It is not my intention to provide a full review of Tide of Iron as there are already a number of excellent reviews over on Boardgamegeek. Rather, I just want to give some impressions and comparisons to other games I have played.I bought a new board game that has miniatures called Tide of Iron (TOI). I had seen this game for a number of years, yet did not want to buy it as I did not want another Memoir 44 type game. Although I knew it was supposed to be at a lower scale than Memoir 44 I still thought it was similar in mechanics. Boy was I wrong.
TOI has been called "Squad Leader Lite" and that is a pretty apt description. Units are squads of infantry or individual tanks and ranges are pretty long in distance. For example a rifle unit can shoot a distance of eight hexes, ten if it is on a hill. The basic game has infantry, machine guns, mortars, trucks, half-tracks, and basic tanks. For the US the tank is the Sherman and for the Germans it is the Panzer IV and the Tiger.
What is novel about the rules is that each scenario gives each player a set number of squad bases and the types of infantry that can make up the squads. The player attaches the infantry figures to the squad bases in combinations that suit them. In the base game the infantry types are rifleman, veteran, officer, mortar and crew, and machine gun team. Each squad has four slots and each infantry figure takes up one of those slots, except for the mortar and machine gun, which each take up two. Each figure has stats which are usually combined in order to determine the total squad value. So for example a rifleman has a firepower rating of one, and a veteran a rating of two, so a squad of three rifleman and one veteran would have a total firepower rating of five.
Another interesting element of the game is the use of command decks. The scenario specifies which command deck (or decks) is to be used by each side and each deck has its own characteristics. For example, the Air Support deck has cards representing airstrikes being called in, while the Morale deck has cards representing higher morale and determination that the troops have. During the course of the game the player will be allowed to use these cards to modify results. Examples are the ability to unpin troops more quickly, or find more cover, or move faster.
I like the basis for infantry combat which is that the attacker has a firepower rating while the defender's rating is based upon the cover it is in. Combat is resolved by rolling one die for each point of the attacker's rating, one die for each point of the defender's rating, and comparing the number of successes for each side. Essentially each defender's success subtracts one success from the attacker's total. When attacking, the player can state whether they are making a normal attack or a suppressive attack. A normal attack removes one figure for each success, while a suppressive attack either pins, disrupts, or routs the unit. The chance for success is based on a fixed value (e.g. 5+ for cover) or the range to the target.
Opportunity fire is handled pretty well in these rules. A unit gives up its action in order to go into overwatch. When an enemy unit moves within its line of sight, it can interrupt the movement and take its attack. The key, however, is that the enemy must move to trigger the opportunity fire. Machine guns are particularly effective in opportunity fire as they can fire at more the one unit moving within their line of sight.
the one aspect that I am finding fiddly is the one that attracted me to the game in the first place. I like the idea that a squad's firepower is the sum of each member's firepower rating (i.e. it is weapon based). If I were to design a WW2 game where the squad or fire team was the basic unit, that is how I would do it too. The problem is the fiddly nature of adding and removing figures from the base. In these days of low cost bidder and imprecise manufacturing, some figures don't want to go into their sockets while others easily fall out.
All in all I think I will find these rules to be really enjoyable, but I am not sure if I am ready to buy the other modules quite yet. I realize that I am late to the TOI party, but that is only the sweeter because the games no longer sell for a premium.