Publisher: Academy Games
Game Designer: Gunter Eickert
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $50
Continuing the fight
As I mentioned in my Eastern Front Solo Expansion review, Academy Games has covered us well when we feel the need for more Conflict of Heroes – Awakening the Bear action. The base game comes with a dozen scenarios, and another ten come in the solo expansion, providing plenty of tense combat action for any grognard.
With that said, wargamer’s never shy away from having even more battles to fight through. In fact, it’s fairly compulsory to always want more scenarios for our favorite games. Whether it’s simulating what if’s, overwhelming odds, or just to simply put our own mark on a favorite game, the quest for more is never ending. Thankfully, Academy Games once again delivers with their Conflict of Heroes – Awakening the Bear Firefight Generator!
Birth of a battle
Academy Games has really worked through their Eastern Front CoH system from top to bottom rather effectively. We got our fill of 2-4 player action with a 2nd Edition of AtB, then solitaire players were treated to the innovative Eastern Front Solo Expansion. That truly engaging solitaire experience doesn’t end there. In fact, it gets an open-ended expansion, as does the base game AtB, with the release of the Firefight Generator (FG). With this expansion, you can create a wide array of firefights for AtB, at 1-4 players.
The heart of the FG expansion is derived from the three decks of cards. Two 25-card Action Decks, one each for the Soviet and German sides, and a five card special condition deck. These special condition cards are dual ended, with the top sides dealing with weather and special rules, and the bottoms directing players to take special actions.
Scenarios are generated by each player melding random elements together, collectively creating the tactical environment in which you will both fight. This creation process is a very enjoyable game within a game itself. Think of it as a prelude to the main event, the battle.
Both player’s play a pre-determined number of cards from their hands, drawn from their deck of action cards. Here, you play your cards to influence how the overall battlefield looks and plays, be it to your advantage or detriment. It’s a very clever way to get both players invested and more deeply engaged in the game right from the outset, while at the same time building the scenario you will undertake. In order to keep the potential randomness of the scenario elements minimized, a provided guideline tells you which cards to pull out of the deck for differing engagement types.
Cards are played to your player board for either their top or bottom aspect, with the top covering special rules and events, victory points, and the bottom being the units you will use. This is a fun little exercise in weighing risk versus reward, since you must decide if the benefits of gaining victory points or the event, outweighs those troops you could use. Play continues back and forth in this manner until both players have emptied their hands to create their forces and the overall firefight.
There is ample opportunity to try and steer your opponent to play cards that may benefit the hand you have, but remember that they’re trying to do the same to you! It’s not deep, and it moves fairly quick, but it is a pretty fun and unique way to allow both players to put their spin on the upcoming battle.
Likewise, you can also create purely solitaire scenarios for use with the Eastern Front Solo Expansion, using a similar method but playing both sides in the mini-game. While doing this, make sure to play both sides as equal and even as possible, because you won’t know which side you will be until the end. Doing this keeps players honest, and also helps to ensure a more balanced scenario.
Now that doesn’t mean things will work out perfectly, because they don’t always. It takes a bit of experience to walk that fine edge of creating a challenging, yet balanced scenario. For the first couple of times, it’s best to keep your scenarios simple. Adding too many things can really clutter things up, and you can unwittingly create a monster mess of a scenario.
Solo play has a lot of variability thanks to the AI tiles that are added to the firefight you just generated. Each card has a matching tile, and these are added for the Victory Point and Special Event cards on the AI tableau. Determining which side you play is done by a simple die roll, or optionally, you can choose one side to play and then replay the firefight as the other side. That’s a great way to test the firefight’s balance, plus the setup is fairly easy.
These tiles change things up, adding different counter actions, mission orders or mission events during play. I really like how this variability expands the standard cards, and changes with every firefight you create. This makes for an unending series of unique, and challenging firefights!
Academy Games is pretty deliberate in their release schedule, oftentimes much to the chagrin of their fans. There is a good reason for this, they’re not ones to rush a product to market for the sake of getting it out there. Instead, they choose to be as certain as possible that their games and expansions are solid before release, and I think the quality of their CoH releases bear this out. While we may feel a bit frustrated at the wait at times, they always prove to be worth it!
The Firefight Generator (FG) is a small but extremely powerful add-on, allowing for a multitude of battle options. How the scenario creation process is handled is quite unique, and the mini-game is rather fun when playing against a human opponent. This mini-game isn’t just a simple add-on but a collaborative mechanism, to challenge both players while at the same time designing the firefight scenario. There are some tough choices to be made, as playing a card for one benefit will remove another. It’s a great exercise in risk versus reward, that in the end results in a reward for both players in the generated scenario.
Tinkerers will thoroughly love the ability to create an unending series of firefights, as will those who fancy themselves budding designers. Have no fear if you’re an average Joe gamer, it’s easy enough once you experiment a little and get the gist of it. Most importantly, it’s a fantastic way to extend your Conflict of Heroes – Awakening the Bear well beyond the base box.
With the inclusion of the FG, AtB is now a total and complete system, allowing you to play at any player count and to be certain you will never run out of scenarios. If you own Conflict of Heroes – Awakening the Bear and the Eastern Front Solo Expansion, the Firefight Generator is a must have!
Company Website: https://www.academygames.com
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Note: A copy of this game was provided to me for this review.