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Posted on Dec 31, 2007 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Lock ‘n Load – Not One Step Back Game Review

By Brandon Neff

Rules, Mechanics and Game Play

The rules for Band of Heroes have been discussed in a previous review, so a brief summation will suffice. The game recreates squad-level combat during World War II. The counters represent anywhere from one to twelve soldiers, weapon teams, individual vehicles and support weapons. The scenarios are divided into turns which are further divided into three phases: Rally, Operations and Administration. During the Rally phase, units that were shaken or wounded due to combat will attempt to recover. During the Operations phase, players alternate impulses, activating units to fire or move. During the Administration phase, game markers used to track actions during impulses are removed to clean the map for the next turn. The specific scenario will detail the victory objectives for both sides and often the starting locations for the units.


The new rules introduced in this supplement cover a new support weapon (Molotov Cocktail), Nurses, Commissars, Partisans, new terrain markers and a new rally rule for the Soviet Player.

The most interesting new feature was the Commissar, who can rally with an iron fist (or a pistol trained on his own soldiers). If they fail to rally troops the first time, a second attempt is made with a modifier. If this fails, the soldiers suffer casualties! If a 12 is rolled, the men revolt and the Commissar is killed!

The new rally rule, For the Motherland, allows the Soviet player to raise the morale of all units in one hex by one. The supplement also includes several optional rules for target acquisition and spotting and vehicle-mounted machine gun firepower. A revised (and improved) system for placing acquisition markers is also introduced along with the requisite counters.


For this review, I attempted two scenarios. The first, Rattenkrieg, was a solitaire game. The scenario revolves around actions on October 30th, 1942 in Stalingrad. The Germans have established a defensive perimeter and await a Soviet counterattack. The Germans are outnumbered and outgunned and must keep the Soviets out of a large building to the west. The battlefield is littered with rubble and raging fires. The game lasted 5 turns before the Germans were routed. The Soviet sniper earned his crusty bread that day!

The second scenario was against another player. We chose Big Cats at Twilight, featuring heavy armor on both sides. Near the end of February, the Germans were nearing Budapest and a night assault was planned. The German player must clear the road of any resistance within 9 turns or the Soviets win. The German King Tiger, equipped with night-vision, seemed unstoppable, knocking out all but one Soviet tank. That last soviet tank, however, brewed up the Tiger with a spectacular turret hit. At that point, the Germans had little chance of clearing the road in time and they surrendered in Turn 8, conceding defeat.

Overall Impression

The Lock ’n Load system holds up well to solitaire play. It is also well supported by the creator, Mark Walker. The online forums are a valuable resource for questions and assistance. It is also supported by the Vassal engine permitting online play. I have not seen a module for this supplement yet, but I would imagine one is forthcoming.

The real enjoyment of this system, however, is squaring off against a face-to-face opponent and sweating out a hard-fought victory. The artwork on the counters and map is unrivaled. The rules allow for a detailed yet fast experience and the impulse system means there is little to no downtime for either player.

The Eastern Front was a bloody war of attrition. In the eight months of combat that befell Stalingrad, the Soviets lost roughly 7,000 men a day and the life expectancy of a soldier was 24 hours. The Lock ’n Load system seems tailor-made for this type of brutal combat. Fast, furious and frantic, you will not be disappointed by this supplement.


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