29 September 2010

Secrets of the Third Reich part 2 [Special]

This part will as promise tell about the 2nd half of the game, the units, platoons, the expansion and I will also describe the mech-design rules and show you some pics of alternate models that can be used for the game.

I should start out with the mech design rules. It’s a pretty clever system where you have a chart of available chassis sizes, armor thickness, armament, and additional upgrades such as “sealed hull” which will prevent Vampires in mist form to enter your vehicle and kill off the crew.

You start out by picking a chassis size; each chassis size has its limits when it comes to number of crewmen, possible armor and weapon upgrades and each chassis comes with a specific speed class. You can buy upgrades to make your mecha faster, or even add jet engines to allow it to enter the table from the air when called in by radio in the order phase!

I must also mention the damage charts for vehicles; they are divided into regular vehicles (tracked & wheeled) and mechas. So the damage dealt to a mecha has often different consequences than damage dealt to a tank. While you may successfully blow up the tracks on one side, making a tank immobilized you will blow off the leg on the mecha making it topple over and the crew to bail out. Mechas also only have 2 armor zone (front and rear) while tanks and such have front, rear, side and turret zones. I really like how you can actually kill crewmen by rolling specific results, shrapnel may hit D3 crewmembers, or even kill all crew outright. Whenever you score a penetrating result on a vehicle the crew has to pass a “Cool check”, if they pass they keep calm and stay inside the vehicle, if they fail they panic and abandon the vehicle. The nice feature here is that you can regroup your crew and re-crew the abandoned vehicle – continuing the fight as normal the next turn.

Alright, going into the forces and the platoons – there are 4 platoons, one for each nation in the main rulebook. US Armored Infantry, German Mech-Grenadiers, British Rifle platoon and Soviet Survivor Platoon. All nations can use mechas, the armament of regular infantry is basically the same, mixing semi-automatic rifles, SMG’s, assault rifles, machine gun teams, mortar teams, anti tank teams etc. The real diversity comes from the “Support options” for each nation, national special rules and the composition of your regular command and infantry squads. You can also customize the weapons in your regular infantry squads, swap around and exchange weapons, sometimes even upgrade the squad with machineguns, explosive charges, flamethrowers and AT weapons such as Panzerfausts. This customization can be used to tailor each squad to fulfill a specific purpose. Instead of them all being “rifle squads” you can have one unit providing covering fire, while a second unit armed with explosive charges move towards the enemy stronghold.

Support options in SoTR, are the additional resources outside of that particular platoon organization which can be brought in to support you in battle. In this category we will find mechas, tanks, halftracks, weird units such as Werewolves, Zombies and such. Each platoon can include up to 3 support options, though you can share 1 support option slot by 3 Small chassis vehicles.

National special rules add flavor to the game, Germans have the “Götterdämmerung” special rule – which makes the common soldier more determined in battle, they can withstand casualties and suppressing fire tests more efficiently. The US soldiers have “Yankee enthusiasm” meaning they will regroup disorganized units and can order their men around in the order phase easier. The Soviet union have that lovely disregard for human life and a commissar character to accompany the command squad. For the Motherland allow you to fire into friendly close combat and the commissar will fire at fleeing friendly units to make them rally lol! The Brits have seen it all; their platoon is much more resilient to Horror effects and will not suffer the fighting against Horror penalty otherwise suffered by other platoons when charged by some freakish monster or a pack of zombies.
German and British squads are each 10 men strong, Soviet are 9men strong and the Yanks provide 12 men in their basic squads. Each infantry squad can be split into “fire teams”, with the Sergeant taking control of half the unit and the Corporal of the other half. This gives you more activations in game, more tactical options, and you won’t have to fear that the entire unit will suffer from being disorganized, suppressed or whatnot at the same time.

As I mentioned earlier all platoons have pretty much the same “kind” of units, each side will have machine gun teams and AT teams. Some of the support option units resemble each other in role and purpose as well. Heavy infantry can be found in all four nations, the units will be different in appearance, armament and rules however. German “Drop Troopers “ can be called in to appear from the air, landing behind weak enemy positions and create chais, Soviet Union can unleash their steroid pumped “Siberian Subhumans”  - fast and strong brutes armed with SMG’s. The British have “British Steel”, a metal clad unit armed with packed light machineguns. Germans are kings of “weird & occult” however so they will have most variations of zombies in the game, werewolves, vampires, etc. If you like freaky and weird units then the German army is for you. US is leaning towards the technological side, having special sniper units with adaptive camouflage and such.

The balance of support options in the main rulebook isn’t perfect, as the US and UK have fewer Weird units than the Germans and Soviet Union. This is fixed in the expansion Doomsday which I will talk about in a little moment. Each nation also have a couple of characters, now these characters are not your usual one man army. They are most of the time as easy to kill as a regular soldier – instead they provide higher leadership, special abilities and have their own rules which make them useful for specific roles and tactical situations. The characters follow the theme of each nation, Germans have “Weird & Occult” characters, such as a Vampire, an alien and a Werewolf! The US have the equivalent of Captain America in their ranks in form of “US Sentinels” – among them Liberty. The British have the enigmatic Dr Lazarus, a guy that could be part of the League of extraordinary Gentlemen, the Soviet union have a SoTR version of sniper hero Vasily Zaitzev and a Commissar/Siberian Subhuman duo called “Hammer&Sickle”.

The “Doomsday” expansion adds platoons and support options to the SoTR universe, boosting each side considerably. I would probably advice on  getting the supplement pretty much right away or soon after you’ve bought the main rulebook and found the game to be fun. It adds a lot of “support option” platoons, meaning platoons entirely made up of – say APE squads (the US heavy infantry featured in the boardgame Incursion as well). All of the new support option units featured in Doomsday can also be used with your regular SoTR core rulebook platoons as well without problem – and it is pretty much how I use them all the time.
 The new additions bring you the eight legged Soviet mechas, heavy US infantry by adding the “APE” squads, US jump pack infantry “Jet Rangers”, MI-13 British monster Hunter units, adds pretty much all the characters and units featured in Incursion and provide SoTR based rules for them. So those nations that had but a few weird  support options in the core rulebook are well compensated and the playing field is leveled out pretty well in Doomsday.

The expansion does not only add new units for existing OoB, but also features one spinoff on the British MI-13 monster hunters – giving you the option to collect the megalomaniac “Temple” platoon. While still British, and still fighting the Nazis – these guys are unscrupulous and don’t mind using occult weapons to win the war. They are led by a mysteries figure “Mr Smythe” which is the polar opposite of Dr Lazarus of the MI-13. Likewise they have their own assault units called “Temple assault squad” while the MI-13 have  “Mi-13 commandos”. A funny twist on the SoTR fluff (which is fleshed out with a pretty good timeline in the Doomsday book as well).

You also have the possibility to collect a “Partisan OoB”. And there are 3 variations on the Partisan OoB included in the Doomsday rules, Radwraith (halfzombie) platoon, Jewish and Swedish partisans along with some weird units of their own.

The Partisan OoB is actually considered to be more of a blueprint to make it easier for players to construct Partisan platoons of their choice – I for instance used it to create my “Armia Krajowa” platoon OoB which you may download by clicking the link in the sidebar here on my blog.

Finally arriving to the part about the models, the makers of this game are not going to bust your balls for playing with other models than the original SoTR line. You won’t have that idiotic GW mentality banning you from conventions if you show up with models from another company or manufacturer as long as they are representative of the unit they are supposed to be used for. Many players mix ranges, myself included. You can add Bolt Action Miniatures, Artizan Design and all the other WW2 manufacturers out there. The only requirement is that they are armed accordingly to “What you see is what you get”. Same goes for mechas, West Wind being a small company can of course not provide you with dozens of mechas for each nation, so you will likely resort to adding a mecha or two from another system into your platoon.  The makers have been open with the “use what you see fit” from the start, and they still allow it on tournaments and it’s widely accepted among the SoTR community.  The charm of this game and the story is that you can add so much stuff, often you maybe have some weird models lying about at home – like I had a trio of robots – just come up with fitting rules or use them “count as” to stand in for some unit described in the rulebooks.

This game requires a decent scenario to fight for, you won’t have much fun (well at least not as fun) just bashing your opponent over the head game after game. The core rulebook comes with 3 basic scenarios – and then it’s up to your imagination to create objectives and missions. The Doomsday expansion add more scenarios that can be used for tournaments and cinematic style battles – there is for instance one mission where the gametable is divided into 9 zones which have to be controlled, each being worth a certain amount of victory points. There is another scenario which is very similar to that Band of Brothers episode where the US airborne have to cross a river at night, move up to a German outpost and capture prisoners for interrogation purposes and bring them back home.

Joining the SoTR forum and the community will allow you to browse through dozens of fan made missions, battle reports and old tournament packs to give you inspiration to write your own stuff.
So if you are looking for a new game, where friendly gameplay with a friend and having fun is rated higher than competition style gaming such as GW games, where you have a game which doesn’t require 242 models per side, or take forever to play – then Secrets of the Third Reich is definitely something you should check out.

Models shown in part two are a mix of West Wind production, Grindhouse Games, Bolt action Miniatures and Black Tree Design.

13 comments:

  1. Question: is there a pic of all the Sentinels anywhere? The West Wind site has never put up good pics of a couple of them...

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  2. The lady with the big US flag (my own conversion) holding 2 machineguns is one of the US Sentinels - "Liberty". The other are pretty much very big muscular dudes holding assault rifles.

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  3. Really? That's disappointing, I was hoping for something more creative. Thanks though.

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  4. I also use that Captain America model (a lot of people use either a Captain America model, or that Hasslefree "Harby" Hellboy sculpt). But yeah, Liberty is probably the best of the original Sentinels. The one I have is an old Ltd Edition that came with the first print of the rulebook. The one sold now is holding one machine pistol and one machinegun.

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  5. For AE-WWII (my Weird War drug of choice) my regular opponent has the Hellbaby Heroclix based up, and used it as a war hound. It's pretty awesome.

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  6. Love the Colossus with the Polish markings! I'm going to have to steal that idea.

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  7. westwind games have pictures of the US Sentinels in the blisters, but you can make out how the look pretty easily

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  8. not westwind - wayland games !!!!!!!!!

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  9. what is the mr smythe figure?

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  10. It's a limited edition tournament miniature by West Wind. They were given to participants in the SoTR tournaments in the UK and Sweden.

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  11. Do you know if you could use Dust Tactics components to play the game?

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  12. Hi Heiki,

    Yep, a few people use the mechs at the very least. The infantry - it's up to your personal taste and preference. The infantry look a bit too "sci fi"/futuristic in some cases. In others the weapons could fit into the rules.

    You will have a hard time mixing models from other sources, and it might be hard to scramble together the appropriate amounts of semi automatic rifles which is the basic weapon for Germany and USA in SoTR in their basic squads.

    If you already have the Dust Tactics models and can get hold of a SoTR rulebook give it a shot. You can always use "count as" rules if you have too few of some weapon choice in a unit. I don't know how it works with DT, if you can buy soldiers separately? If possible then I don't see any problems at all. If you can only buy big starter sets then it will get expensive using DT stuff for the core platoon elements.

    Hope it helps :-)

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  13. Thanks for clarifying!

    Could you also say something about model count? Is it worthwhile at all getting their Sniper set, which seems a more skirmish scale option?

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