First, I have to say that I need to read the mission and campaign rules in NUTS! again to ensure that I was doing everything right. Actually, I know I wasn't doing some things right, because the way the rules read didn't sound right at all and so I tweaked it a little to be a little more balanced. Here are the issues I had:
- The reinforcement roll seems to occur every turn, so there are 6 chances out of 36 that someone gets a reinforcement. Given the time scale of NUTS!, that seems pretty frequent.
- The reinforcement roll seems to be done every turn until the game is over.
- It seems like the side that gets the reinforcement is the side with the higher EAL or SL, with no chance for the other side to get a reinforcement.
Also, the shear randomness of the PEF/reinforcement might be okay to "mix it up" if playing solo, but it feels just that: random. I think I like the Skirmish Campaign method better of giving you a base force and (generally) a single reinforcement that comes on with some trigger.
So, Don and I played the first scenario in The Big Hurt, a campaign book for NUTS! set in the Hürtgen Forest. The scenario calls for the player's squad to go out an rescue a Lieutenant stuffed into a hollow tree trunk. Sorry, no pictures. I forgot my camera.
Bring 'Em Back Alive
Sergeant Wallace chomped on his cigar as he pushed his men through the forest towards the creek on his map. That rat O'Reilly said he had shoved the wounded Lieutenant Myers, a little pipsqueak of a guy, into the hollow trunk of a large tree located at the bend in the creek. "God! I still laugh just thinking about this 90 day wonder stuffed in a tree, desperately holding on to his acorns", thought Sergeant Wallace.
The squad been off of the line for awhile now and had gotten back up to strength, considering that we had two new replacements. Green horns. Don't even remember their names, must less want to try. The Sergeant throws them on right flank, then signals Ramirez to scout forward.
Damned if he didn't step into a hornet's nest though because the next thing we hear is a MG-34 real close. The Sergeant starts screaming for everyone to open up. If it weren't for the cover of the woods, who knows how many of use would have caught it.
The first German PEF turns out to be an LMG team, and it is right on top of the squad. I am not really sure how to deal with PEF movement, in relation to movement from revealed elements, so I opt to run it as a post-turn action (i.e. Reinforcement Roll, US turn, German turn for revealed figures, German turn for PEFs). As the PEF moved into visibility of the US, I rolled for what the PEF was, put the figures on the table, then ended their turn, so they did not get to fire.It wasn't long before we cleaned up that mess, killing the gunner and sending the loader running. The Sergeant reformed the troops and everyone started advancing again. Except for those replacements. Where were they?
We hit a fire break in the woods, so we know it isn't far to the creek, but damned if these woods weren't thick. It is taking forever to slog through the woods. Next thing you know, though, we hit the creek and guys start chattering about how this mission is almost done, when...
Ziiiiiiiiiiipppppp! Another damn MG-34 team out here! This time it is bad. People ducking in woods, the creek, nobody moving, nobody shooting. Every time I try to raise my head up, a spray of earth hits me in the face as the German gunner just rakes back and forth across our position.
Slowly, we claw our way forward, the Sergeant coming up and kicking people to get up and shoot. "Where is that damn BAR?" I keep thinking. Eventually the LMG gets knocked out when the Sergeant flanks their position and lets rip with his Thompson. I look back and someone's hit, but I can't tell who. I don't see any of the replacements either.
Two PEFs and two LMGs. I would actually like a squad, so this game gets a little more interesting. Meanwhile, the Germans get a reinforcement and it is moving straight towards the Americans very fast. What do I roll up? A panzerschreck team! I really don't feel like learning the panzerschreck rules, so I let them just fire their carbines. If things get hot, then I will unload with the 'schrek, otherwise I will just treat the situation like they are low on ammo with it.No sooner does the situation calm down than two more Germans appear, one looking like he has a fancy Bazooka on his back. They start firing and pin Ramirez down, while the rest of us try to get up and over the creek. Isn't long before we start hearing more rustling through the woods and half a squad of Germans show up, blazing away at us. Things get tangled up real quick.
What is making this game long is that all moves are basically Short, because the whole board is woods, save for a small strip of green (the fire break) and the creek (which is 2 actions to get a Short move). Because movement is so slow, this leads to more reinforcement rolls, which increases the risk that this scenario will get out of hand if too many of the enemy show up.
That's right. Another German reinforcement. This time a half squad (four riflemen and a Corporal). They quickly advance and start dominating the creek crossing.Next thing I know I'm hearing the chatter of the BAR. Finally! Let's lay down some fire and get this done. After a while the BAR stops firing and all I hear is the Sergeant's Thompson firing sporadically. First on my right and then later on my left.
I finally get up some courage as I don't see anyone anymore and head across the creek. Sure enough, there is old Lieutenant Myers stuffed into the trunk. He damn near blew my head off with his .45 when I popped over the top. But, boy was he glad to see me. "I've been listening to them moving around me all morning" he said. "Let's get the hell outta' here."
I pull him out and damned if the Krauts don't get a little feisty. Two of them run up on me and Jones, and the Kraut feints right, Jones slips on the muddy creek bank, and gets a bayonet through the heart. I just start blazing away as all these Krauts start popping up from behind trees everywhere. I yell to the Lieutenant to haul ass and then I do.
I must have hauled ass a little too fast, or the Lieutenant was slower than I thought. I hear his .45 kicking out some shots and everyone retreats. I'm passing bodies everywhere, our guys and the Jerries. Man, this is a bloodbath.
Eventually I see the Sergeant with the Lieutenant picking up the rear and we head back to our lines. We hear a German dogging us for a little while, but he doesn't keep up.
After all that, being the only guy to make it across the creek and back alive, pulling the Lieutenant out of the tree, and what do I get? Nothing. I overheard the Sergeant say he was going to put me in for a medal and all, but nothing comes. Hell, even Lieutenant Myers gives me a dirty look every so often, and I saved his ass! Gratitude, that is.
The soldier responsible for saving the Lieutenant did not get a Medal of Valor as he failed his roll, per the NUTS! table. Maybe him leaving the Lieutenant behind and running from a failed morale check had something to do with it...Scenario Aftermath
Don's squad was pretty ripped up. I think there were two that were obviously dead on the field (tripled roll in combat), and only three that made it off of the field unwounded (one replacement, one veteran private, and the Sergeant); all of the others were taken out of the fight (doubled in combat). I rolled for them per the NUTS! rules, but made a slight miscalculation in the odds. In the end, four of the seven taken out of the fight died or were captured by the Germans; the remainder made it back wounded, but will not recover for several missions.
I probably need to go back and have Don re-roll the casualties as I only gave average guys 50% chance to succeed on each die, rather than a 67% chance. That will likely translate into less deaths.
As it stands now, Don's squad gets two replacements, making his squad five men until his wounded return or more replacements arrive. The good news is that one of the two replacements is a serious veteran (Quality 2+, of all things) and will probably kick some serious butt.
Don had an interesting comment about the game: it didn't start getting interesting until he started losing guys and he had fewer figures to work with. I think I made a mistake by not treating this squad as two separate elements in the game. As the squad has two NCOs, the Sergeant should count as the Leader an the Corporal should count as an NCO, with one change to the NCO rule: he gets to run a group just like a Leader, only with Short range and with no +1 to the Quality. This allows you to have to fire teams, or a fire group and a manever group. I think it would play much better.
Second, I still see the group moves as being a problem. There should be an option where the Leader/NCO moves and acts with the group, not separate. This whole "roll to activate, give an order, now they activate, now go back to your orders" thing doesn't feel right. I think a Leader/NCO should have the option to declare that he is acting as part of the group, and thus the group activates (as always) at the lowest Quality.
For example, a Leader (Q3+) declares that he will act as part of a group of five privates (four at Q4+ and one at Q5+). As the lowest Quality in the group is the one private with Q5+, that is the Quality that will be used. However, because that private is affected by the Leader, his activation roll is raised to 4+. The group rolls a 1, 4, and a 5. Everyone gets two actions.
Another example is a Leader (Q3+) declaring that he will act as part of a group of three veteran privates (Q3+). As all of their Quality is 3+, that is the base roll. As the privates are affected by the leadership bonus they would normally be +1. However, the Leader himself does not get the bonus, making him the worst (effective) quality, thus the activation roll is 3+. The roll is 1, 4, and 5. Everyone gets two actions.
Note, that the rules state that everyone has to be within a Short to be counted as a group, so the Leader would also have to be within a Short, not a long, in order to declare himself as acting as part of the group.
One of the things we see is when the Leader turns over, but still has one action, they often use that single action to give an order. Don and I both think this does not feel right so I posted the question to the Song of Blades forum to see what the official ruling is.
Finally, I tried one change to the rules as the way it currently is bothers me. Basically, if you beat an opponent and the die is even one result occurs, but if it is odd a different result occurs. (I can never remember which result gets evens either.) One result (Gone to Ground) is relatively benign, possibly even advantageous to the target, while the other, Shaken, is rather bad. What I did was make all beaten results (but not doubled or tripled) Shaken. That is probably one of the things that made the combat so bloody.
Rich Jones, the author of Flying Lead, has come out with a new set of rules called Bushi No Yume, which he says are based on Flying Lead. As with the whole series of rules, they seem to consist of refinements over the previous set of rules. BnY makes the beaten result Gone to Ground, unless the die roll was a '6', in which case it is (equivalent to) Shaken. Interestingly, the doubled result is now (equivalent to) Shaken, with a Wound Check at the start of that players turn to determine the nature of the wound, unless the die was a '6' in which case he is dead. I don't like the change to the doubling result, but the beaten result is interesting. Gone to Ground is a better, less deadly version of suppression, but the deadlier result of Shaken is easy to remember: the firer had to roll a natural '6'. I'll probably start trying that.
I still need to figure out how to play on-board mortars (60-80mm) in Flying Lead.
As for game observations, I noticed three things:
- You really need to keep your guys together so the Leader can keep everyone in command range and moving.
- No one has still tried overwatch. I wanted to try it several times, but each time I either ended up with one action or turned over. Don does not think it is worth it (two actions to take one action in your opponent's turn).
- Running in front of a machine gun may not instantly kill everyone in the first shot, but it makes a mess of the group (Gone to Ground and Shaken results create gaps), which eventually gets them killed as it takes them so many actions to get moving again.
So, I think Don liked this game better than the first Song of Drums and Shakos game in which his Highlanders got their butts kicked. I think the more we play these, the more the simplicity comes out. Also, Don learned about Concentrated Fire, both as a firer and a target, so I think all of these game will get better with us becoming more familiar with the core rules and options.