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Posted on Dec 19, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“After several minutes of firing on the move, the attacking echelon of our 29th and 18th Tank Corps cut into the Nazi ranks with a thrust forward—a rapid assault literally through the enemy ranks.” ― Soviet Cmdr. Pavel  Rotmistrov  — Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel Kursk 1943 Board Game Review

“After several minutes of firing on the move, the attacking echelon of our 29th and 18th Tank Corps cut into the Nazi ranks with a thrust forward—a rapid assault literally through the enemy ranks.” ― Soviet Cmdr. Pavel Rotmistrov — Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel Kursk 1943 Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel Kursk 1943 Board Game Review.  Publisher: Academy Games  Designer:  Uwe Eickert and Gunter Eickert  Price $80

Passed Inspection:  Beautiful components, easy to learn, logical well laid out rule book with plenty of examples, large easy to pick up counters, exciting game play, great value for the price

Failed Basic:   Needs wrecked vehicle counters, needs unit values for player designed scenarios, rule 15.5 Vehicle Stacking needs clarification, the front of the vehicles should face the front of the counter

“We were conducting a reconnaissance with our 3 squads of Sdkfz 251 mounted Panzergrenadiers supported by two Sdkfz 251/9 Stummel halftracks and our Panzer II.  The object was to get a clearer indication of what the Soviets were up to near a farm at a critical road junction.  Before the weather became overcast, a reconnaissance flight had reported activity there.

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As we approached, we noted what appeared to be dug in Ivans near the farm.  Suddenly Ivan anti-tanks guns opened up and our Panzer II burst in to flames.  It looked like two anti tank guns supported by an American lend-lease halftrack which also mounted an anti-tank gun were supporting the dug in infantry!  Our Stummels got a solid hit on one of the 57 mm anti-tank guns but the other gun knocked out one of the Stummels!  The infantry moved in under cover of the three halftracks’ machine guns.

We got a good hit on the Ivans’ halftrack but it drove behind a building.  Then our Panzergrendadiers were opened up on by mortars just as our second Stummel was hit by an anti-tank gun!

We were taking too much firepower! It looked like the whole Soviet army was dug in by the farm.  I issue orders to the men to pull back.  We’ll leave this for a heavier follow up force to deal with.”

So ran one of my play throughs of Conflict of Heroes – Storms of Steel Kursk 1943 using the new 3rd edition rules which premiered with this reprint of this classic game.  Perhaps the word “reprint” is not appropriate for this game – the artwork is new; the map boards look even better than before; the new rules add even more replayability and uncertainty to the game play – perhaps we should say the game is new and improved! Not only are the rules cleaned up with some issues clarified, but new rules cover stressed units and take away the certainty of each unit having 7 Action Points each turn.  In addition, new artwork is featured throughout the product – from the maps to the rule book – the game is simply stunning.

The components include:

  1. A well illustrated rule book with a full index and tons of play examples
  2. A scenario book with scenarios and a history of the Battle of Kursk
  3. 4 mounted photo realistic modular map boards
  4. Extra terrain to use on the map boards
  5. 4 sheets of sturdy, easy to punch out and handle counters
  6. Dice
  7. Battle Cards
  8. Special Weapon Cards
  9. Veteran Cards
  10. 1 Round and Victory Tracking Board
  11. Action Point and Command Action Point Tracking Boards
  12. Stress Markers
  13. Three covered trays for storing counters and dice

The artwork by Stephen Paschal, Matt White and Pavlos Germidis is stunning.  The map boards are photo realistic so you feel like you are playing a miniatures game. 

The rule book is written in a “learn as you go format” with references to play some specific scenarios after you read so many rules.  This works beautifully and gets the rules set in your head in no time.

Conflict of Heroes is a tactical combat game system.  Each unit is one aircraft or vehicle or heavy weapon or a squad of infantry.

Each unit is rated for Attack Strength aka Fire Power (two ratings – soft targets or hard targets), Defense Strength (for both front and flank), Range, Attack Cost and Movement Cost (both in Action Points), arc of fire, (unless a turreted vehicle), whether the unit (if a vehicle) has an open top such as a halftrack or some assault guns and whether the unit can attack using high explosive attacks which affect every target in a hex.

I know that the data is quite a bit for a unit counter but the maestros at Academy Games have managed to fit all the information on the slightly oversized counters in a manner both logical and intuitively easy to read and remember.  The tactile feel of the counters is very pleasing especially to mature gamers like me who can sometimes drop smaller counters.

The key factor to the entire game design is the use of Action Points to conduct operations.  In the 1st and 2nd edition of Conflict of Heroes, Action Points were set at 7 Action Points per unit per Round.  Each Round is divided in to Turns in which the units can spend Action Points to move, attack, assault, rally, etc. Each action would cost a specific number of Action Points and you would act with the unit until the 7 Action Points were used up. Now, in the 3rd edition, you roll a special Spent Die after each action to see if your unit becomes Stressed.  The more actions you try and have the unit perform (for example – move then attack then move again), the greater the chance that the unit will become stressed and unable to be at its total operational fitness.  If a unit becomes stressed, it can still defend but will not be able to move or attack.  The stressed unit is flipped to its “Stressed” side to designate this.

Each side also has Command Action Points which may be used to help a unit’s die roll or allow a unit to perform some special action.  These Command Action Points replenish each round but they decrease based upon the number of units which have been destroyed or otherwise placed out of action by becoming broken and retreating.

Each game Round is made up of several Turns in which each unit may perform multiple actions.

First you roll for initiative or use the imitative listed in the scenario.

Combat Cards are passed out to each side.  Each card can either be played on your own units or, if they have a negative effect, units on the other side.

The player who wins the initiative can choose to activate a unit or let the opposing player activate a unit.  One unit is given an order to move, attack, close assault, dig in, etc.  After the unit performs its first action, a Spent Die is rolled.  If the die roll is less than the number on the Action Point Chart, the unit is flipped over and is Stressed and Spent.  It can only defend if attacked during this round.  If the roll is greater than or equal to the Action Point Chart, the unit can perform another action but at +1 to the Action Point Cost of performing the action.  Once a unit is Spent, the opposing player takes actions with one of his or her units.  Once all units have either passed or are Spent, the Round is over and a new Round starts.

The turn sequence is easy to learn and feels very organic and authentic.

Combat is also very easy to learn.  You use either the Soft or Hard Fire Power rating for the unit.  If the target is infantry or an anti-tank gun or truck, use the Soft Fire Power rating.  If the target is a tank or armored car, use the Hard Fire Power rating.  You determine the target’s Defense Rating by taking the enemy’s Defense Number for either a frontal or flank attack and add in any Defense Modifiers from the terrain the target is in.  The attacker takes his or her unit’s Soft or Hard Fire Power and adds in any Attack Modifiers.  The attacker then figures out the To Hit Rating by taking the Modified Fire Power and subtracting it from the target’s Defense Rating.  Then roll 2d6 and add in any modifiers from the Battle Cards and if the die roll is over the To Hit Rating, the attack hits.  You draw an Attack Chit from one of two piles of Chits – either Soft Target Chits or Hard Target Chits.  You then apply the damage, if any, from the Chit!  This damage can be everything from “Near Miss” to “Destroyed”.  In between these two polar opposites are various types of morale damage or, for vehicles, damage to tracks, tires, guns, etc. Some damage can be rectified by attempting to Rally the unit but other damage, such as track damage, can’t be fixed on the battlefield.  If a unit is hit again, it is considered out of action and removed from the board.  I do wish that destroyed vehicle counters were provided to put down on the board when a vehicle is knocked out.

Additional rules include artillery, aircrafts, hidden units, group actions (whereby multiple units move and attack together ), mine fields, fortifications, snipers, reconnaissance by fire,  elevations, smoke,  towing units, transporting units such as infantry riding on tanks or trucks, flame throwers and engineers.

How does the game play?  To put it in two words “It’s fantastic!”.  The game is pure fun.  You can play a small battle in as little as half an hour or a large battle in several hours.  You can play with up to six people or more if you break the units in to fire teams but you can also play the game solo.  While there are full solo rules for Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear which covers the first year of the German invasion of Russia, these rules can be applied to this game without too much work.  Or, if you don’t have the Conflict of Heroes solo rules, you can play it solo by switching sides.  I like giving the other side their Battle Cards face down and then having them play one during their turn.  If the card doesn’t apply, just hold it for later but if it does apply to the situation, play the card.  I use die rolls to see how aggressive the enemy is fighting and, if the enemy has taken too much damage, I give the enemy negatives on their aggression die rolls and if they roll a 1, they retreat.

You will find that real life combined arms strategies will work well in this game.  Have your infantry support your tanks.  Use artillery and air strikes to soften up difficult targets.  If on the defensive, make the terrain work for you and don’t let the enemy dictate the battlefield.  And always remember, don’t let your tanks wander in to built up areas were enemy infantry can assault them!

Aside for not coming with destroyed vehicle counters, I only have a few other concerns with the game.  Rule 15.5 Vehicle Stacking rules needs clarification.  The rule deals with vehicles moving through each other in hexes but I couldn’t find a clear indication as to limits to vehicle stacking.

The game needs unit values for player designed scenarios. Some type of basic unit value would be helpful for balancing player created fire fights.

While the counters are beautiful and functional, the front of the vehicles should face the front weapon arc as printed on the counters.  It is counter intuitive to have the vehicle facing away from the actual front of the counter since facing is very important in this game.

These few quibbles notwithstanding, Conflict of Heroes Storms of Steel is a must have for World War 2 gamers who crave tactical battle action and is, quite simply, a triumph of game design!  Get this game! Schnell! Schnell!

Armchair General Rating:  99% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

Box Art
components
components
storage container
examples of German unit types
examples of Russian unit types
German Counters
Russian Counters
vehicles and damage counters
T34 is destroyed
fire fight by a farm
Russian squad is suppressed
halftracks advance
Jabo attack
A Stuka attacks a bunker

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