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Posted on Sep 28, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

A battle of attrition fought by reinforced infantry battalions! Dirk Blennemann’s “Crossing the Line – Aachen 1944” Board Game Review

A battle of attrition fought by reinforced infantry battalions! Dirk Blennemann’s “Crossing the Line – Aachen 1944” Board Game Review

Matt White

Crossing the Line – Aachen 1944 Board Game Review. Publisher: Furor Teutonicus Games Designer: D.Blennemann, Developer & Art Director: P.Gebhardt, Graphic Artist: P.Bazerque, Rules Editor: J.Bruncken

Price €55,00 / $60

Review by Matt White

Passed Inspection: beautiful artwork and components, high production values, solo or two player, fluid turn structure, interesting combat mechanics and superb use of HQ units

Failed Basic: Rules would benefit from more examples of play; game has lots of dice rolling that won’t be to everyone’s taste

“Crossing the Line – Aachen 1944 is an operational level simulation of the Battle for Aachen, which took place from September 12th to October 21st, 1944. The game is intended for two players but is also suitable for solitaire and team play. The game is played in a semi-interactive way, as only one Division of the active player is activated to conduct actions at the same time and the inactive player sometimes can have one of his Divisions react to specific threats and interrupt the enemy’s actions.

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While Operation Market Garden was in the final stage of preparation, Lieutenant General Hodges led the leading elements of the First Army towards the Westwall fortified line south of Aachen.

If successful, he might have the opportunity to drive through the fortified line, crossing the Roer River and perhaps reaching the Rhine River.”

—description from the publisher

“Crossing the Line – Aachen 1944” is the first game published by new company Furor Teutonicus Games. Whilst this is their first game, this game is a remake of an older game called “Piercing the Reich” which was original published in 1995 by Moments in History and is by the same designer.

This is an operational level simulation of the Battle for Aachen which took place from September 12th to October 21st, 1944. The game is described by the publisher as 6/10 complexity and 8/10 Solitaire Suitability.

My first impression on receiving the game is the high quality of all the components. The counters are among the very best I’ve seen, which simply push out of the cardboard holds and need no clipping. The readability of the counters is excellent with all the necessary stats clearly laid out. The rulebook looks stunning as do all the counters and cover art. This is quite simply one of the most stunningly designed games on the market from a graphic designer’s perspective.

The components include:

* One 22”x34” map sheet

* 360 extra large counters of which 160 are combat units

* Four Player aid charts

* Setup charts and Reinforcement & Withdrawals charts

The game has one paper map that measures 22”x34” which features the game turn chart as well as the Formation Activation and Action Points Charts which keeps the game flowing. The graphic art of the map is excellent with the graphics representing the different tile terrain types very clearly. The only quibble on all of the presentation is that the Hex numbers in the Dense Forest Hexes are very hard to read; thankfully the number of Hexes with Dense Forest terrain is low.

The 42 page rule booklet is spaciously laid out with superb graphic design throughout. I found the rulebook very clear and whilst it has many pages this is mostly due to the use of a large font and its spacious design. The book has an excellent glossary for easy access during game play.

I did find the rules, whilst very well explained, really could have benefited from more examples of play. What examples and aids there are, are very well laid out but I wish there were more to help fully explain the rules. This would have benefitted the combat sections to have shown a complete combat experience end to end, showing how all the rules work as a complete example. There are examples that do show how certain key mechanics work in combat – but the game is lacking that comprehensive, all inclusive example.

The game is for 2 players with one solitaire specific training scenario. I would add that the game is very solitaire friendly due to the nature of the scenarios.

The goal of the game for the US player is to seize specific victory locations outlined in the specific scenario. This will require the US player to hit the German player hard and effectively. The German player must try and prevent the US player from taking those objectives. This is a game where the US player is advancing and attacking the Germans who are playing a defensive operation with the possibilities for counter-attacking. The German player will be commanding the LXXXI Korps (comprising of the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division, the 9th, 16th Panzer Divisions, the 12th, 49th, 353rd, 526th Infantry Divisions and the 183rd and 246th Volksgrenadier Divisions). The US player will be commanding the VII Corps (1st, 9th Infantry Divisions and the 3rd Armored Division) and the XIX Corps (29th, 30th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Armored Division). There are also Independent Units for both sides.

The sequence of play is as follows:

Admin Phase

  1. Recovery Segment
  2. Assignment Segment
  3. Victory Plan Segment
  4. Replacement Segment
  5. Reinforcement Segment

Ops Phase

This phase consists of various repetitions of the Ops Cycle which consists of:

  1. Initiative Determination
  2. Formation Activation (where activating a formation allows the initiative player to activate all subordinate units to conduct one or more Actions e.g. movement, combat etc).

All the Scenarios start with the Ops Phase. Stacking is limited to 1 HQ, up to 2 AFV type units and 1 infantry unit.  Each unit has a Zone of Control with the usual 6 hexes surrounding it, but where the Zone of Control is not projected into the certain Terrain types depending on the type of unit and terrain. For example AFV units do no project their zone of control into heavy forest hexes and Infantry units cannot project their zone of control into City and Industrial hexes.

The Operations Phase is the main course of the game – this is where you will be activating your units and giving the actions such as movement and combat. The Phase is a repetition of Ops Cycles which is a single Initiative Determination and Formation Activation. Once both sides have chosen to Pass or cannot conduct any more Formation Activations the Operations Phase is complete and a new turn occurs.

Initiative rolls with modifiers determine who wins the Initiative but will give the Reaction player a bonus the next time the Initiative Determination roll occurs. This mechanic breaks up the gameplay and makes the turn determination less predictable but does mean you are rolling dice for Initiative every Operation Cycle. The Initiative Player can now conduct a Formation Activation and activate a single formation and therefore activating all the subordinate units to that the formation.

An activated formation can now perform Actions and the player must roll on the Action Points table to see how many Action Points they can spend. Determining how many Action Points that formation has is a key mechanic to this game. This dice roll is determined by the current Formation Activation Level, which decreases every time a Formation is activated. For example, a formation that is currently at Formation Activation Level 7 (which is the highest) has a 4 in 10 chance (using the ten sided dice in the game) of getting the maximum number of Action Points of 7 where as a formation that is Formation Activation Level of 2 has only a 1 in 10 chance of getting a 7 Action Points but a 4 in 10 chance of getting a 1 Action Point. Basically the higher the formations Activation Level is, the more chance you can perform more actions with those formations. Generally speaking the US player has formations that start the game with much higher Formation Activation Levels and therefore can do more Actions than the German player.

There are several actions that the player can spend their Action Points on. Movement only costs 1 Action Point for the stack where as a Prepared Attack (potentially the strongest attack) costs 3 Action Points.

At this point is definitely worth describing the importance of the formations HQ Unit. Every formation has a HQ unit which represents the organisational and logistical base. These HQ units are not treated as combat units and must always be in a town, city or industrial hex. Each HQ unit has a command range of hexes and each combat unit must check if it has a Command Path to its HQ unit before it can perform an action. An enemy Zone of Control can break a Command Path unless there is a friendly unit that can counter that enemy Zone of Control.

Movement is very straightforward to players familiar with wargames with unit movement points printed clearly on the counters, and an excellent player aid that clearly shows movement costs for both leg and motorized units. HQ units do not have movement points and can only move from town, city or industrial hex to another within its HQ Command Range and costs action points equivalent to it Relocation Points which again is very clear on the counter.

Combat is another key feature of this game and has several main mechanics that are very interesting. There are three main types of Combat Actions (Hasty, Regular and Prepared) with different Action Point costs. Once the player has decided what type of attack (and paid the Action Point cost) they are performing against the adjacent enemy stack they blindly draw a Combat Multiplier counter. Then the player will find their combat strength by cross referencing the unit’s Effectiveness rating and the type of combat attack on the Combat Multiplier counter they had previously blindly pulled. This is final Battle Strength of the unit. The opposing defending player does the same – multiplying the Battle Strength of the unit with the modifier from the Combat Multipilier counter that they had pulled blindly from the Combat Multiplier counters.

Next the player must compare the final Battle Strength of attacker and defender and arrive at a numerical odds ratio. This is then referenced on the CRT, rounding down if necessary. The CRT is interesting in that there are different CRTs depending on the Terrain types in the defending hex. The game does provide you with a CRT card aid that really helps in finding the correct CRT for the terrrain type in the defending hex!

There are several combat dice roll modifiers depending on the type of attack but can include support from HQ in the form to Attack Supports (which is a benefit of using the Prepared Attack) to Armor Superiority, to having friendly units in adjacent hexes to the enemy.

Combat hits are straight forward with step losses to the unit’s combat strength, becoming disrupted, forced retreats and units becoming eliminated.

There are quite a few mechanics to the combat in this game, some of them very interesting with the Combat Multiplier markers being blindly drawn together with the CRT tables being hex terrain based as well as odds based.

The time between players taking action can be very short as the game also includes full rules for Formation Reaction play where the reacting player can receive Action Points that they can spend that can react to the player who is moving.

The Admin Phase occurs when both players have used their formations and completed all their movement and attacks that they can. During this phase the players can recover their Formation Activations Levels which are different per side and I found the US formations can recover much easier than the Germans.

The player can recover some of their step losses with the US player again having an “easier” time of it with some US replacments but where the German player must cannibalize their combat units to reorganize their units.

The rulebook does feature a section on designer’s notes and hints of game play, though I do wish more historical information had been shared here, as its obvious the designer has a huge passion for this historical subject.  The game does rely on the player doing their own historical research, which I highly recommend and will add a lot more flavour and value to the game.

Overall I would agree with the description of the game as 6/10 complexity – it is for sure just a notch over medium complexity. For me, having played all the scenarios and campaign, the more complex areas are the rules pertaining to the HQ units plus all the steps in combat as opposed to too much chrome detailed rules for specific units. This is also a game where you are rolling dice very, very often.

I also found the game to be very solitaire friendly and whilst there is no AI or mechanics for solitaire, I found playing the US and trying to capture the objectives lent itself very well to solitaire play. This is most due to the German lines being very, very defensive and a lot more static than the US. Whilst is it not designed for solitaire play, I would surmise that if you like playing solitaire war gaming where you are playing both sides, this will be an attractive feature of this game.

This is a super game with beautiful artwork, graphic and amazing production values. The game comes with a training scenario and two shorter scenarios which can be played in an evening (though they are not short by any stretch of the imagination!) plus the full campaign which I found engrossing and very compelling. The game features many interesting rules and game mechanics, from the fluid turn structure to the random counter drawing in Combat to the use of HQ units. This is an excellent maiden game package from Furor Teutonics Games and I look very much forward to what they produce in the future.

Armchair General Rating: 96 %

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)

About the Author

Matt White has worked in games for his entire career, starting off in tabletop miniature gaming and through to video games. He has been lucky enough to work on BAFTA and EMMY winning projects and worked on both solo projects and for some of the biggest names in the industry. He has a passion for game design and art and somehow finds the time to produce and publish his own WW2 games along with contributing on games with DVG and Academy Games.

box art
components
box back
attack
CRT
prepare for battle
Hauset
holding the line
movement towards the defensive lines
Panther hunting

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