|Our table, at game-end, that depicts the demo-scenario in the rules focussed around the Normandy battle of Charnwood, the Allied assault to take the northern part of Caen just after D-Day|
Knowing I would be playing O-Group for the first time on Monday, I took a bit of time over the preceding weekend to familiarise myself with their playing by watching two thirds of the first TFL video playthrough with Richard and Dave illustrating the basics, which even with my small introduction proved to be most useful in speeding up progress on the 'learning curve' and well done to the chaps for producing these videos as part of the launch.
For any new players to O-Group, but those familiar with Chain of Command, the play mechanism will seem very familiar especially as Combat Patrol markers start to move forward from respective start lines to stake out the ground for the opposing forces to deploy and start to dispute key terrain objectives in preparation for gaining ascendancy or repelling attacks in any given area of the battlefield.
The first command decision each side quickly grasped was the decision to lay down a mortar or artillery strike, as its use was restricted to that first command only. After that it was all about prioritising what had to be done with the orders available.
Suddenly the wealth of orders doesn't seem quite so abundant as more and more decision points in the game occur and Steve and I found ourselves scanning the table, assessing each critical combat point, and deciding where to prioritise the limited pool of orders to get the 'biggest bang for the buck' as the saying goes.
|Reserve company HQ takes up residence in the key village BUA with the artillery OP in residence at the local church, more specifically its tower.|
In addition to the stress points caused by the order decisions, we all noticed how the advantage and momentum for one side or the other could quickly change based on the outcomes of the order decisions taken and the results of the combat generated.
At one point early in our game, British platoons were advancing in force on key positions with German troops looking to deploy off combat patrol markers, which once done required the gaining of the initiative to get their fire in first, hopefully cause significant casualties and combine their fire with mortars and the dreaded sniper attack.
Suddenly a combination of those factors combined in the space of a turn to completely change the position on the German right flank where three British platoons opposed one German, that they had decimated in their early assault fire, to be suddenly faced by two other German platoons in cover supported by attached heavy machine guns, sniper support and a mortar barrage that left just one British platoon on the original start line with the other two reeling back to it having lost four sections and gained a FUBAR (loss of command dice rolled to generate future orders) for their efforts.
The table quickly generated the key battles in specific areas and with infantry in close range and forced to group in support of one another, mortar and artillery started to drop from both sides, with the firing generated increasing the casualty count of removed bases.
In the latter stages both sides pushed their armour up to try and turn the tide of battle or maintain the advantage and we managed to play through some long range sniping shots between the Panther placed on a hill in overwatch and a Firefly troop leading its platoon down the main road trying to close up with the infantry ahead to lend a hand in the infantry battle.
The game generated the typical Normandy slug-fest among the hedges with the Germans grimly holding on as the British lines closed in.
Both Steve and I enjoyed O-Group and the decision points it generates and the game prompted lots of discussion around how well it would play in other theatres, the rule mods we had in mind about Battalion orders being needed to be spent to bring on Battalion support platoons, to the seemingly powerful sniper and to limiting HE capability for Pak 40 AT guns to just one or two rounds of fire.
Earlier this week I referred in another post about my marker for a good set of rules as being how intuitive they are to play thus speeding up the learning process of moving from unconsciously-incompetent to unconsciously-competent and I think Dave Brown has done a good job with these rules to make that process quicker with a skilful application of the 4+ die rule for success helping greatly and a far simpler but just as demanding Combat Patrol/Jump Off system as pioneered by Chain of Command.
In terms of my other rules assessment tool of simulation versus game against fun or tedious to play I think I rate O-Group as high on the fun score and slightly towards game over simulation, primarily because of the greater compromises needed on ground scale, figure scale, ranges that this level of game requires, off set by its application to some solid historical scenarios where I think the rules will still model the combat quite well in spite of those compromises and still provide those golden moments of sheer fun as turning points happen and the drama it creates.
So as I wrote to Steve L and Ian in a post game email to the chaps thanking them for their hospitality, you can put me down as an O-Group admirer and happy to play anytime, now where did I put those sloops?