(No, not the fantasy-exploration game...)
Short post this week, as this is primarily a refinement of thoughts posted earlier.
A couple weeks ago, Mike and I got Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear back to the table. Neither of us had played past the first two scenarios, so we were looking at some of the advanced features for the first time.
The rules and scenarios in Conflict of Heroes are set up for programmed learning. Each of the first five or so scenarios introduces new rules or new unit types. The first two, being the only ones we'd played, introduce the basics plus group actions. That's all well and good, but a bit bland.
The third scenario introduced artillery, indirect fire, hidden units, and hills. (Not unlike ASL Starter Kit #2: Guns!). Our play of this scenario came down to the wire, and I made a tactical error in how I spent my APs in attempting to take the bunker objective on the last turn.
The fourth scenario introduced tanks (again, not unlike ASL Starter Kit #3: Tanks!) and, again, came down to the wire.
When looking at the more involved rules, no real anomalies stood out. All the new rules made sense in the game's framework, and we didn't really have any major questions. Nor was it difficult to get back into the swing of things after months away from the game.
The programmed instruction approach worked well here. Having a couple plays under my belt, I was ready for the increased options presented by the more advanced rules. I think there's only a couple things left for scenario 5, then it's just various takes on the full rules from here.
These two plays solidified my thoughts on the CoH system. It is a very good, light, tactical wargame. It's competing with Memoir '44 and Tide of Iron in this space, and while it doesn't have the plastic figures included in the other two, it's still a quite attractive game while in play. I probably rank it tied with Memoir among those three as it seems to be a slightly deeper game but doesn't have the wealth of options and scenarios available to it yet as Memoir does. Tide would probably be my last choice of the three, in large part because of the physically fiddly nature of the bases. (Using based figures while making figure removal a feature of the rules is a design flaw in my eyes.)
The thing about CoH is that it's only going to be as good as its scenarios. So far, every scenario has been five turns long. I think this is going to be a problem over time, as while you can make amazing variety in tactical situations, the “gotta do X within five turns” nature will get old. It keeps play time down, but it does so in what can be perceived as an artificial manner. The Command and Colors system, to which Memoir belongs, keeps play time down in a more natural fashion. In fact, I can't think of any other scenario-based game that keeps every scenario to the same number of turns. Hopefully the Kursk edition that just came out (or some future edition) will address this.
Regardless of the scenario length question, for me CoH is a gateway game. It's not a destination but part of the journey. The game is fun to play, but that's about all. I see this as a stepping stone to either Panzer Grenadier (if wanting to stay on the simpler side), Combat Commander, or ASL(SK). For whatever reason, I don't see Memoir or Tide of Iron in that same light – could it be that Conflict of Heroes uses counters, while the others don't and therefore I see progressions and advancement being more natural? Not sure. I just know that while I'll be getting each entry in the series as they appear, I see it primarily being used as an introductory game – not the end in itself.