28 September 2010

Secrets of the Third Reich part 1 [Special]

Finally had some time to write something about my current no1 miniature game - the one me and my friends play the most. Secrets of the third reich:1949 or SoTR as I will call is a Weird WW2 platoon level skirmish game.

The story of the game is pretty much the same as that of the real WW2 up to D-day when the Germans unveil their secrets weapons such as the reanimating/zombie V-gas rockets, capitals such as London, Paris and Berlin get nuked, mecha (armored walkers) technology is introduced and the all kinds of occult and scientific breakthroughs fill the battlefields with horrific weird monsters and creations. Churchill has vanished, Hitler has not been seen in years, a Vampire aristocracy seems to have taken over Germany, the US use Roswell technology to create active camouflage, German agents infiltrate the Manhattan project.

You have this global chaos and nightmare, a total war that just keep dragging on and on with no end in sight as the war enters its 10th year in 1949 where the game takes place. Manpower and supply shortage has made new technology such as mechas that require fewer crewmen and body armor for regular grunts a new standard on all sides. The vast battlefield of Europe is pretty much a WW1 nightmare, bombed out cities, V-gas zones cover large areas of France and large scale operations have pretty much ceased and been replaced by smaller pinpointed actions between smaller units and not whole armies. The shift of politics and allegiance has also been introduced into the story, Spain has opportunistically joined the Axis as the Germans retaliate against the allied attack with the new technology around the time of D-day, the Soviet Union has invaded Sweden breaking the alliance with the western allies – and have captured valuable recourses and factories to produce new types of weapons and machinery.

Regular soldiers are still the backbone of each country, but these men have now seen pretty much everything, from tank rushes, mecha technology, their dead friends reanimated by V-gas, nuclear attacks etc – allied soldiers now not only have to fight against the Germans on the Western front but also zombies, werewolves, vampires and all sort of strange and terrifying creatures spawned in the labs of the new German special weapons department of SWD.
Currently we have a Mexican standoff between US+UK against the Soviet union and the Axis led by Germany. There might appear an expansion focusing on the Pacific theater in a foreseeable future though adding Japan to the mix. But US, UK, Germany and Soviet union are the 4 main powers described in the SoTR rulebook, and the nations that have complete Orders of Battle (army lists). You may if you wish base a “minor nation” and I use that term loosely, one some of the current OoB in the book and come up with your own special units. I’ve done so with both my Polish allied contingent which are primarily based on the UK OoB as well as my Polish Armia Krajowa platoon which is based on the Partisan OoB from the SoTR expansion “Doomsday”. I know other players have made their own OoB as well, I’ve seen Spanish OoB, deamon hosts etc – only your imagination sets the limits.

So let’s talk about the rules and the rulebook.
The rulebook includes a couple of things, for starters you get the rules obviously – but you also get Orders of Battle for the four major nations each describing a platoon, a list of historical vehicles (about 130 if I counted correctly) with all stats you need to use them in a SoTR game, and last but not least a “mecha build” chart – which allows you to build your own custom mechas by adding equipment and features for a set cost.

Starting with the rules, the game is pretty easy to get into, the rules are quite easy to learn and remember. They are often simple but not dumbed down, some rules add a layer of realism some rules are written to keep the pace of the game moving on instead of becoming bogged down.

The first thing you will get to see in the rulebook is a section describing all actions and orders.
This game uses “single unit activation”, which means that each turn is filled with activity for both players as you both take turns in activating a single unit on your side until everything has been activated – in which case the next turn begins. This game uses about 50 models per side, grouped together in small squads and half teams (or fire teams), tanks and mechas, sniper teams etc. This means that the game becomes much more tactical as you have to play it with a slight “Chess” mentality. What units are important to move first, which units you can save for later, what is the main enemy threat which this turn and what unit on my side is the best to tackle that threat right now? Sometimes you may want to activate less attractive units in your platoon in order to get the upper edge in the tactical situation towards the end of the turn. Saving your tank towards the end of the turn, instead of using it at the very beginning may open up such possibilities as safer movement since you already know that most of the enemy AT measures have been activated – or simply outmaneuver enemy positions and deal that crippling blow you’ve been bidding your time to do.

This kind of system also makes the game more “active” for both players, as a former GW player I can tell you that the time waiting for your opponent to move his army for 30 minutes was a completely wasted. You won’t waste that kind of time on such things in this game.

Each unit may perform a couple of actions each turn, you may move, fire, move on the double (run), charge, lay down suppressing fire, issue orders etc. There is a strict action sequence though, you always have to move first, and then shoot if allowed. The various orders which may be issued by unit officers range from calling in Drop Troops/Mechas, order a disorganized panicking unit to regroup or at least get a grip for the moment, set up a perimeter if there are no enemy units within Line of Sight (LoS) and keep Overwatch – allowing you to fire out of sequence at one enemy unit entering your LoS later in that turn.
Unit officers play a bigger part in this game than in say WH40k where you just get more attacks with such a character. In SoTR they are the only ones who can issue several of the orders available to a unit. Sergeants and the Lieutenant and Staff Sergeant also have a higher “Cool” (what morale and training combined is called in this game). Some things like regrouping a fleeing and disorganized unit becomes a lot harder if the officer of that unit has been killed.

I also like that you have the ability to lay down “Suppressing Fire” at enemy positions, making the enemy to take a test based on a penalty which is determined by what weapons and the combine Rate of Fire used against this units. If the test is failed then the target unit becomes suppressed for the remainder of the turn. Sometimes this can be more favorable than trying to hit an enemy unit, especially if you get penalties for hard cover and long range etc.

Close combat, which doesn’t occur often in this game – unless you have special close combat oriented units such as Werewolves – is fast, simultaneous and bloody as hell. What I mean with simultaneous is that charged units are locked with their attackers until the end of the turn when the Close Combat fighting takes place. You and your opponent then cycle through all close combats taking place, resolving them one at a time – but rolling close combat results for individual fights between models at the same time. A British and a German soldier fighting in close combat with no modifiers whatsoever will each roll a regular D6. The player who scored the highest result inflicts as many hits on his opponent with the difference between the two rolls. Should the UK soldier roll 6 and the German 2, then the German takes 4 hits. Chances are he will be killed. When all individual fights in a close combat has been completed, the player who has lost more models in killed or wounded have to take a leadership test and see if he breaks – or the fight will continue next turn. There is some finesse to this particular piece of rules, as you get modifiers for various rules such as being the assaulting part, have various equipment such as bayonets/claws/teeth/combat suits or create fear in your enemy by having “Horror” in your profile such as the Zombies and most supernatural units have.

Should more models fight a single enemy model, you get 1D6 for the first model, 2D6 for the 2nd, 3D6 for the 3rd and so on – but may only ever pick the highest 2 dice in any single roll. I once swarmed a pissed of werewolf with an entire squad thinking I would overwhelm it with strength in numbers only to watch the enemy werewolf rip them a new one!

Moving on the shooting department, which where you will score most kills and receive most casualties. The shooting in SoTR have the following characteristics – you roll to hit , taking into account weapon/range/cover penalties. If you score a hit you roll a second roll – this 2nd roll will determine if your hit will just be a harmless flesh wound, a crippling blow making the enemy model “Down” or kill the model “Goner”. There are several weapon strengths, ranging from Light Infantry strength to Super Heavy AT, and armor ranging from “unarmored man” to Super Heavy armor.

All small arms carried by your regular infantry and their close combat attacks are classed as Light Infantry strength, while most platoons are upgraded with body armor and classed with “light personnel armor”. If we take these two factors into account, we can check a chart in the book and see that you have to roll 3+ to inflict a Down result, and 5+ to inflict a Goner result. 1 and 2 does nothing and is considered to be absorbed by the armor. As the weapon strength increases the probability for your regular infantry to survive a hit gets lowered. Heavy infantry reduced give you 2/4+ odds to Down/Kill an enemy soldier. Higher caliber weapons and ordnance may kill your soldiers outright upon hitting them. Most weapons have an infinite range, since the playing area is considered so small IRL that it would be silly for the bullets to stop after say 24”. That does not mean that some weapons don't have a maximum range, some weapons IRL are considered to be ineffective after a certain range and logically have a “max” range in the game as well. You won’t snipe an enemy 72” away using a pistol…

In this game you also need realistic amounts of cover, that means a lot of houses, woods, hedges, ditches, craters etc for your troops to hide in or behind. Standing in the open during a firefight nets the same result as it would in real life - a fast death. Much of the tactical decisions comes into play when moving in or around terrain, denying the enemy easy access to certain parts of the board, locking down parts of the board with good LoS from your units making the crossing of a street a dangerous venture.

The interesting part of this game is the system of wounded models, referred to as “Down”. A Down model is consider wounded, and may not perform any action other than crawling during a turn. At the start of each turn you roll a single D6 for each Down model, to see whether they recover from their wound, remain wounded or bleed to death. This process I repeated each turn until the model either gets up or dies. To recover you need to roll 1-2, to remain wounded 3-4 and to die 5-6. A medic or supernatural rules will make it easier to get up again, while other factors such as being on fire and burning may reduce your chances severely. Zombies that become “Down” automatically get up at the start of each turn!

In part 2 I will speak more about the units, order of battle and the expansion “Doomsday”.

Books and models in this part 1 special are all "West Wind Production" and you may either get them directly from West Wind in the UK or if you live in Sweden then Kulturkommissariatet is a good source.


  1. Thanks for the great review. I had been sitting on the fence on whether to get this game or just stick with Incursion. I will be ordering this game as soon as I can.

  2. Nice to hear Kirk :-)

    It's a great set of rules, and the theme lets your imagination run wild.

  3. This is one of the most wonderful blog, this is work is tremendous. Thanks
    Secret Hitler Rules


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...