE’s on the 4thimpulse. The CHARGE order gives the unit an advantage.
This is how my game looked part way through
The Good, The Bad and…Well, The Good and The Bad
So – how does the game stack up? What are the good points and the bad points? Well…let me enlighten you (and these are just my opinions based on 2 play throughs of the first introduction scenario)
First Off The Bad – Or at least the mildly disappointing
- The Cost
Lets get the cost out the way – £135 is a lot of money for a boardgame
- The Map
The map already has a distinctive white line going up it where it’s folded. I’ve literally taken this out the box and unfolded it twice.
- The Rules
The rules are not as clear as they could be and also there are some omissions. For example, there’s no mention of the WIND counter, what it’s for or how to set it up.
The sequence of play on the Player Aid Card is missing some items on Step 5
- Also the index at the back is very sparse and could do with some considerable fleshing out
- Missing Some Key Counters
By this I mean counters that I think should be present. Counters like
- Actioned counters so you know what troops have been activated. I’ve only played a scenario with a few troops and it can be difficult to remember what troops you’ve activated
- The game gives some Objective hexes but there are NO objective counters. I had to use the Civilian counters
- For some reason there’s a second Player Aid Card. I have no idea why as it’s clearly a solitaire game. I would’ve liked that second PAC to contain information not on the other one (for example morale info which I have to delve into the manual for)
Now The Good
- The system is fairly easy to learn (even with some manual omissions)
- Plenty of game – especially given the next point
- The randomness of the setup, the variety in the orders, the variations available for initiative all make for a very, very open gaming experience. You just can’t call this one.
- The quality of the components, maps aside, are plenty good enough
- The game flows extremely well
- The order cards (whether Allied or Axis) are superb with a lot of variation
There seems to be a lot of negatives to positives – but I honestly am finding it difficult to put into words how superb this game feels. It’s been packed away for a few hours whilst I write this and I just can’t wait to get it back out on the table. I really felt like I was attached to the lads.
£135 is a lot of money and given some of the flaws and some of the production values (maps), I’d expect better. But I honestly cannot gripe – the game really has hit a sweet spot for me. It’s exactly the scale I wanted and it’s got that “I’ll just finish this turn love and I’ll be up…”
One thing I would say is – Compass Games – sort your map quality out. I’d also like to point out that the designer is very active on the boards at BoardGameGeek and has helped out with some manual and rule issues.