Tuesday, 21 July 2009

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum! – a preplay review

As always; many forces are conspiring to prevent me from gaming or blogging.  However a friend of mine asked me what I thought of IABSM, as he has a copy of Sharp Practice.  I sat down and put together some thoughts on what I think from reading the rules.  Obviously these opinions may change when I get it to the table…….
Preliminary Notes
The first conclusion I've come to is that I think these rules are going to be more for my own solo gaming enjoyment. I cannot imagine them getting used in the competitive environment of club or tournament gaming. They require the players to come to a gentlemanly agreement on a number of points, and my personal experience is that many gamers can be anything but "gentlemanly". I can see play in a club scenario with a referee, but you'll need to have a thick hide to deal with the whinging when things don't go people's way.

Those with a fixed-move, IGOUGO background may struggle to come to grips with how to manoeuvre. The thing is that with more play, people will adapt themselves to more realistic manoeuvres on the table, and end up with less requirement for a referee, but it remains to be seen whether your average IGOUGO gamer would stick with it through the learning curve. My personal belief is that IABSM appears to provide a good representation of the friction of battle and the decisions of a company commander.
How does it work?
Units start the game represented as oval card blinds on the table. These can move or spot. Players may also have a number of additional blinds that represent small recce parties. Once spotted these disappear, but until then they can be used to spot enemy units. Players get to move their blinds when their "blinds move" card (one per player) comes up. Spotted units are put down on the table in place of the blind.
The turn ends when the Tea Break card arrives.

Once on the table, the platoon cards are inserted into the deck, and the platoon can move and shoot when its card comes up. Each section of the platoon is given a number of initiative dice based on the quality of the unit (SS and Paras have more dice than Volksturm). These dice are used to move, spot or shoot. Dice can be reserved when the platoon's card comes up to be used before the Tea Break arrives as an interruption. As a result, ambushes are very well catered for (unlike a certain popular WW2 ruleset....).

Combat involves shooting dice being rolled and totalled and compared against a table. The result on the table gives a number of casualties in the target unit and also whether there is any pinned or suppressed. Casualties are separately diced for to determine whether they are dead, wounded, or a near miss.
Close combat involves what (at first glance) appears to be a complex set of modifiers. This is one area where I am not sure how exactly it will work on the table.

As well as the platoon cards, there are also Big Men on the table. These officers and NCOs (not every officer or NCO is a Big Man) have their own cards in the deck and can be used to activate nearby units or take actions when their card comes up.
Final Thoughts
Experienced IABSM players will probably throw their hands up in the air at the above descriptions, but all I’m trying to capture is what I’ve gotten out of my couple of flicks through the rules.
Friction appears to work really well via the use of blinds for movement of units until they are spotted. The card-driven mechanic and dice roll movement further enhances the uncertainty that the commander has to deal with. When pushing your troops forward, you will need to set realistic objectives. As the M&M podcast suggests, this game is no race for the bridge where the player that goes first will always win.
It should be noted that at the end of the rules, a guide is given to three rough scenarios to play through to learn the rules, introducing the infantry first, and then slowly moving to include artillery and armour.  The rules also cover sections on Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft, and a section on refereeing and solo gaming.
What am I doing with them?
I'm going to be using these rules for 6mm gaming at the moment because that's my chosen scale for anything greater than a platoon or two. In addition, with B'Maso! I think they have a really role to taking in replacing AK47 (for my 6mm) which I haven't been happy with.

For a couple of platoons or less, I'm going to be using 15mm and Ambush Alley Game's Force-on-Force or Ambush Alley (depending on the scenario and the force composition. These are a great looking set of rules that they've deliberately targeted at World War 2 and Moderns from the start.  More on them soon….
Other Gaming Directions
Napoleonics have never appealed to me previously. I think large blocks of men manoeuvring has been dead boring. Also I don't think I understand the period and its challenges well enough. However, the concept of Sharpe Practice being more of a skirmished sized game does sound interesting, particularly with the chance to recreate characters like Flashman and Sharpe. It's definitely on my list now, but I need to complete what I'm trying to do with WW2 and Moderns before I push on to anything else.

I'm also trying to resist getting into colonials (which have always held a great attraction for me).  I've always intended to use either the Sword and the Flame (which I would need to purchase) or the Space:1889 Soldier’s Companion (which I have already) for this. The benefit of Soldiers Companion is that it's a quite good set of colonial rules that also has sections to cater for Victorian sci-fi elements like martians, steam tanks and airships.  Plus the only outlay is on figures!

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